Shrinklady,
Just read the updated "Transference" page. The additions you've made provide even more clarity on the subject. I really appreciate it as I know so many people, including me Smiler, struggle with it. I am really amazed at how well you explain difficult concepts and make them so accessible. Thanks!!

AG
Original Post
I too, appreciated the update on transference....however, I am still stuck with trying to process the fairly recent "experience" with my therapist...the one wherein she gave my prescheduled apt to someone else following an exchange of words (so to speak)....interesting how "reading or hearing beneath the words" simply did not happen...after years of therapy, where was the attunement that you speak of? Where was it on that particular day.....my heart is still so broken...even though she shared with me the "why" it happened....it doesn't take the pain away.....and I feel even more insecure that ever before....While I think writing or speaking about the wonders of therapy (healing) is so so easy, delivering seems to be a separate matter altogether....

A broken-hearted Sarah
Sarah,
I'm sorry I know this must be painful to deal with. The thing that is so helpful about transference is also what makes it so difficult. For me, transference has been the way that many of my struggles with intimacy, expectations, trust, anger, etc. that I experience throughout my life have all surfaced in the relationship with my therapist. The MAJOR difference has been that he has remained a steady, calm, accepting presence throughout. BUT, he doesn't always get it. We've talked about rupture and repair. I spent a lot of my time and energy trying to NEVER get hurt in a relationship. As my T put it, getting hurt in a relationship is inevitable since both people involved are human, so the real trick is to learn to heal from the hurt and repair the disruption. There was a real rupture in the relationship with your T and I think she messed up and didn't handle the problem real well. But, and this is the really hard part because I know for me the terror can get so bad it feels like the air is screaming, is to, against all instincts, continue to reach out and stay in the relationship despite the pain. This teaches us its possible and can be done. My T has a great analogy about playing rugby. Most healthy people could go play rugby for three hours, get the tar beat out of them, go home, take a hot bath, and with the exception of a few aches, feel fine the next day. People who have experienced healthy attachment and been taught to regulate themselves handle emotional pain in the same way. Yes, it hurts, but they quickly come back from it. People, like me, with a real lack of secure attachment and lacing an ability to regulate myself are like a hemophiliac playing rugby. One play could be fatal. We get hurt and have no resiliency to come back from it. We still have to learn how to do it. Its phenomially hard work, and can be painful and really scary, but its worth it in the end. Because its how you heal. Hope that helps somehow. Have you seen your T again yet? Do you have plans to?

AG
Hi AG:

Wow...thanks for all of the words of wisdom....!!!!!You have just an amazing way of explaining things!!!! Yes, I have seen my therapist.....one small part of me, no matter how hard I try to understand her rationale for abandoning me when I needed her most, is so devastated by this experience, I continue to crumple to the ground (I know this sounds so dramatic, but it is the God's honest truth). How do I ever trust her, or any other human being ever again? Insecurity/lack of trust have been my biggest issues...indeed, she (my therapist) played out things just as I had always imagined. I have always mattered less to everyone I know, even her...not that I wanted to matter more....I just wanted to matter as much...this probably isn't making sense....In fact, I am having a real hard time putting things into words....another of my issues....Thanks again AG for your words of wisdom....

From broken-hearted headquarters,
Sarah
Sarah,
Hang in there. I konw its scary and painful but going back time and again and seeing that the relationship is STILL there despite what happened is what will teach you that some people can be trusted. And that our mattering is inherent, not something bestowed by someone else. You are worthwhile and matter incredibly because you are Sarah. That is something no one can take away; they can convince you to FEEL otherwise, but that don't make it true. Often when people fail us, it has nothing to do with us, its about the other person. It's taken me a long time and a lot of hard work (and incredible patience on the part of two therapists) but I've finally come to understand that the abuse I suffered from my father had NOTHING to do with who I was, it had everything to do with my father's trying (in a pretty poor way) to deal with HIS life. That was difficult to realize because that left me face to face with my own powerlessness to affect what was going on, but in another way its freed me to live my life. Please hang in there, it will get better and as much as it feels like it, you will not always be in pain.

