Dear Beth

Attracted to my therapist

Happiness is: gorgeous wild flowers adorn Ontario meadow

Dear Beth: 

I don't know who else to talk to about this. I hope that you can give me some advice on what I should do.

My problem is that I seem to have developed an attraction to my doctor. I don't know what the rules are and I don't want to cause this person any hardship.

I started seeing this doctor because of the break up of my marriage. I went through some difficult times and I could always count on this person. I realize that he was only doing his job, and I understood that my affection was based on the fact that I was very lonely. At no time has this person ever made any inappropriate advances and that makes me admire him more. I figured I would soon tire of my "dream" and move on. Two years later I am still feeling the same way and I really don't know what to do. Should I talk to him about my feelings? or should I just ignore them and hope they go away? I feel so ridiculous. Does this happen to other people, and if so what is the solution.

Beth answers: I am sorry that you have been suffering this situation for so long without knowing what to do. Hopefully your inquiry and my answer will help other people with the same dilemma.

Being attracted to and even falling in love with a therapist is quite common, especially in long-term therapy and especially after divorce or bereavement. For this reason it can be a good precaution for lonely people to choose an older psychotherapist and/or one who is of a sex to which they are not attracted. As you have found, waiting for the feelings to go away does not work. They may also stop the therapy from working if they are not talked about.

When the therapist has an analytical training, the standard method of dealing with any feelings about him is to tell him about them and make use of them to get the therapy done. As your therapist is a doctor it is unlikely that he would have an analytical training, but he will know that he must not reciprocate, so it should be safe to tell him. I say "should" because I do not know him and cannot guarantee it--therapists of all specialties have fallen down on this issue.

Some people in your situation have found it very helpful to talk to another therapist with an in-depth training in psychotherapy and attachment issues. After talking with you and finding out more, the therapist would be able to carry on from where I have to stop.