Have I Told You lately That I Love You?

Have I told you lately that I love you?
Did you know that it is common for a client to fall in love with his therapist? Well, it is. Don’t worry, I’m not going to cite statistical averages, or use colorful metaphors about snowflakes, etc. But, I am going to tell you the truth, as I see it. We fall in love with our therapists because they offer us the one thing we’ve always wanted, unconditional positive regard. They fulfill that yawning, gaping, unrelenting need to feel loved, admired, respected.
Where does this need come from? Well, if you’re in therapy (or considering it), it most likely comes from a lack of love or nurturance that began in early childhood. Remember all those times when all you needed was for someone to tell you that you’re wonderful and that everything was going to be okay? You know, when you skinned your knee, or your kite string broke, or you got a B on a test that you studied for all night. Instead, you were probably told that you were stupid, clumsy, and never did anything right. Sound familiar? Well, guess what? Your therapist will never let you down by telling you such terrible lies… which is exactly what makes her so irresistible.
Your therapist is there to remind you of all the things that are great about you and to carefully challenge you to work on the few things that are not so great. All the while, she is modeling for you how you should expect to be treated by others. This is precisely where it becomes tricky. You see, it becomes abundantly clear after awhile that nobody treats you as good as your therapist does. Why? The cynical answer is that it’s because they only see you for one hour a week, in most cases. The truth is that your therapist understands that you have old and painful wounds to heal. She has the training necessary to walk you through the mine field of your past and into the peaceful valley of your future. How could you not love someone who is willing and able to take on such a difficult task with you?
It starts small. You wonder what your therapist is doing at a certain hour on some random day. Then you find yourself wishing that your therapist were with you during a particularly spectacular sunset. Next you’re wishing she could come with you to see this certain movie that really explains how you feel about things. Finally, you start imagining being with her while you’re on vacation with your family. Now you’ve gone too far, and you feel pretty uncomfortable, but somehow excited at the same time. Could she be feeling the same way? No. She can’t. Should she? Definitely not.
Should you tell your therapist about this feeling? Absolutely. Why, you ask, should I ruin everything? Well, that’s the best part. The reason why is because this is where all the work is done. You are at the heart of therapy. After all, this relationship that you are toying with in your mind isn’t real. However, the feelings are. The very best way to explore and resolve the feelings related to your painful childhood can be to explore your feelings about your therapist with your therapist. This is the point where a lot of people quit therapy. Don’t do it. Where else are you ever going to get the opportunity to delve so deep into the origins of your pain? Okay, so you may be thinking, “I DON’T WANT TO DELVE! WHY DO I HAVE TO DELVE?” Answer: To get to the other side. Is it worth it? Without a doubt. Is it painful? Excruciating. Do it anyway. If you’ve come this far, it would be a shame to go back. You’ll miss the view, and it…is…spectacular.

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To read more about Kim Murphy’s work at Life Skills Resource Group