AG
Sarah,
That's one of the nicest compliments I've ever gotten! Big Grin Thank you! No, I'm a technical writer, I've just been in therapy so long and read so many books something was bound to rub off. I've also been learning a tremendous amount from my T. I have thought about going back to school and training to be a counselor but I'm not sure how well I would do keeping my own issues out of the room. But thanks again, you made my day! I'm so glad that you find my words helpful.

AG
Its been very interesting finding this site. My T and I have been discussing transference and counter-transference. Knowing that many have dealt with this subject with their therapists helped.

I agree with Sarah, Attachment Girl you have quite a way with words and explainations. The rugby analogy was right on point. Thanks for the input
Ellison,
Welcome! And thanks for posting, its good to see a new face (not that the old ones aren't wonderful. Big Grin ) Thanks for your kind comments. The rugby analogy was told to me by my T and when I told him how apt it was he broke out in a grin like a four year old on Christmas morning and said, "thanks, that was one of mine!" One of those awesome moments of connection. Just wanted to give credit where its due. But I agree, great analogy.

AG

PS Sarah, thank you so much but you really need to stop, I'm actually starting to blush. Smiler
Hi. I am a newbie. I really enjoyed the article and posts about Transference. I know that it is good therapy fodder but it is so dang hard. I feel tormented all the time with the longing to see or talk with my T. I deal a lot with social anxiety so in between sessions it is hard to connect with others to lessen the pain. Reading the posts here have helped so I didn't want to keep "lurking". Thanks to everyone for being so open and candid about your experiences. I will try to do the same.
Hi River,
Welcome to the site, and thanks so much for posting, its good to hear from you. I hope this will be a good place for you to connect and get support for how you're feeling. I know it can be really tough to deal with at times, but it does get better, and you're not the only one who feels this way, it happens to a lot of people in therapy, so there are people who understand what you're going through here.

AG

PS Hi BW, good to hear from you too!! Smiler
Has anyone had a strong transference experience with someone other than your T? I have with my boss for years but I didn't know it until recently. I can be a pretty shy person so I have kept all those feelings contained so I wouldn't make a fool out of myself in front of her and freak her out or something. I know what is going on now but I still don't know what to do about it. Has this happened to anyone else?
River,
I've never experienced transference as strongly as I have with my current T but I really think that's because he's given a space to express it and deal with it. I definitely went through a time with my first T, a woman, in which I intensely wished she was my mother but never really talked to her about it. But all through my adult life I've had a series of "crushes" which I wasn't able to really see until I started working on the transference issue. For me, the transference has turned out to be a need for a secure attachment, I think in some ways that has been what I've been searching for my whole life and has affected most of my close relationships. I have revealed my feelings in varying degrees depending on the person. I will say that for someone not trained to handle it, it can look pretty weird. So I think its good to be careful how much you talk to someone about how you feel. On the other hand, if they can handle it, and let you work through it, it can be incredibly healing. Sorry I know how crazymaking this can feel, but it really does come from a healthly place. These kinds of feelings are a sign that you are seeking connection and relationshp which is exactly what you should be doing.

AG
AG,
I am coming to accept that having these "crushes" is actually a good thing even though it feels like torture because I am trying not to scare anyone off. I haven't yet been able to express any of these feelings to anyone but my T and even that took a really long time. I guess I am afraid that if I reveal myself even a little bit then I am wide open to rejection but if I hide too much then I am invisible. Relating to people just does not come naturally for me, I always feel like I am trying to learn a foreign language. So, is there anyway to find "relief" from the crush experience with someone if you are pretty sure you won't be able to talk to them about it?

-River
River,
I think you're doing it actually. The best way to find relief in the long term is talk about the feelings with your therapist. Working through them and getting to the root of them can solve the "longing" allowing us to be more balanced in our relationships. I know that doesn't much help in the short term. For someone you really can't talk to I would probably try to limit contact as much as is practically possible. I really relate to how scary it is to reveal yourself. I've spent my whole life believing that if someone actually knew all of me they would leave. That real intimacy was impossible because it would end the relationship. That's at the heart of my transference with my T. Is he really going to stay? Is it really safe to express all my feelings? etc etc. Its a very different experience and sometimes its unspeakably wonderful and at other times its sheer hell. But I will say that its getting steadily better, just at a much slower pace than I would prefer (which would be instantaneous. Big Grin ) Sorry not to be more practical help but I can always listen!

