Erotic Transference


Update: This post has drawn a lot of traffic in the time it has been up, leading me to believe it’s a topic that a lot of people may wish to discuss further. If you have questions about anything in this post, or questions about things not discussed in this post, please feel free to ask a question in the comments or send me the question privately at the email address in the right column. Thanks! – AG

I got a request from a reader to discuss erotic transference, so I thought I would share a few thoughts. I do want to be clear that although I have done a lot of reading about erotic transference, most of what I write here is based on my own experience and so may not be all that universal. I also think that erotic transference can be a very complex thing encompassing several different dynamics in the relationship. Our sexuality is a very powerful, integral part of us and  therefore a lot of things get played out in this area; issues around power, love, desire, longings, sensuality, self-worth, and attractiveness to list only a few. And all of these things are going to be even more highlighted in the therapeutic relationship since the therapist carries so much symbolic weight.

DISCLAIMER: I just want to be very clear that when I am discussing the erotic/romantic component of my relationship with BN, I very much believe these feelings to be one-sided. Things wouldn’t have played out any differently if there was desire on his part, because he’s a highly ethical therapist who takes his responsibility to his patients seriously, but I do feel compelled to mention that I have never caught even a hint of feelings in this vein on his side. Yes, I do realize that he has feelings about me, even if I don’t get to hear them, but I think they are closer to friendship or paternal ones. I just wanted to be clear, so that when I am discussing what it would have been like if he had expressed sexual desire, that I am discussing a hypothetical situation. 🙂

The first thing I want to do is define what I mean by erotic transference. Erotic transference is essentially when a client has strong romantic/sexual feelings for their  therapist; it can feel like you are “falling in love” with the therapist. Erotic transference is not necessarily a problem if the client is open to talking about the feelings (as well as the therapist, not every therapist is comfortable in this area) and keeping the focus on themselves and the work. Essentially, erotic transference is something that can be handled and even used to advance therapy. On the other hand, eroticized transference is something that actually blocks the work. A person with eroticized transference truly believes and often tries to convince their therapist, that they really are soul mates, that if they had met outside of therapy, they would have had a wonderful relationship together. Their focus is actually on seducing the therapist and getting them to move beyond the therapeutic relationship. In other words, they don’t want to change themselves, they want to change the therapist. If this happens, then the erotic/romantic feelings can become problematic enough that a referral is necessary because instead of being used to forward the work, the feelings are interfering in the work.

There is a reason that erotic transference is a bit of a cliché. People often go into therapy because their life is not working right, which usually means that they are frustrated with their relationships. So they sit down across from someone who is totally focused on them, is working to understand them, is unconditionally accepting and makes it their goal to understand. What’s not to love? It’s not so much surprising that some clients have romantic feelings, it’s a wonder that they ALL don’t. A therapist can seem like a perfect lover; they don’t have any needs, they don’t get defensive and ok, ladies, let’s be honest. A man who listens? and understands our feelings? Sign me up! 🙂  (My deepest apologies to any male readers in the audience for my sexist moment.)  And because we do not fully know our therapist and can feel so connected to them, we can invest in them any qualities we wish and they can feel like the “perfect match.”

Because a therapist keeps their own needs out of the room, they can always put you first and respond to your needs in a way that someone in “real life” can’t, because they have to get their own needs met. A therapist does that when they are away from you, so it just doesn’t register. What we are longing for is to have 24/7 access to that perfect person, but they don’t exist. I remember once saying to BN that I would kill for just 15 minutes with his wife. He laughed and told me it would only take her five to set me straight. 🙂

I mentioned earlier that erotic transference can be quite complex and serve different purposes for the client. I want to talk about some of the dynamics that I came to understand were operating for me. I’m sure that this is not an exhaustive list, nor would all of these necessarily be true for someone else,  because my particular reasons were unique to me and my experiences. But my hope is that by highlighting the ways in which these feelings tied into my issues, you might find insight into your own reasons for these feelings about your therapist.

One very common reason for sexual feelings for a therapist is actually rooted in our childhood needs. Psychology sometimes refers to the “golden dream.” All human beings had the experience in the womb of being in a safe place, cared for, where all your needs were met and there was no separation between you and your mother; at that point in our development, we are not yet capable of even conceiving that we are a separate being. Then we’re born. No one really knows what a baby is feeling, but when we carry unfulfilled longings and needs from childhood, part of what we long for is to return to that time of perfect safety, where our needs were met without speaking them and there were no boundaries. Part of the maturation process for human beings is the realization that we are a separate person, with our own feelings and needs which are distinct from another person’s. But it is in a romantic/sexual relationship where an adult normally lowers their boundaries the most. Ideally, we allow a lover to see us clearly, both emotionally and physically. In the act of making love, we seek as much contact between us as is possible. The Bible actually refers to the sexual union within marriage as the two becoming one flesh. So when we enter therapy and those long dormant childhood needs and longings are stirred and awakened, we struggle to “fit” them somewhere. And the channel in which they flow most smoothly is in our sexual feelings. In other words, we are experiencing really intense, primitive longings from childhood and the closest thing we have to that as an adult is our sexual/romantic feelings. So we experience strong sexual feelings that ultimately, are really about what we wanted as children and didn’t get. It is this dynamic that is at the root of a client with a life-long heterosexual orientation to feel sexual attraction to a same gender therapist or a client with a homosexual orientation to feel attracted to an opposite gender therapist.

Another important dynamic for me was one of power. My experience of power in a relationship was that it would be used to hurt me. A parent of necessity wields a lot more power in the relationship than the child. Children need parents BECAUSE they are powerless to take care of themselves for a very long time. When we are abused, our experience is that being powerless in a relationship is a very bad thing. I remember really struggling with feelings of humiliation and fear when I realized that I had these kinds of desires for BN, because I knew that my wanting him gave him the power (correction: I BELIEVED he had all the power) and that was scary. Because what if he misused the power in our relationship the way my father had misused his power? But if I could get BN to love me, to desire me sexually, then he needed me, and I would have power and therefore be safe. In some ways, the desire to create sexual desire in the relationship is a way to pull a therapist’s needs into the relationship and even out the power differential. One of the reasons that a sexual relationship with a patient is such a powerful taboo, much like the incest taboo, is that when a therapist’s needs come into play, then it’s no longer therapy. In other words, to enter a sexual relationship is to end therapy.

But one of the things that I needed to learn was that my father HAD abused his power. That with a safe person, in a safe relationship, becoming vulnerable is actually a good thing. That yes, BN does hold more power from the standpoint that I need and want him in a much more central, powerful way then he does me (if at all), but I am important to him in the sense that he is committed to my good. He cannot allow himself to need me, but he can, and does, recognize the powerful role he plays in my life and treats that role, and the power inherent in it, with respect and care. So I am now able to experience being in a relationship where I need someone, where I am vulnerable because of that need, and their response is to use their power to protect me. In experiencing that crucial difference, I learn that it can be safe to stand close to someone without having to wrest away their power.

For me, the erotic feelings were also about having to “pay” for the relationship. My father eroticized a relationship that should not have been. On some level, I carried an unconscious belief that any close relationship with a man would include sex. It wasn’t a thought out plan or even a cognitive recognition as a child, but in effect, I endured the sex in order to get some attention and semblance of physical comfort and closeness.  I had to pay for the relationship with my father by having sex, which I couldn’t begin to comprehend, just in order to get some kind of affection and attention. It has taken me years  (and I do mean years!) to work out the damage it caused. I did not experience being valued for who I was but for what I could be used for, so if I was getting comfort and care from BN, wasn’t I supposed to be providing sex? And this is where the BN’s boundaries became of such paramount importance. The only way for me to realize that I do not have to “earn” love, or relationship is to experience a relationship the way I should have as a child, as a gift freely given from the other person.  For BN to indulge in a sexual relationship with me would have repeated the injuries my father did to me, and forever confirmed my belief that my value resided only in what I could provide.

This led to an interesting interaction once, when I was discussing these feelings. BN was talking about how my father would overrun my boundaries and I connected to how deeply I could long for BN to step over the boundaries. I actually cried out, very distraught, that I was wanting the abuse to happen again, that I had wanted the abuse to happen. BN very gently told me that I did not want to be abused, I wanted to get my normal and legitimate needs for closeness and love met, and that’s what I was still trying to do. Which is why it was so important that he provide me with what I needed, not everything I wanted. Just as a good parent should have.

The most unsettling dynamic that came to light for me around these feelings was that I was seeking relief from pain. One of the more confusing things for me about these longings was that when I stopped to give myself permission to fantasize about just what I wanted, it was really difficult to pin it down. How ironic to long so deeply for something that I couldn’t even define or understand. As I was trying to work through exactly what it was I wanted from BN, I remembered that sometimes the abuse, while it was terrifying and overwhelming, also included pleasure. Such is the human physiology, that if you are touched in certain places in certain ways, it will feel good whether or not you want it to. It was also a form of positive attention that felt like I mattered. So I think there were times during the abuse, where I found respite in the physical pleasure of the act. I took those thoughts to BN, and told him that I realized that at least part of why I wanted a sexual relationship was that it would buy me a few minutes of peace. Yes, it would hurt me in the end (sound familiar?) but any relief from the pain, however short-lived, could seem worth it. (I do want you to know, gentle reader, this was not an easy realization or conversation for me. I had to keep a trash can handy, because I really felt like I was going to throw up, so repulsive was the thought that I had enjoyed anything.) BN was very accepting (in addition to being a boundary ninja, he is also a first class shame buster :)) and told me he could completely understand why I would want to experience some peace.

Realizing this helped me to recognize the connection between my going deeper and moving towards new (painful) realizations and an upswing in my erotic/romantic longings. When the erotic feelings grew stronger, it was a sign that I was moving towards something painful and the desire was a distraction, but was also a reaching towards comfort. This was very much reinforced by the fact that when I had a major breakthrough in understanding, my feelings for BN were much more centered around gratitude for my growth and the safety he provided. (One more full disclosure, BN has a lot of qualities and interests that I do find attractive. I also thinks he’s a good-looking man. He’s around 12 years older than me, which is old enough to see him as a father figure even though he’s not old enough and also see him as romantic partner since the gap isn’t all that big, especially at my age. So there is an adult component to my attraction to him, but that part is relatively easy to manage. It is my past that feeds the intensity of desire and the pain I feel at its denial.)

The erotic transference has also proven to be healing in that BN provided a safe relationship in which I could experience sexual desire and explore my sexual feelings. To learn what it was like to desire a sexual relationship not because I was obliged to, or felt I had to, but to desire to express intimacy physically. That, as an adult, to desire someone sexually was actually a good thing (I carried some really twisted beliefs about how bad it was to want to have sex, or to even want to be sexually attractive, but that’s a whole other story for another day, if I ever get up the nerve.)

So erotic transference, like pretty much all of our feelings, can be incredibly useful when the feelings are expressed and examined and used to understand ourselves. These feelings do not spell automatic doom to therapeutic work as long as we are able to recognize that these feelings may never be acted on. BN told me many times that he had the boundaries, that nothing improper would happen between us. I remember once, very early on, asking him to tell me that nothing would EVER happen, believing that I needed it to hear it so I could kill my hope. He very clearly told me that we would never have a relationship outside the one in his office, that those boundaries were his responsibility and he would hold that line. What was so surprising was that instead of hearing my death knell, I heard it as a powerful declaration of my safety. The truth is that as deeply as I could desire BN, if he had actually done anything, I would have run screaming out of his office and never looked back. It was a deeply important gift that he told me that while nothing would be acted on, any and all of my feelings, including any romantic or sexual feelings, were welcome in his office. I learned so much about myself because he was willing to talk about my desire for him. And be the same steady person he was when we were discussing anything else at all. And to be fair to myself, because I was able to accept that the feelings would not be acted on and face the pain of that long enough to look underneath for the meaning.

Copyright 2012 All rights reserved

  1. May 9, 2012 at 9:33 am

    AG I learn a lot reading your posts. Although I have nothing significant in my past like your experience I can still relate but that is probably the nature of my beliefs about a lot of what people will try to get away with. Thanks for sharing…it’s really important to be able to understand from someone like you who has done so much work and shares with others so freely. You’re awesome!

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    • May 9, 2012 at 11:06 pm

      Hopeful,
      Thank you so much, I am really happy to hear that you are learning from my posts (it makes all the work of healing worth it when I hear from someone that some of my story has helped them.) Thanks for taking the time to tell me! AG

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  2. Kirbydog156
    June 8, 2012 at 8:16 am

    AG, this has helped me understand so much about my own situation. I too experienced abuse from my father and have encountered transference with my therapist, and you have brought so much clarity. Thank you.

    Like

    • June 11, 2012 at 4:21 pm

      Kirbydog,
      Welcome to my blog, thanks for commenting! 🙂 So glad that this helped you to gain insight into your own work in therapy. I am sorry that you were also abused by your father, it’s not something that should ever happen to anyone. I am glad that you are getting help and healing.

      Like

  3. June 22, 2012 at 9:11 am

    I fell in love with my therapist. I so dislike the terms transference/countertransference, because they are words simply about feelings, and are present in ALL relationships. The research I did on those terms and relationships between therapist and cllent was tremendous. There are almost no studies on the feelings which therapists have for their clients (I have only one).
    I went to my therapist for a unique problem/reason. My church of 31 years voted me out of membership because I got a divorce (36 years of abusive \”marriage\”) . He journeyed with me for 18 months in which I fought the spiritual abuse….He was/is an expert in that subject; a rarity. In the end, my name was put up on a big screen, followed by the words, \”Conduct Unbecoming a child of God.\” Three times and on my birthday; it is a wound which doesn\’t heal. I was called to a meeting of deacons (16 \”men\”), not allowed to have a woman with me, and asked: \”Are you still having sex with your ex?! No boundaries.
    Something positive came out of that debacle: http://www.churchabusepoetrytherapy.com with over 20,000 hits.
    I waited a year and then told my therapists of my feelings for him. he was very gentle and sensitive. Unfortunately, he sexualized our relationship…verbally and physically (no sex)…..a few of the 100\’s of provocative remarks: \”You are in my heart and in my head.\” Who wouldn\’t fall in love with you.\” \’If I were not married, I would probably go for it.\” A few years ago, things got physically hot and heavy.
    My feelings have not changed, although I resent him playing what I call….push me, pull me, come here,go away.
    In short, we are having a personal relationship. He sits next to me on the couch, I have always brought him dinner and something to drink (non-alcoholic): I used to bring candles and flowers (I am just a romantic) and he plays music and we toast one another.
    I told him once, All that is missing is the unobtrusive waiter!
    I wrote about my life of overcoming, won a scholarship and am student (psychology)….a Freshman at 65!
    I grew up never knowing my father (met him at 33) with a verbally and physically abusive mother in a 120-year old tenement house with cockroaches and rats and snow which came in thru a crack in the wall.
    Molested while sleeping (I didn\’t know who it was) by a drunken neighbor, had my hand held over an open fire by another (woman) drunken neighbor, ick.
    Poverty: no phone, car, refrigerator, tub or shower.
    I joined the army right out of high school from a little town in Maine to San Francisco at the height of the VIetnam war….major culture shock…. and then \”married\” the original abuser (mother) and tried to fix the past.
    I\’ve written my memoir, Ghost Child to Triumph (not published yet) and my poetry book, Sanctuary of the Soul: http://www.soulpoetry.org…..my endorsements amaze me: Elie Wiesel, Wayne Dyer, Nikki Giovanni, Drs. Alice Miller, Larry Dossey and many others.
    I believe we are here to make a difference in the world, and I have been writing to media types for over 10 years to talk about verbal abuse; rampant on our planet.
    I have 2 choices regarding being in love with my therapist….stay or leave. I told him that I would rather be in pain WITH him than in pain withOUT him.
    Our connection was immediate and the chemistry off the charts. There are at least 23 ways in which we are alike. I love him and hate him…..I know how weird that sounds. I wrote him a \”how could you do this to me letter\” 4 years ago..
    We rarely meet anyone under ideal circumstances, and I certainly didn\’t go to a therapist, hoping to fall in love, etc…….
    Thanks for \”listening\”—I didn\’t mean to write a whole blog, LOL, LOL

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    • June 22, 2012 at 5:35 pm

      Hi Alice,
      Welcome to my blog! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      First I want to say that I am very sorry for how you were treated both as a child and as an adult by the church. Neither should have happened. God desired so deeply to not condemn us that He sent His only son to be punished and die in our place, so it always strikes me as horribly presumptuous and very wrong, that we who profess to follow Him take it on ourselves to condemn others. I do not think you should have been expected to stay in an abusive marriage and I think how you were treated was horrible. I am very glad to hear of all you have done with your experiences to help other people and wish you the best in publishing your book.

      I understand your dislike of the terms transference/counter-transference because I understand that sometimes professional jargon can be used to distance and detach ourselves from what is going on in the room. However, I tend to use those words because I see my feelings for my therapist having two distinct components: the present and the symbolic. I have feelings for him in the present. I value him, like him, love him, enjoy talking to him, find him attractive and intelligent and he is vastly important to me as my attachment figure and someone who taught me what I needed to know. Those are real feelings that I am having for the person he is in the room and having as an adult interacting with someone. But there is also the symbolic part of our relationship where everything he does takes on meaning and significance as it relates to the deprivations and injuries of my past. These things play out in the relationship also. And for me, as I’m sure you gleaned from this post, a lot of the Erotic Transference was driven by underlying issues.

      So I do have times where I feel like I am “in love” with my therapist and long for more than a therapy relationship can contain but I find that the adult part is easy to manage, sad but easy, especially as I also have so much to be grateful for, while the deep pain and longings that can make these feelings in therapy a living hell are almost invariably driven by things from my past, that needed to be examined in order for me to heal.

      Before I say the next part, I want to make it perfectly clear that your life is your own. Your experiences and your responses to them are yours. So I respect whatever choices you are making in terms of your therapist and if what you are going through with him is worth the cost to you, who am I to say differently? So that’s the bottom line. We’re different people and what we need is different. All that said, I want to comment on your situation as I do struggle with whether it is really healthy for you.

