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What is Transference?

A neglected child may express transference by placing feelings like parental love onto his/her therapist.
Transference is a term first used by Sigmund Freud to describe feelings that are redirected onto the therapist from someone else.
When an angry person has an unhappy home life, coworkers may be innocent victims of transference.
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Transference is a term first used by Sigmund Freud to describe a process in analysis or therapy. Freud noted that many of his patients seemed at some point to begin to place certain feelings, like romantic love or parental love, onto the therapist. When this process occurred the therapist could use this position to help restore the client to more normal feelings by responding in ways unlike that of the person upon which the original feelings were based.

For example, a child who has been severely abused by a parent, or even simply neglected, may express transference by viewing the therapist as parent. However, because the child expects this role to be negatively charged and harmful, recovery of abuse may be possible when the therapist is neither abusive nor neglectful. Instead the therapist uses this transference to provide what the parent did not provide, a stable and accepting relationship in which the client is very important.

The therapist as parent in this type of transference may have to endure some pretty strong anger from the patient. This is in part helpful because it allows the child to express feelings that were too dangerous to express in an abusive or neglectful setting. Once these feelings of anger and grief are expressed, the patient often feels a relief, as if he or she had actually confronted his own parents.

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Most commonly, transference is of a romantic nature. This does not have to be limited to relationships between client and therapists of different sexes. It is also not an indication of homosexuality, although a client with a same sex therapist may be terribly confused regarding romantic feelings toward one of the same sex.

In these cases, however, the therapist simply represents the people in the client’s life who should love him or her. The role of lover is projected onto the therapist because the therapist is usually the only person in a client’s life who is completely invested in the client, and views the client without judgment or agenda.

It can be quite difficult to discuss feelings of a romantic nature with a therapist. However, the therapist is usually aware of such feelings whether or not they are discussed. Discussion can prove to be healing and helpful, and ultimately move the client out of the transference state into a place where such feelings might be relocated back to a spouse or partner.

There is some inherent danger in transference to both client and therapist. Some therapists may transfer their own feelings onto a client. Where romantic feelings for a therapist are involved, the client would generally do anything a therapist asks, including any sexual behavior. This is strictly illegal, but there are abuses of laws protecting clients. Similar laws apply to others who might be subject to transference, such as members of the clergy, teachers and those in other medical fields.

It is important to recognize transference as a normal stage of therapy. However, if a therapist appears to reciprocate romantic feelings, engage in touching of a sexual nature or attempt to initiate a sexual relationship, this therapist is no longer of help and should be reported as in violation of the many laws guarding against such. In this case, the therapist does considerable harm to patients.

In most cases, however, the therapist, or advisor of any nature is fully apprised of laws and honors them. The therapist can use the transference stage of therapy to help a patient establish a more appropriate view of significant relationships with romantic partners or family members. The client should not feel guilty for having these feelings, though they are often confusing and difficult. Particularly when one is married they may seem unfaithful or go against marriage vows.

It helps to remember that these feelings are those one has or wishes to have with a spouse or partner. Such feelings have undergone a temporary relocation that can ultimately benefit romantic relationships. Discussion of these feelings may be highly embarrassing, but may also be a tool for reaching an excellent state of mental health in regard to relationships with significant people in one’s life.

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anon973747
Post 76

A Roman Catholic priest knew that I was a abused vulnerable adult, because I went to him for confession. He started paying attention to me, and treating me special. All of a sudden it felt like a switch went off inside my head, and I had what I know now as a transference. I also ended up having thyroid cancer that contributed to the severe transference that I suffered with.

He was after me, and I reported him to priests and the Bishop. They all circled the wagons around him, and after years of taking abuse, and finally getting well physically, I left the church. My reputation was ruined as the Bishop and this evil priest acted like I was stalking him, which was a total lie. I begged them all to please help me.

It was the most horrible thing that has ever happened to me in my life. I want to get well, but I don't know how. I have tried therapy, but I don't trust anyone anymore. I want to give up. I am in AA, and this priest has done this to many other women addicts, who feel too ashamed to do anything. I hate all of them. My family and friends don't want to talk about it and I feel like I am crazy. I am 60 years old and this should never have happened to me. I never wanted this to happen to me.

anon358690
Post 75

This stream of "stories" is a great illustration for the very deep flaws in psychotherapy, and/or perhaps with vast majority of practitioners, as the bell curve applies to all.

The most common joke amongst therapy students is regarding how many of 'us' are there with a ton of unresolved emotional 'baggage'.

Our motto is "Enter at Your Own Risk" and you'll even have an opportunity to sign documents to that effect.

If you do enter, be sure you establish clear goals and limits to the process, always discerning and doing the added effort outside of session, so you'll be looking forward to accomplishing the work and getting on with your life.

anon324094
Post 72

I have had an ongoing experience of transference when seeing my therapist. It was she who first dropped off the sign in the first session. I noticed this from her inevitable smiling both while she was talking and listening to me; it was more than a friendly facial expression. However, I didn't have any feelings in response until the second session which I found myself acting in the similar manner.

From my observations since then, we both have been trying to restore the professional boundaries. She would change the topic or tone of voice when both our facial expressions become awkward. That really works, and I do the same as I am a quick learner.

However, my feelings have been growing, and it has turned into anxiety since I cannot stop thinking about her for a few days after every session. What I'm trying to focus on is the objective of the counseling and force myself to think that if it succeeds I will become a more healthy-minded person.

I'm still trying and wish some of us (if using the same technique) will get over it too.

anon323630
Post 71

I have always been aware of transference and that it is common for clients to have feelings/emotions towards their therapist. I was in therapy for about two years, and met my therapist through a university research project and did not do any research about him or his practice/skills before meeting him. I attended my first appointment, which was in a multi-occupancy building, and saw a most handsome young man who turned out to be my therapist. I had fallen for him before I knew who he was. The attraction never waned throughout therapy and I know he was attracted to me, but as far as I was concerned, any relationship was out of the question.

