26 thoughts on “The Darker Side of Therapy – Ten Ways to Deal with Dependency

  • September 21, 2009 at 11:27 pm

    You make a metaphor of transference being like the omnipresent/dependent two-year old. And yet you then talk about tumultuous trasferential feelings being unending. My experience has been that these feelings, very much like those of the two-year old, if allowed to be experienced, honored and taken seriously, mature and are transformed into a much broader and healthier dependency, which can then lead to a termination of the therapeutic relationship. For those who have been deeply wounded early in life, these feelings take sometimes many years to transform. I look forward to the time when Borderline PD is accepted for what it is: Complex PTSD.

  • September 23, 2009 at 9:14 am

    Sonia, You raise a good point by observing that transference dependency may feel like a “dark” and unexpected side to therapy. However, some of your “keep-a-stiff-upper-lip” advice runs completely counter to much of what I’ve been taught. Transference is not something to be brushed under the carpet, but, rather, it is often the very site where the core of the patient’s problems are expressed. Not that it is good to dwell on your transference issues, but the idea of “keeping busy” in order to distract oneself seems just as dangerous. I agree with Claudia. If the transference dependency isn’t resolved, the therapy isn’t over.

  • September 23, 2009 at 2:14 pm

    I can’t think of more destructive means to go than cold turkey.
    I view too strong of an attachment as analagous to taking benzodiazepines. Quit taking them all at once and you have seizures– tapering is the key, the means for slowly ending dependency and giving a person the opportunity to walk away free.

  • September 23, 2009 at 5:56 pm

    Hi Tec,
    I’ve had many emails from people who have had no choice but to go through cold turkey as their therapist or the company they work for has abruptly terminated their therapy. Their stories is what prompted me to write this article.

    There is also the other side of the coin where privately paying clients can get hooked on endless open-ended therapy even when their main problems are resolved. Even if they’ve done the weaning process they still simply don’t know how to separate without anxiety from their therapist. It’s been compared to the insecurity of teenagers leaving home, they are more than ready but still need to be pushed out of the nest in order to fly.

  • September 23, 2009 at 6:17 pm

    Claudia, There can still be dependency issues after the transference has been resolved. Transference resolution doesn’t mean an end to those tumultuous feelings, it just means you are more aware of where your intense feelings are coming from and no longer have to act on them. But if you are still dependent on your therapist post-transference, it is a problem and needs to be dealt with. I’m talking about a relatively minor proportion of clients but they always seem to fall into the BPD category.

    Yes, BPD is a form of PTSD with a side-dish of hypervigilance. I’ve also heard these clients can be high functioning, motivated and although a challenge to deal with, are not always treated with disdain, in fact some of them elicit strong positive counter-transference feelings.

    Have you read Nancy McWilliams case study of Donna in her book, “Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy.” It is a warm moving account that mirrors the mother/child relationship.

    There can be still be loads of dependency issues post transference resolution. My article is to highlight ways of dealing with those intense feelings post transference awareness and stuck in present high dependency needs.

    TAR, I’m British by birth and live in Australia. When you have completed therapy, where transference issues are out in the open and dealt with, a stiff upper lip can be a life-saver, especially in a work situation. That means feeling the feelings but not acting on them, it doesn’t mean repressing them out of awareness.
    Regards to all, Sonia

  • September 23, 2009 at 9:42 pm

    I am your article and found it humorous and light. I laughed to myself as I read it because I can relate. Do I take it as the LAW…no. But I appreciate that you have taken the time to relate to people who face transference and dependency issues with their therapist. This is a very difficult issue to deal with, and can be scary, frustrating and confusing. But humor helps when we are trying to figure stuff out. I loved the way you used your vocab skills to put this piece together. Thanks for sharing and shedding some light on such a tender subject. Peace

  • September 24, 2009 at 2:11 am

    Thank you for this article, especially #9.