      You have made it clear that although the relationship has become physical, you are not having sex with your therapist, but from what you are describing it sounds your “sessions” are a lot more like dates. So may I respectfully point out that on one level you are being exploited. I assume you are paying for sessions? Please correct me if I am wrong. But what you’re getting is not therapy, because your therapist is getting financial, emotional and sometimes physical gratification out of the relationship. By treating the whole relationship as really being about just here and now, you avoid getting to the unconscious material that may be operating behind your behaviors (this is NOT meant as a criticism. EVERYONE had unconscious material, I see therapy as a place where you can bring those behaviors, beliefs and feelings into consciousness which affords you more control over how you are behaving.) Your therapist by behaving in this manner, and your accepting it, has banned you to a netherworld. Yes, you get to be near the man you love, but you may not know him fully or experience with him everything you would be experiencing in a “normal” relationship. No dates anywhere else, no meeting each others friends and families, you get the idea. Yet, being in this relationship where he seems to give you just enough to keep you coming, is preventing you from going elsewhere to meet someone with whom you could have a fuller relationship. It is also a deception, because anyone can behave beautifully for an hour at a time. True intimacy in a romantic relationship also includes such mundane things as dirty socks, bills and fights over the toilet seat. The person we see in therapy is real in the sense of it is really the person and there are genuine feelings on both sides, but it is a fantasy in that a real human being cannot constantly be attentive and willing to listen and caring and accepting and focused only on our needs. It’s an alluring fantasy, one I know I fell in love with, BUT that man does NOT exist. And so you linger, longing and chasing after a chimera that does not exist, trapped from looking for something more fulfilling and more real. I believe we need to grieve that which we cannot have any longer: the perfect love, the perfect parent so we can stop looking for something which is impossible and use our energy to enjoy and live more fully with that which we can have.

      I hope you will take this (or not as the case may be :)) as written from a place of caring. You certainly know yourself and your situation much better than I do and as I said earlier, I respect that this is your decision to stay.

      All my best,
      AG

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      • June 23, 2012 at 8:55 pm

        Hi, AG: Thank you for kind and thoughtful words; I agree with most of what you said. It is ironic that I am a moderator of an abuse support group and an undergrad in the psychology field. I have been dating for 7 (gackkk) years and there was one man, who I thought might be the “one”—he disappeared without a word (long story)..My therapist isn’t preventing me from living or finding someone else….my life is very full and somehow I have made peace with the way things are and found a way to live with it. Thank you once again for your sensitivity and caring!

        Like

        • June 30, 2012 at 10:15 am

          Alice,
          So glad to hear that your life is full, especially as it seems you are working hard to help other people heal. And thank you for being so gracious about what I said.

          AG

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      • JSB
        November 3, 2015 at 1:32 pm

        AG,
        Your comment to Alice is so right on.
        Any therapist who crosses the line is being unethical and exploitative. Period.

        Like

  4. sylvie
    July 6, 2012 at 3:48 pm

    AG, I want to add to the list of sincere thank yous for this post. It is such a relief to read a description of someone’s experience of erotic transference with an ethical therapist. I was not so lucky, but I have lived vicariously through your writing. I went into therapy not expecting an erotic transference (who does?), but when I did experience it, I expected a response such as you described. What I got was a return of the affection followed several weeks later by a stern rejection. My experience was heartbreaking, but it is heart-warming to know that there are good therapists out there who can deal with these feelings from patients. I especially identify with the humiliation and fear that these erotic feelings brought with them. How you came to understand them, with the help of your therapist, resonates deeply with me. Thank you for sharing.

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  5. July 8, 2012 at 1:50 pm

    Hi sylvie,
    Welcome to my blog, and thanks for commenting. I’m really sorry for what you experienced with your therapist. I have had friends go through similar experiences and have talked about them with BN. He gets very sad about therapists who abandon their clients in that way as his firm belief is that therapy should be a place where its safe to bring all your feelings no matter what they are. I’m am sorry that your therapist failed you in that way. It was so scary to speak up, I can only imagine what that kind of reaction would have done to me. I am glad that my experience allowed you to see that the problem was not your feelings, but your therapist’s inability to meet you where you needed to be met. There are other BNs out there, they can just take some work to find.

    AG

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  6. Starrynights
    July 11, 2012 at 8:01 am

    Weeks after reading this the first time, I’m finally able to process some of this! Thank you so much!! I think below is one of the many things that made the greatest impact on me:

    ” Realizing this helped me to recognize the connection between my going deeper and moving towards new (painful) realizations and an upswing in my erotic/romantic longings. When the erotic feelings grew stronger, it was a sign that I was moving towards something painful and the desire was a distraction, but was also a reaching towards comfort.”

    Yep!!! This really makes sense, and I had never thought of it this way before!
    Thanks and hugs,
    Starry

    Like

    • JSB
      November 3, 2015 at 3:34 pm

      Me, too.
      I have only seem my therapist three times and it was after sharing the history of abuse in my childhood that the feelings (for her) came to the surface.
      As stated in my reply earlier, I immediately knew I was falling into my old habits (of wanting what I can’t have: it’s safe to want what we can’t have, also incredibly painful.) I’m not willing to put myself through that experience again, as I know it’s futile.
      Your statement, AG, about moving towards something painful helped me realize WHY this unhealthy habit was rearing its head again.
      I can’t thank you enough for your post.
      You SHOULD be proud. You worked hard to get to the place you are at; kudos to you AND your therapist. Now you’re helping others.
      So thank you.

      Like

    • EB
      April 13, 2017 at 1:55 pm

      Agreed. This was the part that struck me the most.

      Like

  7. July 11, 2012 at 8:25 pm

    Starry,
    Thanks for sharing that it had such a profound effect, that’s very encouraging for me. The passage you quoted was also the most important realization for me. It put the feelings in perspective and helped me to understand the intensity as well as providing a tool to understand my process as I moved through the more painful things I had to process. I hope this understanding helps you in the same way.

    AG

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  8. Suzanne Seidel
    January 22, 2013 at 11:35 pm

    How long does erotic transference last?

    Like

    • January 23, 2013 at 7:29 pm

      Hi Suzanne,
      Welcome to my blog and thank you for commenting. I wish I had a good answer for you (I was very tempted to just say 2.3 years :)) but it depends on a lot of factors. How much of the erotic transference is based on unmet childhood needs and how much, if any, is actual adult attraction? How willing is the patient to use the erotic transference to further the work? Or are they focusing on seducing the therapist or getting past the boundaries and actually have the imagined relationship. How honest is the patient willing to be about their feelings? How well does the therapist handle his patient having these kinds of feelings about him? How much does he understand about the dynamics of erotic transference? It’s a fairly complex interplay of a number of factors.

      In my experience, it has taken me about three years to work through the worst of it. BN handles this better than almost any other therapist I have ever heard of; he was very accepting and calm and welcomed me expressing any and all of my feelings. And I think I stayed fairly focused on examining my feelings to advance our work together. BN holds very clear boundaries and actually directly reassured me when these feelings first came up that it was okay to discuss any and all of my feelings, that the responsibility was his and I was safe in his office. The feelings would never be acted on. But even with that in my favor there was a pretty intense period that lasted for a few years where I really struggled with the feelings of unrequited love and obsessional behavior, but as I worked through the things that were evoked and recalled by discussing the feelings, it gradually got better.

      Better looked different than I expected though. I somehow thought I was stop feeling anything or BN would stop being important and it isn’t like that at all. I have formed an “earned” secure attachment and he is still very important to me; he always will be. But many of the feelings have shifted to more of a paternal feel. I usually just feel a deep gratitude and love for all that he has given me. My healing would not have been possible without him (not that I didn’t work hard. :)). But he continues to occupy a central place in my life. But I am secure in the relationship now and have also accepted (most of the time, I’m still human) that the relationship only takes place within the therapeutic boundaries and is only possible BECAUSE of the boundaries. I would never have trusted myself to explore these feelings about a man other than my husband without the guarantee that I would not be able to act on them. There is also definitely an adult component for me in the attraction. I think BN is an attractive man and I think I would find him so if I met him elsewhere (when we first discussed my feelings he told me about clients who get through therapy and see their therapist after a number of years and think “what was I thinking?” I’m not sure I’m ever going to hit that point). This used to be acutely painful to realize, now it is just the same way that I would feel about any attractive man. I’m married and while its ok to look, that’s where it stops. I’m not saying there isn’t the occasional session when I walk in and think he’s looking very handsome that day, but its more a grace note these days. I know this is a little on the vague side, but it just gradually got better. He is who he is, my therapist. Let me know if there’s something else you like me to address or if you have further questions. ~ AG

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  9. GreenEyes
    January 27, 2013 at 10:12 pm

    AG you mentioned unrequited love in your post. Can ou say anymore about how you worked through that? ATM I want to live in my T’s office much of the time and it can be beyond heartbreaking to have to leave at the end of the session feeling kicked out and unloved. I know it can’t be any other way however when life has been tragically unfair tolerating boundaries can be almost impossible. Parent have a lot to answer for!

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    • January 30, 2013 at 11:07 pm

      Greeneyes,
      You’re quite correct that parents have a lot to answer for. I’m afraid I don’t have a much better answer for you than I did for working through the grief. It’s a very similar process. I understand the pain you are talking about and know how bed it can really get. The problem you are running into is that what you ARE getting is enough to evoke your life long yearnings while not being enough. I found that a lot of the intensity of the feelings of unrequited love were actually about the terrible memories it evoked of not having felt loved. So its the same, you keep showing up and you talk about all the feelings, of wanting more and the pain of not having it and not wanting to leave. I think the worst part of dealing with these feeelings is that we normally don’t talk to someone we feel this way about if the feelings are unrequited, so it can feel terribly humiliating. Athough BN never did anything to humiliate me, I just felt that way. And as I talked it through and worked through it, eventually the intensity has bled off. So I can feel a little wistful or sad at times, but nothing like the intensity of pain I used to feel (it could feel like it was going to kill me and I don’t want to admit how many tears I shed). And oddly enough when I feel it now I am usually able to very quickly connect it to some loss in my childhood. If you keep going back and being honest about how you feel, it really will get better eventually but it did take me around three years to get through. Hang in there. xx AG

      PS It also helps to remember that the person we’re having these intense feelings for doesn’t really exist. They are focused on us and giving at a level in session that cannot be maintained over the long haul in a “normal” relationship. I once told BN I’d kill for 15 minutes with his wife as she could probably set me straight about how wonderful he was. He laughed and said it would only take her five. 😀

      Like

  10. GreenEyes
    January 31, 2013 at 10:38 pm

    Thanks AG. My T suggested that my incessant focus on not getting enough is actually a defence against overwhelming pain and trauma. He’s spot on, I know I need to face the music but I’m terrified it will destroy me in the process. Ive been through a lot and I’ve never been more scared. I really appreciate your thoughtful and detailed reply. Peace xx

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    • January 31, 2013 at 10:50 pm

      (((Greeneyes))) Just remember to have compassion for yourself. These feelings were incredibly overwhelming and threatening when we originally experienced them or we would not have had to bury them for so long. That feeling that facing this will destroy you is at least in part a memory of something that was true at one time. What’s important to remember is that you have resources, both internal and external, available to you as an adult that you did not have as a child. And this time you have someone to stay with you and help you face the feelings instead of being abandoned and alone to cope. These are crucial differences. You will still be scared, but hanging on to these differences can often provide the courage we need to step into this. You will face it when you are ready, and whenever that is, if ever, is really ok. ~ AG

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  11. GreenEyes
    February 1, 2013 at 10:36 pm

    I’ve stumbled into the heart of it blindly so it’s a bit of a sink or swim phase ATM. My T has been fantastic through all of it so far. Don’t know how they do it sometimes! He even promised that if something came up he wasn’t sure how to manage he would go and get help and would not refer me. For some reason that meant a lot.

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    • February 1, 2013 at 10:59 pm

      Greeneyes,
      We all stumble blindly into this, no one in their right mind would choose it deliberately. 😀 I still remember my fear when I realized at a couples’ session that BN seemed to be getting more handsome with each appointment. I tried just ignoring it, but eventually it just got too painful and intrusive so I talked about it. It sounds like you have an excellent therapist who is confident enough not to be scared of your feelings but humble enough to not assume he has all the answers. Best combination in my opinion. And of course its a relief to know he would not refer you We are risking so much to open up about these feelings that it is important that we are not rejected for expressing them. It is a terrible breech of trust (although I do understand that under some circumstances, if the feelings are actually blocking the work, that it might be the lesser of two evils for a therapist to refer a patient. But even that can be worked through if its handled correctly with enough time to process and staying available until the client can transition to another therapist. The really problematic and incredibly damaging terminations are when a therapist just cuts and runs. You don’t want to hear how I feel about those therapists.) You sound like you are in good hands. I know this can be unspeakably painful, not to mention feeling endless, but trust the process. Just keep being honest and talking about the feelings. AG

      Like

  12. "Jezebel"
    February 4, 2013 at 11:39 pm

    Hi, AG…so releived to find your blog! The terms transference/countertransference came up at my most recent session (the first by me, the second, which I had never even heard of because its so unthinkable, by T), and I am pretty sure he is going to dump me soon. After 20 years in practice, I thought he would have had expericence in the area and everything would be cool, but I really freaked him out when I did what I felt was the honest thing and brought it up. Guess I’m his first “Jezebel patient” – hope he always remembers me. You know it’s never as good as the first time – LoL! Anyway, even if he does refer me to someone else, I will always be grateful for the day I looked across the room into his beautiful eyes,which were fixed completely on me in a way I had never seen anyone look at me before, like I was the only thing in the world that mattered, and realized for the first time in over 10 years how important it is to intimatley connect with another person. (I have been married for 20 years, thus the need for the therappy to start with). Something powerful and electric happened in that moment and I havent been able to stop thinking about him since. Will let you know soon if he has decided to continue treating me despite the admittance of my crush and his admittance of some type of reciprication thereof. Our first couple sessions did seem a lot like dates, no wonder I have such a crush on him now. Thanks again for your help and input.

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    • February 5, 2013 at 11:46 pm

      “Jezebel” If you would like to e-mail me, I will share my story: carleton@oakland.edu…been in love with my t for 8 years, and he has indicated the same. Transference/countertransference are just fancy words for….feelings, and they are present in most ALL relationships. I got a divorce after 31 years of abuse; my t is married. Hugs, Alice

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    • February 6, 2013 at 12:33 am

      Hi Jezebel,
      Welcome to my blog and thanks for commenting! You did the right thing to express your feelings and I am glad that you have been able to take in and experience someone’s care for you, but I do NOT think it was a good thing that your therapist admitted to having feelings in return. Greeneyes is correct, therapy is about the client’s feelings and the therapist’s should be kept out of the room. His expressing those feelings opens it up to being about his needs and that is the end of therapy. Someone who has been practicing for 20 years should know better, but its amazing how many Ts have not dealt with it. I think many people have these feelings but do not speak up. This is a situation in which it may be necessary for him to refer you to someone else if he cannot keep his own feelings out of the room. I realize it must have been incredibly gratifying and flattering to have him speak of having feelings of his own, but I wish to warn you that it is extremely rare that a relationship between a therapist and a patient works out and when it doesn’t, the patient can be badly hurt. There is an article by Ken Pope I think you might want to read. He’s an expert on boundaries and ethics in psychotherapy and this article is an overview of the results of therapist’s crossing that boundary into a romantic/sexual relationship with their patients: Sex between Therapists and Patients .

      Don’t get me wrong, you know your situation much better than I do, and it may have been appropriate self-disclosure on your therapist’s part; I would just urge caution and keeping a close eye on what is going on to protect yourself. Please let me know how you get on.

      Peace, AG

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  13. GreenEyes
    February 5, 2013 at 11:13 pm

    Jezebel I’m really sorry to hear of your experience. After 20 years your T shoud know is inappropriate for him to disclose romantic feelings for you even if they are true. It’s supposed to be about you nd you needs and he’s brought he’s own into play in a way that isn’t good for you. Hugs xx

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  14. M
    February 6, 2013 at 1:07 pm

    AG,you wrote that you are married. Did you discuss your feelings for your therapist and the ‘situation’ with your husband? If so, how long into the transference before you discussed it with him? I ask because I’m in a similar situation and I’m not sure what to do here. I’ve not yet discussed my feelings for my therapist to either person. I do have a session in a couple days that I’m preparing to reveal myself in because it’s causing me such emotional turmoil(very painful to realize these feelings for him, amongst other feelings as a result).
    Thank you!,
    M

    Like

    • February 6, 2013 at 8:39 pm

      Hi M,
      Welcome to my blog and thanks for commenting. I did talk to both BN and my husband about my feelings. If you don’t mind, I’m going to provide you some links, as I answer your questions more thoroughly in them. I totally understand your fear, I was convinced I was going to be sent away when I told BN how I felt. As far as my husband is concerned, this was a area in which I knew I could trust him. He was really good about it but there were also times he struggled with being hurt about how I felt (quite understandably so) but we were all able to discuss it. I hope these help. If you have more questions after you’ve read them, please feel free to comment again.

      The Beginning Part I
      The Beginning Part II
      What I learned in therapy Lesson 5 – The relationship of love and pain See comment #19 after this post.
      ~AG

      Like

  15. "Jezebel"
    February 8, 2013 at 9:19 am

    AG – wanted to let you and your other readers following these posts know that now in addition to pain and anger, I can add humiliation, betrayal and mistrust to my long list of issues. This hurts worse than my very first romantic breakup at 13, and if it wasnt for my young children, I would choose to cease to exist. I love you all, but you will never hear from me again.

    Like

    • February 8, 2013 at 9:40 pm

      Jezebel,
      I am very sorry for whatever happened that has you in such pain. But it’s not a good time to be alone. If you go the forums at psychcafe.ca you’ll be able to talk to other people who have been through this kind of betrayal by a therapist, You’ll have somewhere to talk about this with people who really understand just how painful it is and what you need to do to get through it, Don’t give up and pay the price for his incompetence. There are a number of people who have been through this, but I would especially recommend looking for posts by True North, who went on to find another, better therapist with whom she could continue her work. I know how strong the feelings are, but not everyone will fail you; there are trustworthy people out there, Peace, AG

      Like

    • M
      February 10, 2013 at 9:08 am

      Dear Jezebel, Please don’t go away!!!!. I understand your desire to do so at the mention of the betrayal of your trust and the humiliation bestowed upon you.I just urge you to not retreat and suffer alone!! There is support from others that have been through what you may have had happen to you. I’ve read many stories myself (especially on psychcafe.ca) and I hope you can find them and recieve some strength and hope through the shared experiences!!!…possibly even reach out again. I can imagine the fear now in doing so though. Just please don’t give up on yourself, your journey!
      My thoughts are with you Jezebel!! I’m so sorry for what happend to you!!

