I’ve been asked how much therapists really ‘get it’ about how much they effect their clients’ daily lives with what they say and do. I say it depends on the quality of the therapist. It doesn’t hurt if the therapist has been in therapy themselves and experienced the power of transference.
Good therapists know very well how significant they are to their clients, certainly want to avoid their clients’ losing them, and pay attention to what they say and do. Good therapists put themselves into a “good parent mode” when they are working, and are careful about balancing nurturing and challenging interventions that are intended to promote growth. Even the way a phrase is delivered can make an important impression. It’s part of the therapist’s job not to be overly tired, and certainly not irritable, from their own life.
I often feel as it I have the ‘client’s life in my hands’ knowing full well how powerful my words and actions can be for them. Doing therapy is not a casual business. That’s why therapists are tired after a day of sessions. They have been working hard, mentally and emotionally, to give each client their best.
I have been asked by clients what to do with their feelings of attraction to their therapist, past or present.
It’s an uncomfortable feeling usually, and often makes a client feel one down – because an ethical therapist won’t reciprocate and the client feels alone in their attraction. The therapeutic relationship is a natural place for clients to sometimes develop romantic feelings for the therapist. After all, the client is being listened to deeply, possibly understood more fully than ever before, and hopefully truly helped.
The informed therapist doesn’t take the client’s feelings personally, and is most concerned with treating the client respectfully about their feelings, and also reassure the client that the relationship will always remain therapist/ client. It’s important for the client to know that the therapist will never take advantage of the client’s feelings and allow any other kind of relationship to develop, besides therapeutic, in session, either during therapy or afterward.
Feeling attracted to your therapist is often a part of positive transference.
The beginning of good relationships is all about finding out how similar you are and being inside each other’s pockets, or wanting to be, all the time. That’s the passion that cements you as a couple, and it’s usually a wonderful, falling in love time.
But it doesn’t last, not for any couple, and trying to hold onto it when you need to be growing to the next natural stage in couple love development only causes upset. Of course, it can feel scary and anxiety provoking: What’s changing here? Why is anything changing? We were great, and now you want to spend time with your old friends? You disagree with me… about what??
This second , natural stage of development for couples includes recognizing that you are two different people, with different interests and even emotional reactions. Often it includes wanting to be on your own more of the time. It’s a time of redefining your self-dom and when it is working well, it comes with the delight of having your partner see you as yourself, the uniques you who is not just a mirror of your partner. It includes being able to speak your different opinions describing your differing feelings and being heard and accepted as yourself. Essential too is being able to hear your partner as being different from you – listening to their perspective and their feelings and working out what needs to be agreed on, which isn’t everything.
This second stage of couple growth can be difficult to navigate particularly when one person is ready to step forward into it, and the other is not. The person who is not ready can easily feel abandoned, frightened, and try to prevent their partner from what feels like moving apart from them. This is when many people come to couple therapy, and the right therapist can be a lot of help.
Rather than being afraid, I urge you to see this as a growth step that will lead to a much deeper and closer intimacy for you and your partner.