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Re: Love as the agent of change -- kind of long red house

Posted by estrellita on March 19, 2008, at 20:38:43

In reply to Love as the agent of change -- kind of long, posted by red house on March 15, 2008, at 10:58:21

> I know that many of us struggle with our feelings of love for our therapist, but have others ever struggled to accept the "love" our therapist has for us? And by this I mean a kind of human-to-human connection type love, a sense of "warm personal attachment," as opposed to any kind of sexual feelings. (I think of this in a way that the therapist, Paul, on _In Session_ (for those of you watching), meant when he talked about Sophie "testing" his love, and he purposefully said that he can't treat someone he doesn't "love." Certainly he meant something different than the "love" he feels for Laura, Monday's patient with whom he's said he's "in love.")
>
> Anyway, I've done some looking back at other posts and many of you were relatively emphatic about not getting "love" from your therapists. But isn't what we get in a sense of kind of therapy love -- that presence, care, empathy, encouragement, and limit-setting that is really a part of any healthy parent-child relationship?

# # #

Hi red house,

In what you wrote, you touched on the thing that makes therapy so painful yet effective for me.

Though we never really talked about it in terms of love, I think that my last psychologist and I did come to love each other. It was a sort of "big sister" relationship, where she was about 7 years older than me, and had finished her PhD while I was starting mine. We also shared a history of recurrent, severe depression. I don't have any sisters myself, and it felt good, once I trusted her, to have someone who would listen to me, give me advice, and had similar experiences with school, depression, etc. I think we both came to love each other, but at times I questioned how much she cared about me because I was paying for her time, attention, etc. She tried to explain that she cared about me even though I was paying for her services, and even though that didn't sit quite right with me, I just went with it. I think what made things easier on me was that at the time I didn't know much about the "therapeutic relationship." When therapy terminated, I was sort of surprised when she told me we couldn't spend time together again since she had been my therapist. Of course I was upset, but I think by that point I was just grateful for how much she had helped me and I guess I got over the rest.

Now it's a few years later and I'm working with a different psychologist in a different city. This time around, things are harder for me. I think having experienced a trusting relationship with a therapist in the past makes this one more difficult because I know that in order for it to work, I have to (a) trust the therapist, and (b) do this while knowing that in the not-too-distant future, I'll never see this person again. Also, I've done a lot of reading on the therapeutic relationship in order to understand it better (rather than just be cynical about it), and I think that having this extra knowledge about this peculiar, unique relationship has helped overall. I don't feel like it's a big secret that I'm not supposed to be in on (as I sometimes had in the past).

I have to say though, the very fact that the therapist is "supposed to" love the patient in some way, but also that it's a limited kind of love, is one of the main things that makes therapy feel so diabolical to me. I often feel this undercurrent running underneath the relationship with my current therapist - even as I feel a caring relationship developing, I also know that we are moving toward termination and the accompanying feelings of sadness, being set adrift, etc. How can I completely trust someone when I know that in, say, 5 weeks, I won't be allowed to see them again?! I feel like part of therapy is putting the patient into a position where it's almost impossible NOT to feel like they're being irrational, doing maladaptive things, etc. with regard to the relationship part of the therapy. It all just leaves a really bad taste in my mouth.

Maybe I should be okay with the fact that "therapy love" is love, and accept it for what it is. But so far I just can't. To me, it's something else masquerading as love, but calling itself love anyhow. It's love mixed with professionalism, maybe, and I'm not sure the two can really mix in the first place.

Also, I'm not sure how this relates, but what do you think of the phrase "once a therapist, always a therapist" - i.e., that once someone has been your therapist, other kinds of relationships are precluded from ever taking place? For me, I find that unnatural as well in some way, though I'm still thinking about why that should be. Perhaps part of it is choice...I feel like I have more of a say about most other relationships than I do about the therapeutic relationship. I'm not sure that's technically true, but it feels like it is. There's something inhuman to me about two people coming to feel genuine affection for each other, and then to tell them that, since this particular relationship type is over that their interactions must immediately cease.

I know I'm leaving out the side of things that focuses on what is in the patient's therapeutic interest, but I have thought about that a lot, too. I think people are more malleable than some theories assume them to be.


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