      Sincerely,
      M

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  16. M
    February 10, 2013 at 8:38 am

    Thank you AG. I am getting SO much from reading your blogs and other ones you’ve mentioned. I did tell my T my feelings the other day. I had a full blown panic attack in his office beforehand but finally managed to talk about my feelings. A huge weight lifted but the longings have only increased(erotic and otherwise). I’m learning how normal this is. I’m NOT a freak!!! Thank God for the internet being able to connect us. Other than my therapist and my boyfriend it’s the only other human contact/connection I have. I’ve become quite the loner over the years so I’m grateful for all of you and our ‘shared!” struggles!

    Like

  17. February 15, 2013 at 10:00 am

    What a fantastic post. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom on this topic. You have provided me with some massively useful insights into the motives behind my own erotic transference, that I will take with me as I delve deeper into these feelings with my own boundaried, steady ‘shame-busting’ therapist. You have also soothed some of my guilty feelings and pessimism about the situation by emphasising the positive aspects of erotic transference. Well done, and thank you again.

    Like

    • February 16, 2013 at 12:13 pm

      Hi Alice,
      Welcome to my blog and thank you for posting, especially in providing so much encouragement for me. 🙂 I am very glad that this had helped you look deeper into your own feelings so that you can better understand yourself. I spend so much time being ashamed of my feelings that it can be difficult to learn from them. BN once said to me, “instead of feeling guilty about the way you’re feeling, how about if we examine it to see what it says about you?” It was a pivotal point in our work together. There really is a lot to be learned from erotic transference, especially if we’re lucky enough to have a therapist who is not scared of it. I am very glad to hear that you have a boundaried, steady, ‘shame-busting’ therapist. I wish you the best in your healing. ~AG

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  18. Luna
    February 16, 2013 at 10:29 pm

    I do NOT have an erotic transference for my former therapist…just a longing that will not abate since she retired 4 years ago. She kept strict boundries. It was not the best termination it could have been. Is there anyone who has experienced this type of situation, and is there apt to be resolution of this?

    Like

    • February 19, 2013 at 12:29 am

      Hi Luna,
      Welcome to my blog and thanks for commenting. I did go through a termination with my first therapist because she retired. My experience is probably not much help though as she handled it well, gave me almost five months warning and we spent the time processing the ending. So though it was very difficult and sad and I have had no further contact, it was good enough that when I moved past the grieving, I have been left with a deep sense of connection with her. We have not spoken in years, yet I know wherever she is, that she still loves me and I love her. I am sorry you had a less than stellar ending, it makes an already difficult situation even harder to get through. May I recommend that you check out the Psychcafe forums? There are a number of people who have been through difficult terminations and I think the support and understanding would be helpful for you. Are you seeing a therapist now? It might be helpful to see someone who could help you work through this. I hope you are able to find some relief. ~ AG

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  19. February 19, 2013 at 5:52 pm

    It never occurred to me to be ashamed of my feelings. They are not right or wrong, they simply are. I think that every therapist upon the intake, should give a client a brochure or discuss the strong feelings that can arise in therapy….because it can be the firsttime in someone’s life that a person is listening and hearing you. That is powerful stuff. Who wouldn’t fall in love with someone like that. It would sure help a lot of first time clients who go thru all kinds of twists, turns and confusion at their feelings.

    Like

    • February 20, 2013 at 11:12 pm

      Hi Nicole,
      Welcome to my blog and thank you for commenting. That is so awesome that you are not ashamed of your feelings and understand that they cannot be right or wrong, but just are. They are information that we can use. It took me literally years to learn that. Expressing my feelings led to such bad reactions when I was a child that I learned to be profoundly ashamed of them in an effort not to express them and not get myself hurt again. So you are WAY ahead of the game. 🙂

      I understand your point about a client being warned at intake, many therapists do that routinely. On the other hand, these kinds of reactions do not occur for everyone so I know that some therapists hesitate to mention it so that a client doesn’t feel like they are doing something wrong if they DON’T develop these feelings. They can also learn a lot about a client by seeing how they navigate these feelings and express them. What I think is truly important is that they create an environment where a client can feel free to speak about any of their feelings and is met with acceptance and reassurance. Therapists who freak, and even worse, cut and run, when a client expresses these kinds of feelings can do untold damage. ~ AG

      Like

  20. sunday18
    March 3, 2013 at 2:40 am

    AG, I am breathing better since reading these posts! My husband of 40 yr. ,and the love of my life, passed away a year and a half a go from cancer, after a painful last several of years. I have been seeing a therapist to help me get through this pain of loss and being alone. Of course lots of other things are coming out that we talk about. I have only been going once a month for the last 6 months or so. It has been difficult to open up and tell about my feelings (not just the bereavement ones). We have a great rapport, and I really look forward to seeing him each time. He is always reminding me that it is safe there to say anything. I have been having erotic feelings and dreams about him which is what made me all twisted up. Glad to know after reading your blog that I’m not terrible. 🙂 The last session I felt that I was so messed up that I had a really hard time talking to him. He kept asking me what was on my mind. He said it seemed as though there was an elephant in the room, and asked if I felt that way too. I really feel like I need to tell him what the elephant is, but I don’t know how! How in the world do I say it? What words do I use? I feel so embarrassed, and am also afraid that he will refer me. I don’t think I can handle losing him, too. This is definitely humiliating and is causing me to obsess over it and feel like I am going to burst inside. He has been practicing for about 20 years. I am really scared and feel SICK. Sure glad I found you on here. Help!

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    • March 3, 2013 at 8:16 am

      Hi, Sunday18: I am so sorry for your loss. Feelings arent right or wrong, they simply are…after a year of knowing I had feelings and love for my t, I told him; it was SO scared and he handled it senstively and gently. I felt I had to tell him, because there was an elephant in the living room and I felt I needed to be authentic and not hide anything. Continuing to feel sick about is only going to get worse…just be real; he says you can feel safe with him, so believe him. You might want to write what you want to say; I doubt he will be surprised…it sounds as if he already knows; ;it will be a relief to remove that “elephant” Hugs, Alice…I continue to stay with my t for the past 8 years, even tho the reason I went to see him is long over. I got a divorce after 31 years of abuse, and my church voted me out of membership; my t was also an expert in spiritual abuse.

      My feeling for him have not changed; I have somehow found a way to live loving someone who is not available. That is the reality, unfortunately.

      We should not feel ashamed of our feelings; they are all we have to tell us what is going on. .

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      • sunday18
        March 3, 2013 at 11:37 pm

        Thank you so much, Alice. It seems that my problems are but a pittance compared to yours and many others on here. Thank you for sharing your experiences. Do you think if I emailed my thoughts to him it would be private or would it go through office personnel? Not sure how to go about this, but I know I really need help and somehow have got to be honest with him or I might as well quit going.

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        • March 4, 2013 at 7:41 am

          sunday18 :
          Thank you so much, Alice. It seems that my problems are but a pittance compared to yours and many others on here. Thank you for sharing your experiences. Do you think if I emailed my thoughts to him it would be private or would it go through office personnel? Not sure how to go about this, but I know I really need help and somehow have got to be honest with him or I might as well quit going.

          I wasn’t thinking about e-mailing, but writing down what you want to say and giving it to him; it might….be a little easier; I don’t know what his e-mail situation is; you could ask him; my t has his own private e-mail. If you would like to privately correspond with me: carleton@oaklandedu Hugs, Alice

          Like

    • March 4, 2013 at 1:24 am

      Hi Sunday,
      Sorry to take so long to respond, the schedule is insane right now. I am glad that you are breathing better, BN keeps telling me breathing is very important. 🙂 I am so sorry about your husband. I have been married over 26 years and I can’t begin to imagine your loss. I am glad that you are getting help in dealing with it. I think your feelings are very natural and as you have read, can be incredibly useful to examine in therapy. It sounds like you have a good therapist, who isn’t going to run. If it helps to hear, I was completely terrified when I told BN how I felt the first time, because at that point I was only seeing him for couples’ counseling and I was close to certain he was going to say he couldn’t work with me anymore, only my husband. His response was so different. He was very gentle and understanding. Therapy should be a safe place to express any and all of your feelings. There is a HUGE difference between telling your therapist about the feelings you are having about him and trying to actually seduce (a distinction I had problems hanging on to for a while). BN has told me over and over that all of my feelings are welcome and that I am safe because he is the therapist and has the boundaries and nothing will happen between us that shouldn’t. These are your feelings and its ok to talk about them; actually, its important to talk about them. Although I am sure that this can be even more confusing for you because you are still obviously mourning your husband. But its ok to look at this and learn what you can from it. And I know how scary it is to tell him, but remember it only takes 20 seconds of insane courage. Right before you go to see him, I want you to think about other times you have been scared in the past about his reaction and remember what actually happened. Getting close can be very scary but the only way it gets less scary is to walk into the fear and experiencing that something good happens, which makes it a little less scary next time. Good luck and let me know how it goes. ~ AG

      Like

  21. Taylor
    March 22, 2013 at 4:00 am

    First and foremost, great blog! I like what you have to say, I’ve done tons of Google research in the last few weeks about this topic, and haven’t found anything put the way you put it. So bravo on that. I’m having a somewhat unique issue and I’m not sure what to do about it. I have been attending intensive outpatient (three days a week plus at least one individual session per month, I usually shoot for two) for going on two months now. It’s been extremely helpful in my addiction. I’ve become relatively close with a couple of my group members, and quite close with my chemical dependency counselor. Closer than I probably should be, or closer than I feel I should be. I guess I’m experiencing eroticized (sp?) transference, and admittedly, it’s kind of fun having a crush again, but frustrating at the same time. I haven’t told my counselor about this, because it’s embarrassing for me to look weak, and I have a feeling (or maybe it’s hopeful thinking) that he has some feelings for me. He shows some signs that I can’t be sure if I’m just looking too into, or if there really is something there. For one, he gives me as much individualized attention that I need (which is a lot, I’m a borderline personality disorder case, so I’m kind of an attention whore for lack of a better phrase) which I realize is his job, but I don’t see him doing it with the other clients. Secondly, he treats me great, he gives me whatever I want. He gives me nice pens, he lets me sit in the nice chair in his office when I come in for individual sessions, etc. He also calls me out on my shit, my addiction likes to justify a lot of thinking errors, he doesn’t let me believe it, which is weird for me, because other times when I’ve gone to counseling and therapy, the therapist/counselor let me run things and didn’t challenge me. He pays attention to me, tells me I say a lot of things with my eyes, always sits in the general vicinity of me during our groups. Last week during out session, we were sitting awfully close, when I bent over in the chair to reach for a pen out of my purse my hair (it’s pretty long) was pretty much in his lap, and he didn’t move an inch. He stares. He tells me things about other people in our group that he probably shouldn’t. When I came to group after relapsing, he paid special attention to me, asking me if I was okay, just more concern for me than he has given other group members when they have reported relapse. We have a lot in common. I believe he is in his early thirties, I am almost twenty, so not TOO far in age range (I like ’em older anyways lol). He is single, we both have one daughter and they are within six months in age, we live in the same county (the group I go to/place he works is in the county over), when I mentioned this week that I had been in the town he lives in while talking to another group member, he jolted his head up to listen from his Ebay browsing (it was UA day, so there is pretty much no structure on those days), he’s always encouraging me to attend support groups in the town he lives at, etc. Is there something there, or am I just crazy? I’m leery to discuss this with him, because he is a chemical dependency counselor, not a therapist or psychiatrist, so he hasn’t gone through all that much school, and I’m afraid he doesn’t have experience with this, and if he isn’t into me the way that I think he is, I’m afraid he will abandon me or make me feel ashamed, and I really don’t want that. What do you think?? I’m sorry this is such a novel, but I haven’t really discussed this quite as in depth with anyone, and I’m quite frankly confused.

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    • March 22, 2013 at 6:28 am

      Feelings arent right or wrong, they simply are and you shouldnt feel ashamed. If he is good at his job, he will want to hear your thoughts. When we are in therapy, perhaps for the first time someone is hearing us; that is a very powerful bond that happens. No way to know what his feelings are for you, unless he would be willing to disclose them. I have been in love with my t for 8 years, and we have discussed it

      Like

    • March 26, 2013 at 10:31 pm

      Hi Taylor,
      Welcome to my blog and thanks for commenting. My apologies for taking so long to reply, the work schedule is insane and I don’t have much of a personal life right now. I had never heard of a chemical dependency counselor before and did some research on the degree. It is an Associate’s degree, so I agree that there is not as much education as someone who has completed a Master’s degree BUT it is a professional degree and as such I believe he is bound by the same ethics as any other therapist. I can certainly understand why you are feeling the way you are, it sounds like he has been interested, concerned, caring and compassionate towards you while also being clear enough to help you make progress with your addiction. These are all wonderful things and anyone is bound to respond to someone behaving that way. And as you said the age gap is not that great.

      I am unable to tell you whether he has feelings for you but you are listing a long set of behaviors that sound like he is not holding his boundaries in the same place with you as other patients. As good as that might feel (and I would imagine it feels really good) its not really good for you. A therapist treating us as special or indicating that we are more important than other patients is (probably unconsciously) holding out a promise that finally we can get the care and attention we did not receive as children when we should have been the total focus of our parents and known was it was to be very special to someone who was special to us, that they were focused on our needs. But the problem is, no matter how much a therapist may want to provide that, no matter how much they love us, its just not possible. And if we believe it is, it is that much more painful when it turns out not to be true. And we are injured in a way that reinforces our unwillingess to open up to other people because we believe ultimately we will be failed. And that cuts us off from being able to get our needs met.

      You didn’t talk about a lot of your background except that you are dealing with addiction. But the feelings sound very similar to what I experienced, and so much of it turned out to be about my parents and what I had missed as a child being channeled into my erotic/romantic feelings. I think because you are noticing so many behaviors on his part, as uncomfortable and terrifying as it might feel, it would be better to pull this in the open and talk about it. Especially since in a lot of your side comments I am hearing a lot of shame about you even having needs or enjoying this. The only way to work through these feelings and understand where they are coming from is to be able to talk about it and sort through what’s yours and what’s his. And if he is struggling with feelings for you its even more important. It can be incredibly damaging for a client for a therapist to cross those boundaries. It sounds like you are involved in a program with a number of other clients, would there be another counselor you could approach to discuss your concerns?

      I hope you are able to bring this out into the open. I know this attraction is very strong and on the surface you are listing a lot of reasons the relationship could work in real life. But its important to remember that our contact with our therapist’s is time limited and they are focusing on our needs. I often fantasize about how amazing it would be to have a relationship with my therapist and then realize he can’t behave that way all the time. I think sometimes we get the best of them. Everyone looks different when you have to pick up their dirty socks. 🙂

      ~AG

      Like

  22. elizabeth
    May 20, 2013 at 12:11 pm

    I’ve been seeing my therapist for two years. I have been attracted to him for almost this entire time, but did not tell him or let on in any way. A few months ago my therapist professed his love to me. We texted, spoke on phone for weeks and even went out once. Then all of a sudden he freaked out and is treating me coldly and distantly. I have spent the better part of 3 months trying to make sense of it all. I really believe that I love and want him and can not understand how he could toy with my emotions like this. His actions are consuming me and I can’t seem to get past it. Everything he said and did replays in my mind day and night. While i know it is best to find a new therapist I’m in a very stange situation and can not leave him. I’m so mad at myself for not being able to get over this. What is wrong with me? Do I have no self respect. But sadly I am so drawn to him and can not seem to help myself.

    Like

    • May 20, 2013 at 2:29 pm

      I will keep this short (as I have written a long blurb awhile ago in here): i fell in love with my t 8 years ago and told him; he has/had feelings for me, also……… I have called him ‘Sybil” because he will get an attack of the guilts and become withdrawn. I have kept a record of his sexualization of our “therapy” and a “How could you do this to me letter—which I have not give to him yet, even tho I wrote it 6 or so years ago. If you e-mail me, I can share privately. carleton@oakland.edu…..if you would put “ninja” in the subject line so I wont delete it.

      Like

      • JSB
        November 3, 2015 at 4:37 pm

        I find it unethical, nicolesassy123 that you shared your story of falling in love with your therapist, not only in this comment section, but on other forums on the net, under the name ALICE, and now you’re using a different name.
        Is this because so many of us have lovingly warned that any therapist who crosses the boundary of ethics is clearly lacking in ethos, moreover, he is hurting you?
        There’s no shame I’m what you’re doing with your therapist; shame on him, not you.

        You’re asking virtually everyone to email you, but you’ve changed your story. You changed your name. You failed to mention to this poor woman that you’ve resigned yourself to being happy being I’m a “relationship” with your therapist that is not fully reciprocated.

        I may sound callous, that’s not my intention. But I AM calling you out on disregarding the unmentioned trust that we are putting into each other by sharing our experiences on AG’s enlightening blog.

        I find your duplicity disconcerting, and believe others have a right to know your story, as written above (under the name Alice), before going deeper into a trusting relationship via email.

        Your therapy sounds stunted before of your therapist’s actions. Again, that’s not on you. But if you’re willing to be fine with that reality, if that works for you now, that’s your business.
        But I would hate to think the damage that could be done if you encourage others to take the same route (having relations with your therapist).

        Thank you for listening.

