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Page Contents: A father transference in psychotherapy.                    


I have a wonderful relationship with my father, but I am still extremely attracted (sexually and emotionally) to my older male psychotherapist. I have tried to speak about my attraction to him on several different occasions, but we never discuss the deeper meaning of it, other than him just saying he feels really flattered that I feel this way about him and says I am attractive, beautiful, etc. Last week after our session he gave me a really intimate hug. I don’t understand what is going on. Is he being inappropriate with me? What could be a different reason for why I am attracted to him (instead of it being a father-figure based attraction), and does it sound like he could be attracted to me?

There might be more to your unconscious relationship with your father than you think.

Look at what has happened. First you chose a psychotherapist to whom you now feel an erotic attraction. Then he flaunts his attraction to you. And he takes your attraction to him personally, instead of treating it psychotherapeutically.

The French have a term for this. Folie à deux. In translation it loses its charm, but it means something like “a craziness of two.”

In other words, you and your “psychotherapist” are acting out the unconscious dynamics of your relationship with your father. Most likely there is considerable unconscious anger at your father, perhaps because he was passive while your mother was mean and critical; you would have bonded with your father to compensate for the lack of your mother’s affection, yet at the same time you would have resented your father for not protecting you from your mother’s fury. That’s just a guess, and the truth could be anything, but the point is that things aren’t always what you think they are on the surface.

Now, it’s understandable that you would seek psychotherapy to help you recognize and resolve those unconscious dynamics. But if all you do is act them out in the treatment, you merely perpetuate them. And that, sadly, is not psychotherapy.


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Raymond Lloyd Richmond, Ph.D.
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