I think my therapist is hot
October 29, 2008 1:24 PM   Subscribe

I think I'm very attracted to my therapist. No, I'm not that kind of person, and that's why this is bothering me a lot.

I am a guy, early-30s, and have been doing therapy with this lady for about a year. We have a one-hour session every week, and I usually arrive 10 minutes before, we end up talking about non-therapy-related stuff before we move on to our actual session. After it we spend some 5 minutes talking about generic stuff as well.

After some eight months in, I caught myself thinking about her more than I should, and not always as a good therapist, which she is. I started noticing the way she dresses, her smile, things she like, and asking more personal stuff, what she likes to do, read, movies to watch, etc. Being a very rational person, I immediately thought "Oh crap, I'm start to like this woman because she understands all my problems and suggests good solutions", which is basically why 99% of this sort of cases occur.

However, after giving a lot of thought to that idea, I realized that my therapy is not related at all to my love life, but to my professional life and how to deal with stress coming from it. I then noticed that the attraction I feel is based on the pre & post-session talks we have, and on the physical side as well. She has her share of qualities I find very interesting, but she's no beauty queen, therefore it's not a case of "oh god I have a superhot therapist".

Long story short: I don't think I'm attracted to the professional therapist, but rather to the woman behind it. Question is: my life has improved significantly since I started working with her, and ideally I wouldn't risk that improvement trying to get into a relationship with her, since the rejection risk is almost 100% (I know no therapist who's ever dated a patient). But I cannot stop thinking about this lady.

How should I deal with the situation? Go and talk to her (therapist), go talk to her (woman) or forget about it in the name of the notable improvement I have noticed in my life in the last 12 months?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (20 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I would talk to her about it, definitely. She may feel uncomfortable with it not because she doesn't like you, but she may feel that it could negatively impact your therapy sessions. If so, she'll probably refer you to another therapist that she's familiar with, which is what happened in my somewhat similar case. This doesn't mean you couldn't stay in touch, just not in a professional capacity.

But seriously, a therapist's job is to listen, so tell her.
posted by InsanePenguin at 1:28 PM on October 29, 2008

the attraction I feel is based on the pre & post-session talks we have

this is probably not true. how long are the talks? it's perfectly normal to fall in love with your therapist - and some hold to a fancy way of thinking about it (transference) and others just note that when you spend a long time revealing yourself to a supportive and non-judgmental figure who needs nothing in return - that's kind of great! you've probably projected all kinds of traits on her that you don't know to be true or that are true (great listener! really interested in me!) only because of the nature of her work. So tell her or don't as your therapist, but don't approach her "as a woman".
posted by moxiedoll at 1:34 PM on October 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

This is classic and common, and is probably transference.
I'd bring it up with her, she's trained to deal with it.
posted by tristeza at 1:35 PM on October 29, 2008 [4 favorites]

I think InsanePenguin is on the right track. Present the "problem" in a mature, considered way, and bring it up during the therapy session (not during your pre-therapy BS session). Then it's up to her how to handle it. If you're lucky, maybe she'll let her hair down, take off her oversized eyeglasses, and take the next step herself...
posted by BobbyVan at 1:39 PM on October 29, 2008

Talk to her about it. Not "would you like to go out with me?" But rather "I, your patient, have an issue I'd like to discuss. The issue is that I'm developing a crush on my therapist."

This could just be transference or a form of the Florence Nightingale Effect. But you're not qualified to diagnose yourself.

If your therapist is as good as you think she is, she'll be able to help you sort out these feelings or, if they're getting in the way of your therapeutic relationship, refer you to someone who can. But you have to tell her about this.
posted by decathecting at 1:41 PM on October 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

You know what? This has happened to her before.

Tell her.
posted by rokusan at 1:44 PM on October 29, 2008

Only two things can come from telling her:

1) If she's a highly qualified therapist, she will deal with it easily.
2) If she's an unqualified therapist, you'll find out in the best possible way.
posted by paanta at 1:53 PM on October 29, 2008 [9 favorites]

Wouldn't it be extraordinary, career-ending poor judgment for the therapist to act on any feelings she might have for you? I am pretty sure there are ethical codes governing this sort of thing which would almost certainly result in professional discipline against her if she were to engage in a personal relationship with you.

So, what you would gain from telling her is not a personal relationship with her --- she certainly would not do that --- but rather her professional assistance in helping you cope with these feelings, help you realize your feelings are a natural, expected result of successful therapy, and help you put the feelings behind you without any personal/romantic relationship being established.