AG
I have recently found out some information that is really bothering me. I have talked about my "crush" on my boss in therapy a couple of times. This last time though my T felt compelled to confess that she knows this person. Turns out that her kid and my boss' kid are friends. Anyway, she told me because she thought that I might figure it out on my own eventually so better to be upfront about it. OK, I agree, I appreciate the honesty. But this collision of my worlds feels like an emotional car crash! What are the chances that out of everybody in town I happen to have transference issues with these two? The two people that I have such deep feelings for and whom I would love to be best friends with may actually be friends with each other and I won't ever be a real friend to either of them. I feel this horrible rejection and betrayal at the thought that they may be friends. Intellectually I know that there is no actual rejection or betrayal but it feels devastating nonetheless. I loathe transference.
Interesting... some of the insiders here want to desperately to know what our T does all the time... where she eats, where she spends her free time, etc. We had many a discussion about boundaries, and 'personal life' vs 'work life'. But when it comes down to it, I think have the 'two worlds collide' as AG put it, would be stressful and would put one in a difficult position. That being said, we did see a T years ago who also went to our 'sister church' which meant we would see her 'private life' often... in church meetings etc. It put an interesting spin on therapy at times, and once got us into trouble for 'sharing' her views on church politics with others!
Antoni
I believe some T's keep quiet about themselves because their clients aren't required to keep anything they say confidential like they have to with us.
It does drive me crazy sometimes not knowing much about my T's "outside" life. My last T was very open about hers so when I started with this T I didn't understand why she never told me anything about herself. I figured she didn't trust me to respect her privacy and that really annoyed me until we finally talked about it and she explained the whole "blank page" thing. She didn't mention the transference stuff then but now I wish she had. I struggled with those feelings for a long time before I found out it was normal.
I talked to my T yesterday about my problem with her and my boss being friends. OMG! It was so hard to talk about. I felt so embarrassed because my feelings had no logic to them. But I finally spit it all out but was still afraid to ask if they really are friends. Luckily she saw my struggle and volunteered the information that no, they are not friends just acquaintances. Well, that information as well as finally spilling my guts and not being judged at all or thought ridiculous has really made me feel worlds better!
When I think about all of this, I think what I really wanted was to know if I could trust my T. Would she really protect our relationship? Is this new level of intimacy going to backfire on me like it has with others in the past? So far so good. Hopefully the next time something like this comes up I will just be able to ask the question instead of getting all tied up into knots.
Thank you guys for your support this week. It meant a lot to not be alone.Smiler
River,
I'm so glad you were able to discuss the situation with your T and even happier that the answer was a good one. Big Grin It's amazing how much anxiety can build up and what a relief it is to pull it out in the open. And every time you do that makes it just a little easier to do it the next time. I completely understand wanting to know if you can trust your T. I am still struggling with it after alot of intense work (not due to any actions of him but just because its such a major issue with me). And I'm really glad to know you found support here.

AG
Hi everyone, such an interesting discussion about transference. It's definitely not easy. Just wanted to say that I know many people have been viewing it, and I imagine it's been very helpful for them. I'll put a link back to here on the transference article...maybe we can interest a few more folks to come by.

River, I was wondering if you could tell me more about the "blank slate" thing? I'm familiar with the term but I was just wondering what your perspective on it was.