        Like

    • May 20, 2013 at 3:00 pm

      Hi elizabeth,
      Welcome to my blog and thank you for commenting. I am very sorry for the situation you find yourself in, and can only imagine how painful and confusing it is. The therapeutic relationship is supposed to be about the client’s needs, not the therapist’s. His feelings for you have no place in your therapy. There is also an inherent power imbalance in the relationship since the therapist knows all about you and you know comparatively little about him. And usually the relationship is much more important and central to the client. This makes losing the relationship a much more difficult and painful thing for a client to face, so they tend to be more compliant in terms of what goes on in the relationship. Because of these dynamics, the responsibility of a therapist to their client most closely parallels that of a parent to their child. The parent should use their power of their child responsibly and for their welfare and the relationship should not be sexualized since the child cannot truly consent because they need their parents to survive. Although a client is an adult and has more power and resources than a child, the emotional dynamic is similar enough, that a therapist having sexual relations with a vulnerable client is considered akin to the emotional damage caused by incest. It is why virtually every professional association for therapists forbids a sexual relationship while a client is in therapy and that a gap of at least two years take place between the end of therapy and engaging in a relationship. And there are many ethical therapists who treat it as once a client, always a client, who will not ever enter into a personal relationship of any kind with a former client. So what I am tiptoeing around saying is that I think your therapist has failed miserably in his professional responsibilities towards you. He may be freaking out because he is realizing that having this relationship with you endangers his license and livelihood (I am at least giving him the benefit of the doubt to not assume that he was consicously exploiting you but instead lost his judgement in the face of his own feelings.) You need to leave this relationship, find another therapist to help you get over it and consider reporting his actions so that he gets help before he hurts another client.
      There is an article by Ken Pope I think you might want to read. He’s an expert on boundaries and ethics in psychotherapy and this article is an overview of the results of therapist’s crossing that boundary into a romantic/sexual relationship with their patients: Sex between Therapists and Patients . I am so sorry that your therapist has behaved this way, but do not want to see you hurt any further. ~ AG

      Like

      • elizabeth
        May 21, 2013 at 2:25 am

        Thank you for your feedback. I am extremely grateful. While I recognize that the only way for me to heal from this awful situation in which I find myself is leaving, unfortunately I am too scared to do so due to an insurance situation I am in. I can not believe the tremendous impact this has had on my entire life. It is hard for me at this point to even function. So sorry to be dramatic and take more of your time. Thanks again and all the best to you.

        Like

        • May 21, 2013 at 9:16 pm

          elizabeth,
          You are not being dramatic, you are in an incredibly difficult situation. I have no idea about your insurance situation, but please reconsider. I’m not sure that anything would be worth staying in this situation. But I will stop nagging now. I wish you all the best in your healing. ~ AG

          Like

  23. Peter
    June 3, 2013 at 7:53 pm

    Brilliant post. So clearly describes so many different elements of the effects of poor childhood attachment. I’ve been struggling with this a lot, recently, trying to understand exactly what’s going on, why it’s going on, etc., and your post confirmed much of what I believed. My situation is more general than the one you described, but the end-effect is largely the same. Thank you very much; this made my day. 🙂

    Like

    • June 13, 2013 at 10:58 am

      Hi Peter,
      Welcome to my blog and thanks for commenting. My apologies for how long it has taken me to respond, I have been on a break. I am so glad to hear that this clarified and affirmed your understanding of your situation; this is difficult stuff to deal with. Thanks for taking time to say so. ~ AG

      Like

  24. Karel
    June 6, 2013 at 3:27 pm

    I’ve been seeing my therapist for a year. Transference, I think, is always a two way street. And it’s unconscious for the therapist too. It’s buried in the communication. Therapists let their clients know in a thousand different ways where their boundaries lie. It seems like mine, though a boundary ninja, clearly has a wistful kind of vibe for me. But he limits it. It goes without saying I have transference for him. I bleed transference out of every pore. We’ve talked about it. I get stuck. I’m a handful for him, and it’s a challenge for him to get me to move beyond pursuing that kind of attention from him. They can give mixed signals, because we’re all human. ( I’ve heard therapists’ jobs are actually quite lonely even though they talk all day, so it’s no surprise some are ambivalent about attraction to a patient.) Their job’s difficult. Throw in some attractive traits and intelligent connection and you’re off to the races. And believe me, I try to play him like a chess game. I know the boundaries are right but it doesn’t prevent me from trying to jump them. He’s very wary to keep distance between us. I feel guilty for being a lot of work for him and because I feel it’s violent for me to seek a relationship he could be fired for. (Not that I’d ever turn him in.) With a husband that has a lot of problems, I guess I look to my T as an escape. In any case, my depression hasn’t lifted yet even with meds. It was encouraging to see it took a few of you several years in therapy to get better, so I don’t feel so bad that I’m where I’m at: depressed. Thank you all for your comments. I don’t feel so alone like I’m some kind of a pariah . . . maybe I’m not the only one that just wants to walk in the office, go over to his chair and give him a big kiss . . .

    Like

    • June 30, 2013 at 10:12 pm

      Hi Karel,
      I know I’ve said hello elsewhere, sorry it took so long to get back there. I do agree that transference is a two way street (everyone has understanding of relationships based on early experiences that they bring to all of their relationships), even BN on rare occasions has admitted to his counter-transference in interacting with me (nothing about romantic feelings on his part I hasten to add, never gotten a glimmer of that.) And I do think learning the boundaries is an ongoing task. Since in there simplest form boundaries define where my stuff leaves off and the other persons starts, we are always communicating about our boundaries. But there are some crucial differences in therapy. One is that a therapist is examining their feelings and owning their own stuff in order to keep it out of the way. I have heard therapy described as the therapist keeping one foot in your world with the other in his. So he enters into your relationship dynamic but retains the perspective to help you see how you’re behaving and where you might be going wrong. The other thing is that a therapist should be MUCH more conscious of his boundary placement and the reasons for where they are placed than you’re average Joe. So many things in therapy take on a symbolic weight and a good therapist attends to those meanings as well as the more prosaic aspects. It sounds like you have a good therapist who is working to hold his boundaries. The best thing you can do is to direct your energy into understanding why you feel the way you do and how you react when you’re having these feelings instead of trying too have an actual relationship. That said, I will admit to having thoughts of crossing the office. 🙂 Of course, I think I feel safe having those thoughts, because never in a million years would anything happen. Tough stuff. ~ AG

      Like

  25. shy-to-say
    June 28, 2013 at 11:51 pm

    Hi Attachment Girl, I just found your blog a week or so ago. I just started in therapy about three months ago, after several years of trying to move on in life after my long marriage ended with a long and terrible cancer-dance for my honey.
    I’d been in therapy for years, decades ago, due to severe childhood sexual and emotional abuse. That all came flooding back, overriding all the good work I’d accomplished in prior therapy, when I found myself newly alone.
    Now I find myself in love with my therapist, and I can honestly say that, while it’s certainly bound to have been exacerbated by transference, there was an instant attraction on first meeting even before that first session got underway. I could tell the attraction was mutual, and watched him struggle to contain his end of it.
    I kept my feelings toward him in perspective pretty well for quite awhile (I see him weekly), but it’s gone highly sexual for me in the last few weeks; I have no intention of giving him any clue of this, as I’d find it terribly humiliating because I detest being patronized in any way.
    Karel’s letter above resonates for me; I do, however, believe that my therapist is focused on his ethical mandate (perhaps disappointingly for me, LOL!) and is striving to conduct himself properly and to provide for me the help that can get me back on an even keel. For my part, however, I’m letting the fantasies wash over me between visits while simultaneously holding the sanguine view that in five years I may look back on this and laugh (or ask myself, “what was I thinking?!”) – hope springs eternal, but common sense best prevails!
    Again, Attachment Girl, you are amazing in the gift to us of this blog. Thank you.

    Like

    • June 30, 2013 at 10:00 pm

      Hi Shy-to-say
      Welcome to my blog and thanks for commenting! I am very sorry for your loss, although I think its a good thing you went back to therapy when you realized you needed to. I do know how complex and overwhelming these feelings can get. There is a small part of my attraction to BN that is here and now based, we’ve discussed it. But I find that part not all that hard to deal with. Of course, unlike you I have never picked up on reciprocal feelings from BN, which makes it easier, I know you said you do not want to talk to your therapist about your feelings, but I would urge you to do so. Please trust me that i understand the feelings of humliation, but even in this short passage I see some interesting reactions and assumptions about what is going on with your therapist (I am assuming you are basing what you said on your own observations, since you have not discussed it). When you have a history of childhood sexual abuse and a sexual attraction develops for the therapist, there is important stuff going on. A tremendous part of my progress grew out of examining my feelings. For instance, why was it so excrutiatingly humiliating for me to feel that way? I know this is uncomfortable stuff, but therapy is the place you can talk about uncomfortable stuff.

      Thank you for the kind words, I am glad that you are finding my writing helpful. ~ AG

      Like

  26. JD
    July 1, 2013 at 4:07 pm

    I am going to take a more simplistic view and suggest that in therapy transference is inevitable. This however does not imply that all transference is erotic.
    What though it does imply; is that the environment and the relationship with your T are going to results in feelings. These feeling are subconscious and only come to light during this process. Thereby the T is fully aware of this and needs to assume a degree of responsibility. Part of their task is to uncover the more deeper feelings you may have. This will then happen; depending on the level of trust you have with your T. The client will have real feelings and these are then projected onto the T as this is the person who has created the conditions to allow this to manifest.
    My point being without trnsference and even counter-transference very little therapy and healing will take place. The T is responsible for the boundaries and a good T will ensure these are maintained. The boundaries though need a degree of flexibltiy and that does not imply crossing these boundaries.
    I hope this is helpful. Thanks JD

    Like

    • July 3, 2013 at 3:42 pm

      Hi JD,
      Its good to hear from you. 🙂 I agree totally. The feelings are real ones that are evoked by the therapist, in any kind of transference, (I have paternal and erotic transference depending on the day :)) but the intensity and urgency of the feelings is fed by unresolved issues and feelings. Having worked through a lot of transference, I very rarely these days find myself in the heart-wrenching agony I used to go through. And you are right about the healing. I forget who said it originally but I know TN often quotes “You were wounded in relationship and you need to be healed in relationship.” A lot of my work with BN has focused on the relationship between us. ~ AG

      Like

  27. runcynrun
    July 2, 2013 at 12:34 am

    Karel :
    It goes without saying I have transference for him. I bleed transference out of every pore. . . . maybe I’m not the only one that just wants to walk in the office, go over to his chair and give him a big kiss . . .

    I feel so much better after reading this! Thank you, Karel, for your honesty. I “fell in love” with my therapist, but he moved away before I told him (I’m not even sure if I would have). As part of the transition, he referred me to someone else. I’m too embarrassed to tell her now because I feel like I made so much progress previously and I don’t want to get sidetracked. For me, it was just flat-out sexual and romantic attraction to a devastatingly handsome therapist. (Ridiculous–why should a man so beautiful even be allowed to be a therapist, anyway? It’s not right.)

    Like

    • July 3, 2013 at 3:51 pm

      Hi runcynrun,
      Welcome to my blog and thanks for commenting. I truly understand feeling like you have fallen in love, I felt that way at times. I also am not arguing that the feelings are not real. I truly do think there can be attraction. BUT I believe the setup of therapy, especially for someone who has known earlier deprivation, feeds into those feelings developing. We do not truly know in a full way the person we sit across from and share so intimately with. In some ways I know BN very well, but there is so much I don’t know. I also see a person that could not be maintained over the long haul. No one can be in a relationship 24/7 that is focused on the other person’s needs to the exclusion of their own (even if they could it wouldn’t be healthy). Not even our therapist really does that since we pay them to keep the balance in the relationship. So part of what I fell in love with was the total focus on understanding me, the gentleness and care and acceptance. But I have talked with BN and he has made it clear that in his personal life he can be as difficult to deal with as the next guy. And bottom line, since the feelings cannot be acted on, at least if you examine them in therapy some good can come from them. ~ AG

      Like

      • shy-to-say
        July 4, 2013 at 4:52 pm

        yes AG I agree, that in therapy we can play out our relational options in proxy – thus not getting stuck up a blind alley of an ill-advised relationship in real life, or causing the collateral damage to another of abandoning them after we come to our senses. In the proxy relationship of therapy, the therapist nimbly adapts to our relational needs of the moment and helps us explore that.

        Like

  28. GreenEyes
    July 18, 2013 at 6:23 am

    AG this is a domain I know I will eventually have to encounter with my T but it is so complex and full of shame, confusion and agonising embarrassment. I’m wondering if you are able to say more about what you learned about yourself after revealing these feelings to BN and in hindsight whether you think you could’ve had those same learnings in another way (ha, yes I’m tenaciously holding onto my denial and avoidance here!!). Thanks, hugs to you xx

    Like

    • September 2, 2013 at 11:30 pm

      GE,
      Please trust me that I understand the complexities of shame, confusion and embarrassment. Part of the reason i am finding my present work in therapy so hard is that I know it is going to evoke the romantic/erotic components of my feelings for BN and its never comfortable for me, He stays cool as a cucumber, but I literally writhe around in discomfort, I’m going to have to think about the answer to that one. A lot of what I learned is contained in this post, but I need to think if I could have gotten there another way, but my “gut” response is no. These feelings flowed in those channels for a good reason: I was sexually abused by my dad. It makes total sense that sexual feelings would come up for me in relating to someone fulfulling a male parental role, Not sure if there’s a way around it GE (Sorry!!) BUT you do not have to go there until you’re ready. And even if I need to go there, it doesn’t necessarily follow that you would need to,. xx AG

      Like

  29. Vikki
    August 22, 2013 at 10:08 pm

    AG – thank you for sharing your painfully-enriching journey…. I am in a really bad place. Scared to feel, yet the daily effort of suppressing my feelings drains me. Abused on every level, by both my parents and others. In my lowest moments, when I think of what my suicide note to society would include, I have only six words. Six short words. One sentence.
    “apathy is more unforgivable than paedophilia.”

    I have started with a new therapist three months ago. It’s been excruciatingly-liberating. Reliving the traumas, after the sessions, every night, going into ‘regression’ mode where I would pinch myself, slap myself, say the degrading comments to myself, the ones so frequently reiterated by my ‘loving’ parents – ‘why were you born?’ ‘we’ll make a party when you die,’ etc etc… I would then curl up in fatal position, devoured with self repulsion. Internalising the anger and hatred that I can’t even feel for my abusers….I felt sickened..repulsed by what they did to me….but worse, repulsed by me! Ashamed for the pleasure obtained as part of the abuse by Mummy and Daddy…..
    I am sickened. I hate me. I hate myself… The very flashbacks that traumatise are also the very flashbacks that stimulate me sexually. I feel sick. I feel sickened. I feel repulsed by – me.

    Logically, I get it. I know it’s not me. I know the ‘pleasure’ aspect isn’t my fault. But I still hate me.
    I hate the fact that my body went against my wishes, it was stimulated when all I wanted to do was vomit. It gave me pleasure when Mummy and Daddy stimulated me. I wanted to scream, force my body not to respond. But my went unheeded…..

    Like

    • September 2, 2013 at 11:40 pm

      Hi Vikki.
      Welcome to my blog and thank you for commenting. I am sorry to take so long to respond to you, especially as this was such a vulnerable post. First, I want to say how sorry I am for all that you suffered at the hands of your parents. No parent should ever say those things to their children, let alone repeat it enough that it becomes part of their beliefs. I deeply understand the terrible shame and revulsion around feeling both sickened and excited, I have felt it. I am doing some very deep work around body issues and touch right now and one of the worst parts is going through really intense, painful emotional memories only to leave BN’s office and realize that I am sexually exited. It really wasn’t your fault, when our boundaries are overrun and we are sexually stimulated, our sexual arousal gets tied in. There is another post you might find helpful: What I learned in Therapy Lesson 4: It wasn’t my fault.

      I am glad that you are able to express these feelings with your present T. Expressing those feelings to an attuned other is how we heal. You are doing what you need to do to heal, and there is another side to this shame and self-hatred. You deserve to learn that so much of what you were taught were lies. I wish you the best on your healing path.

      Peace, AG

      Like

  30. ana
    August 26, 2013 at 7:11 pm

    I just started therapy with a new psychiatrist. When I found out my new therapist was a male I knew it was going to be hard not to fall for him. Its hard for me not to view him as the “husband I didn’t have” (I’m separated with no reconciliation in sight). My psychiatrist is good looking, smart, and compassionate. He is also married and I feel so guilty. I don’t want to bring up transference. I wonder if it becomes obvious to them when their patients have strong feelings towards them. I feel torn because I go there to get help and not to entertain a fantasy. Should I bring up my feelings? I’ve only been seeing him for two months.

    Like

    • September 2, 2013 at 11:50 pm

      Hi Ana,
      Welcome to my blog and thanks for commenting. I am sorry to take so long in responding. I understand you feeling guilty but it is important to remember that feelings are only that, feelings. They are not actions. And frankly, its healthy for a heterosexual woman to feel attraction for someone who is good looking, intelligent, compassionate and focused on her needs. I think it is very important for you to talk about these feelings. You are safe expressing them because your T is responsible for those boundaries and making sure that nothing happens between you. As you can see from the post above, I learned a lot from exploring these feelings. So I don’t think this is about entertaining a fantasy. I think the fact that you are feeling such intense attraction is a window into understanding yourself. Working with the relationship and our feelings about our therapists IS the work. I also think that talking openly about these feelings help to diffuse them. They do not bother me now they way they used to, sometimes I find myself even just enjoying feeling attracted to BN.

      As for them knowing, I once asked BN if he knew before I told him, and he told me that it wasn’t like he knew but he wasn’t surprised either. I wish you the best, let me know how you get on if you decide to talk about it.

      Peace, AG

      Like

  31. Nicole
    October 23, 2013 at 3:58 pm

    Thanks for this article, AG. I got here from Dr Howes’ article and it’s really helpful to read through someone else’s experience with erotic transference. It’s really new to me, but fortunately my best friend is a PsyD so she told me it was important to tell T. I told him at our last session and then I talked through it all with my husband. Now I’m just kind of waiting around for the next appointment and still feeling awkward and ashamed. It feels like a silly teenage crush and it’s been so long since I felt this way. It’s icky. 🙂 Anyway, thanks again for writing about your experience. 🙂

    Like

  32. November 13, 2013 at 1:37 am

    Wow, what a great article. This might actually get me to reconsider, to possibly, maybe go back to my therapist…perhaps, lol. I finally trusted him, and we were making great progress, then BAM, all I can think about is him!
    I am in the midst of these horribly painful feelings, and cancelled my last two appts because these feelings scare me to death! I really want to see him, but not until I can get this under control!
    He is so very kind, so generous, so caring, so values oriented and so open. I guess everything I would want in a perfect person, haha. A tad large ego, that I hope is not a tiny red flag of intuition in the pit of my stomach.

