A Guide to Psychology and its Practice

and Answers
About Psychotherapy


Website Menus

Page Contents: When you wish that your psychotherapist could be your mother.                    


I wish my therapist was my mother. On some days when I look particularly unwell she says she wishes she could take me home and look after me. I totally understand that this can and will never happen and the therapy is always completely professional—no touching, no hugging etc. I know that I feel like this because my own childhood and relationship with my mother was lacking in many ways. But at the same time I desperately crave the closeness of a mother/daughter relationship with her. We’ve talked about it. I’ve written for hours about it. But I still can’t get rid of this enormous longing and pain. What am I missing here?

Psychodynamic psychotherapy actually has two distinct, yet interrelated, aspects to it.

The first aspect is insight. That is, in order to achieve healing for the unconscious wounds that trouble you, it is necessary to look back into your past to recover any emotions that you have suppressed about past events. Then it will be necessary to understand how those emotions continue to live within you now, right in the present, as unconscious motivating forces for all your current experiences. (Because unconscious motivations “drive” your behavior, these unconscious motivations are technically called drives in psychoanalytic language.)

The second aspect is behavioral change. That is, once you understand how the past continues to live within you emotionally, you then have access to the ability to make conscious decisions to act differently in the present from the ways you are being driven to act unconsciously.

Both of these aspects take a lot of time and hard work. Although the insight work initially precedes any behavioral changes, ultimately, as the therapeutic work progresses, the two processes occur together. Moreover, even after you have concluded the psychotherapy work, the rest of your life will be a continuous process of insight into your unconscious motivations followed by immediate conscious decisions about how to act in psychologically healthy and honest ways.

Now, from what you say, you have done a lot of good work in regard to insight. You understand what was lacking in your childhood, you feel the emotions related to the lack, and you recognize the emotional yearning in the present for your mother in the person of the psychotherapist.

So what is missing here?

Well, if psychotherapy is nothing more than insight, and if all that you do is dwell in the emotions of what you lacked in childhood, you will get stuck in self-pity. You will repetitiously act out your yearnings for your mother in your relations with others. And all that repetition will take you nowhere but in circles.

Therefore, to break out of that closed circle of always missing the point, it is necessary to act differently. Instead of unproductively and melancholicly yearning for what you want, teach yourself to give to others. Now that you understand clearly what you most desire, give to others what you most desire yourself. Become a “mother” to everyone—not as a smothering mother who gives material things only to make herself feel wanted, but as a symbolic mother who gives from her heart spiritual qualities such as patience, understanding, encouragement, kindness, forbearance and forgiveness. Giving from your heart like this for the good of others, regardless of what others do to you, is called love, and through real love you will attain a closeness to others that is more enormous than you can imagine.


 Back to the list of questions


No advertising—no sponsor—just the simple truth . . .

If this website has helped you, then
please help support this website

FOR THE SAKE OF TRUTH this website about the practice of Clinical Psychology does not accept any advertising.

Therefore, if my work has been informative and helpful to you, please send a donation in appreciation, even if it’s only a few dollars, to help offset my costs in making this website available to everyone without advertising.

Gratitude is joy to the heart!


Raymond Lloyd Richmond, Ph.D.
San Francisco




A Guide to Psychology and its Practice



Copyright © 1997-2023 Raymond Lloyd Richmond, Ph.D. All rights reserved.
San Francisco


All material on this website is copyrighted. You may copy or print selections for your private, personal use only.
Any other reproduction or distribution without my permission is prohibited.



No advertising and no sponsor—just the simple truth.