Shrinklady
Hi Shrinklady,

The blank-slate concept I believe is my T's way of helping the transference happen by allowing me to see her in whatever way I needed to, like a mother, sister, or friend. Her personality, emotions, and reactions to things are genuine but she tells me very little about herself and she doesn't often share any of her experiences that may relate to mine. When I asked her about this (finally) she explained that this time was supposed to be about me and not her but I was welcome to ask her questions. So at least then I didn't feel like she didn't trust me or something.
When she did share a few more things about herself it really helped me relax and trust her more (and I told her this.) It was too easy to idealize her and think her life was way better than mine so she couldn't possibly really understand what I was going through. And one time when she shared something about herself that she has in common with me I swear I heard an almost audible "click" of connection and mutual understanding.
When I asked her what transference was was when she brought up the blank-slate idea. I can see why this is part of her standard operating procedure but I am very susceptible to transference and it would have happened no matter what. So for me the blank-slate has been frustrating but for others, it may be what they need to allow the transference to happen. I guess we don't know until we get there.
Thanks for that River. Nice explanation. Yeah, it's true...we don't know until we get there.

I appreciate the concept of therapists not disclosing too much of their lives in order to avoid having the focus be on them. I understand that there's sometimes a fine line there...giving enough of their own experience so the client feels understood but not too much that the client can't feel the transference or ends up taking on the therapist's own stuff (Frankly, I'm not altogether of the mind that it's necessary to encourage transference to happen...there might be other ways for healing to occur, but I also know in some cases it just pops right up there. I'm certainly not an expert on this subject either but I like exploring the ideas around it.)

But I also wonder to what degree therapists are emotionally available to clients. When I've read some of the comments in the articles, and feel the torment some people go through, I get the feeling that they aren't getting enough of the therapists' feelings about what's going on between the two of them. I get the sense that the therapist is not really "showing up". It's pretty hard to learn about connection when the therapist is invisible!

Being emotionally available to my clients is definitely not something that I learned about in my early training. (Heavens that just sounds barbaric when I think of it now.) Yet, we now know (from neuroscience) it's where it's at for creating therapeutic change. Thankfully, I learned how important it is through my own therapy and being in my study group. And, what's really interesting is that, I really "get" how it is that I can only take my clients as far as I am able to go myself.

Shrinklady
Shrinklady,

I am mystified by how therapists get through their work day. Seeing 8 to 10 clients in a day for 45min each one right after the other and being able to be focused and present and emotionally available to each one! It sounds impossible to me. I have always thought (and hated) that a therapist has to have a certain amount of clinical detachment to keep going. The therapist/client relationship is unusual and wierd. I find it difficult to learn about connecting to others through it since with everybody else I usually know them as well as they know me. And I don't have to squeeze a whole conversation into 45 minutes and then wait a whole week before we can talk again. I wish my life were that predictable and organized! Who set this system up? Does it really work for most people?
River,
I agree with you about the detachment. I've actually told my T I what to throw things at his head because I can't get a rise out of him. And the fact that he is impossible to pick a fight with it sometimes drives me nuts. But I also can't imagine how exhausted a T must be by the end of the day. But as artificial as the situation is, I also realize that without those boundaries I would never have allowed the kind of intimacy I have with my T to occur. If for no other reason than the fact that we're both married and getting this close to another man without those safeguards would feel really wrong. I guess what I'm trying to say is that the incredible freedom within therapy to be exactly who you are and express any and all of your feelings can only happen within the boundaries. Not sure I'm making any sense, I'm groping for what I mean, I think because I'm still trying to work it out. I agree with River though Shrinklady, how do you make it through your day?

AG
Hi River and Attachment Girl, thanks for your question.

It sounds impossible to me too. I'd like to meet the therapist who's able to be emotionally available to 8 - 10 clients in a day and who also has a life. I can't imagine who could do that and be emotionally available to each of their clients. Now, not to say there aren't "developed" therapists out there who could do that, but I think they are few and far between. I'm certainly not there.

I see 5 - 6 clients for 50 minutes each and I have a good 20-25 minutes in between clients. I need that so I don't carry stuff from my last client forward. I need to discharge the energy if any has built up. That way I'm hopefully present with each one.

I also think it's a question of boundaries...not taking on others' stuff. It's an energetic thing. When I'm not listening to my own body as I go along in a session I can easily be left with residual feelings that a client may not have been in touch with. So, for instance, I might be left with a tight jaw that's characteristic of unresolved fight. The client wasn't in touch with the anger he or she was holding and I felt it and carried it.