    If I don’t go back and work thru this, I’ve read that I could be ‘stuck’! Some patients have been left yearning and longing for their therapists YEARS later! When I read that, I thought oh geez, I made a mistake getting involved in this intense therapy, though in the first few months it gave me profound relieve and insights. Then somehow it got way off track.

    What the heck happened? All of a sudden I was thinking about him…a lot. I was physically sick to my stomach, I couldn’t figure this out. Wanting to call him, run into him outside of appts, fantasizing about him. This was so upsetting and was consuming me. Even though I knew I really didn’t want him…but I did. No, I didn’t, lol! We have completely different lives, nothing in common, etc.

    I cancelled an appt after a very difficult one, and he briefly called to check on me.That’s when these feelings kicked in and intensified. When I called to make an extra appt thinking I had to discuss this, he called to ask what was going on. I somehow got the courage to tell him over the phone, though mortified and embarrassed, I read this is what you should do, and I didn’t know what else to do!
    He was very patient, very kind, talked to me for a long time, though I’m wondering if he has much experience with this problem/issue.
    Your therapist sounds like he knew what was going on with you. I thought mine sort of took it as it really was about him. I did feel better when I got off of the phone.

    I’m now trying to sort out whether to go back or not. Each day gives me a little more enlightenment as I read stories such as yours.
    I’m scared to death to let this ‘hope’ that comes with him into my life MORE! How can anything that makes you feel so awful be good for you?? So confusing.

    I feel a little duped, feel like he was giving me hope then yanking it way. I’m a bit angry that I was ‘drawn’ into trusting this feeling of unconditional, nonjudgmental, kind, caring environment, a person that showed me that I was lovable and would help me improve my life. My rock, my guide, my savior.

    But on the phone he made me understand, gently, that we were not friends, an outside relationship was not a possibility. Nor would I want one with him as he suggested he had so many faults.
    He has spoken about his profound faith in Jesus, and I feel like if that is his rock, his guide, his savior, who he turns to in time of need, it’s not fair because he’s available 24/7! Mine is on a very limited basis and I have trouble with that…obviously.

    Last Friday morning when I called to cancel an appt for that day because I was frantic and in the middle of a crisis (my son is in Da Nang where the super storm was headed)
    and my T was in the middle of a personal house viewing, he asked ‘Are you ok?’ and ‘I said no’. I said well I was ‘ok, I was not in a dire way’…or something, not sure of exact words. I mentioned/gushed what was going on with my son. He said something brief, and talk to you soon (formally) and we hung up. It felt cold.

    Over the phone I really wanted to get a few words of wisdom, of advice, of support from him. It was the hardest most stressful weekend of my life. And I feel like he wasn’t there for me. Now I know he has a private life and ours is a professional therapeutic relationship, but that’s what I find so difficult.What does that mean?
    How are we to turn it on and off? One minute there is great hope and he is your biggest supporter, but the next, it’s only by appt.
    It’s very intimate, yet it’s just a bubble. Your feelings are real, but your feelings for him are not real. What’s real??
    How do I depend on someone with my entire mind, heart and soul to guide me along this terrifying path who is actually for the most part inaccessible, unavailable and my needs no matter how strong or what time of day, must wait and be met at a certain time at an appt.

    Maybe it’s immaturity on my part…all I know is that it’s given me knots in my stomach for a week, I can’t eat or sleep much (there’s one way to lose weight).

    I do feel comforted that others have had these erotic/love feelings for their therapist.
    But can I trust that he knows how to make this go away? I am scared to death if he doesn’t, what then??? What if I feel this continually, or possibly worse? Why would I go back for more pain? When I see him won’t that make it worse?

    I do trust that he would be very professional and have boundaries. Of course I don’t want him to…YES I do! Otherwise he wouldn’t be the person I know he is. Ugh!
    I just want to nuzzle his neck and see what he smells like…lol. So basically what yor’re saying is, that can never, ever happen. :(( That makes me sad.

    Thanks to anyone who read all of this monologue of a very confused woman! At least I got to vent and write out my thoughts. Peace to all.

    Like

    • December 5, 2013 at 10:47 pm

      Hi Penepan,
      Welcome to my blog and thanks for commenting. My apologies for how long it has taken to reply. I know this is a difficult, confusing, chaotic thing to struggle with, but can tell you that directly engaging with these feelings and discussing them has been very helpful (yes, acutely embarrassing but very helpful). Your therapist sounds like he has very good boundaries so it will be safe to examine this with him. FWIW, your feelings and thoughts all sound very normal to me. There are a couple of other posts I think you might find helpful if you haven’t yet read them: Disorganized Attachment and How do I fill the void? My best wishes as you go forward. ~ AG

      Like

  33. Anna
    November 25, 2013 at 11:20 pm

    Thank you so much for this post. I can relate to pretty much the whole thing. These feelings have been driving me crazy. I keep going back and forth whether this therapy a good thing or a bad thing. Even though everyone tells me basically what you said, I just can’t imagine it is a good thing based on my feelings…and the fact that I am married. However, you have somehow explained it better than everyone else. I can connect to this. I’m starting to see the mirroring and the projecting that I am doing. As much as I hate to admit it, I am learning A LOT about myself in this process. I am also so so so very lucky as to have a very empathetic, compassionate, sweetheart of a doctor who also has the highest of ethical standards and experience in dealing with this. He is not afraid of it at all. Only I am afraid… but now I am less afraid. Thank you for that….

    Like

    • December 5, 2013 at 11:02 pm

      Hi Anna,
      Welcome to my blog and thanks for commenting. My apologies for taking so long to respond. I truly understand your feelings, especially as they relate to being married. I actually went to an older friend of mine whose wisdom I trusted and whom I knew shared my values and worldview to talk to her about whether I could continue seeing BN in good conscience. She strongly felt I should go on because he was principled and boundaried and exploring the feelings were leading to healing. And I can honestly say as I have moved closer to BN and understood these feelings, my relationship and intimacy with my husband has clearly benefited. I am very glad that reading this has made you less afraid (I know how terrifying this journey can be). I wish you the best in your healing. ~ AG

      Like

  34. Muff
    November 27, 2013 at 3:12 pm

    Mumma mia AG, why did no one warn me of this ‘madness’ 🙂 So I have gone nuts trying to figure it all out myself cuz my ‘ET’ transference didn’t go towards my male T, it went directly towards a female friend. I have blown her up out of proportion into a goddess in my imaginings. Eeeek!

    This jumped at me and made a lot of sense:

    “I think having maternal/paternal AND erotic/homo-erotic feelings for a parent or therapist makes perfect sense if you think about it from the perspective of an infant or very young child. I mean, doesn’t an infant/young child have an innate awareness of the most basic, elemental kind of physical connection there is between them and their parent, or between any human beings for that matter? There’s obviously nothing erotic about it at that age, but I think that longing for that most basic, elemental connection is there from the very beginning. And let’s face it, what’s more elemental/evolutionary than that connection?

    Then maybe as we grow into sexual beings that connection gets loaded with the erotic stuff. In any case, I don’t think such a “merger” would be abnormal or uncommon at all. I think it would be fairly human actually.

    As my T has said, all humans are polysexual, despite their conscious sexual preference or gender. I believe this. Some like men, some like women, some like both, some like couch cushions, some like fruits and vegetables. Whatever, it’s all in there in my opinion. Who cares. But we are tormented by the ridiculous standards about sexuality that our culture imposes on us.

    Just my two cents.
    Russ”….from psych cafe.

    In my wildest infantile fantasies now, I am able to cancel out a psychopathic mother and replace her with a positive one. I feel loved; safe and connected in those fantasies. The feelings are real. There is a feeling of oneness and wanting to dissolve into her. Sound familiar?

    I am also aware of my instinctual REACTIONS associated with my positive mother images ACTIONS while she expressing love to me in fantasy. Those reactions were suppose to happen during adult sex, but in my case they didn’t, because there was no such connection in infancy.

    T is ever so reassuring, and understanding about this stuff. He tells me to go with it all, and the guilt and shame is subsiding, finally.

    Mumma mia, what a tangled web we weave indeed!!! 🙂 🙂

    Still working on it 🙂 😦

    Like

  35. December 5, 2013 at 11:21 pm

    (((Muff))) It’s great to hear from you, I have been wondering how you were doing! Forgive the slow response, life has been interesting as of late. Sorry you got bit by the ET bug, it’s a real b****. But it also sounds like you have a handle on it. Love the quote from Russ, that was very much the point I was trying to make about our feelings from infancy being channeled in our sexuality as adults. I am glad that your T is helping you to not feel guilty and ashamed as there is no reason to. Don’t be a stranger, I would love to hear how you are getting on. 🙂 xx AG

    Like

    • Muff
      December 5, 2013 at 11:51 pm

      🙂 AG

      In my case it seemed the ‘ET’ was a HUGE distraction from the task at hand and that was to face some more very deep infantile feelings of loss and resentment towards my mother.

      Slaving away at that atm:(

      Like

      • December 6, 2013 at 12:12 am

        Ah Muff, you have my deep sympathy, as I hit a point where I came to realize that every time the erotic feelings got really intense it was because I was avoiding facing something really painful in my past. I was also using it as a distraction (ok a fairly pleasant one, but … 😉 ) Hang in there, I know its a painful slog but things are so much better on the other side. ((())) Come by if you need to talk!

        Like

        • Muff
          December 6, 2013 at 12:27 am

          Sooooooooo, needed to hear that AG 😉

          xxxx

          Like

  36. Sleepless in Seattle :(
    December 10, 2013 at 1:41 am

    Ok. Another “in love” question. My Psychologist just became separated. I know the reasons why as well, and they are truly sad. It was his choice. I have been seeing him almost 10 years. For the past four we became ‘personally close’ – I’ve even had lunch at least once a month for 4 years with his wife. We send emails, cards, exchange gifts etc…He had no problem with us lunching(we met by chance). I knew i “liked” him, probably in a tranference way,years ago, so I paid it no mind, I understood it. We sit on the couch together, shoes off stretched out, his hand resting on my leg, ….it makes me feel comfortable. One year prior BEFORE he told me of the separation, I started having stronger feelings, that just grew, how? I cant put my finger on it. Even with being friends with his wife. I have never been in love before and even went to another Psychologist to discuss this, the psychologist confirmed my worst fear. I was in love. I have been sexually abused since I was 6. Was in abusive relationships my entire life. I am in an abusive marriage—I truly never understood love. He has shared life stories of his with me. his own abuse, hardships and such. I believe he is very meek and lacks self esteem, he is not aggressive, actually just sweet, not a macho man at all, not physically attractive by most peoples measures, but I find him cute, he is older as well. I KNOW nothing can happen, I am very aware of that. He has told me he fears being alone, I know he has found someone as well, to fill his void. Will he get married? not sure. will he move in? pretty damn sure. We hug and kiss lightly on the lips after ever session, it feels right. More the hugging, sometimes they are quick, 5 seconds..sometimes a minute. I do know his flaws, since he let me in. I know his strengths and weaknesses as well, because of my acceptance of flaws and all and my feelings, the other psycholgist made a fast determination it was not transference. I know I need to leave. I told him. He wants to work through it. How can I work through being “in love” when it has eluded me my entire life and it had to be pointed out to me….yes you are in love, because “love feels like this” is what was told , when I described my feelings. I believe it to be true also as this feeling is more painful than any abuse I have experienced in my life. It is a loss. It is like a death. If this is what loves feels like and of all the many many friends and family I know that have loved and lost, I finally get it. My heart breaks for them. I could never understand it. Now I do, and its just very sad. I am just lost. How do you not only “divorce” your psychologist, but “divorce” the first person in your life you have loved, at the exact same time? I have friends. I am not needy. I work full time, have a good job, I am active-but yes I am deemed anxiety ridden and depressed due to my life time of on going abuse.
    I know ending this immediately is the right thing, yet I fear…actually i know with it I will lose all trust men all faith. I lose me.

    Like

  37. December 10, 2013 at 12:42 pm

    Hi Sleepless,
    Welcome to my blog and I am very glad that you commented. First, I am very sorry for the tremendous pain that you are in and all that you have suffered; you did not deserve the abuse. I am going to speak very bluntly to you and some of this will be very difficult to hear, but please trust me that I think its very important to say. You need to flee from this man as quickly as you can. This is not therapy, it is abuse, and is a repeat of the sexual abuse you suffered as a child. You came to this man to focus on your needs but instead of protecting and helping you, he has exploited your needs for his own ends, just as an abuser does. There are SO many red flags in what you have described about your therapy that I am not sure where to start. But the strongest is the part about this being love but so painful. I am NOT questioning the reality of your feelings for your therapist. I know they are very real, very strong, and have probably taken over most of your life. But the intensity of them is also being driven by the setup of therapy and your past unmet needs, as well as what you experience in the present. It was your therapist’s job to hold the boundaries so you could work through that. And whether he was intentionally exploiting you or just has been utterly incompetent in holding his boundaries, he has failed you terribly and compounded your injuries. Love, while it can be painful if unrequited, is not painful in and of itself. Life is painful, but love is the answer to that pain. I believe your pain is coming from the fact that you so desperately need to be loved, and are being told you are being loved, but it’s always been about the other person’s needs. The pain you are feeling is, I think, coming from a terrible deprivation. You deserve so much better. I am including a few articles I would urge you to read to gain some perspective. If at all possible, I would try to find a therapist who specializes in patients who have been abused by a prior therapist. I can certainly understand why you would lose faith and not trust all men. The men you have met have consistently mistreated you (which is not uncommon for victims of childhood sexual abuse). But there are good therapists out there who take their responsibility to their patients very seriously and are good people who could help you heal. At this point in your journey, it might be better to seek out a female therapist. I know I am speaking very strongly, but I believe you are in danger and do not wish to see you injured further. I hope that you will stay in touch.

    My Story is Different
    Consent
    Danger Signs
    Sex between Therapists and Clients

    ~ AG

    Like

  38. January 5, 2014 at 8:46 am

    This was very encouraging for me to read. I wish all therapists had the maturity that BN has.

    Like

  39. January 5, 2014 at 10:49 am

    The Karen,
    Welcome to my blog and thanks for commenting! I am very glad that you found this encouraging and must say I agree with you about BN’s maturity being a good thing. Although he would be the first to tell you he hasn’t always been this mature. 😀 I’m lucky to have caught him later in his career. ~ AG

    Like

  40. Erna
    February 25, 2014 at 4:22 pm

    Hello AG, thanks for article. But actually I am stunned. I feel sexual intimacy to my therapist. I am 26 guy. You see I am healing my shame or defectiveness of low self esteem, I try to embrace it. You know what, I was so ashamed in couple weeks ago, that I was trying to explain in letters to my therapist why I think about her, that she so stuck in my head 😀 I was afraid. It seemed that something somewhere is ‘unfinished’ in relation with her and therapy. I mean we working on my things regards initial worth and shame, past depression, but I have never expected that there will manifest other questions, not related to therapy at all from first sight 😀 My thing and interpretation is, that she reactivated her part what I don’t like and fear about myself and I am battling with that, wanting and trying to deny feelings of something unawarely related in relation or intimacy to my therapist. It also can be your case 😀 I mean, I and my therapist probably have some parts which are similar, and both still we generating not authentic wholeness, but more instead different parts of ourselves, who still are in contradiction. And I can ‘smell’ it, by my subconscious 🙂 Of course firstly consciously I didn’t understood whats going on, why I have wanted to ‘jump’ on her, criticize her, own her, control, being jealous or suddenly feeling sexual attraction. Cause she reminds me what I afraid and don’t like. Also by controlling I don’t want to let it go a weak part of her identity. And when I see or feel a developed part of her being a beautiful and success women, my weak vulnerable part of me becomes jealous, i.e. my inner critic saying ‘how could you left me ?’ saying to her, my T developed part. This happening cause I am not enough at my core fundamentally by the negative beliefs. So you want basically other people not be enough too. Projections and controlling. Basic elements of shame. I understood if I won’t wish her happiness, the same stuff will be for me. But relation to sexual intimacy AG, I still don’t know whats going on, I can’t find till now those answers. I don’t love her, but I want to have sex and closeness with her. Is this related, as I have mentioned she represents what I have in some parts of me, in traits and characteristics or I don’t know 😀 Its so complex. But it seems she is like a close friend, my sensitive and fragile part of me, with whom you can have a romance and be very good friends, but never would be happy in a couple together. There is something, that strange attraction. In aspect and connection towards my parents and unmet needs towards wanting sex with her my T, I don’t know. My conscious can’t grasp your idea AG, maybe cause unconscious pain is too big and its blocking from evidence ? What do you think, maybe something resonates with your experience ? But I am finishing big part of this unpuzzelling I feel.

    Like

  41. February 25, 2014 at 10:28 pm

    Hi Erna,
    Welcome to my blog and thanks for commenting. I appreciate it even more because you are questioning what I wrote, i know it can be hard to write that kind of comment. 🙂 I am struggling somewhat to follow you (I am guessing English is a second language? No criticism as it’s my ONLY language; I have incredible respect for people who are multilingual) but I’ll answer what i think you’re saying and you can always correct me if I get it wrong, ok?

    I think you’re very right that part of the dynamic is that we project parts of ourselves we do not like or are ashamed of on our therapists. i have been working very deeply with shame recently and have seen it happen. I also know i am very scared at times of my therapist because he evokes feelings in me I’d rather not experience. So I think your insights to what is coming out in your relationship with your therapist are excellent one’s that show you are very self-aware. This is a tough dynamic for us to catch since it is a defense mechanism whose purpose is to allow us to remain unconscious of parts of ourselves. A huge part of therapy is accepting our own humanity, and acknowleding and accepting the parts of ourselves we’re not so happy about.

    I am also very comfortable with erotic transference not being about what you didn’t get from your parents. Just because I believe that to be true for me does NOT mean that every person who experiences sexual feelings for their Ts are doing so for the same reason. As I discussed at the beginning of the post, our sexuality is a very powerful and important part of being human so an awful lot of stuff can come out through our sexual feelings. My real point in this post is just to encourage people who have sexual feelings for their therapist to not be too quick to dismiss them as just “here and now” feelings of attraction that have nothing to do with why they are in therapy. Scrutinizing these feelings gave me a lot of insight. I do not think that everyone will learn the same things I did; they will learn what the feelings represent and symbolize for them.

