Is thinking about my therapist this much normal/ healthy?
June 18, 2007 8:29 AM   Subscribe

Is thinking about my therapist this much normal and/or healthy?

I've been seeing a therapist for several months and I feel good about the progress I've made with her help and guidance. However, there are times when I can't stop thinking about her, and I find that somewhat disturbing.

It seems natural to feel something for a person who knows so much about me, has helped me through difficult times, and who seems to genuinely like me as a person (yes I realize that its her job to make me feel that way, but I still think she does). The fact that I know very little about her is like an itch that I can't scratch. It feels imbalanced and strangely stifling. Last night I googled her for half an hour trying to find something out to satisfy my curiosity.

I wouldn't say that I'm in love with her, but I do have very warm feelings for her, as I would for a close friend or sibling. I get excited thinking about talking to her, and I feel energized even when I've had even the briefest contact by phone.

I understand that as a professional she needs to protect her boundaries and avoid sharing too much of herself with me, and I try to respect this by not asking her personal questions. So, hive mind, how do I resolve these feelings of curiosity about my therapist and wanting to be her friend?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (21 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
In the spirit of getting to the bottom of your fixations and problems, I recommend you mention this to your therapist. It's a common enough reaction, and she'll know exactly what it means in your case and how to deal with it.
posted by hermitosis at 8:43 AM on June 18, 2007

I'm not a therapist, but you're likely experiencing some degree of transference. This is something that you should bring up with and discuss your therapist, since it actually may have some clinical significance.
posted by pardonyou? at 8:44 AM on June 18, 2007

I would do my best to stop thinking of her as a friend and start thinking of her as a person who is doing her job to see you. You may have a rapport with eachother, but you still need to respect that her efforts to help you are happening because it is what she is being paid to do and she has gone to school for years to train for it. And if you can't do that, you might need to switch therapists.

Therapy is about dealing with your issues and focusing on yourself. Your therapy is a tool to help you look inward in order to live a better life. Instead, you are focusing on your therapist.

If you switch therapists and then find yourself being friends with your former therapist and spending time together away from the office, THEN you can truly think of her as your friend. But right now it's probably just not appropriate.
posted by miss lynnster at 8:47 AM on June 18, 2007

This is absolutely and completely normal for patients in therapy. Not all people have the reactions you're describing, but many many people do. As pardonyou? says, it's called transference, and it's generally thought to be one of the therapeutic elements of certain types of talk therapy. Resolving those feelings are part of therapy, also, so they are something you should talk with your therapist about if you're so disposed.
posted by OmieWise at 8:48 AM on June 18, 2007

And what other people said. I'm sure it is pretty common.

Kinda off topic, I actually had the opposite thing happen once. A long time ago I went to a therapist who was an older lady & one session she went on and on about how she wanted to feel like she was my friend. And I was like, "Uhhh, why? I'm just paying you to listen to me vent, we're not gonna hang out."
posted by miss lynnster at 8:50 AM on June 18, 2007

I'm sorry, I should have been a bit more specific.

It should not be possible for you to be friends with your therapist. What you're talking about is a fantasy of a relationship that you cannot have with your therapist. I'm not going to speculate about why you're having that set of fantasies about her, as I have no idea, but that's the question for you. There's nothing wrong at all with having the fantasies, with indulging them, with reveling in them, but, ultimately, the question for you is why you have these particular fantasies about this particular person, and what that might or might not say about how you approach the rest of your life (including people with whom there is no ban on friendship and love). Discussing those aspects of the situation with your therapist can be very helpful.
posted by OmieWise at 8:53 AM on June 18, 2007

It's fairly common, and you should mention it to her. She is not your friend, at least not in the way you think you want her to be. And you don't really want her to be, because you want to be able to be completely honest with her (otherwise, what's the point of therapy?). We tend to present a better face to our friends, because we want them to like us. What a therapist needs to see is your real face. She cannot help you unless she remains objective.

Googling to make sure she's not disreputable and that she indeed has her license is fine. Googling to find out her hobbies, etc., is not okay. It's a baby step towards stalking.

FYI, what my therapist has said is that because I was neglected in childhood, I have an unusual tendency to seek inappropriate attention as an adult. That may be the case for you; in my case, it's helped to realize when I'm doing it.
posted by desjardins at 9:02 AM on June 18, 2007

Mr. Soprano, I think Dr. Melfi made it perfectly clear that she could no longer see you as a patient.

While transference is a normal and, to some degree, expected thing, I think that (like most psychological conditions) there is a continuum, and you sound like you are a bit beyond the normal ranges on that continuum. Of course, your therapist (or another one) is the best person to determine this.

