Psychotherapy Tips

I have sexual feelings for my therapist

Understanding Erotic Transference in Therapy: My Personal Experience

As a therapy client, I was surprised and confused to find myself sexually attracted to my older female therapist. The experience was uncomfortable and emotionally charged, leaving me feeling vulnerable and ashamed. However, talking about the issue helped me understand the concept of erotic transference and how common it can be in therapy.

What is Erotic Transference?

Erotic transference refers to the feelings of romantic love or sexual fantasies that a client experiences for their therapist. As with any challenging feelings experienced in therapy, the key to working through them is talking about them; however, it can feel almost impossible to do so. As I began experiencing these feelings, I read about them and found that they were surprisingly common.

The Challenge of Sexual Feelings Towards a Therapist

Sexual feelings towards a therapist can be extremely confusing, especially if you are in a stable relationship or if the therapist is of a different gender than you are usually attracted to. Also, if you see your therapist as a parental figure, it can add to the tension between your sexual feelings and the desire to have a maternal or paternal relationship with them.

In my case, I chose an older female therapist to minimize the risk of falling in love with her. However, her age and gender made no difference, and the tension between my sexual feelings and my desire for her to be my mother was difficult to cope with. If you are in a relationship, you may also experience feelings of guilt as well as confusion.

Dealing with Shame and Guilt

You may feel as though the sexual fantasies are ‘wrong’, ‘not normal’, or that you are ‘bad’ for having them. The therapeutic relationship may be intimate, but awareness of its boundaries and professional nature can make erotic transference feel overwhelmingly shameful. My own shame was closely related to the fear of admitting my feelings to my therapist. Would she be horrified and disgusted? Would she think badly of me? Some clients worry that their therapist will end the therapy if they find out about the erotic transference.

It often helps to remind ourselves that thoughts aren’t actions, and feelings aren’t facts. Though it would be unethical for either party to act on sexual feelings, the emotions themselves are not ‘wrong’. In therapy, any subject is open for discussion, and most therapists would be prepared and trained to talk about erotic transference. It is easy to feel as though you must be the only client experiencing these emotions. However, your therapist will almost certainly have worked with this before, and may even have experienced it themselves in the context of their own therapy.

Understanding the Origin of Erotic Transference

What helped me most was understanding how the erotic transference came about and realizing that these feelings ‘stand for’ something. A child’s earliest experiences of emotional intimacy will most likely be in the context of their relationship with their mother. As adults, such intimacy tends to take place in the context of a romantic relationship, where it is often expressed physically. Therapy involves an emotionally intimate relationship in which we’re often acutely aware of being in more than one state at once. We have the body, mind, and experience of an adult, but are often exposing our most vulnerable and childlike selves.

Though this was a childlike longing, the adult reference point for such intense feelings is within the context of sex. When seen as a childlike need processed through an adult brain, erotic transference seems far from shameful – it feels entirely unsurprising. Erotic transference can convey meaning and uncover unconscious dynamics. Sometimes it signaled frustration at not seeing my therapist during a break; sometimes it uncovered a desire to be an ‘irresistible’ and satisfying client; sometimes it was a vent for my anger at a perceived misunderstanding.

In Conclusion

Experiencing sexual feelings or romantic attraction towards your therapist is not uncommon and is a topic that needs to be discussed more openly. It is important to remember that these emotions do not define you and that there are ways to work through them in therapy. Talking about these feelings can help to provide insight and progress towards a deeper sense of acceptance.

It is essential to find a therapist who you feel comfortable with, and who is trained to discuss erotic transference. Therapists are aware of the possibility of erotic transference, and it is unethical for them to act on these feelings. However, they are prepared to help their clients work through these feelings and use them as a tool to uncover unconscious dynamics.

It is important to remember that erotic transference is not shameful, and it can be transformative when discussed openly in therapy. By talking about these feelings, it can provide a greater understanding of oneself, and ultimately lead to greater insight and progress towards healing.

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