    I really appreciate your thoughtful input on the topic,

    ~ AG

    Like

  42. Erna
    February 25, 2014 at 11:10 pm

    Also erotic things can transfer as a compensation mechanism in a defense form, from inferiority. For example when I have exposed my true vulnerable self to my therapist, I was feeling like shit 😀 Not anymore attractive or as a real man. For me it was hard to accept over my flawed self and delusional pride to a woman therapist, and I was dealing at some periods intensively with my own insecurities and fear, what she can think about me right now 😀 So instead I took probably a defense pattern steaming from self hatred emotion to control her in my mind in owning or possessiveness terms, through sexuality in order to escape from my own pain and shadow part. I wanted in alarm that she would accept me through sexuality or intimacy, validate myself and worthiness in a symbolic way. Possessiveness as you know is a codependency symptom, which is the indicator of defectiveness or low self worth. I believe desire sometimes can’t only be innocent or just unmet needs, but mixed with a fear or anxiety and be a reason of hopelessness run away, masked in a defense of despair. I don’t know honestly if it can be a childhood thing in every case, like “mommy I need you” unconscious message in therapist face or present. Even though many sources indicates erotic attraction as this case of unmet infant needs, but I do believe it can have many meanings even in the same definition as erotic or intimacy, it can branch further to more complex things, based on your issues. Also as I have mentioned in the previous message my therapist something represents or reactivates in me by his parts, and it also unconsciously attracts me and magnetize me. Controlling her weak part I want to escape my part. Strange, but it is.I don’t know how to call it. So how a therapist can represent my parents I don’t know honestly. Also for example I can experience more than one transference in therapist at different times and moods. Through loved one past memories, even through people who was dishonest or treating me bad and she, my T can remind it. Opposite, but still 🙂 Very strange and there is no just one answer, do you feel me AG, maybe you similarly had something experienced or changed opinion about erotic transference as a more complex or broad thing ?

    Like

  43. Erna
    February 25, 2014 at 11:20 pm

    Thank you AG 😉 Opps, I think we have passed each other. I have only now seen your comment after my second one. Sorry for some repeats.Yes I am multi language. I am from Lithuania, so sorry for some mistakes.

    Like

    • February 27, 2014 at 9:04 pm

      Erna,
      No problem and please no apologies for your English. It is WAY better than my Lithuanian. 😉 I wouldn’t have mentioned it except I was worried I might not be understanding you.

      I do one to say while this article focused on Erotic Tranference, I definitely do not believe it encompasses the whole of my relationship with my therapist. I have had transferences to do with both my mother and father. In general, I see all of my unconscious beliefs and drives playing out in the relationship with BN with erotic transference being only a part of the puzzle. I also think that since my father eroticized a relationship that never should have been, that spills over into my relationship with my T especially when he takes on the symbolic role of my father. But I think my attachment issues loom much larger in the work. I totally agree that it is way too complex to point to one answer and say that covers it all. 🙂

      AG

      Like

  44. March 5, 2014 at 6:52 am

    I bought “In Session” a while back and have been reading it bit by bit. I am a sex abuse survivor and I am wondering if the reason I have erotic transferential feelings so often for therapists is because I confuse loving feelings with sex. I also sexualize so many things. Maybe I was conditioned to believe love and sex were the same. I have read that somewhere sex abuse survivors do this, but I also believe that transferential feelings are more complicated than that as well. I just wonder because this is fascinating for me.

    Like

    • March 10, 2014 at 9:55 pm

      Hi Karen,
      Welcome to my blog and thank you for commenting. “In session” is a great book. I read it when I first realized I was developing such a strong attraction for BN and found it very helpful. I am convinced for me that at least some part of the sexual attraction has to do with the fact that my father eroticized a relationship that should never have included those components. One of the deep beliefs I discovered was my belief that I had to pay for a relationship by providing sex. But you’re totally right, it’s much more complicated than that. My real point in writing this was not to define what it means for other people but more to highlight that looking more closely at these feelings in the safety of an environment where they will not be acted out can yield a lot of rich insight. Our sexuality is a powerful part of who we are, woven throughout our identity so I believe it provides a powerful vehicle to carry some very complex issues. ~ AG

      Like

      • g2-caa87f8fc37351ba64c2633199d02dd3
        March 29, 2014 at 2:26 pm

        Thank you for your reply. I only asked because I have yet to figure out what it is for me and thought I’d pick your brains. Just a curious question was all. Your post did nothing but benefit me and made a pathway for future insight and questioning.

        Like

      • g2-caa87f8fc37351ba64c2633199d02dd3
        March 29, 2014 at 2:29 pm

        I have two IDs that I can use to comment here. One is my Twitter account and the other is WordPress. Today I couldn’t reply with Twitter. Just saying this to avoid confusion. I am the same person. 🙂

        Like

  45. candycanandco
    March 11, 2014 at 10:18 pm

    Do you think it is always important to tell your therapist if you’re having these feelings about them? I’m not sure if I have anything to gain by doing so.

    Like

    • March 11, 2014 at 10:49 pm

      Hi Candy,
      I’m not sure if it would be true for everyone, but I know it was crucial for me to talk to BN, not least because talking about my romantic/erotic feelings for him led to me seeing him individually (The Beginning). The feelings kept growing and were driving me crazy and in trying to track down info on what to do, I ran across a therapist’s blog who strongly urged people to talk about their feelings. I was wounded in relationship, and in my case a relationship was eroticized that NEVER should have, so a lot is tangled up in my feelings about sexuality and romance and relationships. You need to heal in relationship and for me, that has meant examining in agonizing and embarrassing detail all the feelings that arise about BN in our relationship. Part of those feelings (certainly not all of them) were romantic and erotic longings. Talking about those feelings and working to understand them has led to a lot of important work and deep insight into the beliefs and damage done by the sexual abuse, and being able to process and grieve what happened to me. The result of which has led to an ability to live more fully. And I have found that after a lot of pain and embarrassment, mind you, it did help lessen the intensity and obsessiveness of the feelings. So my advice tends to be talk about the feelings.

      But I would add a caveat, which is not all therapist’s handle these feelings well. It helps if your therapist has been around the block before and is able to see to accept that you feel that way and not make it about them or be scared by your feelings. If your experience of your T is that you are able to talk to him/her about other feelings about them in therapy and their response is non-defensive and focused on helping you understand what those feelings tell you about yourself, you can probably expect them to handle these types of feelings as well.

      All that said, it’s your therapy and your feelings, so can freely decide if, and/or when you speak about these feelings. You know yourself and your therapist best, so you will make the best decision. ~ AG

      Like

      • candycanandco
        March 12, 2014 at 7:29 am

        Thanks for responding AG, I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t be inappropriate about it but at the same time I can’t imagine her wanting to get into a discussion about it so I think I’d just be embarrassed. Sometimes she just doesnt respond when I tell her things. She just looks at me.
        I can relate to you with regard to your past experiences and how sexual feelings are intertwined with a lot of stuff. I wrote about it on my own blog but its not something I’ve seen a lot of people write about… I mean the arousal during abuse. I talked about this with my T and she didn’t say anything then moved onto something else. I just clammed up then and when she asked what was wrong I said I felt embarrassed and ashamed so she was a bit better then and acknowledged what I had said.
        Anyway, I’m rambling. I still don’t know the answer to my question; I suppose I’m looking for a crystal ball to know how it would go!
        Thanks again for your openness about this. It’s helpful to know others could relate.

        Like

        • March 12, 2014 at 12:15 pm

          Candy,
          It really is not uncommon for rape and incest victims to have felt aroused during the abuse. But it is such a deeply shameful feeling that people don’t often speak about it. (I was holding a trash can when talking to BN about this because I honestly thought I was going to throw up). But as BN explained to me at the time, we are physiologically constructed to feel pleasure when touched in certain ways and certain places and that doesn’t disappear because the touch is unwelcome. But wow, do those feelings mess with your head and make you wonder if you somehow welcomed or wanted the abuse. You didn’t; your body just responded the way it’s made to.

          I can’t imagine NOT getting a response to that kind of confession. BN can, at times, really let me sit with my own discomfort and is not one to rush in, but he responded very swiftly with reassurance when I talked about this aspect of my feelings and was very quick to normalize it. So I can see where you might hesitate to share these feelings. It may be that you need to build more trust and/or let your therapist get to know you and what you need from her better. But I’m glad that reading this let you know you are not alone in feeling that way.

          Like

  46. March 13, 2014 at 6:23 pm

    Thought you might like to hear this; thanks JD

    Let Me Pretend No More
    The feelings are conflicting
    The images are depicting
    Am I an adult or the child?
    Are my thoughts running wild?
    The emotions are very strong
    The contemplation has been too long

    These feelings carry a lot of weight
    There is always hesitation at the gate
    There is splitting between love and hate
    This I carry as my freight
    Destinations I must reach
    To communicate this part of speech

    To those of you who matter
    Let me serve this on a platter
    The longing and the wanting may have intervals
    Equally I try hard to have some principles
    The pain outweighs the pleasure
    There is no gold in the treasure

    There is offer of attunement and connection
    Yet I can view this as rejection
    The respect is a two way process
    This I seem to offer much less and need to assess
    The challenges are not few and far between
    This is part of therapy’s normal routine

    Like

    • March 13, 2014 at 11:03 pm

      Josie,
      It’s good to hear from you and thank you for sharing your poem. I think you capture the confusion and ambivalence and pain that these feelings can cause. I actually wrote a similar poem at one point that I took to BN which led to a major breakthrough in my understanding of relationship between love and pain. This is an excellent picture of all the challenges wrapped up in this work. ~ AG

      Like

  47. April 18, 2014 at 11:50 am

    Thank you so much for posting this. I had been searching for information to help me understand what I was going through and your description and explanations made far more sense to me than anything else I’ve found. I didn’t have an abusive father. I had a cold mother you could say. And yet my responses throughout life have been so similar to yours. It was really stunning to read. I feel like giving my therapist your post and saying, “There, that’s what I’ve been trying to say!” It is so well written, so honest, so clear, so fair. I truly appreciate it.

    Like

    • April 22, 2014 at 10:03 pm

      Hi Guinnevere,
      Welcome to my blog and thank you for commenting. Thank you so much for the kind words, I am very glad that reading this helped you better understand your responses and let you know you are not alone in feeling this way. Please feel free to take it into your therapist if you think it would help; I would be honored. I appreciate you taking the time to say this. ~ AG

      Liked by 1 person

  48. CH
    May 24, 2014 at 7:11 pm

    Wow! This is a very profound and well articulated piece. I relate to a lot of your points.
    My therapist is the same gender as me and I was relieved to read “It is this dynamic that is at the root of a client with a life-long heterosexual orientation to feel sexual attraction to a same gender therapist or a client with a homosexual orientation to feel attracted to an opposite gender therapist.” I was starting to believe I was gay.
    This is such a complicated issue! Especially since I, like you described, have issues with pleasure and sexuality and trust, etc. Feeling sexual feelings has a very very very negative connotation for me in general. All the more so am I uncomfortable if they come up in the context of a relationship that I value so much and feel safe. How can I feel safe anymore if I am experiencing some level of attraction? This is such a strange and nerve-wracking phenomena.
    I have so much work to do 😦 so much pain and suffering. Anger and self-loathing.

    Like

  49. CH
    May 24, 2014 at 7:17 pm

    Also, just wondering – if I feel aroused when talking about very specific details of my molestation, does that mean I am necessarily attracted to the therapist? Maybe I got turned on by the sexual description which came about in conversation with the therapist?

    Like

  50. June 4, 2014 at 11:36 am

    Hi CH,
    Welcome to my blog and thanks for commenting. I am hoping you saw my notice about being away for a bit, sorry for taking so long to respond. I really understand the struggle of feeling so uncomfortable about sexual feelings. I have done some work around it (and have more to do I think) but the truth is that my father sexualizing a relationship that should never have included sex, really messed up a lot of things for me. Part of what has been healing with BN is to be in a safe relationship and being able to explore and understand the sexual feelings that have arisen. And the worst part is the shame we carry that is not really ours.

    As far as the arousal goes, I have experienced it. And no I do NOT think it indicates that you are attracted to your therapist. The truth is that no matter what else is going on, being touched in certain ways and certain places is pleasurable based on our physiology. So even though we are not consenting nor are we seeking sexual pleasure, there may be pleasurable sensations experienced. Have this happen often enough and our arousal can be tied to some of the other things happening, such as the pain or fear. So I have had times when I am talking about really horrible stuff then realized I am feeling aroused. Always makes me feel like I want to puke. I’ve discussed it with BN and he has been very clear with me about it. If you haven’t read it yet, I think this post would be helpful:What I Learned in Therapy Lesson 4: It wasn’t my fault. I know this is really uncomfortable, embarrassing, difficult stuff but if you can bring yourself to do it, it can be very helpful to discuss these feelings with your therapist. ~ AG

    Like

  51. mary
    June 26, 2014 at 10:54 pm

    Horrible experience-my therapist was always snapping

    Like

    • XXX
      June 27, 2014 at 2:09 pm

      Yes that is horrible experience!!! I have heavy maternal transference with mine… Its shaming as hell… then when they take it personally it lets you know they cant handle the pain. Just wanted to reassure you it is their limitation as a therapist and does not mean anything is wrong with you in fact…. your normal– just like the rest of us!!!

      Like

    • June 30, 2014 at 5:27 pm

      Mary,
      Welcome to my blog and thank you for commenting. That had to be terrible. I know how terrifying it was to express these feelings to BN and was very grateful that he has been so gentle and accepting and even normalizing about my feelings. I think I would have fled screaming if he had snapped at me! I totally agree with XXX that it is reflection on your therapist and not on you. We’re supposed to talk about how we feel, its their job to help us make sense of it. ~ AG

      Like

  52. DaringGreatly
    June 29, 2014 at 9:15 am

    Hi AG, I have just found your blog and have to say it is a relief to read that I am not the only one to experience such transference.

    I am nearly a year in counselling and I have been very honest about my feelings for my counsellor… The thing is I am gay and I feel that I love him and want to be around him all the time. I got really angry with him and I told him to Fuck Off at the end of a session (I was angry that I had to leave). I felt really bad after and for most of the week before I saw him again. The interesting thing was during the week I though ‘if I do something for him (sexually) it will make it all better. I shared this and he said if he accepted my advances it would confirm to me that all men are the same and are only looking for sex.. By him not accepting my advances it is showing me something new that he can care about me but it doesn’t need to involve sex. My counsellor and I are just starting to explore abuse with my father I find it difficult even to write those words…

    Sometimes the feelings for my counsellor is so strong that I think it is easier to stay in the pain than to experience love and acceptance from him. I find it really difficult to experience love to be honest it frightens the life out of me. I am terrified I am going to get hurt.. The only way through this is I risk building relationships which are equal… Not easy, after explaining this to a friend she said its like you are a little bird in a cage, the door is open but I’m frightened to leave… One must dare greatly note to self….

    Thank you so much for your blog it has helped me identify that I’m not crazy or weird or dirty for these thoughts and feeling to my counsellor…

    X

    Like

    • June 30, 2014 at 5:38 pm

      Hi Daring Greatly,
      Welcome to my blog and thank you for commenting. I am very glad that reading this has helped you to feel more accepting of your feelings. As I explored in the blog post (and in other posts on my blog) I truly believe that many of our issues can end up getting expressed through our sexuality. If our past included sexual abuse, then this is doubly true, because often early sexual abuse warps our sense of sexuality and the meaning behind our sexual feelings.

      I think it is very courageous of you to have been open with your T about these feelings and as angry as his holding those boundaries can make you (and I know the pain can be devastating) it really is a good thing that he is holding firm boundaries. (BTW, I am also impressed that you were able to tell him to Fuck off, it took me nearly seven years to express that level of anger.) And I know that the love and acceptance can be so frightening because it can feel like it will only lead to more pain. And being told no to what we want can evoke so much pain and grief from our past. But I would urge you to continue talking about the feelings that come up, as the pain that is evoked is often exactly the pain we need to process in order to heal.

      And we are in a cage of our own (unconscious) making. There are so many things we work to avoid so as to avoid painful memories that what we are willing to do and risk shrinks until we live in a very tiny world. But the solution, at least for me, was to walk towards BN and endure the pain, in order to know I could survive feeling it, so that I no longer needed to avoid things and could live more fully.

      You are not crazy or weird or dirty. There are a lot of very good reasons for why you are feeling this way, you are reacting to your early experience of relationships. if you haven’t yet read them, I would really recommend reading the posts Disorganized Attachment, or why you think you’re crazy but really aren’t and Therapy isn’t enough. I wish you the best in working through this and hope you’ll stick around.

      AG

      PS Also possibly: What I learned in therapy Lesson 5 – The relationship of love and pain 🙂

      Like

  53. GreenEyes
    August 11, 2014 at 12:14 am

    Dear AG

    I finally had to tell my T about these sorts of feelings that I’d been having for awhile (4 years OMG!!). And it was the most insanely shameful, painful process. Before I disclosed them I was silent for 15-20 minutes and my poor T was so puzzled as I’m one to chatter a lot. I didn’t know how I was supposed to ever look at him again afterwards as I was certain he would be disgusted and it would trigger immediate rejection and ending of therapy. He handled it beautifully – I think I knew somewhere he would be completely fine. It is very difficult for incest and CSA survivors to not get sexual and emotional intimacy mixed up. Talking about it has been so healing (read – so damn painful!!!) because I can fully see now what was taken – innocence, joy, hope, being able to perceive my sexual feelings as normal and bodily feelings as normal. that nobody had the right to take that from me and force me to do things I didn’t want to do. Strangely enough it has also allowed me to move closer to my T. I have never felt so safe within myself and with another person. I can really feel the care and love he and others have for me.

    However I don’t think I could have done it without your post and comments from other readers who have summoned the bravery to approach this difficult territory. So from the bottom of my heart – THANK YOU! You really are a blessing.