  • September 25, 2009 at 9:27 am

    What a wonderful article! And I laughed at seeing myself over and over. I am not sure I have finished learning enough to live comfortably, but I do know I HATE the dependency which just happens! and my dread of this dependency and apparent inability to control it, my dread of angry transference issues which never seem to get resolved over the years with many different therapists, is now pushing me out the door after decades. I still have pervasive anxiety which physically hurts, and reoccurring deep depression, but I now have many good days when my dissociation covers the pain of my symptoms, and I have accepted this is how it will be until I depart this earth. I think we not only have to accept that the therapist is not “perfect”, but we also have to accept that life is full of pain and adjustment, life is one challenge after another and if we are to grow and learn from our experience here, then we have to face and walk through these challenges, no matter how scary.

  • September 25, 2009 at 10:37 am

    I guess I just don’t understand why this stuff is supposed to be funny. I’m at a loss with that one. Love is sacred to me so I just don’t get it. My feelings have always felt like a beautiful gift that should be held and cherished. They are a sign of my potential. I’ve been out of therapy for more than 9 months and still adore my therapist and miss him.

    I also have a very strong distaste for the idea that therapy is all about role-playing. It sure felt like a genuine relationship to me. I never ever got mother vibes from him. Protective “Big Brother” types of feelings? Well, yes. If anything, my feelings for him are maternal…on my end.

    I guess my point being that everyone’s experience in therapy will be their own and they have to find what best fits them in order to heal. I can’t understand how caring for another person (even when that person is my therapist) can be bad for me. Obviously I’m not dependent on him. Maybe I was for a time, but I would not have viewed that as a negative thing back then. I’m still feeling great. The love that I feel for him is really about me. He just brought it out in me.

    I know I should probably refrain from reading articles like this as it is difficult for me to not take it as my feelings (or anyone like me that has had a similar experience) are being made fun of and laughed at. They are ultimately sweet and caring and really represent the best of me. The gift he gave to me was in showing me what I have to offer. Sure there is some transference involved here, but there are also 2 human beings who cared for one another as well. You can’t categorize that.

    All of this is my personal opinion and meant to be said in a respectful manner.

    • November 21, 2012 at 4:43 am

      I so fully agree with you Beth. It is sad, even tragic, to feel ashamed to love someone. It is wrong too. There is probably nothing more sick and dangerous in the therapeutic process than what is labelled transference, but is nothing other than the way two people come together as whole individuals, not just roles that are being played out. They come together to create a reality that is constantly being created in each moment we meet in the day. Transference is everywhere. Just as much in the exchange with the baker as with the therapist. However, it is only in the therapeutic relationship that it is allowed to be reduced to a simple manifestation of past troubles. We are our past and our present combined. We are all bits of the universe that fit together beautifully or with more difficulty, but we do not exist alone. Ever. And we do not live suspended in time, not in the past nor in the present. What we live with any other human being is impossible to reduce to just a manifestation of past relationship troubles or dysfunctional patterns. It is tantamount to raping the patient of the essence of who he/she is. Denying that true human connection is possible in the relationship that is meant to teach us that trauma and abuse are not the norm. I do not think it is wise to give into a theory-laden concept that was only invented to strip the therapist, or analyst of all responsibility in what develops in that special therapeutic relationship. I do not care if it is not a relationship that resembles any other. It is a relationship nonetheless. And it is normal and healthy to develop an attachment for someone who cares. What is wrong and unhealthy is that society has accepted that some people will become paid empaths and will devise an entire system to protect themselves from the inherent dangers that come with the job. Empathy means caring, not role playing. And caring for and about someone brings out the same in the other. If it does not, then there is something seriously wrong. And labeling it whatever you want will not change a thing. We are humans before anything else. Not psychotherapeutic entities.

  • September 25, 2009 at 7:13 pm

    Thank you Sonia for a very thought provoking article. It doesn’t really always matter how ‘correct’ an author is in any/every way and form there is, but more so, how stimulating the article in stirring one’s brain, and feelings.
    And that you have surely done here beautifully.

