I just read a Yahoo Answers thread with this title: “I think I’m falling in Love with My Therapist.” As a Licensed Mental Health Therapist, I found the answers provided by the respondents to range from uninformed and ridiculous to directive but unhelpful. I had to reply, but the thread was closed. So here are my thoughts. The questioner believed that her romantic feelings for her therapist were “real,” and not what we call in the therapy business, “transference,” which she claimed to know all about and to think that her experience was not. She wanted to know what to do.
First off, practically every interpersonal interaction we have with practically every other person every day is a transference experience. The difference between what happens in every day life and what happens in therapy is that in therapy, the therapist uses the interactions (transference) you have with him or her to help you understand yourself better. This can often be irritating, confusing, or even infuriating because sometimes all you wanted was to have the therapist respond to you with some kind of “real” response, which is what we do in our daily lives.
So back to the questioner who wanted to know what to do with her “real” feelings toward her therapist. Because she did not understand transference, she thought she was stuck either trying to make a move on her therapist that might get her kicked out of therapy or keeping her feelings inside with the hopes that the feelings would not disrupt the work she was doing with her therapist. The answer to her question of what to do with her feelings is to speak to her therapist about them. This is the work of therapy. Therapists are trained to use this type of situation to help their patients. Even a therapist doing short-term therapy can use a positive transference such as this to help a patient reach their goals, since the patient will be very motivated to do the work the therapist is asking them to do when they have an immediately strong positive transference such as the one this questioner described having.
The bottom line regarding any feelings you have toward your therapist is this: Take advantage of one of the only opportunities in life since you were an infant to freely express any feeling about anything at any intensity toward someone who is going to accept it and encourage you to do so.