In the spirit of solving your problem, do you have a friend who you can enlist as an informal therapist? Someone you can unburden yourself to (with some expectation of confidentiality), who can then do the same with you. This may provide the friendship/intimacy feelings that you appear to be seeking from your therapist.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:12 AM on June 18, 2007

Tell your therapist. Not only is this extremely common, a good shrink can actually use this current emotional phase to help move you through some stuff.

It's OKAY. Don't panic, but do tell her! She'll go "That's normal." and reassure you and then do sneaky shrink things you won't even realize she's doing until later.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 9:45 AM on June 18, 2007

As a working therapist I'd disagree with Rock Steady's characterization, and desjardins as well. I think what you're describing is well within the bounds of normal reactions, and I think that Googling your therapist is probably a standard pursuit for many therapy patients. I don't think it's the first step on the way to stalking any more than I think that Googling an ex is. (I have to point out that it's also perfectly normal to not have strong feelings one way or another about your therapist. Both are normal reactions.)

If you talk with your therapist about this you're less likely to feel like these are illicit feelings.
posted by OmieWise at 9:45 AM on June 18, 2007

Just nthing all the recommendations to talk to your therapist about this.

In my own experience with therapy, I've found talking about the therapeutic relationship itself (when relevant) to be startlingly useful. It's always felt awkward to me, though, so I understand the "is this normal? should I talk about this?" feelings. But even those feelings can useful to talk about/work with.
posted by treepour at 10:22 AM on June 18, 2007

Is it normal? yes.

Healthy? Not really. Any therapist worth their license can not be your friend. Nthing talking with hem about it. Don't feel bad or nervous about it, it's part of their job.
posted by Ookseer at 11:08 AM on June 18, 2007

I think this is perfectly normal and part of the therapy process. My experience was that therapy was practice for the real world, and that the relationship with the therapist was eventually reflective of lots of other relationships in my life, both with family members and romantic engagements. I wouldn't worry about it, and would bring it up with her.
posted by carpographer at 11:13 AM on June 18, 2007

It is so common as to be typical, even.

Talk with her about it. This will only the be the 2000th time she's had this in her career.

Really, honestly, it's commonplace.
posted by Ynoxas at 11:29 AM on June 18, 2007

It's normal, but keep in mind that she risks losing her license for having any kind of inappropriate relationship with a client. So respect the boundaries she sets.
posted by RussHy at 11:43 AM on June 18, 2007

Totally normal. Pastors deal with this stuff as well.

Just don't see it as anything MORE than transference tho. There are professional boundaries that therapists,etc set, and this is why those boundaries are there.
posted by konolia at 11:52 AM on June 18, 2007

Like others have said: transference. Very, very common.

You need to talk about this with your therapist. They can help you through this. It can very, very tough.
posted by tcv at 12:09 PM on June 18, 2007

As my own therapist has said, "If you weren't having these feelings for me, we'd be in trouble here." Enjoy the process - it's exhilarating!
posted by meerkatty at 1:44 PM on June 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

It's a sticky area because the model for relating in therapy is friendship itself. So it's hard to draw the line. Yet there are boundaries, and limited information, and the revelations unfold only from the client to the therapist, not the other way around. So it's artificial and weird. Many people dislike therapy for these reasons.

Talk therapy is a lot like democracy. It's the worst way to get better, except for all the others.

I think trying to find out more about your therapist is a good sign--you're trying to fix this, in a way. Once you can see her as a person within a context, a family, other interests, etc., you'll be less inclined to indulge fantasies of something deeper between you. It's always easier to fantasize about a blank slate.

I think you're on the right track. Don't worry. It's natural, as everyone else has said, to feel like this. And it might be an integral part of your treatment, a phase you have to go through.

Good luck!
posted by frosty_hut at 11:29 AM on June 19, 2007

What you're experiencing is transference. It's normal - it's supposed to happen - and it actually means that you're making headway in the therapy.

To make more headway, you have to discuss these feelings frankly and honestly with your therapist. If she's halfway competent, you will not be able to offend, disturb or shock her by bringing these feelings to her for examination. Instead, this discussion will be fruitful to both of you in your quest for insight into your own emotional life.
posted by ikkyu2 at 10:12 PM on June 20, 2007

I sure hope it is an integral part of treatment, because it is so weird. In any normal conversation there is a give and take and unless you are a complete bore, normal social interaction involves some interest in listening to the other person. I half wonder if "transference" is just some word used to mock people with normal levels of social curiosity. I actually think there can be some other method other than deliberately provoking "transference" and calling it a good thing.
posted by genafefa at 11:14 PM on August 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

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