    So many thoughts come to my mind, I need to make a choice about what points I want to most comment on.

    First, an easy one.

    Claudia Behr says: ‘I look forward to the time when Borderline PD is accepted for what it is: Complex PTSD.’

    I never thought about Borderline PD in those terms but am very intrigues with your definition, and think it’s great and has so much truth to it. Thank You!

    I am also thinking that time limited therapy is not always only a negative but has a lot of positives. And I don’t mean twelve sessions. but there is something comforting about knowing that you have maybe 30 sessions, and that’s it, because it makes some really work harder, as you want to get it all in. Then, the time limit could be reassuring and work like a container. Open ended therapy is very difficult to tolerate, I think.

    Then, the therapist him/herself has a huge amount of power to make a difference as it relates to not only ‘normal transference’, but helping prevent ‘pathological transference’ and ‘dependency.’ (I mean the stuff that is unbearable to the patient)

    She/he can do that by being more real, and in the presence, and by volunteering to share some of who they are as people, avoiding the ‘blank screen’. Giving real answers, and saying what they think.

    I remember my first visit with a psychiatrist who did psychodynamic therapy, and the initial interview.

    He was asking me about my father, and I told him that my father really did not live with us, although my parents were not divorced. So the psychiatrist responds by saying this: “You believe that your father did not live with you?”

    I was speechless, and said nothing but I thought to myself: ” No, I don’t believe that my father did not live with us, I know my father did not, so what’s the deal here you idiot?” More honestly, his response set the ground for me falling into his view of me that I was some sick idiot who wouldn’t know .

    Last, as I am getting really tired, is this, and it’s not a theoretical point even if it may sound like one.

    When people do such things as cut themselves, they do so usually for more than one reason. i.e. to get out of a painful state of emotion, or to ‘feel’ when you are numb and feeling ‘nothing’. The cutting may be as a result of something like a feeling, or it may be in prevention of feelings to come. It may get you to do something that you were not able to do before.

    (I am not even going to bother with the ‘attention seeking’ one as I find it way too stupid to even consider)

    But here is a serious one. This dependency is horrible for the patient, and it is especially horrible for a patient who had made it his/her life goal to never become dependent on another, and/or never to need anything, or be a burden. So, when this happens it leads to total self hatred.

    Cutting yourself when dealing with such therapy dependence for such a person, and especially if they do not want to be labeled Borderline, they may and do use ‘cutting’, and not only always the slight superficial cutting, but serious cutting, to cut the dependency to the therapist.

    And Sonia, since I am feeling both insecure and vulnerable today, i would really like it if you said if no more than a couple of words about my comment, like just acknowledged it?


    KATRIN (not edited)

  • September 25, 2009 at 7:27 pm

    Thank you Katrin

  • September 25, 2009 at 8:58 pm

    Katrin, I can relate to everything you have said.
    Thank you for saying it all so well.

  • September 26, 2009 at 3:44 am

    This article is quite patronizing and dismissive of the complicated therapy relationship. Therapists create the dependency then run a mile when it becomes an issue. Don’t hide behind your “education” and get real with what is a huge issue for many people in therapy. If dependency is an issue its the therapists fault for fostering such dependence. And the person who wrote the first comment, no offence but BPD is not anything like complex ptsd.

  • September 28, 2009 at 11:37 pm

    You are awesome! I relate to everything you are saying.
    I just wish my therapist didn;t take some of my comments so personally..Although, the Transference got out of control..so I guess termination was the only option…with no open door ever to return or check in,,,and that has almost killed me.

  • September 29, 2009 at 7:17 am

    It sounds to me like your therapist really missed out on this with you. Unless, of course, the therapist feels he/she is being threatened in some way. The best way to deal with transference issues is to to explore and understand them. Your transference within that relationship is like a blueprint of sorts. It is a wealth of information about you…what motivates you, what you need and desire within relationships, what you need to work on within relationships and it basically tells you a whole lot about who you are. I can’t imagine being left to hold all of that and to have to do it alone. It must have been agonizing to have all of this happen with a “no open-door” policy for returning. I’m very sorry to hear this happened to you. It seems like a missed opportunity to learn a great deal about yourself.