By all means, tell her. But don't expect a "payoff" in the form of reciprocation.
posted by jayder at 2:06 PM on October 29, 2008

You should discuss with therapist.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:09 PM on October 29, 2008

I agree with the others who have suggested talking to her about it within the context of your therapy. I also want to mention that the divisions you're describing between chat time and therapy time and "therapist" and "woman" are probably more porous than you think. Good luck.
posted by dontoine at 2:18 PM on October 29, 2008

No credible experts in the psychological community really talk about transference anymore. Psychodynamics is kind of a dirty word these days, and there's no indication that 'transference' is supposed to happen, or usually does. I would say it's discouraged to share much personal information with clients, so it is surprising that your therapist spends around 15 minutes per session engaging in personal chitchat, and somewhat unprofessional, too... If you still think the therapy is productive for you, continue, but consider making the decision to curtail personal contact, and gently tell her why - she should know her behavior is unproductive for her clients. If it's interfering with other aspects of your life, such as your current lovelife or your motivation for entering into other relationships, I would consider asking her for a transfer to a male therapist.
posted by namesarehard at 2:23 PM on October 29, 2008

-a clinical psychology student
posted by namesarehard at 2:25 PM on October 29, 2008

Just chiming in to agree with the above "Tell her" advice, and to point out that none of this:

However, after giving a lot of thought to that idea, I realized that my therapy is not related at all to my love life, but to my professional life and how to deal with stress coming from it. I then noticed that the attraction I feel is based on the pre & post-session talks we have, and on the physical side as well. She has her share of qualities I find very interesting, but she's no beauty queen, therefore it's not a case of "oh god I have a superhot therapist".

... means that you aren't actually exhibiting transference / Florence Nightingale Effect. Someone following that pattern would inherently be unlikely to judge their own detachment.

I'm not saying you're delusional, mind you; simply that this syndrome implies that your self-judgment is impaired on this topic.
posted by IAmBroom at 2:30 PM on October 29, 2008

Also, you should know that she fundamentally will not have a relationship with you, because at the very least she would be fired, and would probably lose her therapy license.
posted by felix at 2:48 PM on October 29, 2008

I've gone to some therapy sessions in my day with a few different therapists when my parents were having troubles and (later) divorcing. In all cases, it seemed to be the general pattern to have small talk at the beginning and end in order to make me feel comfortable talking about what's on my mind.

I point that out because you indicate a dichotomy between "non-therapy-related stuff" and "actual session", while she probably sees the entire time (i.e. both small talk and professional life and stress talk) as the "actual session". Just something to keep in mind.

Anyway, an idea with regard to your actual question: Maybe you should try another therapist for a while? If you find another that works for you, the risk associated with rejection is lowered since you have this other one to help with your stress and everything.

You could even ask her something like, "Our relationship has been very helpful to me. However, lately I've been suffering from something I don't feel comfortable sharing with you. Is there another therapist you can recommend I see for a while?" She'll completely understand. It's true, too. And you can even say you want to see a male therapist if you feel like you'd be offending her otherwise (though if she's any good she wouldn't be offended).

This is a good course of action for three reasons that I can think of:

(1) A therapist she recommends is more likely to be effective with you than one you randomly choose from a phone book.

(2) You can talk with the other therapist about this very issue. The time away from her will let you sort out your feelings towards her as a woman vs. therapist.

(3) If the new therapist doesn't work, you can return to her. If the new therapist does work for you, you can ask this woman out or something. You won't be her client anymore (and won't have been for a while) so she'll feel more comfortable about it (though I imagine it'd still be weird unless you meet her randomly in a non-therapy context somehow).
posted by losvedir at 2:50 PM on October 29, 2008

The guideline is that the professional relationship has to be over for three years before a therapist can have a social relationship with a former patient - that goes for platonic friendships as well.
posted by micawber at 3:03 PM on October 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

It's going to drive you crazy until you talk to her about it. You're not going to wish it away. There's also nothing wrong with you for feeling this way.
posted by desjardins at 3:53 PM on October 29, 2008

If you're finding it's the pre- and post-session conversations that are triggering this, maybe you need to have stricter boundaries for yourself. Arrive on time rather than 10 minutes early, and leave when the session is over rather than lingering to chitchat. Keep things professional. Perhaps let her know why you're doing this so she can cooperate with you on this.
posted by heatherann at 8:18 PM on October 29, 2008

I suspect you'll need to find another therapist.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:15 PM on October 29, 2008

One of the biggest reasons therapy is helpful is that it teaches us how to approach interpersonal relationships (personal, professional and otherwise) in a healthy and communicative way. And the way it teaches us that is through the relationship between a therapist and their client.

This is an opportunity for you to see that you can open up to someone, express your feelings and work through those feelings, without threatening the relationship.

Talking openly about things like this is part of the work of therapy.

Good luck.
posted by missjenny at 7:37 AM on October 30, 2008

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