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3 min read

What Should I Do If I'm Attracted to My Therapist?

therapy office in austin

A strong therapeutic relationship can be essential to success in therapy, but when the professional relationship begins to take on romantic feelings for your therapist, things can start to feel awkward. Romantic relationships with a therapist are not in the realm of ethical behavior, but it is not an uncommon thing to develop feelings of this kind. In this article we'll share information about these feelings (called transference), what to look for, and explore the question of: "What to do if I am attracted to my therapist?"

What is Transference?

Transference is a common phenomenon in which clients develop feelings for their therapist that are actually attached to another person in their life. Romantic feelings are more commonly known, but there are a number of ways that a person may develop transference for a mental health professional.

The two main categories of transference are positive transference and negative transference. With positive transference you develop strong feelings for your therapist in positive ways such as love, attachment, admiration, or idealization. Negative transference is when you develop strong emotions that are negative, including hostility or anger. Transference can be a common problem, and may show up in any of the following ways:

  • Paternal transference. You begin to see your therapist as a father figure
  • Maternal transference. Seeing your therapist as a mother figure
  • Sibling transference. Those without a strong father or mother figure may have feelings for their therapist as a sibling
  • Sexualized transference. This is when you have sexual attraction toward your therapist, developed romantic feelings, or desire a romantic relationship with your mental health professional
  • Non-familial transference. This is when you idealize your therapist

A persona may develop feelings for his or her therapist due to unmet needs in their own relationships.

Explore Why You May Be Feeling This Way

A good therapist understands professional boundaries and knows that transference is pretty common. They will offer you a safe environment to explore these feelings and to understand why you have feelings for your therapist.

Transference happens because of some lack in a personal relationship in your life. A therapeutic relationship can feel safe and intimate, and sometimes you will have feelings for your therapist because you lack trust for others. If you have a strong therapeutic relationship, your therapist can help you explore what these feelings mean.

These Feelings Can Actually Contribute to Your Healing Process

Believe it or not, in an otherwise healthy professional relationship, transference can be beneficial. By sharing your feelings for your therapist, they can delve deeper into your own mental health needs. Many therapists can use this information to understand your unconscious mental process.

They may also be able to determine which intimate relationships you are projecting onto the therapeutic relationship, and unravel how and why you behave the way you do in your other relationships. With this information you can identify these behaviors around others, and increase self-awareness.

Know That it's Just a Feeling, and is Part of a Deeper Issue

Sexual attraction is just a feeling, and while strong feelings may be part of a health relationship, in this case it's called transference and is pointing to unmet needs or some other challenge in your life.

Set Boundaries

Setting clear boundaries is another way you can help manage your transference. This can include things like maintaining physical distance both at your therapy appointments and outside of them, and communicating solely through professional channels. Your therapist should also have an idea of appropriate boundaries, and will share them with you so be honest and explain your feelings for your therapist as soon as possible.

Talk to Your Therapist

If you are feeling attracted to your therapist, don't be afraid to share these feelings with them. It is not uncommon for a client to have these feelings, and the sooner they realize that you are feeling this way, they sooner they can start digging to find out the why behind it. They can also help you feel comfortable dealing with these feelings, rather than becoming embarrassed or awkward.

Work on Yourself

Remain committed to yourself and your mental health goals. Realize that you are here to learn how to build and maintain a healthy relationship with others, and that your current therapist is a catalyst for this, not a relationship itself.

Seek Support From Others

Talking to a trusted family member or other loved one may help you feel more normal. Support from a healthy relationship can help you put things into perspective and help you to be more objective about your feelings for your therapist.

Recognize That These Feelings Will Not Move Toward Any Kind of Romantic Relationship

It's important to understand that feelings for therapists do not develop into romantic relationships. Private practice therapists understand the feelings called transference and even if they felt the same way (unlikely), they would not act on it because of strict ethical standards set down in their profession. What will happen is that they can analyze the attraction and help those feeling attracted to realize that they are a stand in for someone else.

Take a Break if You Need To

If you find that these feelings for your therapist become too much to handle, you should take a break from therapy until you feel that you can progress with your therapist in a healthy way. If you find that the professional relationship is not salvageable, you may choose to see a new therapist to continue your treatment.

Dealing With Transference in Austin, TX

It can be confusing and sometimes awkward when you transfer the feelings of one relationship onto another. Your therapist should understand how to maintain a professional relationship, while exploring why these feelings exist.

At Williamsburg Therapy Group our team of doctoral-level psychotherapists offer evidence-based therapeutic practices to identify the source of complicated feelings, and help use this knowledge to improve relationships in your own life.

Give us a call today and our patient coordinator will help you find the right Austin therapist to help you to find relief from these complex emotions, and to focus on your own well being and healing. 

Book a Therapy Session in Austin Today

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