    Lots of love GE

    Like

    • August 11, 2014 at 1:28 pm

      ((((GE)))) That is so awesome!! Go you! It truly is a terrifying leap to make, I remember the same feelings of dread about being rejected and I was totally convinced I would be ending therapy. I am so glad that your therapist handled it so well (I expected nothing less! 🙂 ) It is such a gift to be met with love and acceptance and understanding, when we are expecting scorn and rejection (especially when that is what we were taught to expect). I think the closeness and safety you are feeling now are the pay off from the risk you took to be vulnerable and allow your therapist to see and know more of you. This is how close relationship is SUPPOSED to work, as a source of comfort and strength. I so appreciate you saying thank you to everyone here and am very grateful to have played some part in this, but please remember that you are the one who has done the hard work to obtain this relationship with your T and the courage to walk in and risk it all to be more open and authentic. You should be so proud of yourself! Thank you for sharing this, it has been an honor and privilege for me to be able to watch your healing. Much love, AG

      Like

  54. Chelle
    August 20, 2014 at 1:15 am

    In the midst of a quiet, overnight shift, I am compelled to thank you. My mind and my heart thank you. It’s not easy, holding back emotions as I read and relate… I’ve actually read this post before, early in my therapeutic journey. I’m now ten months in, and we are just getting warmed up.

    Just know that your words and shared thoughts and experiences are very, very helpful and appreciated.

    Like

  55. Almost & Always
    September 28, 2014 at 9:07 pm

    Hello AG (Awesome Grace methinks),

    First, thank you, thank you, thank you. Like the many other commenters, I am deeply grateful for your honesty, your compassion and your stunning ability to write so evocatively of your experience with erotic transference. I have learned much by reading this one single thread and I bow deeply to you. My psychiatrist is much like your Boundary Ninja – brilliant, kind, compassionate, patient (beyond imagination), creative, skilled, honest, attractive – and – since we are on the topic of erotic transference – absolutely ethical. The boundaries separating my talk and his actions are firmly in place. This last week, he had cause to gently but firmly remind me of the necessity of the boundaries. I was so hurt by the reminder (no matter that it was kindly stated to safeguard my well being and assure protection from abuse) that I promptly cancelled both of our sessions for this coming week. I immediately wanted to retreat entirely from therapy and stew in my own hurt juices. I have spent every day since that session figuring out how to distance myself from him, and in trying to understand my own confused and angry feelings, I stumbled across your blog. Because of what you wrote, I am now considering the notion that this may be the very time I most need to be in therapy, and continue the work by talking more about it rather than less. Or, in this case, not at all. Thank you kind person AG, I could not have figured that out any other way.

    As an aside, it is beyond astonishing that you make the time to respond to all the many commenters? I hope that it does not come at a cost to you but instead helps in the healing in some measure. I trust if you are in therapy you already know you deserve every minute of your life for your own healing and joy.

    Kind thanks,

    Almost and Always

    Like

  56. RJ
    October 25, 2014 at 11:05 pm

    Thank you so much for posting this! How did you manage the anxiety that came from the disclosure to your T? I have been avoiding the issue for a while (T knew it was there and just never pressed the issue until today). It was the hardest session to date, and I really think it’s going to take a Valium to get me back next week! I understand that it’s normal to have these feelings- but talking about them is terrifying and embarrassing! Any advice?

    Like

    • October 30, 2014 at 3:00 pm

      Hi RJ,
      Welcome to my blog and thanks for commenting. Totally understand the anxiety and embarrassment. I was not working with BN individually when I told him of my feelings and was really scared he was going to terminate me! If your T is already aware of your feelings and is even opening the discussion, that is a strong indicator he is not scared of or will back away from your feelings. So honestly (and yes, I know this truly sucks), you kind of have to grit your teeth and keep walking into the fear. But here’s the thing, when it turns out differently than you expected (your feelings are heard and respected and you are not treated with scorn or rejection), let yourself dwell on that. Take it in when you are still with your therapist and can feel it (the feelings dissipate very quickly, especially in the beginning). Every time you risk and have it turn out well, makes it just that scintilla easier next time. I can still deal with anxiety and struggle to express my feelings (especially lately as the shame as been ever-present and very deep) but when I think back, I am kind of shocked that these days I easily say things without even thinking about it, that a few years ago would have taken me months. It does get better. The worst part of therapy? There’s no way around experiencing the feelings, it’s actually crucial to healing. The best part of therapy is that allowing the feelings to flow through us, reduces their power and hold over us. One more thing, it’s ok to also express to your therapist how scary and threatening it feels. It often helped me to get direct reassurance from BN that I wasn’t doing anything wrong by feeling that way. Hang in there! ~ AG

      Like

  57. EBB
    December 23, 2014 at 6:32 pm

    Thank you so much, AG, for sharing your journey with us. I just discovered your blog, and it’s been so very helpful to me. I didn’t think anyone else had such intense feelings toward their therapist. I have had 7 therapists throughout my life and my current one (started in May, 2014) is the first who has dealt directly and honestly with this. Of course, this is the first male therapist I’ve had since 1978. That psychiatrist did not know how to handle erotic transference and just made my feelings more frustrating and intense by distancing himself rather narcissistically and sadistically. Largely because of your blog, I’ve begun discussing this subject in detail with my current therapist–the shame, guilt, everything. It’s not as difficult as it was in the very beginning. He handles it beautifully. He is the first therapist who has dealt with all this painful stuff. Maybe I needed the transference with a male to open up this “can or worms.” Perhaps, after 69 years, I’m finally ready. I truly understand now that if he were to expose his needs, it would no longer be therapy. It’s the fact that he does not that leads to the intense, idealized sexual yearning of the perfect parent, sex partner, etc. I totally know that if it were a real relationship, it would not be anything like this. At least this makes me feel less hurt and deprived. I know it’s my unfulfilled needs/fantasies that I yearn for. They feel so familiar.

    Finally, I agree with all the responses about your generosity of spirit. You’ve been a “mitzvah” (blessing) for me, AG, and for others.

    Like

    • January 2, 2015 at 2:14 pm

      EBB,
      Welcome to my blog and thank you for commenting! Sorry to take so long to reply, as you can see from my last few blog posts, life has been rather full and interesting over and above the normal holiday stress. I so appreciate the kind words and you’re taking the time to say this. I am even happier to hear that you are finding my writing’s helpful. It so helps to know we’re not alone in these feelings. Your current therapist sounds just wonderful and I am glad that you have found someone up to handling the task of allowing you to explore such an important dynamic. I definitely agree with needing a male therapist to open “the can of worms.” 🙂 I think because my father was my abuser, working with a male is bringing up issues I just didn’t have to face with my first, female, therapist. I wish you the best as you work through these feelings. It can be excruiatingly painful but I think, incredibly healing. Last but not least, thank you for saying I was a mitzvah!! Made my day! ~ AG

      Like

  58. April 20, 2015 at 2:49 am

    Hi AG,

    I luv your honesty. I too have thought mixed thoughts that repulsed me enough to vomit, yet provided clarity. I so incredibly understand that state of mind, the painful awareness of why you feel that way AND, the resolution in the realization. It is comforting to know someone else has had this f-up’d catharsis (that is how I have defined it, a f-up’d catharsis) I had two such moments, one I just experienced today. I would like to share it because I think you will get it, plus I am interested in your current insight after you had this “needing a trash can nearby” experience.

    A few months ago I had one of those dreams where you wake up only to fall asleep and the dream is repeated, a rinse-repeat dream. My rinse-repeat happened 3 times before I finally sat up in bed and breathed deeply, crying as I remembered. My dream was that my father died, he died but (or and?) I felt nothing. Initially. It was right before I woke up, did I start to cry. My waking dream experience made no sense to me. How could I not feel anything then suddenly be crying over my father’s death. How could his death evoke both emotions? (I never discussed this dream with my therapist, now though I wish I had.)

    Fast forward to today: my therapist and I will be talking about terminating come Wednesday evening. The reasons for termination has been a source of major triggers I have worked so hard at suppressing (attachment issues, sound familiar?). Today in feeling much anxiety over Wednesday, I remembered my death dream and I remembered thinking when it happened “if instead of grieving for my father, shouldn’t the person in the dream be my therapist whom I feel closer to than my father.” “Was my dream father really my therapist? Was I wanting my therapist to be my father, eewww?” (This is where talking to my therapist would have been so helpful)

    This rememberance made me realize all my recent behaviors that have caused the topic for Wednesday’s session are because I have developed an erotic transference for my therapist steming from unresolved issues concerning my father. I have had no desire to have a personal relatioship with my therapist, but today I think my dream was the start of an erotic transference that I ignored for months. I realized over the past two months I have placed on my therapist my need for true love and affection that was withheld by my father and mother, really. I have been acting like my therapist was my abusive father and have been linking abuse and its trauma effects with termination. BTW, termination stems from my schedule change and him trying to work me into a new time slot. My behaviors and feelings (abandonment, anxiety, shame, loss…) I realized today, are the unresolved issues.

    Oh what a moment that was this afternoon! The emotional turmoil I have experienced for weeks now over termination is from this erotic transference? I don’t want my therapist in that way, but it lead to yet another f-up’d catharsis moment. I have no idea what my therapist is going to say upon hearing this, but I think it is a moment, regardless if we end up terminating, we deserve to experience together.

    Can you share more on your insights after the catharsis and your current thoughts on that moment? Do you feel more autonomous, self-aware, less shameful?

    Snow

    Like

    • April 20, 2015 at 10:38 pm

      Snow,
      Welcome to my blog and thanks for commenting. I don’t think your feelings necessarily indicate an erotic transference, especially as you are not indicating any romantic or physical desire for your therapist. But it does sound like you have maternal/paternal transference going on. It’s a really good insight for you to recognize that you “placed on my therapist my need for true love and affection that was withheld by my father and mother.” That is exactly what gets evoked by the therapist. The therapeutic relationship is a strange duck, unlike any other, but it is closest to a parental one. The therapist is focused on the client, the care always flows from the therapist to the client and the boundaries are the therapist’s responsibility, all things that a parent does for a child. Which is why these feelings are evoked. We are sitting across from someone who is focused on our good, who is listening and understanding us and places our wellbeing first. For some of us, it is the first time we have experienced this. I think your father in your dream did represent your therapist. I think contemplating possibly losing him because of the schedule change is bringing up the loss that surrounds not having gotten what you needed from your Dad.

      I find it interesting that your reaction to the thought of wanting your therapist as your father is to feel “ewww.” I don’t see anything wrong with that feeling and as a matter of fact, I think it may be healthy. It is a recognition of healthy, normal, human needs. So you are spot on in wanting to discuss these feelings with your therapist. I believe the things we need to deal with rise up in the relationship and we heal by examining them.

      As far as my reflections on the catharsis, whenever they occur it feels as if I have cleared out more internal space and freed up more energy. A moment of catharsis happens when I own a split off part of my experience or feelings so I free up the energy I was using to hold those things separate from myself. I feel more whole and more congruent. And as for the shame, the only cure I have found so far, is to do the opposite of what shame is telling me to do, by not hiding and walking in and talking about the shame with BN. It has been a long slow process and while I believe I will always deal with a certain level of shame (it’s very deep seated and therefore when I am reacting, it often rises up), it is getting much weaker and has much less of a grip over me. I am learning to recognize that it is a feeling and will come and go and can be tolerated when it is there, even while recognizing that it is not true. Hope that helps. ~ AG

      Like

  59. April 20, 2015 at 4:25 pm

    Wow – thank you SO much for this. I have been meaning to write about this in my own blog for some time, but it has felt just that little bit ‘too close to home’ at times, and I haven’t been able to get the necessary distance from it. But I can relate to so much of what you’ve written, and it’s interesting I have made some of the same observations in relation to the sexual feelings relating to the ‘child parts’ even more sometimes than they do to the ‘adult parts’; and the fact that those feelings come to the surface more when things are deep, difficult, and one is working on trying to understand a particular issue in therapy. Like you, when progress has been made, the feelings tend to be of deep gratitude and thankfulness, though also in my case of love, but with the absence of any of the more sexual feelings. I noticed over the last few therapy breaks, that those feelings would start to surface towards the end of a break, in anticipation of starting back our work. Over the Easter break, the only time I have managed to maintain a feeling of ‘connectedness’, those feelings were absent. However, I have had a tumultuous weekend following a session which raised topics I felt nowhere near equipped to handle, and those feelings are at least partly back again, along with a whole host of other ‘inner-child’ type defences, and acting out.
    Thank you again for writing this and I’m so glad to have come across it – I think you may have inspired me to finally get my own thoughts down ‘on paper’ about this!

    Like

    • April 20, 2015 at 10:42 pm

      LIAB,
      Welcome to my blog and thanks for commenting! I appreciate you sharing that you have had the same experience with the erotic feelings being stronger when difficult material is rising up. I also agree that when my feelings of being connected are at their strongest, which is often accompanied with a deep sense of love and appreciation for BN, the erotic feelings are not in the forefront. I am really glad that this resonated so strongly with you. I have done a bit of reading on your blog and find your writing very insightful as well as very honest. I am looking forward to seeing what you write on the topic of Erotic Transference! ~ AG

      Like

  60. snowmayden
    April 21, 2015 at 1:11 am

    Hi AG,

    Thank you for responding so quickly. I am not sure what transference category I fall under. A sexually abusive father can trigger all sorts of transference, hence my eeewww. Experiencing therapy love and safety has been healthy for me as was the catharsis I experienced yesterday.

    I agree with your catharsis effects. Today I felt lighter and more in control of my internal experience. I feel I am becoming more autonomous with each catharsis and in taking authorship of my life, which feels damn good. I like your blog, it details many experiences in therapy. I look forward to reading more posts in the future.

    Snow

    Like

    • April 21, 2015 at 11:41 am

      Snow,
      Ah! sorry, totally misunderstood what you were referring to with the eww! My father was also sexually abusive and now I know what you mean by the eww factor. When both the paternal transference and the erotic transference are there, I can get a huge “eww” factor because it mimics the dynamic with my dad.
      And I totally agree about experiencing therapy love and safety and how healing they are. It sounds like you are doing really good work.

      Like

  61. Scott
    July 10, 2015 at 12:27 pm

    First, thank you for sharing your personal experiences. It really helps to know others are going (suffering) through the same experience. Long story short…I grew up as the unwanted kid. The lonely one with few friends. In high school, I never had a girl friend, never went to any of the dances, etc. I think you get the idea.

    Fast toward to someone in their 50’s . I’ve completed three years of therapy and am still having weekly sessions. I’ve been though most of the phases of ‘over-attachment.’ Sitting close to an attractive woman who was 20 years younger then me and giving me attention, it only took six weeks to fall in love with my therapist, about six months to get the courage to tell her, then about two years to work through most of it. What is left for me to work though is my discontent for her and the bad experience. At the end of our my annual patient -therapist review, in referring back to my attachment, I asked “So, how do you want me to take out my anger on you?” She smiled and had a quick laugh but had nothing to say. I am hoping this letter will help relieve part of that.

    For all the good things I have to say about my theorist, I believe she did a poor job of handling the erotic transference. After I initially told her how attractive she was and how much I liked her, I began to occasionally make my attraction the subject of our sessions. Except for the first few weeks, I did not have fantasies of running off with her, going on dates and even being her friend knowing we were both married and she was 20 years younger. I just had this immense desire to be with her. My head knew better and understood, but my logic be damned, my emotions ruled me.

    She has never bought up the subject as something to talk about in our sessions. It was always up to me. I believe I spent too much time and effort into solving my patient – therapist relationship then working on my own problems. In 2013, one third of all my session time was spent (wasted) on this. My main complaint was, and still is, her not acknowledging me and/or my affections. When I’ve complimented her on how beautiful she was, she never said thank you or acknowledged the remark. I pointed this out one time said that her lack of acknowledgment reminded me of when I was in high school and the girls would ignore me. This was not a pleasant memory. She did not reply.

    Her only solution was to ‘find out what I was getting from her’ that I needed to get outside of therapy (Intimate relationships – duh!). What I did learn is I regretted by past life; To me, it seemed like nothing but missed opportunities of youth. I’ll never get a second chance at that.
    I’d never dealt, except by being depressed. It hurt and there she was, a fulfillment of all that I never had, siting in front of and so beautifully looking back at me.

    She finally asked what attracted me to her. I explained and went into depth about who (her personality) I thought she was like and how it fulfilled my missed experiences. I asked what she thought of me. She responded with a question (she usually deflects without direct answers) with what I wanted to hear from her. I told her my fantasy answer (taken fromYalom’s book‘The Gift of Therapy”) was “In a different world at a different time, it would be good to know you – or something like that. She did not reply. Oddly, the next week, she said I was a little in appropriate with my interest in her personal life as well as the way I said ‘attractive’. At the time I said I understood, but now, thinking back, it bothers me because in a therapist room, I should be able to speak freely – especially in addressing my problem – her attractiveness.

    I’m angry because I think back of all the times I said to her I felt bad for my inappropriate feelings. I was ashamed and felt guilty. I remember soon after my confession, I thought she’d be mad at me. I kept waiting for her to tell me “it’s okay” or “don’t feel bad/ashamed,’ but she never did. So badly, I need to hear her forgive me for my sins. After several months, I said ‘please tell me your not mad at me’ and then she finally said (with a slight smile) “I’m not mad at you”. That did little good since I had to beg for it and it was not genuine. Sometimes, if you have to ask for something, it loses its value.

    Boundaries. Once, we discussed them without going into great detail. She never did say, or spelled it out, that we cannot have a relationship outside of the therapy room. She never told me she was strictly off limits, unavailable. I needed to hear this, in her words. Finally one session, I came in and asked her to go out with me for a drink. Yes, I absolutely knew this was wrong but I was backed into a (emotional) corner. I couldn’t think of another way for her to tell me “no”. Her reply was “Boundaries!” I was furious for her deflection so I coyly said something like “I’m not asking you to get a room, just have a drink. She would not tell me no. After some discussion, I smacked my hand down on my notebook and yelled “Why won’t you tell me no? Her reply was “I’m trying to find out what you need” (more deflection). Furious and now the angriest I’ve been in 20 years, I yelled (loud enough where I’m sure they heard me out in the waiting room) “Tell me no!” She finally relented and said in a very matter-of-fact voice “Scott, I’m not going to go out with you”. This is not the way I wanted to hear those words, but it was in her own voice and it satisfied me.

