Hi Dr Robert,
I came across your site via the faithful Google and I must say I'm stunned that someone has put so much effort into helping so many people from all over the globe. It just amazes me and I'm sure they're all very, very grateful. It takes a special person to do what you do.
Now my question. My name is Shannon and I'm a 19 year old lesbian from Australia and am having some sort of difficulty with my therapist. I've only seen her twice so far, but within ten minutes of seeing her for the first time I realised how beautiful she was and how great her Scottish accent sounded. The whole session went well, but I couldn't stop my thoughts heading back into the "She's gorgeous" direction. She's my third therapist so far, I felt the other two didn't really help me very much and I didn't feel comfortable talking to them much. However, I feel so comfortable talking to my new one. The whole week until my second session I couldn't stop thinking about her. She was my first thought in the morning and last thought at night. Usually my crushes develop after months of knowing the person, but after only a day or two I knew I was crushing on her. Today I saw her for the second time and it went really well, actually we went overtime because she was telling me about how she ended up coming to Australia.
Sorry, my question is, I'm crushing hard on her and I know it isn't Transference because I have a really great relationship with my parents and she doesn't remind me of anyone from my past. It has nothing to do with her devoting an hour of her time to listen to me because I wouldn't mind if she talked for the hour or no one talked, I just want to be near her. During the session I just wanted to get up, go over to her and kiss her. I didn't of course, but it did cross my mind. I don't want her to get into trouble and I don't even know if she's gay! Do you suggest I tell her that I'm crushing on her, or would that just make things awkward? Would she still want to continue see me if I tell her? I want her to like me and that make her not want to see me anymore. And yes, she knows I'm gay, I told her during the last session and she reacted positively. I'm scared that if this continues I'm going to start to fall for her, hard and fast.
Desperate from Australia.
Thanks for your kind comments about my website. Apparently you already have fallen "hard and fast" for your new therapist, so this is not a question of something that might happen if "this continues," but something that already has happened, and which now is central to the relationship between the two of you. In my view, you must tell your therapist exactly what you are feeling, for if you do not, your therapy will be wasted. The very essence of psychotherapy involves you, the client, making the therapist aware of your most important experiences, both outside the consulting room and also within it during the hours of therapy. If you do not do this, the healing power of your therapy will never really kick in.
I see that like many readers of my web-page you do not really understand the meaning of the word "transference." The emergence of transference does not depend on whether you have a good or bad relationship with parents, nor does it depend on whether the therapist reminds you consciously of anyone in your life. Transference is a natural process which takes place to some extent in all relationships, but which often is particularly emphasized and deepened by the facts of the therapeutic relationship. This does not mean that your feelings for your new therapist might not have arisen if you had met her socially instead of in her office. According to your account, she is an attractive woman, and you, a lesbian, are attracted to women, so your attraction to her is natural, and might have been there if you two had met elsewhere. But you did not meet elsewhere; you met in her consulting room where you went for psychotherapy. You did not meet as equals, but quite the opposite: you went to her asking for help, and within her professional persona, and sitting there in her own office, she is the one to give help. In other words, from the beginning of your relationship, from the moment you first set eyes on her, she was in a position of authority and superior power, and you were the supplicant.
So, while your feelings for her undoubtedly contain some elements of the personal—you are charmed by her accent, for example—I assume that at least part of the attraction has to do with your generalized historical attitude towards good looking women in positions of power and authority, and that part is the transference. One indication that a powerful transference has arisen is your statement that usually your "crushes develop after months of knowing the person, but after only a day or two I knew I was crushing on her." This suggests, you see, that the crush is less about who she is (which would take months to find out—"months of knowing the person"--and more about what she represents to you based on your past experiences with people in some way like her or in some way situated like her. This is the real meaning of the term "transference."
If your therapist is any good, telling her candidly about your feelings (you could even share your letter to me with her if that would make things easier), will not make things awkward at all, but will open a path to the kind of honesty about thoughts and feelings which is necessary to good therapy. I doubt very much that your confession would require her to terminate the therapy. That might happen only if she were also "crushing" on you, and felt that she could not properly serve you while feeling so attracted. In any case, Shannon, if you hide your feelings, the therapy will never really take off, so a confession of them—and soon—is definitely the way to go.