I grew up in a negative, criticising family with parents who never told me they loved me or showed any physical affection. As a result of my upbringing, I have low self-esteem and confidence. I also find it hard to make friends and trust people.

The counseling turned into coaching since I wanted to train as a counselor and thought eventually, my therapist might become my mentor/supervisor as well as a friend. How wrong I was. I can no longer afford to attend the coaching sessions, nor can I afford to re-train as a counselor and decided to end the therapeutic relationship.

I have hardly any friends and I emailed my therapist and invited him out for a coffee with a view toward discussing what courses could I attend at local level (and cheaply) to see if counseling is what I really want to do. I've never heard from him. If only he had responded with something along the lines of "it's unethical to have friendships with ex-clients," that would have been acceptable. I feel very let down and abandoned. I have decided not to pursue a career in counseling because it is a dishonest profession. He deceived me into thinking and believing I was a friend and was there for support and when the therapy was over, dumped me like an unwanted girlfriend. Needless to say, I am feeling quite depressed at the moment and have lost faith in the counseling profession. All this from a therapist who actually wrote an article about ending therapeutic relationships.

I will not be seeing another counselor. Counseling is all about a code of ethics, which is understandable because so many problems and complaints can arise from the intimate relationship, but the different types of therapy used are questionable and some might say unethical. I agree with Rita's comment. Think very carefully before entering to therapy because it may not turn out well for you. It didn't in my case.

Clanger
Post 69

Please someone help me. I have been seeing the same therapist for eight years for different issues including sexual abuse in my childhood. Whilst my therapist has been extremely helpful, I do have problems. Our contact is coming to an end now, and I am *so* troubled about it. I think about her an awful lot and cannot bear to think of my life without her! I have very strong feelings for her.

I have in the past had sexual feelings towards her, but now just a longing to have her in my life, as maybe a friend (not a sexual relationship), but I obviously realise this is not possible. How on earth do I stop these feelings, and get through this mess? If I had realised that I would have ended up like this I think I may not have entered into therapy. I have never mentioned anything about this in our sessions. Please somebody, help. I don't know how to stop this torture.

anon264560
Post 67

I am experiencing transference big time, and although I see her in a therapy setting, I actually go there to talk to her about my daughter. I feel so guilty because I think about the therapist all the time and I am experiencing transference for myself and she doesn't really know that much about me!

It happened almost instantly because she is so good at her job and we are of a similar age. I feel so attracted to her, like we have an amazing connection and like I love her.

I have made an appointment to go and see her next week and actually confess what has happened. I am hoping that even though the sessions we have are about my daughter, she can help me with my transference and how my experience of child abuse in my teens might have something to do with this. I really hope she understands. Wish me luck.

anon223374
Post 66

Wow, it is amazing how many of you have already told my story. I am a married man and have been seeing my female therapist on a weekly basis for about seven months. She has been most helpful in being a guide through some cognitive and depression issues, but it seems that I have fallen in love with her in the process. Not necessarily in an erotic sensual manner, but I think about her all the time.

It probably doesn't help that she is full of nice compliments regularly. Is this part of their training? To be complimentary? She also shares personal stuff with me and I feel like I could be a good friend for her, but I know that will never happen. I am grieving the end of our relationship and that hasn't even happened yet. I care for her *so* much that it hurts.

I play guitar and compose songs. I would nothing more than to sing her a song I have written about her. I am totally whacked! I guess that I will need to share with her exactly how I am feeling and hope that the experience is therapeutic. I have been afraid to tell her for fear that she will "fire me" as a client. Ugh. --Fred

anon219870
Post 64

I also considered the therapist as a counselor, but still got confused about what if the feelings would get tender. I hope it won't get worse as the processing method is very difficult.

anon217348
Post 63

I am in the midst of the torrential pains, and was wondering are there any of you who know what are the rules and regulations existing regarding friendships between therapist and client?

anon214189
Post 62

Romantic transference is really limerence - look it up - you'll see what I mean. It's the experience of being in love, but it's nearly obsessive. Because a therapy is supposed to be and is naturally kind, the feelings of attraction intensify because that kindness leaves a certain level of uncertainty and hope that the feelings can be reciprocated.

If you are romantically attracted to your therapist, you just don't "like him/her" or "admire him/her" or want to have sex, you are limerent, and it's beyond a "crush"

anon170559
Post 60

I too have experienced very deep and lasting transference and have been trying to "get over it" for over six years. My therapist, who I quit after only several months, sent mixed messages and never really answered my questions and concerns as to my deep emotional, sexual, spiritual feelings towards him. He finally, after many sessions of crying and a lot of suffering, asked if I'd like him to recommend someone.

Walking away from that relationship with him was the hardest an most painful thing I've ever experienced. I am 46 and have been to several male therapists with whom I've had no transference. I feel as though he took advantage of my vulnerability and the fact that my relationship with my husband was unhealthy and screwed up at that time. He also would take me out to lunch regularly, tell me how he'd be "willing to take me out for a glass of wine", etc. There was never any touching between us. However, I fantasized about him and still miss him and feel romantic love for him to this day!

I am stuck, trapped, and feel there's no way out. I have a therapist who I saw before him and have continued to see throughout this whole ordeal. She tries to help me see that it's not real or healthy and I know that, but my heart and my emotions tell me differently.

This is a terrible situation I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. I am very interesting if any guy even looks at me. I trust no man who pays me any attention because I'm afraid there's always going to be the "potential" for attraction. If it was possible in a closed, supposedly safe, trusting environment, then it's certainly possible with a random person. This makes me sad and worried and frustrated as I see no end in sight after so many years.

Therapy is not foolproof and sometimes the best thing we can do is search ourselves for wholeness and spiritual growth, without depending on another "professional" (in my case, who charged $200/hour) to figure things out for us. Good luck to all and God bless.

anon168307
Post 59

Isn't it telling that no one who has experienced strong transference feelings in therapy has posted here (or on any other site/forum for that matter) and said: "Hey! It was an amazingly helpful experience, painful at the time, but my therapist and I worked through it and now I'm a healed and mentally level person, just getting on with life and all thanks to transference!"

