I once had a therapist who I related to as if I’d known her for a long time. It wasn’t an ideal situation because I started to treat her like a friend. I couldn’t figure out why I thought of her in a friendly way. Then I realized what was happening here. I was experiencing issues of transference. She reminded me of one of my close friends. She seemed like somebody that I went to college with, and also like a childhood friend, which one might think was a good thing. Was it me? I thought, maybe I was responsible for this friendly dynamic. There was no way to know for sure. Transference means a client projects how they feel about someone else in their life onto their therapist.
Was my therapist feeling the same way?
In addition to transference, there’s also the phenomenon of countertransference. That phenomenon happens when the clinician starts viewing their client as someone they’ve known in their life. I thought it’s possible my therapist saw me as someone she might have been friends with too. Perhaps that’s why our relationship morphed into a friendship type of situation rather than a therapist and client. I’ve had many therapists in my life, and I haven’t experienced this situation with any of them. However, this therapist reminded me of someone I knew.
Was treatment working?
On the one hand, therapy was productive because I felt comfortable talking with her. That’s an ideal situation. You want to feel comfortable talking to your therapist. On the other hand, there were issues. I felt like she empathized with me in a way where she was consistently on my side. As hard as she tried, she couldn’t help but give her opinion on my problems. I am an intuitive person, and I could read what she was thinking much of the time. Even though she was trying to be impartial, she couldn’t help herself because she liked me. While I appreciated her care for me, therapy wasn’t necessarily productive. I made a difficult decision to switch therapists. I needed to see somebody who was different from me so that they could teach me coping mechanisms rather than someone who was similar to me and though they understood, the dynamic was challenging to change.
Was I Wrong?
Maybe I gave up too soon. Could the relationship have changed? It’s possible that we may have been able to talk through the transference issues, and I could’ve asked her about the possibility of her having countertransference. Maybe that would’ve resulted in a good therapy session. I didn’t foresee our dynamic changing, which is why I chose to find another therapist. It was hard, and I missed her. Some people may have decided to stick it out, see if they could change the relationship with their therapist. I sometimes wonder if I made the right decision, but There’s no correct answer here.
What did I learn?
Having a therapist who felt like a friend was a learning experience. It was nice to feel like someone was unconditionally on my side, but it wasn’t the best thing for me. She had strong opinions about what I was doing with my life, and her inability to give me the space to make my own choices was detrimental to my emotional growth. I found out what worked for me in therapy and what I needed in a therapist. Not a friend, but somebody would show me emotional regulations techniques to use in my life. And that’s what a good therapist is, a teacher and not somebody would hang out with in “real life.” Have you ever had transference with your therapist?