Because you are in transference with this therapist. That means, you experience the therapist as if he or she is a parent to you, and all of us want our parents to love and approve of us. Your therapist is a stand in parent to you.
In fact, “working in the transference” means to a savvy therapist , that giving their support, approval , validation, etc, is very healing to their clients. Therapists should know this and do this. I keenly remember how much it meant to me to have my therapist value and like me. I have said that her words were “mainlined directly to the two year old in me.” That was so very healing, and I never forgot it, so I do the same for my clients. I work in the transference, meaning everything I say and do with my clients is with the awareness that I am a stand in parent and have the opportunity to re-parent, to heal, the child within the grown up who is my client.
So what you are asking about is pretty much true for all psychotherapy clients, and the stronger the transference, normally, the stronger the need for a loving parent to give the child within the adult client the esteem building care they needed and can still profit from. I hope your therapist understands this. It is why so many people say that in therapy “ the relationship heals.”
I have other blogs about transference. You might be interested in this phenomena since it effects everyone in therapy.
Good luck to you. I hope you are getting what you deserve.
I have experienced transference with my therapist in a big way. Although he is only about 15 years older than I, he feels like my dad now. More succinctly, he feels kinda like the dad I never really had. My own dad and I lived in the same house, but we lived in parallel universes. The only time he noticed me was when he was really angry and you never knew what would make him really angry. And then he died before I was barely into adulthood.
I know I am light years ahead before the day I walked into my therapist’s office, but in some ways I feel really stuck. It actually makes me feel downright super sad to think that he cannot be my therapist some day. It is like having my dad die all over again, only this time the whole deal is not really, real. I know he really cares about me, but I also know he is a therapist, not my dad or my uncle, or anyone else who could continue on in my life. He knows how I feel about him and I know that he probably thinks therapy should be ending. I have been seeing him for several issues related to childhood stuff over the last 3 years. So I have known him a long time— it feels like anyway. A few weeks ago I said that I wish I could not feel so badly about coming to see him every week or two because I just do. He said that the solution could be to start coming less often; stretch out our visits to longer amounts. So…instead of going once a week or so, I have stretched this one to 3 weeks and counting. But I am ticked at him a bit. It feels like he was too quick to just dismiss me. I know that there is probably no way for him to ever send me off without me feeling like he doesn’t really care, but that is my issue I am sure not his. It just sucks. I just finally feel like I am in a space where I can really listen to what he has to say and think through how I react to things, but he is ready to cut me loose. I know it sounds silly to be hurt by his response to me feeling bad for wanting to come and see him, but i cannot help myself. Actually, I am not angry at him, I just have my feelings hurt— which somehow feels like anger, too. So, bottom-line, should I just quit going to see him entirely right now? Is that the best way to just get over him fastest? Like ripping off the bandaid… In hindsight, I should probably have gotten a female therapist…
If I were your therapist I would not have recommended you come to sessions less often. That implies there is something wrong with your feelings and the feelings need to stop. I agree he dismissed you much too quickly. You should never be dismissed or made to feel dismissed by your therapist, especially not just after you express such strong feelings toward him.
I think you have every right to be angry, and, I think, he gave you a response that shows little understanding of transference and so was insensitive and of course hurt your feelings and made you angry; how could it not??
The best way to end therapy with someone you have a lot of transference with – is to out grow the therapist. This would happen naturally over time, just as a boy outgrows his need for his father on a daily basis, starts to run his life based more on his own ideas shared with his peers, still wanting occasional heart to hearts with Dad as he grows older, etc.
If you had gotten enough time with your therapist your feelings of loss that he wouldn’t be present in your life for weekly talks would diminish, because you would have grown in confidence in your own abilities to run your life on your own. You haven’t gotten there yet, and that says NOTHING against you. But, in my thinking, it says something about your therapists move – he made a bad mistake with you. You deserved to be able to express your love, your feelings of attachment to him without being “punished” by having to have less time with him.
Maybe your therapist isn’t familiar with the responsibility of having his clients need him this much, or look up to him this much, or want him in their lives this much. But clients often feel this way about their therapists, and there is NOTHING WRONG with those feelings. A skilled therapist would have warmly received your feelings and supported you strongly in response. He could have , had he more ego strength of his own, or knowledge about transference, been able to let you stay with your weekly sessions, even offering just support when there didn’t seem to be a big issue to work on – because all that time you would have been growing and developing self assurance and confidence. And very likely more awareness of what you missed out on with your own parents would have come to forefront for discussion. I’m sorry what happened instead has happened. Please don’t doubt yourself further, it’s the therapist that screwed up here, big time, not you. Stay or leave? Read this to him or not? I will leave that to your intuition and reasoning to decide. My best to you.
