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Tamara, Counselor & Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 1073
Experience:  20+ yrs Private Practice; Cert. Master Therapist; National Board Certified; APA Board Certified
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fantasizing about my therapist

Customer Question

fantasizing about my therapist
Submitted: 6 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Dr John B replied 6 years ago.
Hi. Could you explain your situation a little more? Do you have any specific questions?
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
<p>Well....I guess I want transferrence explained more, so I can keep myself from asking the therapist out for coffee (?) when I know of course the answer would have to be no. I recognize the mutual friendship that has developed is a prof'l. one. I have fantasies about good conversations w him over dinner, going out w him, those kinds of things just as much as sexusal fantasies</p><p>  more background = the counselor worked w my husband of 30 yrs and I for almost 3 yrs.  we worked harrd but finally ended the marriage not long ago.  the counselor is nice and actually voiced how much he likes both of us.  He is single; i have no idea if he sees anyone.  common interests, etc.   i know he can't date patients, and since my hujsb. had no boundaries I'd want my counselor to have boundaries but wow, I would really like to ask him out.  the feelings are really stronger than that -- mostly just fantasy and thinking about how his company would be nice going out.</p>
Expert:  Dr John B replied 6 years ago.
Hi. My apologies for the delay in responding, my net connection disappeared!! The situation you describe is certainly a common one. Dr Robert Saltzman writes particularly well on this exact matter and I have adapted some of his material here. The feelings of a patient for his or her therapist are more than just transference. The process of exposing ones problems, fears, and hopes to another person who hears them with empathy can feel a lot like a personal love relationship. True, since the patient does most of the exposing, while the therapist is the one to offer the empathic understanding, the relationship is a lot more one-sided than the typical romantic involvement. Nevertheless, feelings arise which are not just sexual, but also may feel a lot like falling in love.

One of the most important principles in effective psychotherapy is that the transference feelings must not be acted out, but seen, interpreted if necessary, and understood for what they are. It is the job of the doctor, not of the patient, to see that this principle is honored. This work does not always require that the transference feelings be discussed explicitly, but the work does demand that the therapist not gratify the patient's erotic and romantic feelings, but rather allow them to arise ungratified, and then to fall away again.

Indeed, many, if not most, therapies involve, at least to some measure, the idealization of the therapist, and then the fading away of that idealization. In other words, people may begin to feel that the therapist is a kind of superman or superwoman, but as the therapy progresses, the idealization changes into the understanding that we are all just human beings, including the therapist.

Since feelings are at times beyond our control the problem in any therapy cannot be with feelings in and of themselves--even with formidable erotic ones--but rather in how the therapist attends to them. I say in how the therapist attends to them because the client has no obligation whatsoever to use self-control in this matter. It is 100 percent up to the therapist to use care and discretion in this and in all the other delicate situations that arise in the privacy of the consulting room.

In general, if a therapist becomes aware of strong erotic feelings toward a client--feelings which threaten to jeopardize the therapeutic relationship by sexualizing it--he or she is obligated ethically to find a way to deal with those feelings in a way which will neither compromise the therapy, nor injure the patient. The first recourse might be to ask the help of a colleague to whom one will confess the feelings and ask for help in understanding them. If that kind of help is not sufficient, and if the feelings are getting in the way of therapy, the therapist must refer the client to another professional for treatment.

You certainly have a right to your desires and to your fantasies but fantasies must remain fantasies if you are to benefit from (and not be hurt by) the treatment you are undergoing. Acting out compromises the entire psychotherapeutic enterprise, and this is why it is unethical in the extreme.

The way to address your sexual attraction towards your therapist is simple, or should be simple if your therapist is any good at all. You simply state that you have the feelings without trying to be delicate about it, and you let your therapist deal with it, just as they have to deal with all the other details of your inner life. You also have the right, if you wish, to ask your doctors if they have any such feelings towards you. I hope this has been of some help, best of luck!
Customer: replied 6 years ago.

i appreciate your time, but really, it's nothing i didn't already know, so not too helpful. maybe it did confirm there's no way he'd respond in kind, but i knew that. i certainly don't ideolize him. i realize i'm alone and all my other reasons for reaching out etc.


not sure what i thought you could say. thanks anyway. i will discontinue the JustAnswer thread; not satisfied after all. Sorry.

Expert:  Tamara replied 6 years ago.
I'm sorry to hear that you are finding yourself in that position with your therapist. As Dr. John stated, it's a very normal and common thing to have happen in therapy, esp. if you have a long-term relationship with your therapist. In general, I think most clients seem to manage these feelings without ever needing to address them in therapy. But I also think that it can be very beneficial to the therapeutic relationship to be able to openly talk about these feelings and explore them. Even though you already know that his answer would be "no", it can be helpful for you to let him know how you are feeling. This is esp. true if these fantasies are getting in the way of your therapy. You're right - it's hard for anyone to provide a "satisfying" answer to this type of situation, but the best way to get rid of the fantasies is to talk with your therapist. Best wishes. Tamara
Tamara, Counselor & Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 1073
Experience: 20+ yrs Private Practice; Cert. Master Therapist; National Board Certified; APA Board Certified
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