General Question

luigirovatti's avatar

When a psychologist experiences transference (and countertransference) towards a patient, or vice versa, does this usually affect their private relationships?

Asked by luigirovatti (2363points) 1 month ago

You know, the wife gets jealous of the psychologist, or the husband of the patient. I suppose it’s a matter of cruel misunderstanding.

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9 Answers

Mimishu1995's avatar

Your scenario just doesn’t happen. A psychologist isn’t allowed to develop any feeling for a patient outside of the professional environment. They definitely have feeling, but it would just be like my feeling when I see someone in need of help. If they do have strong feeling, they wouldn’t act on it.

JLoon's avatar

Yes. It can, and the results have professional and personal consequences.

As Mimishu points out, it’s not supposed to happen. State laws and ethical guidelines prohibit therapists and other medical providers from innaporopriate sexual relations with patients – But in fact it does go on.

One 2020 report by a leading pyschiatry journal found that at least 7% of male and 3% of female therapists had sexual affairs with clients that were outside rules of professional conduct:
http://jaapl.org/content/early/2020/02/12/JAAPL.003911-20

Speaking frankly, I experienced this myself during counseling when I was a teen. It was very troubling, with guilt that I still feel. But “transference” is complex and can take place on many levels, even without sexual contact. The standard definition is ”... the unconscious transfer or redirection of one’s own feelings and wants from one person to another.” It often involves a patient projecting feelings onto a care provider, but sometimes occurs when a therapist transfers their own impressions and emotions to a client.

Either way it’s complicated and potentially harmful, but people are always only human.

Blackwater_Park's avatar

It does happen. People are unprofessional at times when it comes to relationships.

JLeslie's avatar

It can affect relationships, but the therapist is supposed to take care of the problem before it wreaks havoc. It’s unethical for a therapist to let these feelings continue patient to therapist or therapist to patient.

I’ve been in therapy a few times and never have I had anything close to feeling a close bond to my therapist neither friendship nor intimate that it would affect my other relationships. All of my therapist were women except for one, so maybe that helped guard against any inappropriate feelings, but it certainly isn’t foolproof.

I know more than one person who trusted their therapist and kind of idolized their therapist, and in my view the therapist was destructive.

Blackwater_Park's avatar

These things happen. I was in therapy briefly for work related stress. My therapist who did help me quite a bit was extremely attractive, intelligent and I developed feelings for her. I promptly found a different one. That’s something you have to nip in the bud ASAP. Your therapy is more important. Treat your therapist like a dentist or a doctor. Strictly business.

smudges's avatar

Transference is when a client personalizes, either negatively or positively, a therapeutic relationship by unconsciously projecting characteristics of someone from a former relationship onto a therapist or practitioner.

Signs: Client will try to be more personally involved, ask personal questions unrelated to visit, try to get extra time during or at the end of session, invite to social activities, bring gifts/favors, propose friendship or sexual involvement, or demand time and attention and get angry, disappointed, or feel rejected if they don’t get it.

Transference is normal and isn’t a problem if it’s recognized and addressed. It’s an inevitable and natural part of therapy. When we experience a transference reaction to our therapist, it’s usually because they did or said something that reminded us of what one of our parents said or did when we were children. So if our mother was critical growing up, and our therapist says something which we interpret as critical, we will likely react with anger, sullenness, fear, etc – whatever negative feeling we felt when our mother criticized us.

It’s not as simple as saying that our therapist felt romantic toward us (which is rare) or that we were attracted to our therapist. It happens both with opposite sex and same sex therapists.

Here’s a couple of good articles:

https://www.opencounseling.com/blog/transference-why-this-little-understood-concept-is-so-important-to-therapy (really good)

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/transference

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