I strongly suspect that this is because no one ever fully recovers from the pain and hurt of going through transference. Therapists should be trained to spot its earliest signs. The only good transference can be the sort where the therapist transfers the client to another counselor quick smart before any dependency and damage starts.

My own experience is that it is cruel, debilitating, life and relationship wrecking. It is a kind of unreciprocated 'love' and therapists either deny it or allow it to continue, believing clients will learn from the experience of having a stable client/therapy relationship. In truth, it is yet another one-sided unreciprocated relationship: exactly what the client doesn't need.

anon167420
Post 58

I am the partner of someone who has been seeing a cognitive behaviour therapist - he is suffering from extreme transference and while i understand why it happens it has all but destroyed our relationship.

He is a completely different person towards me - previously loving and caring, but this is now directed towards the therapist. I feel she has done untold damage to a very vulnerable person. He cannot now relate talk to me the one person who truly loves him. These people are dangerous. Do not let them mess with your mind.

anon166921
Post 57

I've been with my therapist for almost 12 years, since I was 12. I've always had transference with other people, like teachers but never really noticed it with my therapist. I'm sure it was there but it wasn't as noticeable.

Lately, it's been so strong! I didn't even know what transference was until a few days ago! But now I realize I definitely am experiencing it. And I don't know what to do about it.

Like everyone else, I am afraid my therapist will abandon me. It took me a year to actually open up and talk to her. Not to mention when she moved offices, we had to start all over again as I wouldn't speak to her for months. I don't like change.

My mom was never around and isn't the caring type. She's said "I love you" to me so few times I can count them on one hand! I've always wanted a kind, caring mom, someone who I could talk to without being screamed and sworn at for no reason every day.

My therapist is amazing! She doesn't cross any boundaries that I know of. I'm sure of that! She's kind and caring. I really feel that she does care for me and that it's not just the transference.

When I didn't have money to go to therapy, she let me go for months, free of charge! She's laid back, too. She will let me sit in her chair at her desk while she sits in the patient chair.

We don't meet at restaurants or anything. We meet at her office. But she does take me out places during our session. Like a quick run to dunkin donuts or an ice cream shop or my favorite place, the local animal shelter. And she has paid for me as well. Sometimes I will pay for myself and her or just myself but she has paid more times for me.

Lately, I'm getting really scared of telling her about this transference issue as I'm in a really bad place with my depression right now. And she thought I wasn't listening to her and taking her advice to help my depression. She said I wasn't making progress and said that if I wanted to see another therapist I had her permission. (She felt she needed to give her permission because I had seen her for so long and how she has done so, so much for me.) And she is right, I would need her permission, in my mind, to see someone else besides her.

But it's not an option to change my therapist. I would be so hurt beyond belief. When she suggested a different therapist, I thought she was abandoning me, giving up on me, didn't care and didn't want to see me anymore. Those feelings led me to self-injure and I ended up with stitches from it for the very first time.

We have talked it out and all is fine now. She said something weird, though. She said that maybe she was "too close" to see my progress. But she can see that I am making or trying to make progress.

Do you think that when she said she was "too close" it meant she is too involved and cares too much for me to see how I am helping myself and listening to her and not just not helping myself?

I don't think she is overstepping any boundaries. And if she is, well, I really don't care. I want to have her in my life forever. She is like a role model/mom to me.

anon162889
Post 55

I found this site when looking for Transference. I have to let people know what happened to me and to be careful with any therapist.

I started therapy for issues related to my husband leaving with the military. I was not doing well with his deployment. To make a long story short, the lady I had as a therapist came over to my house, met me in her car as well as mine and at restaurants to do therapy. DQ and Subway will be places I get nervous around for awhile. She sang to me and held me with my head in her lap when I was upset. We sent over 800 e-mails to each other and continued the "therapy" relationship even after she was transferred to a different base --one in Florida and then in Germany. It went on like this for four years. I finally told her superior and there was a hearing I had to go to. She has since lost her license and a few other things have happened.

Please be careful. When transference happens, please don't stay with someone if they let you touch them, meet with you in other places or e-mail you continuously. I am now in therapy to recover from therapy.

I have to add one more thing. It was very hard to be in the courtroom. I watched her and listened to her lie about us, in spite of all the evidence I brought to the proceedings. I am glad I was not the one in the wrong. I am glad she will no longer be practicing. Please be careful people.

anon161594
Post 54

There is light at the end of the tunnel. My story begins where I was abused by my older brother and father. I went to church to confess "my" sins and a year later I was abused by the priest from the confessional who knew my family well.

At the age of 19, after being raped for the second time, I entered therapy. I had no immediate attraction to him. We worked together for about a year before I began to have feelings for him. He was experiencing counter-transference, I was vulnerable to him and the appropriate love I never had. He and I were both married and I was friends with his wife, although I did not know that she was his wife until our two-year affair was ending. He was brought up on charges for sexual abuse of another client. Wow. Needless to say, his wife had confided in me and then I knew that our Paul was one in the same.

He left NY and moved to Fla. where he is now practicing, scary! Well, I found a female therapist whom I adored. She brought me through much of my journey: two abusive marriages, the murder of my daughter and cancer to name a few things. I experienced more transference with her in the 18 years I was with her, and she was my mom's age. It was partly because of her that I had the confidence to go back to school for my counseling degree.

She became my mentor and friend, so the counseling relationship had changed. It was more like two friends getting together for coffee rather than counseling. She came to my graduation when I received my bachelors degree and we both knew it was time for me to move on. I now see her supervisor every two weeks. Lucy has since retired but we keep in touch. In November I will graduate with my masters degree in counseling, and as one of the previous individuals had posted, I will be one of the counselors who explains what transference is all about. It can be a healthy, healing process with the right therapist.

peace33
Post 53

I have been in therapy with a counselor for a year and have had excellent rapport with him from the start. He is a lovely, kind, intelligent, and gentle person. Many times during sessions, I am laughing and in tears simultaneously because he allows me to be human! (and he treats me with love, dignity and respect). I have trouble being emotionally intimate, especially with men (father issues, bad marriage, etc), and for the first time, have this amazing connection.

