Transference: The Unwelcome Crush

Screen shot 2013-07-08 at 10.27.50 AM
Screen shot 2013-07-08 at 10.27.50 AM

Dear Dr. Darcy:

I am a 26-year old student, studying for my Baccalaureate of Social Work. I've been working with a trauma therapist since November and about a month ago, I realized that I am gay- despite having previously been married to a man and having two (amazing) children. So, the first (and really only) person I came out to was my therapist. I think in part, I felt comfortable telling her because, (I suppose I could be wrong, but I seriously doubt it) she seems to be somewhere on the queer spectrum herself. I plan to become a therapist myself someday, so I am very aware of transference, counter-transference, the normalcy of these feelings and situations, etc. But...I had a dream about her last week, a sexual sort of dream and even with my body of knowledge regarding these sorts of things, I still find it very off-putting. I really feel like I trust her and work well with her and don't want to mess that up. Additionally, it seems these feelings of attraction are growing stronger. The thought of telling her about what's going on is absolutely mortifying to me. I'm still processing the fact that I am and have been gay for so long without realizing it, on top of everything else and I really don't want to lose this therapeutic alliance. Part of me thinks that fantasies and crushes are normal and nothing to be ashamed of, so long as no inappropriate action is taken- but...I'm just really confused. Help?

ANSWER

As you know, transference (the phenomenon characterized by unconscious feelings from a patient to his/her therapist) is a very normal aspect of the therapeutic process. The very nature of the feelings being unconscious renders the patient (You) incapable of controlling them. The fact that you’re getting your bachelor’s degree in social work does not make you immune from experiencing transference. It’s an irrelevant point. It’s like being an endocrinologist who develops diabetes. Knowing about diabetes is no protection from getting it.

I’m sorry you’re ashamed of your feelings. Just remember: Shame needs secrecy to survive. If you talk about your thoughts, if you expose them to the light of day, the shame will dwindle and eventually disappear. I’ve had many patients speak to me about their transference over the years and I can’t think one instance where we weren’t able to move past it and continue to have a productive relationship.

We all get crushes – sometimes on teachers/professors, sometimes on bosses/supervisors. There’s nothing pathological about a crush. And at the end of the day, that’s all transference is. You’ve taken a great first step by writing in. Consider telling your therapist so that this doesn’t become a dirty secret.

Writer’s Stats: Female,Queer.

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