I somehow feel the need to defend my therapist—I suppose just like a real daughter might. But on the flip side, what you said does make sense. I do need to clarify that this is not the first time i have shared with him that he seems like my dad— or that I wish he was really my dad or at least an uncle or a relative that I could continue to get wisdom from. By the way, I lacked all those kind of people in my life growing up— they were there, but they just didn’t see me. I come from a large family and a very, very large extended family. Children in those families can often just become numbers I am afraid-especially if they don’t ask for much to begin with. When I told him he was dad like he was very accepting of my feelings and did not make me feel more awful than I already did— that happened about 6 months ago or so. And I AM THE ONE who keeps bringing up the fact that I want to be done with therapy. It is embarrassing for me to keep going. I hate that I feel like I want to go. It feels super needy go to therapy and I really don’t like feeling needy. It also feels really embarrassing to go there and know how I feel about him. You stated that children should not have to leave their parents(fathers) until they are ready, until they have outgrown the need, right? What if that child is never ready? Does the father ever have the obligation to give him or her a shove or nudge out of the nest? Maybe this IS what is best for me. Maybe I will never leave or want to leave without the shove. Although what I really longed to hear him say was, just stay as long as you need to. Or…I think you are not quite ready to head out yet. What he said felt dismissive, like I am not important enough or not really liked that much or just plain ole invisible, not someone who needs to still feel protected somehow. I know, these feelings are all directly related to childhood stuff—probably.
If I knew there was no time table for how long I could go and see him maybe I could relax and enjoy the process or at least not feel ashamed for going. However, there is this voice inside MY brain keeps telling me I have been going too long—3 years, I mean come on! It tells me that there are people whose childhoods have been absolutely horrid and I should be feeling grateful for what I did have. I hate feeling like I am trying to have a “pity party” for myself. But I just can’t move on—I am stuck. I feel like I am just whining when I am there and saying the same stuff over and over and ugh, I just really want to leave it all behind and go forward and let it go. But then I can’t—it seems like it is all gone and then it resurfaces in a new situation in my life.
I know I have grown so much in the last few years— this present year the most, and understanding why I react the way I do in certain circumstances has really helped me a lot. But I still feel so crummy about so many things that I do in this life and I feel so often that I wish I could be a different kind of person. I know my therapist truly does care about me—he truly does. That is part of the problem. I know he cares but he is not going to be able to keep being a part of my life and I can’t think of anyone who would or should step into that role. I want a real dad and that ain’t happening— it can’t and that makes me very sad. I just feel like I missed out on so much.
I appreciate you responding to me so very quickly, I did not expect that. I have a very hard time with all of this because it is not something you really can just talk to others about. It feels really embarrassing. No one actually really even knows I am seeing a therapist. Three years is a long time to keep a secret like that, but I have done it. Please don’t feel you need to respond to this very long post, or even post it on your site, I just wanted to let you know that I appreciate another perspective. It did make me feel a bit more validated— even though I really hate using that word. So again, thanks.
One last thought—would it have been better for me to have gotten therapy from a woman? I have far less issues with my mom. Would that have prevented the over attached feelings do you think? I am just curious, I really don’t want to start all over, I am just thinking—probably even overthinking. :-)
(Also, I used a faulty email last time— this time it is correct.)
NO, I think you did t he right thing seeing a male therapist BECAUSE all these significant things are coming up for you to deal with.
I believe, whether you believe it or not, that if you could talk about all the things you are telling me – with your father figure therapist, you would out grow him. It feels like a never never thing, but I assure you it isn’t.
Some therapists feel differently about what to do in a situation like he has with you: some bump the person out of the nest and assume that if they need further therapy they will seek it out in the future. I don’t do things that way, and I am an older ( in years) therapist who got training in transference specifically. I would encourage you to stay until you out grew me, and deal with your feelings of embarrassment ( shame?) at needing a parent for so long, or whatever it id you feel. I think staying would stand you in good stead over your life, in your relationships with men in your future, etc. etc. If you don’t stay with this therapist because he wants you to go, sometime in the future you might pick another man therapist who is more comfortable with long term therapy and would happily let you stay on. Three years is a spit in the bucket. Honest.
I feel confused, ashamed,…..I have been with my Male therapist for 5 years. Usually weekly, but sometimes it was more often or I called home during the week. All the past yearnings I had for my parents have fallen onto him. We have addressed this somewhat but I don’t think I ever admitted the extent. He feel it’s time to cut back on sessions and although is waiting for me to be ready. I feel paralyzed at the thought. My parents passed away years ago, but somehow they aren’t. I don’t feel alone and have yearnings that as an adult are childish. During my therapy with him I endured thd loss of my daughter 2017, my son in law in 2018, my son in 2018 and a very close friend in 2023. I should be more mature, I am raising my grandkids, but, when I think of leaving him the grief becomes overwhelming. I feel like i am losing my parents all over again. I have not expressed the extent of my transference to him as it doesn’t even make sense to me. My therapy seems to have stalled and i think sometimes i have been resisting progress because if i am well he is gone. I am wondering should i just RIP off thd band-aid and quit. I wonder if I can even be helped.
The extent of your transference makes perfect sense to me. There’s nothing wrong with it, and nothing to be ashamed about in it. The reason, in my humble opinion, you are feeling so bad about it is that your therapist doesn’t understand what is going on; I think this is a terrible time to cut back on sessions with you. Some therapists have trouble being so important to their client, they are afraid of the responsibility and unconsciously ( or sometimes consciously) look for ways to lighten it or get out from the job of being someone’s therapist when they are needed. I wish your therapist would get some consultation and not pull out on you. Your recent history of losing so many people in itself is enough reason to not be ready to have less sessions. If you have to lose him, please be sure you ask your next therapist if they are comfortable with and knowledgeable about transference, and can let the client outgrow. Given time, you would out-grow your need for your therapist, and that’s not asking for too much.