Never mind that he is my therapist and probably 30 years older than me. I finally broke down and admitted that I have a “crush” on him. I didn’t explain that its not even sexual type crush, it’s more like I just want to sit and talk and laugh with him. I feel like he “sees” me and to be seen by a person who is emotionally mature and who has a strong sense of self feels so foreign and lovely.

After I admitted this crush (decided I must before diving into family of origin abuse issues), he handled it very professionally and with good boundaries. He told me that it was safe to express these feelings and courageous of me to do so. He talked about how agape love is okay for therapist and patient (but not eros love, etc).

It was completely embarrassing to do this and the next session was a bit awkward, but I am glad that I had the courage to speak up. I am hopeful that I can channel these feelings into something that will help me heal, versus keeping me stuck. A lot of these posts sound like people are stuck in there transference.

I have been a bit stuck this week, thinking about him on a daily basis. But I am also realizing that if you love and respect someone, you want what is best for them. I don’t want to be the pathetic, needy patient who becomes a problem for him to deal with. Showing him the same love and respect would mean that I have to deal with these feelings and move forward with my therapy. I definitely don’t want to sit with this gut-wrenching feeling for long.

This feeling is like realizing that you are hungry only once you smell dinner cooking. Making an intimate connection with a therapist is realizing how much intimacy has been missing in my life. Now that I have made this kind of connection, I realize how starved I have been.

anon141916
Post 50

I have been reading up on transference because i think i may have this, although it is not with a therapist.

My boyfriend and I were going through a rough patch. He then cheated, and I looked to a male friend for comfort. He was like a therapist, trying to cheer me up and listening to me.

I am still with my boyfriend, but feel very strongly for my friend now, like i am in love with him. It is very confusing and painful. Could this be transference, maybe because i haven't gotten over my bf cheating? How can i fix this? my bf is now very loving and caring towards me, but i can't help but feel a little numb to him. I just want to see my friend only as a friend, and continue my romance with my boyfriend.

anon141647
Post 49

In response to post 48: 10 years! No wonder you can't see a way out. I've been with my therapist for well over two years and can't begin to imagine a day when I say goodbye to him forever. The whole idea fills me with dread. I don't even want to broach the subject with him, in case I give him ideas!

My therapist says transference is a way for him to have a

'safe place to put my feelings' until they are ready to go back to my husband and to be fair, they have moved back to my husband as time goes on, but I still can't imagine my feelings for my therapist changing. He is the only person in my life who just accepts me. It is as simple as that.

I'm sorry that I am clueless how to help you (and myself). Anyone out there finished therapy and found it a positive experience?

anon140327
Post 48

I can really relate to what everyone is going through. I have been in a relationship with my therapist for ten long years.

I have made so many gains, but transference is what keeps me here, keeps me hurting, and I believe is negatively impacting my life. To stay is to hurt every day, to leave is to risk feeling so much loss and possibly depression. I don't know what to do.

We have discussed it often and he has stated he will not abandon me, which I am at least grateful for since I am reading here about so many instances of abandonment. But still I feel trapped, this hurts so much and it is not fair to my husband.

Every day I have to get up and decide if I am going to be able to fight off the feelings of despair. What I want, and can never seem to find, is to know how this gets resolved.I need to fix this.

anon134356
Post 47

In response to #43 - anon103488. Your therapist's actions are not normal and are unethical. He should not be making those comments about thinking of you when you're not around, or when he is in bed, about your tattoo, etc. Or any comment that can be perceived as sexual, or caring in a loving manner. I suggest you get a new therapist. How he is acting is very dangerous pertaining to your healing, and treatment. In fact, it is detrimental to your well being.

anon131535
Post 46

I went to a therapist and had a transference relationship with her. It was all consuming and very painful. After I trusted her and told her my innermost thoughts and feelings, she jacked her fee up sky high, saying she was turning 60 and didn't have a pension.

I thought it was so unfair and blame myself for having told her too much. Kind and insightful friends told me she was totally wrong and unethical.

I am now seeing another therapist and she is patiently helping me undo the damage of that unethical and unkind therapist.

anon112063
Post 45

i am looking into this topic after finding out my now ex girlfriend and her female therapist were romantically involved for most of the relationship. i am way blurred on what is considered ethical and what is considered unethical.

anon103821
Post 44

In response to post 43, it is difficult for me to judge on your brief comments if your therapist is being inappropriate or not, but it seems as if something may well be awry.

I can only offer my own two-year experience in therapy and say that my male (I am female) therapist has never made any comments of this nature. His feelings are never discussed and he has certainly never made any personal comments about my appearance.

For example, I have lost 42 pounds since I started therapy and he has never mentioned it. We have discussed how my weight loss has affected people's reaction to me, but I am the one who has brought that up. I have always admired his strict professionalism and this helped me during a period when I was experiencing transference and felt that I was in love with him.

I always knew for certain that he would never act on any of my declarations, which I suppose made it easy for me to talk in that way to him. Would I have been able to talk about these difficult feelings if he had been like your therapist? I don't think so.

I do not believe that the role of the therapist is to build up your confidence by complimenting you. Ultimately, you have to learn to function without your therapist (although as you have only just started, this may be a way off for you). In therapy you are learning to work out your feelings and behaviour for yourself, with your therapist as your guide.

I don't think he should be making comments of this nature.

From what you have written it sounds like he is thinking about his feelings, not yours. It seems as if he needs to know that you find him attractive. This is not what he is there for. He is supposed to be focused on your needs, not his.

If you read other comments on this forum you will see that sometimes people do make the decision to change therapists and have found this to be very helpful.

If you agree and feel able to, I suggest that you tell your therapist what your friend said, and find out what he says. The article above talks about the strict rules that govern a therapist's behaviour, who is, after all, supposed to be helping the most vulnerable people.