Body psychotherapy is enormously helpful in this regards. Because I frequently get my clients to "check in" they tap into their own emotions and it's less likely that I'm left holding them.

Spirituality has also been helpful to me. I recognize in an emobdied way, now more than ever, that I cannot interfere with another person's journey...I cannot "rescue" them from their own feeling. Working through their own feelings will help them in their next step. If I take on their feelings, there's a good chance they won't learn from this experience and it will affect whatever is coming up for them next. For instance, if a client comes in really angry about something outside our relationship and I respond by being all upset, I start to carry their emotion.

The hard part as both of you alluded to is being emotionally available when it comes to our relationship. That's hard, but so worthwile for the client. It's challenging for a therapist but also tremendously rewarding.

Shrinklady
Shrinklady,

Most T's that I have seen or have had some exposure to their practice, tend to work fewer days a week and therefore see more clients a day without any time in between. It seems to be the more common way of doing things. I'm guessing then that they for the most part aren't able to be emotionally available to all of their clients. How would I know? Is it obvious? Is it something you say or do or just something you feel while you are with the client? How does it affect treatment?
Yeah, I"m aware that most therapists pile up the clients one right after the other. Then in the off days, they work at a center or college to balance out their clinical work.

It was one of the first things I changed about my practice when I started coming into my body. I knew I didn't want to put myself in that position...having only 5 minutes to run to the lou or grab a bite or answer a phone call. It's silly when I think back on it. You're so rushed and you risk passing on that pent up energy to your clients.

Some therapists feel they don't have a choice. They will tell me when I question this practice, that clients won't be able to handle appointments that fall on the quarter hour. But I've been doing this for years and there's no problem. It's a matter of how you, as the therapist, are settled within it yourself about it.

Some therapists don't charge the full value of their worth and do a lot of sliding scale fees so they need to keep their client list up to make their practice profitable. Again, this is their issue around money and worth. In my opinion, good therapy is totally undervalued in our culture.

You've asked some darned good questions. I'm hoping to be able to offer videos and better information to help people understand what good therapy looks like.

Talk to you later,

Shrinklady
"Some therapists don't charge the full value of their worth and do a lot of sliding scale fees so they need to keep their client list up to make their practice profitable. Again, this is their issue around money and worth. In my opinion, good therapy is totally undervalued in our culture."

$$ for therapy is a hot topic! I keep telling my T she should pay us for the privilege of working with us but she doesn't bite that one...

:P

Scott
Therapists that I've been to do a '50 minute hour' which I think sucks. And is expensive to boot! And a lot of people I know who could use therapy can't afford it... so then what??? I suppose it's all a matter of priorities for some, but doesn't it sometimes become a 'thing' for the rich when those who could use it the most can't afford it?

just some q's...

Antoni
I just want to be done with therapy! It is painful, unnatural and costs me about 15% of my income. I don't know if that sounds like a reasonable amount to anyone else but after 2+ years it is really starting to add up. I know you can't but a price on your health but everything is getting more expensive and my company is laying people off. So on days like this I wonder if it is worth it? I don't know sometimes if I feel better or worse or the same. I guess better in some ways, worse in others, and well, overall it seems to add up to being pretty much the same as before therapy. I really don't like the transference part. I feel like I am at someone else's mercy. I am at such a disadvantage. I need her and she doesn't need me. I don't have anyone else right now, and she has many people to attend to. It is unnatural, and unfair and I just don't understand how this is helpful.
Hi River,
I'm sorry you're having such a difficult time. I've definitely been there, struggling to figure out if I feel worse or better and that feeling of being at someone else's mercy. Neither are a lot of fun. I will say in my experience that I often feel my most confused and discouraged right before I make a lot of progress. I know its a cliche but its always darkest before the dawn. The problem is that therapy is one of the hardest things you'll ever do when you're working at it. And your T may have to attend to other people, but within the boundaries of your appointment you are the ONLY thing she is attending to. I would definitely try to talk to your therapist about how your feeling. She might be able to give you some perspective on your progress and at least should be able to hear how you're feeling about the money and your relationship with her. Hang in there!