  • September 29, 2009 at 9:54 pm

    Well I’ve got to say that many years of dependency on my therapist, I am sorry I went down this path.

    The only resolution now for me is cold turkey. I am not going to be torn apart for months over weaning this relationship. I just haven’t picked the day yet that I am leaving.

    I pushed for a more real relationship and got it. Now I’m suffering for it. When I move on he’ll be glad and won’t flinch. Me? The suffering will last forever.

  • December 19, 2009 at 9:51 pm

    Well dependency on therapist like no other but the worst is that…she misreported our sessions to the police to claim i was harassing her, I was desperate for help and she was scared for crossing so many boundaries over the years. I have never felt so alone, so scared and I only called because I wanted someone or something to help me transition. I have no family and I lost a lot of my friends because of my therapist. She also misreported the facts and got a restraining order…i know it’s about her license and the board.
    I have been harassed and bullied from the same women to showed me what it felt like to be seen.
    All tragic.

  • February 13, 2010 at 9:19 pm

    ok, I admit it. I’m scratching my head on this one…supposed to be funny or not?

  • March 12, 2010 at 2:41 am

    The best cure for dependency? Sending the client a big fat bill. I can’t really get attached knowing that my parents are footing the bill and its quite expensive. I was sort of starting to get attached and I was afraid to get “better” because I didn’t want to lose the relationship, but then I remembered that this is a service, and expensive one at that, and it’s supposed to make me feel better. My therapist also said I could call her in the future and that you are supposed to have “check-up” sessions every 6 months or so.

  • May 2, 2010 at 5:21 pm


  • July 26, 2010 at 2:26 am

    No, no, no and no

    I’m sure the author and myself have common ground- I was once diagnosed with BPD but have been told in recent years that I no longer fit the criteria. However, dependency on a therapist is the healing agent that does the job! It needs to be worked through with the therapist not “exorcised”. A good therapist is not afraid of the attachment- it is a tool! “Cane toads of the therapy world?” Kind of cruel, very unnecessary.

    My therapist once said that “BPD is the diagnosis you get when the clinician doesn’t like you.” He was being a bit facetious, recognizing that BPD is a real diagnosis but a flawed catch-all at best.

    If you feel you need nurturing in therapy seek it out. Trust your instincts about what you need. If your therapist regards your needs with trepidation as stated in the article – RUN. there are therapists out there who do get job satisfaction from mothering someone back to health. It can never change the past but it can feel like “enough”–sometimes more so!

    I found it, you can too. Don’t see yourself as unreachable. Don’t see love as impossible.

  • August 1, 2010 at 4:03 am

    Thank you Lifer…I have been so confused and so angry..My therapit left me for reasons I do not know..she sent “The Letter” the day before she said she woud never leave…no matter how angry I got…well she did the next day..she will not talk to me or let me know why she left me confused and scared, she said she will read my file to me if I have another therapist with me..? I dont get it…I give up she makes me want to die

  • May 14, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    I fully agree with crystalrose on this one. Play acting a fantasy-child relationship, creating dependency, only creates more dependency, self-delusion and incompetence, the opposite of mental health. This theory of some new emergence is nothing but a folie a deux.

  • May 27, 2014 at 3:57 pm

    This article, in my educated opinion, is totally useless and will never help someone with Transference issues. It instantly jumps from someone with the attachment problem to someone who has been 99% cured. This article is woefully amateurish and leaves out the therapy techniques (so hard won in the 20th century after Freud)that are needed to bring a patient even near the above suggested methods of terminating therapy.

  • July 1, 2017 at 10:14 pm

    Great article. I went through all these steps during my five year stent of therapy. I learned to depend on me instead of my therapist. Just ended my therapy in June 2017. I am very pleased with all the growth I made. Thanks for this therapy summary post.


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