Good luck.

anon103488
Post 43

i have been seeing my CBT therapist for several months. He is a lovely caring man and has been helping me with childhood trauma. I also have ocd. It was only until i mentioned some comments that he has made to me to a friend who said she thought he was over stepping the mark. however, i don't feel that way or in any way uncomfortable with him. This is the first time in therapy for me and just wanted to make sure that everything is how it should be?

the comments he has made was when i told him i am finding it much easier to hug my friends, he said, do you think you will ever hug me? Then he said he was only joking. he has also told me i am attractive and when i have been talking about men in my life he said you need a man like me, i took this as a joke.

i have said that how he must dread our sessions together as i know i am difficult but he said i was the highlight of his week and he couldn't wait till our session. i thought he was just trying to give me a confidence boost.

He also tells me he is going to miss me when he has a holiday which i thought was part of the therapy. i have just had a tattoo which he said was lovely on my attractive foot. again i laughed, and he then said i was in bed thinking about you, and i sat bolt right up and thought i forgot to ask her about her tattoo. He said he was sorry, and I thought how sweet.

he often tells me he thinks about when we are not together, just to let me know he does not forget about me when I'm not in our sessions. Can you please give me your professional opinion on this and tell me if this is normal therapy?

anon103060
Post 42

In reply to post 40: I don't know if your behaviour is is psychotic or not, but I was obsessed with finding out more about my therapist and once I did, it was like a pressure being released. He knew everything about me and I nothing about him - yet I felt I knew him so well. It is such a weird situation and unlike any other relationship.

I found myself constructing a whole person in my mind from small details about him, the type of shoes he wore, the type of language and phrases he was fond of using. As it happens when I finally did get the opportunity to find out a bit more about him, my intuition was right; he seemed very much the person I had constructed, and it was a strange feeling.

He wasn't very comfortable when I told him about what I knew (nothing that wasn't in the public domain already, I hasten to add) in fact his eyes seemed to pop out! I was triumphant at first, and then later I felt rather cheap and intrusive. I felt that I had ruined our relationship.

I apologised at the next session and he admitted that it was something he had had to think about as well. We got over it. I comfort myself that I'm not as bad as a someone I heard of who tried to break into her therapist's apartment!

I don't think it is possible for you to have a friendship with your therapist's daughter any more than it is possible for you to have a friendship with your therapist. Therapy is what it is, and at times it is very tough and I certainly have felt on more than one occasion that I need therapy to deal with my therapy!

This is one of the reasons I find this forum very helpful. You can only really understand it if you are in it.

Talk to your therapist and work on the feelings you have about her. You can experience transference with a female therapist when female (see above article) and it makes things more confusing than ever. I told my therapist that I wanted someone like him in my life, an uncle, a brother, a father and then I started crying and realised what I was talking about unconditional love from a parent. I haven't got that, never have had that, and never will, and realising that is never going to be a comfortable experience, not for anyone.

Keep going to therapy. This will pass and things will get better. A few months ago I was obsessed with my therapist but things have evened out now and I feel a lot better. Things will get tough again though. I've been in therapy for two years now and the crap just keeps coming!

I've just come back from my summer holiday with my family and it is the first one I have been able to enjoy for years and for me that is huge progress. Thinking about you. x

anon102970
Post 41

Re post 38: I have now 'come out' to my therapist and told him of my feelings for him. He was perfectly professional in acknowledging my feelings, but reinforcing the fact that he could not have that sort of relationship with me.

At the same time, I told him I was doing 'damage limitation' by starting a cyber relationship with another very much younger guy I met on the internet. This has helped to lessen my feelings for my therapist, as I now have someone else to concentrate on.

anon101103
Post 40

I need urgent insight and help, please. I've been in therapy with X for six months. I befriended her daughter on a social site and we started chatting. I'm female, the doctor is female and so is her daughter. So no hint of any sexual advances, etc. I just wanted to see who her daughter was and so forth.

Well, over the last few days, the daughter and I have been chatting a lot and I became uncomfortable. I decided to tell my therapist what was going on via e-mail. She has not responded to me and her daughter has deleted me from the social site we chatted on.

I feel terrible. Am I psychotic? Is this transference? Why did I feel the need for such an interaction? Why was it met with such hostility?

anon100432
Post 39

I fell in love with my psychologist the first time she opened the door to me.

I thought she was the most beautiful woman in the world. I ended up experiencing transference before a word was ever spoken. She is about 15 years my senior but that has been usual with all my partners -- I just have a thing for older woman!

Our therapy sessions were very helpful to me, although I did hit on her on a couple of occasions. She was the consummate professional. We concluded our sessions and are now involved in a loving sexual relationship. It was a relationship which developed after our meetings. We have been together now for 10 years. I love her so much. She is everything to me as I am to her!

anon99322
Post 38

I am a female in therapy for depression for the last five months and experiencing transference with my much younger, male therapist. However, he did advise me in one of our earliest sessions that although we would develop a 'relationship' it would not be one of a romantic or sexual nature, but of mutual trust and empathy - a 'rapport'.

Despite the warning and despite the fact that I was aware of the possibility of transference before I started therapy, the feelings of romantic love and sexual attraction cannot be prevented. I know it's never going to happen as he is very professional, but that doesn't stop me experiencing the feelings.

I have not discussed this with my therapist, although he is very perceptive and I am sure is aware I am fond of him. At present I am just 'playing it by ear.' I know I would feel totally abandoned and desperate if he were to stop the therapy. He has assured me that he is there for me for as long as it takes. I will try to find another focus for my romantic feelings as soon as possible.

anon94794
Post 37

Thank you anon94061 for your post ' To those of you who adore your therapists'; there must be many of us out there indeed, and it certainly helps to know you are not alone. Thank you everyone.

I also love the post by Booker "I need therapy to deal with my therapy" - how true that seems sometimes!

I agree that lots of therapists have their own issues but at least they are engaging with them, especially if they are properly supervised. Surely someone who is going through the process of healing must be more helpful than, for example my mad, selfish, toxic mother who is always telling me what a great parent she is? Just a thought.

anon94061
Post 36

I too believed I had the best therapist in the world. For a while I felt like the luckiest girl in the world to have this LCSW in my life. I trusted her more than anyone else and I was certain, I would know her forever.

