Dear Christine, Loving in Livonia

  • Posted on January 8, 2018 at 10:09 am

Dear Christine,

I’m a gay man seeing a male therapist for issues I had after a bad breakup. Basically severe depression. After several months of therapy, I’m feeling pretty whole again but I don’t want to stop therapy because I have fallen in love with my therapist. My therapist is also gay and has never given me any reason to think he feels the same way, however, I guess I hope that he does. I’ve also never told him how I feel for fear he will ask me to stop seeing him. Question: should I tell him? I so look forward to my Wednesdays with…

Signed, Loving in Livonia

Dear Loving,

I encourage you to talk to your therapist about this transference. You are in a relationship as a client with a therapist and there are legal and ethical boundaries that need to be in place to protect both of you. Your therapist will probably want to discuss your emotions, needs and expectations. And he will want to be clear about the professional boundaries of the therapeutic relationship you both have. It is not unusual for a client to have strong feelings of affection or love for a therapist, as you are completely vulnerable to this person and they listen to you, accept you and encourage you to be fully yourself. Feelings do arise in these therapy relationships, sometimes one way, sometimes both ways. They are part of the therapeutic process. Your feelings affect your therapy and it’s always best to be honest with your therapist about your feelings. He won’t necessarily stop seeing you simply because you have fallen in love with him, but the two of you need to talk about this situation and what the psychological dynamics are and how this effects your self worth in the context of your emotional issues.

For example, perhaps you have a history of falling in love with men who are unavailable or are distant due to physical and/or emotional distance. This therapeutic relationship recreates that dynamic once again, as you probably are aware that he is not available for a romantic relationship with you. The difference this time is that your therapist is prepared for this and will be willing to look with you at how you find yourself in this pattern. Together you can discuss ways that you want to change love to yourself, so you can become attracted to someone who is available and who can freely return that love.

This dynamic is called Transference. Freud coined this term to describe how a client will unconsciously “transfer” feelings from important people in their lives on to the therapist. Psychoanalysis encourages transference from the client to the therapist, and together they explore the client’s early relationships that helped shape you and your expectations of others. If this is not talked about, it can be problematic to the therapy process. Your therapist will be aware of Transference and will respond with healthy and clear boundaries with clients.

If your therapist falls in love with you, back, that is called Countertransference. If your therapist is using your therapy sessions to meet his own psychological needs, that could also be problematic. Most therapy relationships engender positive transference and countertransference of care and trust. It helps you face the challenges you choose to work on in therapy. Please trust your therapist to listen to your feelings with compassion, but also take this to a deeper level of exploring who you are attracted to and why. Talking about it is not a reason for ending therapy, but instead, shifting the focus of the therapy. Now that you are out of that depression, this is a good time to work on transference. Christine Cantrell, PhD

Licensed Psychologist

Christine C. Cantrell, PhD
1026 W. 11 Mile Rd,
Suite C
Royal Oak, MI 48067

Click here to email Christine.

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