    Over the next few months, I worked out much of my remaining affections. I bought in an article from Psychology Today dealing with the subject and briefly mentioned the five steps noted in the article https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/in-therapy/201206/clients-guide-transference. I was disappointed she did not want to explore them. We both mentioned that we did not like the term ‘erotic transference’ and have not used it since. She is a private person and I think the subject of erotic-transference, or at least the experience with me made her feel uncomfortable.

    I’m angry because she has never acknowledged my affections. I find that disrespectful. I just couldn’t stop thinking about being with her (in therapy). She encouraged me to talk about it and I did. At times, I probably sounded like an immature, love-starved middle school child. But at least in middle school the girls would gladly tell you to ‘go away” She did not even you tell me she was uninterested or unavailable? By not telling me to stop, she led me on and dragged out the whole experience. She played the role of the tease. I didn’t appreciated being treated like that. It hurts because I feel I was mislead by someone I was told to trust.

    I do not expect her to be perfect – though she probably thinks I do. If she has a problem with the subject and/or experience, I would’ve appreciated it if she said something like “this is not easy for me but I will try my best to help you”

    Thank you for letting me vent.

    Like

    • July 17, 2015 at 10:15 pm

      Hi Steve,
      Welcome to my blog and thanks for commenting. Your experience in therapy sounds very frustrating. Erotic transference and examining it can yield a lot in therapy. And I don’t think time spent discussing the relationship is wasted, as we often come to understand ourselves by examining how we behave in our relationship with our therapists. But instead of being all in, it sounds like your therapist was actually pretty uncomfortable about your feelings, so she deflected and avoided. There were some responses that you talked about that I would not expect from a therapist; the therapeutic relationship is an odd duck, and like no other type of relationship, so the boundaries fall in weird places and behavior that would be considered normal or polite doesn’t occur. BUT, your therapist should have been willing to explore and understand these feelings. She should have also made it clear that she was unavailable. I think it was because I told BN I needed to hear it said out loud, but he told me directly that the only relationship we would have would be in his office with him as my therapist. That all of my feelings were welcome in his office and could be discussed, but those boundaries were his responsibility and he would keep me safe by not allowing either of us to violate them. So again, I don’t think she was trying to be a tease or lead you on, I just think that instead of treating the situation as a therapist and approaching it directly, even at the risk of hurting your feelings, she just tried to remain quiet. In a strange way, she didn’t trust you enough to be able to hear the truth and bear the pain, and therefore ended up hurting you a lot more. And you’re right, if she was really uncomfortable, it would have been better to admit it to you and she certainly should have sought out supervision to help her handle it. The problem is that some therapist get out of school and work for years without encountering this situation (clients brave enough to talk about these feelings are few and far between), so they can feel embarrassed and uncomfortable and to boot, worried that they have somehow done something to cause the feelings, so they don’t seek out help. You did pick a good article to take in. I’ve met Ryan Howes and followed his blog for a long time and have a great deal of respect for him. I’m really sorry, you sound like you were really willing to do the work, and be open and vulnerable and dig deeper to understand, but your therapist wasn’t willing to go there with you. Can’t blame you for being a bit angry about it. I am glad that you were able to get some of this off your chest here. I wish you the best going forward. ~ AG

      Like

  62. BoundaryPadawan
    August 4, 2015 at 5:14 pm

    I just want to thank you for writing this incredible blog, which has helped me understand some of what I am feeling and why, and what I might be able to do about it (and what I shouldn’t do). It’s a great public service for people like me to learn from. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • August 4, 2015 at 11:08 pm

      BoundaryPadawan,
      First let me say that I love your choice of a username! Welcome to my blog and thank you for commenting. I am so glad that you are finding insight from reading here. Thank you for such kind words, it’s very much an encouragement to me. ~ AG

      Like

  63. KristinK
    September 25, 2015 at 7:17 pm

    Thank you for your honest blogging. I am sorry for the bs you had to put up with. I had sexual feelings for my shrink and only now realize how common and “normal” they were. I was deeply embarrassed, indeed mortified by these feelings. When I tried to express my thoughts I was told only they were inappropriate. Nothing about what transference is or wondering what the deeper meaning was. All it accomplished was making me feel humiliated. And a power struggle ensued leading to an ugly traumatic breakup. All of this I am learning now with a new therapist. Thank you for your courage.

    Like

    • KristinK
      October 22, 2015 at 2:47 pm

      My new therapist has a wonderful way of saying things without coming out and saying them. He pointed out that those folks on the other side of the desk all come with their own baggage. I long ago figured out that the punishment didn’t fit the crime so to speak with my former shrink. I wonder who I am to him in a counter transference kind of way.

      Like

  64. Misha
    October 20, 2015 at 12:45 am

    I suddenly thought of something. I wonder if a therapist ever advertises themselves thusly: “Experienced and skillful at handling any and all transference and counter-transference issues.”

    Like

  65. JSB
    November 3, 2015 at 1:17 pm

    I cannot thank you enough for being brave enough to share this experience with erotic transference.
    I was abused as a child by my pediatrician. I also knew, before this abuse, that there was something “wrong” or “different” about me, compared to what I was seeing in the world around me. It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I realized I was gay (lesbian).
    Because I always felt different, in my mind, as a child, I thought for sure the doctor had chosen me to abuse because he recognized that there WAS something wrong with me (not that he recognized that I was gay, but perhaps he recognized, “Well, this one’s broken already”).
    I felt ashamed and, quite frankly, ugly.
    I became a perfectionist, excelling in everything I set out to achieve, and I did become very successful at a young age. Except in the relationship department. I kept putting that off.

    I found myself constantly attracted to people I knew I couldn’t have. And one time, when the attraction turned out to be mutual (not a therapist), as soon as this woman I pined over for years made a move on me, I rejected her. I actually rejected myself.
    I fell into this trap of being attracted to people I couldn’t have because it was safe. I wouldn’t have to face my fears. Also, and unbeknownst to me at the time, I think it reinforced my self loathing, that I wasn’t worthy. That I WAS broken in some sense.

    Several years ago I had a therapist whom I was not particularly attracted to, except when she would yell at me and reprimand me I would think, “My God! She’s SO hot when she’s mad!!”

    I found this disturbing.

    I was also attracted to a boss who was equally rude, and it was when she was rude to me that I found her sexually attractive.
    Yikes.

    Now I have a new therapist who is wonderful. I’ve known her for awhile through a family member–nothing personal, I just met her in the scope of her being a therapist. She is 100% professional.
    During our first session I recognized she was mirroring back to me my good qualities (I know I have them. I mean, I am aware that many people have experienced and mentioned these very qualities to me. I just have a difficult time owning them. Sometimes actually for valid reasons. Sometimes it’s part of the self loathing.).
    I found myself becoming more and more attracted to this therapist, but I KNOW it’s not her. I’ve been around this block so many times in my life, I finally recognize that what I’m doing. I’m desiring something I know I can’t have.
    I’m NOT doing that anymore. I refuse to.

    I realized that the impetus for the attraction had everything to do with my childhood abuse and how I’ve tried to a) protect myself from getting close; boundaries are all messed up. And b) I’m constantly reinforcing the idea that I’m not worthy.

    I looked into transference years ago: the hows, the why’s. The last time I had these feelings for a therapist I left. She yelled at me, and instead of thinking she was attractive at that point, I walked out. I told her on the phone why I left and she said we should have talked about the transference. I was much too embarrassed.

    This time, I realize the feelings I have are, as you say, my pain rising to the surface. I’m not running this time. And I’m certainly not spending anymore time pretending these feelings will just go away. They won’t (unless I break off therapy).

    Thank you for this article.
    I now have the confidence to bring all of this up in my next session. Whatever happens happens. The pain of wanting something I can’t have, especially when it’s an idealized version of someone who’s job it is to care, is just way too painful.
    Time to grow up, dear child.
    That’s a good thing.
    I’m taking my power back.

    Like

  66. Linda
    October 26, 2016 at 1:08 pm

    Thank you for your incredibly thoughtful piece. It’s the first thing I have read that I feel describes the experience I am having with my therapist. The explanation of the power dynamic was brilliant, I thought. It filled in some gaps for me.

    The eroticism I feel is incredibly intense, but it feels of a different type than straight- up sexual desire. It’s pretty clear that it’s exactly what you speak of; that longing frankly to get back into womb. This whole thing has blown my mind. My therapist has been 100% on board and is actually encouraging the attachment because it is through the attachment and getting those needs met that the healing occurs. It’s very painful and sometimes I wonder if it is therapeutic, because it feels so painful and addictive. But I am trusting him as well as my and my husband’s couples’ therapist who also assures me that this is, as he put it, “all for the good.”

    I am a woman, 52 years old, and my therapist is an attractive loving 36-year-old man. The second I looked at him I thought are you kidding me? But it turns out that it is exactly the right thing for me. His boundaries are impeccable. He’s very talented and I feel very lucky and very held – sometimes. I am still at the point where on a weekly basis I fluctuate between feeling held and cared for and feeling terrified of abandonment.But my therapist continues to be there for me day in and day out, unfailingly. It’s an incredible experience.

    I know there are a lot of therapists
    who are not able to deal with countertransference. In fact, I recently read a post online about a woman whose therapist is being completely inappropriate. This to me is one of the biggest betrayals and abandonments that someone can perpetuate on someone else. It’s tragic, and I feel bad for people who find themselves in that situation. To me, it is akin to incest.

    To me, this concept of leaving therapy and having a relationship with your therapist is absurd. To think that the erotic transference feelings have to do with authentically falling in love seems ridiculous to me. How can you fall in love with someone who does not share of him or herself to an extent that people do in regular relationships,who does not ask for his or her needs to be met as someone would in a regular relationship? Even regular non-sexual friendships are dependent on the reciprocity of being there and expressing need between the two participants. It really bothers me especially since I know how devastated I would feel if my therapist crossed that boundary. I do wish that I could know him and actually try to goad him into sharring with me more about himself. He does share about himself, especially about his experience and feelings within the session, which is actually one of the main pillars of this type of therapy. He does so to the degree that he feels is appropriate and therapeutic. I don’t make those decisions. And that’s just as it should be. It’s great that I don’t have to worry about keeping those boundaries! That’s his job; that’s what I pay him for. It’s really an amazing relationship, this therapy . And I’m grateful for this opportunity.

    Liked by 1 person

  67. Mandy
    January 29, 2017 at 3:36 am

    It’s funny. I first read this post a few years ago and found it helpful, but I was with a therapist who shamed me for my erotic transference. I am now 18months in with a male T (my last was female), and he sounds exactly like your BN. In fact I have just written him an email (yesterday) which almost exactly echoes your insights here, so reading this today has been very validating. Thank you.

    One question, if you feel you can answer. Did you find your erotic transference ‘came and went’? I’ve noticed a pattern that I highlighted yesterday. That each time we have what feels like a deeply important and enlightening session, one which carries real healing and growth potential, my little girl kicks in with sexual fantasy and a ‘desire to please’. I’m hoping this will fade, as it is definitely less ‘all consuming’. But like you I believe it is linked with a conditioning of “Thank you for loving and noticing me, here’s your payment with my body”.

    Hope you are well Ag.

    Love

    Mandy

    Like

    • January 29, 2017 at 4:55 pm

      Hi Mandy,
      I’m really happy to hear you’re working with a therapist who understands the erotic transference. I think it can be very helpful to examine, but the last thing you need is someone shaming you for feeling that way. As I’m sure you figured out from reading this post, I think there are a lot of good reasons these feelings occur in therapy.

      As for your question, my erotic transference definitely came and went. Their was also a very strong paternal transference and that surfaced more often as our work went on. What you said about your feelings makes total sense to me. For myself, I ended up realizing that the erotic feelings often got very strong when I was approaching new, painful material. It was an attempt to take my attention off myself (being obsessed with someone else tends to do that 🙂 ) I also discovered the memory that sometimes the sex, while still being abuse, was also pleasureable (BN told me that some abusers will try to make it as pleasant as possible for the child to make them easier to abuse.) That pleasure would provide some relief from all the bad stuff. So when things would get more difficult and painful, my desire to have sex with BN would be stronger, because it held out some hope of relief from the pain (BN’s response when I figured it out was, bless him, that he certainly understood why I would want to find some moments of peace by being with him). So later in our work, a resurgence of the sexual feelings was an indicator to me to slow down, and look inward to see what was going on.

      And Mandy, it honestly did eventually fade. I still find BN attractive but it’s no worse than finding anyone else attractive. And the obsessional quality is by and large gone from our relationship. I still can occasionally feel threatened because I get triggered. These feelings are part of me, and I can still bump into them. But I’m much more aware and move through them much more quickly. The amazing thing for me is that I can often go weeks between sessions (I’m trying to go every other week but due to both our schedules, gap of 3-5 weeks isn’t unheard of). I can move through that easily, and rarely contact BN between sessions. My sense of him being there and knowing I can trust the relationship is very strong, so it doesn’t feel scary to be “away” from him. I know he’s still there. I think the sexual/romantic longings faded in proportion to the sense of security increasing. The fact that you’ve already seen some relief is a good indicator that you’ll eventually come out the other side. Just keep talking with your T!

      AG

      Like

  68. SARA R PAULSEN
    April 28, 2017 at 12:04 pm

    I really wish there was a support group on Facebook for this phenomanon. As transference and Counter Transference is quite common. More research and more training on the subject is vastly needed. You can Google it and learn quite alot about the topic. However, this knowledge doesn’t seem to make it any easier for the one experiencing transference. A really good therapist would be able to deal with these issues in an appropriate manner. Not a lot of therapist are very skilled at it. And, even if the mental health professional is equipped to deal with transference/counter transference issues it doesn’t always end well. It’s like being in love and breaking up…no matter how well it ends, the end is painful.

    I am currently experiencing extreme “Erotic Transference”. I was also “brave enough” to bring it up in session. It was helpful in that it eased some of the shame but didn’t take away the tramference or power of the transference. AEven with a pretty terrific therapist who keeps the critical boundaries intact and is very skilled at dealing with the transference in a productive and sensitive manner, I still find it quite painful. I am deeply sad that our time ever together is coming to an end (I have reached the maximum number of sessions, a fact that was made disclosed to me at the begaining). I will try to move on with another professional but know that my current one will always have a very special place in my heart. I find it quite confusing that I both want to love my therapist (and for him to love me back) and yet also don’t want to love my therapist (or have him reciprocate). Intellilectually, I know that it is part of the mechicanism of transference but my heart doesn’t.

    Like

    • April 28, 2017 at 12:10 pm

      Sara,
      I do know just how painful it can be. But I believe the true source of the pain does not lie in the relationship but has it roots in what we did not receive during our development. At this point in my relationship with BN, I have worked through the transference and the life and death intensity and the obsessive hold have been bled off. I can still be a little wistful about not being able to know him more fully or at the thought of ending the relationship but now these feelings are at a quite managable level. I am sorry you have to end the relationship before being able to work through these feelings (it’s NOT a quick process) as you are being left in a painful place.
      As for support groups, may I suggest you check out the Psychcafe forum on Myshrink.com? There are a lot of people who post there who struggle with transference and can provide support and understanding. I wish you the best in your healing journey.
      AG

      Like

  69. BPGirl
    May 20, 2017 at 4:40 pm

    AG-
    Thank you for this post. I am currently experiencing transference with my T. It is usually erotic but because I have Bipolar II disorder, it feels very complicated. In certain states I’m am highly sexually charged.
    I also feel that some sort of countertranference has occurred.
    Let me start with some background:
    I started therapy for the first time about 18 months ago. I’m a married woman in my early 40s. He is single and about 5 years older. When I first met him I actually thought he might be gay. He is so sensative and caring and different from any man I have dated including my husband. But as therapy evolved, I learned he was not gay. I also was not at all physically attracted to him. If feel as though I’m an attractive woman, especially for my age.
    Starting therapy was a very difficult thing for me to do. I am not open with people and rarely as I put it do “I let people in.” I think it took about 4-5 months before I really trusted him. I pushed for him to share some personal things about himself because I was uncomfortable with the balance of power (which is how I saw it). I entered therapy due to an anxiety attack. He was amazing at helping me get my anxiety under control, which I had been experiencing for 5-6 years. I’m now at a point where I rarely experience anxiety and when it occurs I can completely manage it. I think at some point during that process I started to idolize him and his intelligence and ability. This is when the feelings on my end began about 7 months in (or 11 months ago).
    Along the way I have noticed changes in him that seemed to be reactions to my comments or changes in my behavior/routines. One example was I started exercising which was big step because I was in a down cycle, but he started doing the same. There are other somewhat relatively insignificant things but noticeable.
    Now comes the big event. About 3 months ago, I sent him a very rude text while I was ina rage state. He had been ignoring my request to schedule a session in which I wanted my husband to attend. I was weeks into my Bipolar diagnosis and my husband became concerned and wanted to meet my psychiatrist and therapist to make sure I had the right mental health team to help us tackle this change. My T was not responsive and I reacted with anger which is not uncommon when something triggers the rage in Bipolar people. To my surprise, my T reacted very emotionally to my text which is when I believe the countertranference occurred. I went into a serious state of anxiety/depression that lasted about 3 days. I even skipped my next session. I eventually called him to apologize. He was gracious and encouraged me to continue our work together. I took some time off but eventually went back. But things definitely did not feel the same. The first session back was excruciating and he was very firm about some boundaries to be re-established. One was the texting was to stop. We had developed a habit of texting about how I was feeling and it would sometimes creep into a personal conversation. I had already decided that I was ending the texting before he even brought it up. And then due to some scheduled time out of town, I took 5 weeks off from therapy which was the longest since I had started. I thought my anger towards him would subside during that time. But I realized at my first session back it had not changed. So at a recent session i told him how upset I was with him and how he’d handled the event. He was very encouraging for me to be completely open and honest about how I was feeling. Since then things have been a lot better and I feel like we are getting back to where we were even though I am proceeding cautiously.
    So here’s my issue. I’m terrified of bringing up the transference and my feelings towards him. I believe him to be inexperienced in this area as I’ve hinted around to it. I’m also terrified of rejection and him abandoning me. If he did I doubt I would continue therapy with anyone else. I’m also terrified of his feelings towards me as sometimes they seem very apparent.
    Wow- sorry for the lengthy post! I felt all those details were necessary.
    BPG

    Like

  1. August 8, 2015 at 7:32 pm
  2. March 25, 2016 at 7:42 pm

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