Safe hugs,
AG

I actually posted a while back when I was feeling the same way I want to quit, although I know I shouldn't
Hi River, so sorry to hear how it's going for you. I know whenever I come upon a heavy emotional part in my therapy--and it's always to do with the relationship with my therapist--it's all consuming on my life. Emotional stuff just grips me inside and rips the joy of of my days. So I can imagine how it is for you.

I really like what Attachment Girl was saying. It's true. When you are in session with your therapist, YOU are who she is attending to. I hope you can take heart in those words.

Yes, I think it's sometimes hard to notice how we're changing. I liken therapy to education. It'd be pretty hard to imagine how your life would be, if you hadn't gone to college for instance. And like therapy, while you're in school it's hard to pinpoint how you're changing. But therapy, like education, does change us, often for the better.

You are investing in yourself with your therapy. If you are different, your life will be different. The more emotionally balanced we are, the more choices we have in what we want to do with our lives. We can take charge of our lives, not merely let life happpne to us. Most people would agree that it's pretty hard to put a value on that.

Take care, River,

Shrinklady
I fell asleep last night thinking about boundaries and how much I can struggle with them, how painful it can be when I bang up against them. I had been reading a book which covered transference and countertransference. I woke up an hour later and realized that my mind had done one of those lateral slippages where it all finally comes together, that you've been working on it somewhere out of sight, unconsciously and I had one of those moments of insight where I experience the knowledge instead of just knowing it. I realized that the boundaries feel so painful not because of what I'm not getting from my T, but because of what I didn't get from my parents. I needed to be loved, I needed to be cherished, I needed to feel like I was someone special, and I needed to feel like my needs were important enough to be met. That's still difficult to say. I didn't get those things and its incredibly painful. I'm letting myself feel what it felt like and it hurts and leaves me grief stricken. I'm struggling so hard with the boundaries because on some level I believe if I can just force my T to give me what I want then I won't have to experience the pain of the loss. Which is why my T could never do enough, even if I was all he paid attention to 24/7, even if he said everything I thought I wanted to hear from him, it wouldn't change a thing. Because I had very deep needs that went unfulfilled and it hurt. And I was furious and angry that I wasn't being taken care of. I get angry at my T because I want him to make it not have happened. (How's that for an unreasonable demand?)My T has been telling me this in one form or another (with a great deal of patience) for a while, but I'm now getting it in my gut. I need to let myself feel this so I can mourn it and heal. My T can't make it not have happened but can give me a safe place to let the feelings in and grieve and be met with understanding.
I have been struggling for a long time with wanting to be held by my T. I've barely been able to speak about it because I couldn't be sure that expressing my need to be held would be met. My T has told me a number of times that I'm not willing to express a need unless I knew it could be met. I didn't get that before but I think I'm finally understanding that too. What I really want is physical contact, an embrace, that is about taking care of me and nothing more, one that won't turn into a demand, that won't turn out to be about another's needs. But I also realize that there are good reasons why that's a line you don't cross in therapy so I couldn't even talk about it because the thought of having my T say no was just too scary and painful. I promised myself a long time ago that I wasn't going to put myself in a position to hear no again and be hurt that way. And it feels scary to even want to be held because I know where that always ended up. As if wanting to be held, especially as a child, is anything but normal and healthy. Actually, realizing how many normal things and my understanding of them were warped is part of the grief.
This hurts very badly but is strangely comforting. They're my feelings and its a relief to feel them. And I know that I can feel them and be alright. I won't always feel like this; I don't always feel like this. And I know that my T will be there no matter what which is really comforting. I am thankful he has given me what I needed instead of what I thought I wanted and helped me find the strength inside myself to know I could endure feeling this.So I will grieve knowing that I can also rejoice and rejoice knowing I can also grieve. There's a wonder and a mystery and a terrible beauty to that but above all it feels like I'm alive and present. Which makes experiencing the pain more than worth it

I emailed all of this to my T last night (I'm going on vacation tomorrow and won't see him for three weeks) and got a wonderful reply. Working through the transference is one of the hardest things I've even done but I continue to be amazed at what it has revealed about me to myself.
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