She told me that too.

One day, just like that, she abruptly terminated and a harrowing drama to cover up all of her boundary crossings began.

To those who adore their therapist: I was you. Please be careful because they have so much more power than you want to believe or accept. And when it's a matter of them or you, well guess who they will choose.

You are not their daughter, nor lover and will never be.

Most therapists are more mentally ill than the client. I have hung around plenty of hard core drinkers.

anon93363
Post 35

I experienced transference with a clergy member and was sexually abused. Now I'm in therapy with a very clean, very competent therapist and am once again experiencing transference, which is no surprise.

This forum has helped to get rid of the guilt, but after reading some of your experiences upon telling your therapists, I'm afraid of the abandonment I could experience if I tell him and he rejects me. But no matter what I end up doing, the whole thing has been normalized a lot for me and, my guilt is certainly reduced. Thanks for all your input.

anon91506
Post 34

I am in therapy with the best therapist in the world. She is the only therapist I have ever felt comfortable with to talk about childhood sexual abuse. She is so kind, gentle, non judgmental, patient, understanding, and sweet. I trust her completely. I would trust her with my life.

I do have a connection to her. I don't know if I am experiencing transference with her. If I am, it is not of a romantic nature. I do look forward to our sessions and I often worry about what I will do if she moves away or retires someday. I feel I would be heartbroken. I have thought about it and even thought, well I could write to her to keep in touch and that helps stop my fear somewhat of not being able to see her. She is the only person who understands me 100 percent. I respect her so much.

I don't know if what I feel is love. It just feels like a connection that I cannot quite explain. I did experience transference with my last relationship. She somehow became "mom" and I still struggle with it. It has been two years and I still miss her and just want to be hugged by her. She is not a good person though, so it confuses me to feel like that. She was abusive and an alcoholic/drug addict. What confuses me is I still feel that motherly connection to her and want desperately to be held by her, to feel safe and good. I know that I cannot let myself do that because she is an awful person and treated me so very bad. Why do I still want to cling to her? I don't know.

My therapist is helping me with that. And I feel so very lucky to have such a caring, thoughtful, and gentle therapist who understands me. I can tell her anything and I know I would be safe.

I am sorry to hear that some of you have been abused by your therapist. I can only imagine how painful that must be. There are wonderful therapists out there, so keep looking and don't give up.

I almost gave up before I found this therapist. My life would have been destroyed had I never become her client. She helped me through so many difficult things. Actually, I cannot even imagine how much pain those of you with bad therapists must be in. When you trust someone completely and they violate that -- I just cannot imagine.

Has anyone experienced this transference with a past relationship? Does this pain ever go away?

And thank you to everyone who has shared on here.

anon90991
Post 33

I am experiencing transference with my therapist at present and I am finding it very difficult to deal with. I feel heart broken really. I have told him how I feel and he, as ever, is sensitive and understanding- always putting my feelings in the context of my previous and current relationships, but I can't help but focus my feelings for him, which are becoming increasingly intense.

When I leave our sessions, I feel bereft- knowing I won't see him again for a week. It is very difficult. I trust him completely and believe he is a very good therapist and have to have faith that I'm not going to have to add him to my (rather long) list of heart breaks. I'd appreciate it if I could hear from someone who has come out of the other side of this sort of experience. It would be very helpful indeed.

anon88554
Post 32

I'm new here but couldn't not post after seeing your posts. My therapist is so sweet and so wonderful. I've told her not to be so "nice" to me because it hurts.

She will bring me insignificant souvenirs from her trips or tell me that she thought about me when. and I've told her that those little "insignificant" things are very significant for me and they hurt.

She just smiles. I honestly think she cares very much but sometimes I wonder if she doesn't realize that she is hurting me more by showing me so much concern and thoughtfulness when I came for her after complete neglect and sexual abuse as a child. It does feel like "torture".

anon88222
Post 31

Wow - I can't believe all the negative experiences people have had with transference. "Suffered transference"? When you left, I would say that was probably the most critical time for you to stay in therapy -- that is, if you had a good therapist.

Saying that they "dropped you when the money ran out" isn't fair. They are providing a service for you, and this is how they make a living - helping people. The therapist probably cares about you a great deal, but you can't expect them to make an exception for you and not charge you. If that's what you're expecting, it's actually a little narcissistic - something else you could have brought up with your therapist.

I've definitely experienced very strong feelings of transference with my therapist for many years (positive and negative). In fact, I quit therapy eight years ago because I moved across the country. Eight years later, we reconnected - I happened to be in town - and as soon as I saw her again, those feelings of transference were back because I haven't worked through my childhood. But, we addressed the transference head-on. My therapist says that a therapist isn't doing their job (or isn't a very good one) if they do not address it. It's critical to explore it and figure out where those feelings came from and how to deal with it for you to really progress in therapy.

I'm sorry for those of you who have had bad therapists who have either a) not addressed it or b) taken advantage of it. Find another therapist - they are not doing you any good.

But, when you find the right one, it can be extremely rewarding -- life-changing, even. It was and is for me.

anon82509
Post 30

I have had feelings of transference for more then three years. I have kept these feelings separate in therapy from the real need to be there and receive the help I needed from my therapist. It has been a very long and painful time for me. You begin to lose your present and become preoccupied with romantic thoughts of your therapist.

Currently, I am trying to disclose my feelings to my therapist and have been trying to do so for the last six sessions. He is aware that I have a secret that I am too embarrassed to share with him.

He has been sensitive to me and is trying to help me, but will not come out and ask if this is what I am going through; even though I believe he is quite certain that it is in regard to my feelings toward him.

He has truly helped to come very far in my life and I still need to achieve more. I am afraid this will end my sessions with him, and I will find myself alone with no one to turn to. I truly sympathize with anyone who is going through this same situation. Any comments on this situation would be appreciated. --jb

anon71936
Post 28

Anon 70881, everything you said made sense. When you can talk about it with someone who understands, the feelings soften and are more manageable.

