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A Love Affair with Your Therapist


Sometimes, women who did not connect, attach and receive the right sort of emotional nurturing and sustenance from their mothers as infants and children need to have a non-physical “love affair” with their therapist in order to feel experientially the unconditional love of another who represents a mother-figure.

Even if you have a romantic partner you connect with, sometimes this is not enough. This is not something that is taught in “therapy school” and certainly not in Universities.  It is more intuitive and based on the therapist’s personality, and it goes a long way towards healing a wounded soul.

Therapy-love is not taught in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or Interpersonal Therapy, but for some emotionally-deprived clients who are unconsciously looking for “mother-love” this “love-affair” is what is longed for.  It is something that is yearned for that is so initially unidentifiable and is incredibly sad-making.  It is internal rather than external.  A good therapist will explore the possibilities of just what this unidentifiable yearning is.

If you’re a baby desperately longing for its mother; that small sensitive baby who wants so much, who deserves those things and should have gotten them, the therapist could say, “What can I give you right now that will heal that hurt?”

Flexibility is the key.  Most clients want a symbolic representation of this primitive need.  I bought two small, white identical teddy bears and asked my therapist if one could go in her office.  I kept the other bear at home.  For me, the two teddies communicate telepathically and keep me feeling safe, sane, balanced and most importantly, loved.   When my therapist went on holiday recently she gave me her teddy bear and asked me to look after him while she was away and I was to return him when she came back.  The two bears sat on my bookcase, arms around each other, and looked happy and serene.  Instead of having a holiday transference tantrum I said that I hoped she would have a great time and I really meant it.

Small nurturing gestures are monumentally important.  When I was sick recently she left some strepsils on the couch for me.  Another time, without asking she made me a cup of tea.  Once she gave me some herbal tea leaves to take home and on another occasion had a glass of restorative health juice waiting for me.   When I told her a particularly poignant tale of loneliness and despair, she said “If I was there, I would have given you a hug.”  This, for me, is the stuff of a “love-affair,” a therapeutic encounter of the “mother” kind that lifted me up and gave me wings.

Whenever I was sick or emotionally needy at home, I would get told to “stop being so silly,” “pull yourself together,” “only stupid people think like you do,” and much worse, all of which contributed to a damaged self, a weak self-esteem, a lack of a consistent identity and a wish to merge psychically with female authority figures.  Random acts of kindness from my therapist gave me that sense of a mother-daughter “love-affair” in the form of validation and vindication which lead me to believe in myself and created a strong self-identity.

Ironically enough this mutual merging was the process that helped me separate from family members, friends and co-workers.  It lead from clingy dependence to assertive independence and created much needed healthy boundaries.  It was an awful lot of personal work but it was worth it.

My therapist allowed me to merge with her for the length of time I needed and when I was ready, helped me establish a sense of who I was and how important I was in the world.  She also let me know that I was very important to her as well.  Then she was happy for me to separate and find my own way in life with the tools I should have had thirty years ago.  Just like a good-enough mother would lovingly do for her very special daughter.  It also gave me the confidence and strength to engage in a newer relationship with my biological mother, one where I have limits and one that we are both comfortable enough to maintain on a long-term basis.

A Love Affair with Your Therapist


Sonia Neale

Sonia Neale was recently awarded the Inaugural Barbara Hocking SANE Australia Fellowship to study and research Borderline Personality Disorder overseas in the USA, Canada, UK and Ireland. Her previous Psych Central blog was called Therapy Unplugged. She is the author of two books, The Bad Mother’s Revenge and Death by Teenager, both published by ABC Books/Harper Collins. She lives in Western Australia, is married with three adult children, has studied psychoanalytic psychotherapy, has a Certificate IV in Mental Health and is studying for a Psychology/Counselling degree. She currently works as a peer support worker in the mental health field.


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APA Reference
Neale, S. (2010). A Love Affair with Your Therapist. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 4, 2020, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/unplugged/2010/08/a-love-affair-with-your-therapist/

 

Last updated: 9 Aug 2010
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