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Page Contents: When your psychotherapist misses the point of what you are saying.                    


I have been in psychotherapy for a few weeks with an older male. I had a near-death experience after my last child’s birth and have been in a state of not coping with my life prior to starting psychotherapy. Recently after much reading and introspection I have come to realise that I have had transference issues with every prominent older male in my life. (My husbanded is also very older than I am.) My father died before I was born. I feel that this incredible void in my life was brought to a breaking point when lying on my (almost) death bed made me realise that my children might also grow up with one parent only. I discussed this with my psychotherapist recently; however, he acted(?) as if he did not know what this was about and made it out to be meaningless in my current psychotherapy setting—marriage counselling and burnout really—and changed the subject to the other issues that we have been dealing with. Is he just playing dumb? Is this part of the therapy plan? I am mad at him for making this incredible honesty from me being discarded as insignificant and “in the past.” I understand what I have been feeling towards him (and the other men—some have taken advantage of this) is not appropriate; however, I feel as if he is making this out to be very insignificant, where I see this as the reason (maybe unresolved grieving for a father I never knew) for repetitive transference. How do I resolve this myself? If he is not going to help me with this should I change psychotherapists? Do some psychotherapists not believe in the occurrence and significance of transference? Does talking and focusing so much about one’s problems not make them the centre of your existence, and therefore worse?

If your psychotherapist is treating you under managed care, then it is possible that he may have been playing dumb about transference issues. After all, psychotherapists who work for the managed-care industry know very well that if they do anything other than the basic cognitive-behavioral treatment plan that the managed-care companies want, they will not get paid.

It’s also possible that your psychotherapist really is dumb and knows very little about transference. Many psychotherapists today have not received training in psychodynamic psychology or, if they have been exposed to these concepts, they simply lack the intelligence and motivation to work with sophisticated unconscious issues in the treatment. In this sense, listen to the words of Groucho Marx from one of his movies: “He looks like a fool and acts like a fool. So don’t be deceived. He is a fool.”

Now, in your case, you need the help of a psychotherapist who can teach you to respect and understand your unconscious. No, is it not true that talking and focusing so much about one’s problems makes them the centre of your existence, and therefore worse. In fact, not talking about your problems makes things worse. By not speaking about your inner experiences, you keep them imprisoned in the unconscious where they become fuel for unconscious anger and victimization. And, in regard to transference issues with men, I have seen this often enough in my clinical practice to have given a name to it: Ira Patrem Latebrosa (hidden anger at the father).

So be careful to not let this bad experience keep you stuck. There are psychotherapists who can help you, and you can find them if you interview them carefully and, if necessary, are willing to pay out of your own pocket for real psychotherapy.


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Raymond Lloyd Richmond, Ph.D.
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