For me, they are still there, and cause me stress, but they are much better than they were. I swear, I need to find a therapist to help me with my therapy! I find that I don't swallow anything in the way of feelings now. I feel everything. It wears me out. I've been in therapy for a year for the first time ever, so I'm learning as I go.

I never knew there was so much to it. Oh, and I am mbooker, btw. I haven't figured out how to post non-anonymously.

anon71678
Post 27

I experienced intense eroticized transference with a former therapist. I believed I was in love and to complicate matters I was married.

I had never heard of romantic transference and my therapist neglected to inform me, even though I was obviously distressed.

Although I left therapy, his behavior made me feel completely abandoned -- rejected as both a woman and patient, and I have been dealing with the scars from this for years.

To take the approach that only the patient should initiate discussion of these feelings I believe is misguided. The feelings are so overwhelming and the fear of abandonment so intense for some of us, that it would be beneficial for therapists to sensitively "pull it out" of us.

The ideal is to have the therapist introduce the concept of transference upfront before therapy starts, as the previous commenter plans to do. The patient will feel more comfortable opening up and not think that something must be wrong with him/her. Easier on the therapist too, who may be struggling with a highly emotional patient.

I've also found that subsequent therapists with whom I've discussed this have been dismissive.

I think it is misunderstood, insensitively treated, and brushed under the rug by many therapists.

I finally found a therapist who "gets it" and is supportive and helping me deal with the prior trauma. By the way, I've never experienced romantic transference again. There probably is something to the concept that it is a real "falling in love", with the pain intensified by the dependency of patient on therapist.

anon71648
Post 26

Congratulations anon70881, you're getting great therapy. But, how can you relate? You're not having erotic transferences. It is a whole other ball game. And, guess what? you don't even have to touch when you experience it - you just suffer through it.

anon70881
Post 25

A therapist does not "create" dependency or transference. Transference is a naturally-occurring phenomenon. We do it in small ways with everyone we meet.

You know how you just met someone and you instantly liked or disliked them? What are you basing that decision on? You are likely transferring feelings you had from some other relationship in your life onto that person because they remind you of them.

I have also been through and continue to have transference with my therapist. Although I love him deeply for the help he has given me, I am not confusing that with romantic love.

It feels that way at times because I think about him so often, but I know it is just about transference.

I often think "oh, so now he gets to be mom" or "wow I guess this week he's dad" as I see how I transfer my thoughts about my parents onto him.

It used to upset me and I thought that he was doing it on purpose, but now I realize that this is just part of the process of therapy and if you don't resist it, you can get healing.

As for touching in a sexual way, that is completely illegal and this is not what transference is.

Transference can be a very painful experience when you don't understand what is going on. I think that therapists should be required to explain the process to their clients before beginning work with them.

As I am now studying to become a therapist, I plan to give every client a sheet that explains what transference is so that they can be more comfortable with the issue when it arises.

anon69865
Post 24

Now i don't feel alone anymore. it happened to me but i didn't know what it was. My therapist didn't answer any my questions when i asked him why he was doing that to me.

I am so angry i let him touch me and blamed myself. He still didn't talk about why he was doing that to me. I ended our sessions and he just said ok.

I have so much anger. should i contact him again and tell him what i think of him now that i know that it wasn't my fault. please can someone help me as i don't have anyone i can talk to about this.

anon65486
Post 23

I wrote a few months ago about experiencing intense transference feelings toward my therapist, but felt too embarrassed to talk about it.

I wanted to say that I ended up talking about it with her, and it was the best thing I ever did. She knew these feelings were intense and overwhelming. She spoke softly, gently and lovingly. She understood completely what I was going through. I had three choices: quit therapy, just keep going on like I was or telling her and working through it. I hated all of the choices, but I picked the latter because I felt I would never resolve anything unless I did.

It is the healthiest thing to do if you are having these feelings and I would encourage talking about it with your therapist if you trust her. I still have the feelings, but they are softer now and more manageable. Good luck. --mbooker

anon64993
Post 22

This message is for all of you who have experienced suffering and pain through experiences of transference during psychotherapy.

After two and a half years of therapy, I realised I was experiencing transference with my therapist. Instead of talking it through, I ended therapy. I then began to study psychotherapy as a student.

I now realise, after a lot of pain and sadness, that he really was a host for all my previous unresolved relationships. He was the kindest, most unconditionally caring and empathic person I have ever met and I have learned greatly from my experience, so much so I am now training.

I only realised last week that I had projected on to him past failed relationships. The reason I left therapy was because I thought he would reject me, just like all past relationships. But he never rejected me. He knew what was happening to me but it wasn't his place to tell me.

I needed to do this journey myself and find out my way, albeit the hard way I suppose. To all of you still suffering from your transference with your therapist, hang in there. Be kind to yourself and perhaps through another therapist, work through what happened.

Talk about it and just see what happens. Otherwise, you will be stuck in that place, and you will miss out on the present.

anon60314
Post 21

I don't doubt that there's value that comes out of transference, but anyone who's suffered through a serious romantic transference knows that at its worst, it feels like a sick joke that is played on vulnerable, sensitive, mostly female patients by older, powerful, mostly male therapists, although it is certainly not limited to this group exclusively.

The pain is torturous and the decision to expose your innermost feelings to the object of your passion, without fully understanding it or how your therapist will handle it, is difficult and heart-wrenching.

I wonder if those therapists who are flattered by the transference and encourage it, who ignore it, or who terminate because they don't want to deal with it, realize that they may be setting up their patients for many, many years of suffering. Why there is no requirement to forewarn potential patients through pre-therapy discussion or informed consent only reaffirms my suspicion that romantic transference either is not taken seriously or is viewed with disdain by the mental health community.

anon52603
Post 20

i think transference is a nice legal term for horrible, illegal behavior.

anon50878
Post 19

mbooker, "It would be terribly embarrassing to talk with her about it. Don't know if I could do that. Could I talk around it in some way?"

