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Re: Love with therapist

Posted by becca on June 29, 2003, at 11:35:12

In reply to Re: Love with therapist Stamper, posted by judy1 on November 13, 2002, at 12:31:19

This is 8 months late but just saw your thread about being in love with your therapist. I' m in the midst of working this out with mine and have learned a few things about boundaries:
--In traditional, strict psychoanalysis the therapist is never supposed to reveal anything about their life outside of session. I had a psychiatrist stop wearing her wedding ring when i noticed it (and wouldn't confirm if she was married) and also she didn't tell me she was pregnant until it was quite obvious. I thought she was a bit too cautious but the point was that the therapist is supposed to be a "blank page" for you. You imagine him/her to be whatever you imagine and the content of those ideas reveals your own issues. So if you assume your shrink is an warm, intellectual type that sits at home and reads by the fire that would reveal something different (about you) than if you assumed he went off in his porsche to play golf each afternoon. probably the content of your fantasies about the shrink reveal behaviors or values from your life that can be explored in therapy.

--Falling in love is not only incredibly common but often an explicit goal of therapy. Or rather, transference and projection is an explicit goal. Transference is when you have feelings for your shrink that you have had, or still have, for other people. And projection is when you think your shrink has feelings or traits that actually belong to you or someone else. So when you fall in love with your shrink [who is supposed to be a blank page] you are falling in love with all the traits you are pinning on him that are actually related to other people in your life.
Not to mention the fact that it's easy to idealize someone who listens empathetically to your deepest issues and vulnerabilities.

Finally, falling in love is not the only outcome. People often have child/parent feelings for their shrink rather than sexual/romantic ones. Or they can have entirely negative feelings, putting the shrink in the role of someone who hurt or abused them. This is problematic because the client will often quit therapy in anger or disgust without realizing that the feelings are not based on the therapist but on other people. The therapist, after all, is just a blank page. You're not supposed to know enough about him/her to really make judgements or know with certainty what they are "really" like.

Different therapists have different ideas about how much to reveal about themselves. Frustrating as it is not to know much about your therapist I've seen the trouble that knowing too much can cause. For example I was sure my therapist was gay and when I discovered he was living with a long-term female partner I obsessed about it constantly and felt very inhibited about discussing sexual things. and then he became an object of sexual fantasy that never would have happened if I continued to believe he was gay. Gay was safe and off-limits for me . In the end perhaps this was all good as I've worked on LOT of assumptions and relationship stuff. But I think it probably would have been better if I had not found out by accident when I did.

Finally the bottom line: therapists are supposed to never have any kind of personal or social relationship with their clients, even after therapy ends. A sexual relationship during therapy is the worst-case scenario but friendships and business relationships are also taboo. My therapist has explained patiently to me that he (and all therapists) must be utterly impervious to their patients atempts at flirtation, seduction, sympathy-seeking, friendship gestures, etc. Not out of coldness--your shrink can still be warm and caring--but to maintain the safe structure of sessions and the role boundaries. So while he and I talk about my feelings all the time he knows that the person I love is not really him {he's a blank page]. We look at what "love" means to me and the traits that I love and would seek in a partner, or perhaps less healthy patterns in the way I see lovers.

if he slept with me it would be mighty, mighty, messed up. But the feeling of love is not a bad thing in and of itself and I've found it really nice to be able to really hash out my emotions without having to worry about losing my relatinship with him or keep him interested. Because it's NOT a romantic relationship, but a professional relationship where you can feel safe expressing romantic ( or any) feelings.




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