Ask Amy: Client Faces Therapist Crush
What do you do when your confidante becomes your crush?
Dear Amy: I’m a heterosexual woman.
Over the course of my life, there have been a couple of instances where women were attracted to me, but when they realized what was happening, I think they got scared and backed off. I didn’t stop them.
I’ve been seeing a therapist for quite some time, and I realize I’m attracted to her.
I know you will say this is transference, but I don’t think so.
My therapist and I are both in our 70s and we have a lot in common.
She has even said to me that she considers me a friend, as well as a client.
I do obsess about her, wishing we could do things together outside of therapy. She knows there’s something I’m obsessing about, but I told her I couldn’t talk about it with her.
It is absolutely driving me crazy, but I can’t help what I feel.
I don’t know what to do.
I can’t stop therapy because I would miss her so much, and there are some other things I’m trying to work through. But the more I see her, the more it hurts to know that I can’t see her outside of the office.
What are your thoughts on this?
– Anonymous in NC
Dear Anonymous: Your attraction to your therapist is greatly affecting your therapeutic work. Your obsession is actually keeping you in therapy because you want to continue to spend time with your therapist, so it is possible that you aren’t bringing up this or the “other things” you are trying to work through because you want to delay the possibility of graduating.
The reasons you can’t discuss this are also the reasons why you must discuss this.
I have read through the lengthy ethics rules regarding sexual relationships between therapist and client set out by the American Psychological Association (APA.org), which are all designed to protect the client from harm.
Reasons to discuss this now – in therapy — are: This speaks to a core aspect of your sexuality.
It is affecting the other work you are determined to do.
And – in my opinion, anyway – it is unfair to your therapist, both as a clinician and as a fellow human being to withhold this important information. It involves her, after all.
The ethical guidelines are extremely clear regarding relationships between therapist and clients. Once you stop being a client, however, the rules – while still designed to protect you – loosen somewhat. The recommendation is that a therapist wait at least two years after the professional relationship has ceased before engaging in an intimate relationship.
The burden is on the therapist to make a decision that won’t harm you. She can’t begin to assess this aspect of your work together until you disclose how you feel.
In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068
© 2021 by Amy Dickinson