MBooker, hold your breath, and throw it out on the table. That's the best way to do therapy. If your therapist is experienced there is nothing (s)he hasn't heard before including "I'm in love with you" and "I want to kill you". Just go for it.

mbooker
Post 18

I am in therapy with a wonderful, reputable therapist who I trust. I'm just having these incredibly strong transference (I guess) feelings, although she doesn't remind me of my mother, husband, or anyone else in my life. They have become painful, and because of the intensity, they make me want to quit the work we're doing. I don't think that would really be best to do, but I don't know what to do. It would be terribly embarrassing to talk with her about it. Don't know if I could do that. Could I talk around it in some way?

anon37728
Post 17

I've finally found a therapist who I trusted and after afew short months she's leaving! any suggestions. Rose

anon37068
Post 16

Sounds like some people out there have experienced some stuff in therapy that is somewhat unethical. Please do not generalise that to all therapy though.

Transference is a phenomenon characterised by unconscious redirection of feelings and attitudes that were originally associated with important figures (parents, siblings, etc) in one's early life and often people temporarily substitute the therapist for the object of desire. Many approaches to therapy recognise the importance of identifying peoples' transference reactions to their therapist. Most commonly transference is of a romantic nature however mostly the therapist represents the people in a persons' life who should love them. Therapists are a secure base and for some people they have never experienced that before. A disussion in therapy can be helpful and healing and assist the person to a state where those feelings are relocated back to their partner, parent ect.

anon36945
Post 15

I have been in therapy for 5 months with my therapist and believe that I am going through transference now. should I tell him? He is my fifth therapist and the only therapist that I have gotten help from.

anon31254
Post 14

Nearly 20 years ago a therapist created dependency and transference in me, but I came to my senses five years later. However, my life had been ruined. The ensuing years have seen no change in me: I still suffer as a result of him. I beat myself up every day when I think how stupid and naive I was. All that I held dear was lost, because of him. I suffer every day of my life for my stupidity in allowing it to happen. But I was ill and it should never have happened - he was the one supposed to be looking after me. Please don't allow this to happen to you. If you're in the throws of transference please stop immediately before it all becomes too much for you to bear, as it has been for me.

anon25607
Post 13

My younger brother and sister are both abusing me regarding 'incidents' that happened to them when they were kids - that I was totally unaware of. This was 40 years ago and I am now their target where I am at fault for everything that was said to them by I think my father (who passed away 9 years ago). They are carrying around this emotional baggage making it difficult for me to even talk with them on the phone because I continue to get blamed for things I knew nothing about.

I don't know how to begin to straighten this mess out. And now I'm accused of doing things they don't approve of ... things I like ... just because of their anger.

Now I feel like a victim but as some of the symptoms of this state, that the perpetrators of this transference seem to blow up, vent and say awful things and make all these accusations, and then seem to conveniently forget they said this crap once the verbal damage has been done and people are upset. I'm very upset over these actions because I had nothing to to with them.

So ... how do you respond to this bad behavior? And is there some kind of treatment these two should seek to get the anger out of their system and to stop directing it at me and direct it at some other target?

anon23422
Post 12

I do not get what you mean when you say "you suffered transference"?? Does that mean you had a relationship with your therapist? or that you loved your therapist and they did not help you take a deeper look at that in the therapy?

I understand in transference work it is essential that the focus be on taking responsibility for your own feelings and looking into the repeated patterns in your life where these same feelings have occurred which in turn helps to change the unconsciousness and victim nature of the patterns.

While not all therapists are great at doing this work, I am sure there are some who take advantage of clients and this should surely be reported. Saying that you were dropped when the money ran out, well, I don't know any professionals who would do free therapy- so I can understand having to end sessions if the client cannot pay.

anon21799
Post 11

I want to ask questions, but I am new to computer conversation, or to any kind of conversing. I do want others input and I do have questions. I fear my friends would not be able to relate, so I would like to try this style of connecting.

Josie
Post 10

Even with a good therapist, and even if no boundaries are crossed, and even if the transference is dealt with and used to benefit the therapy, you have to admit this is a very painful process. I think it's cruel. That is not to say that aren't huge benefits to entering a good therapy relationship. I've been in one. I've made tremendous strides. My gripe is with romantic transferences, and the pain they cause. A big red flag should go up when it happens, because there will always be trouble ahead.

WGwriter
Post 9

The comments here are very poignant, and I do think it is fully inappropriate for a therapist to express feelings of love back to a patient. This is one way of really messing with someone's mind. Many patients have strong feelings for therapists and when properly addressed these feelings can result in deeper and better therapy. The big deal is they have to be properly addressed with the therapist fully aware of boundaries. These feelings are no joke and they can be hard, but they can also be extremely valuable to therapy.

Much depends on how it is handled by the therapist. I think there are many competent and exceptional therapists who know how to handle this well, and are particularly concerned by the delicate nature of the client's psyche when undergoing transference. This should never be abused and I would say in most cases of therapy it isn't. These experiences mentioned here, say that it is from time to time, which isn't good. I don't think they're representative of the whole mental health profession, and I don't think they should be used to discourage others from entering therapy.

Tricia E-C

Josie
Post 8

I'll try to post one more time, with one more thought. I've been in the same situation. Very painful. Don't let them get away with it. Get the courage to bring it to their attention and work it out, or you'll carry it forever, and they'll go their merry ways. "Transference" is their excuse for falling in love. They need a convenient term for it. They need to be made responsible for the messes they cause.

anon12829
Post 6

same as rita, only ours was for 7 years rather than two, we were dropped from a great height like a hot potato and don't know when the pieces are ever gonna be put together again. It all started of great, but as rita says when it got too much for them...........bye bye moi!

anon11652
Post 5

transference is not all bad if in the right context. it is truly a long process but a worthy one if you have the right therapist involved

rita
Post 4

Speaking from someone who has suffered transference for the last two years, it is the single most painful experience of my entire life and I would urge those thinking about entering into therapy to consider the consequences very seriously before you embark on it.

My life has been ruined, destroyed beyond repair by a therapist who created dependency and transference and then dropped me when it became to much for them to handle and the money ran out.

This is not something that I would wish on my worst enemy.

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