Let me start by saying that being attracted to your therapist is very normal. Think about it: your therapist is kind to you, listens to everything you say, they show up when they say they will, they are accepting, supportive, and sometimes they are even good looking! Add all that together and you would have the perfect partner, except that in this case they are your therapist. The funny thing that happens in the therapeutic relationship is that we only see a portion of our therapist. We don’t see their day-to-day lives, we don’t necessarily hear their deep fears or insecurities; we basically experience the best version of them.
If you find yourself in the above situation then it would be easy to say, “Ok, cool, well then this attraction isn’t really founded in reality so I will just let it go and get on with this whole therapy thing.” And yet it’s not that easy. We live in a society that has infused shame into eroticism, sex, and attraction. We see sex everywhere. Sex sells cars, cheeseburgers, guns, shampoo, you name it! Yet rarely are sex and attraction talked about directly; they are almost always alluded to. The shame of sex, desire, attraction, and eroticism subverts these drives not only into our individual subconscious, but also into the subconscious of our society. Acknowledging the shame that may be present with any type of attraction can open the door to unlocking stuck energy and move into authentic relationship with others and ourselves.
In a therapeutic relationship built on trust and security, an environment can emerge where these subconscious elements of attraction and shame, can come to the surface and be addressed. If you feel like the relationship with your therapist is strong and you trust them, why not see what can be uncovered by naming the attraction you feel towards them?
If your therapist is skilled, this revelation will be utilized to deepen your relationship with yourself and with them. There are many ways to work with attraction in the therapeutic relationship. Here is one way I have found that is useful:
First, an acknowledgment of the boundaries of the relationship can provide some safety and a container to work within. I usually say something like, “Thank you for telling me this, I know it is difficult to be so vulnerable. So that we can really work with this energy, I want to say that I will never have sex with you, date you, or touch you in a sexual way.” From this clear boundary, safety is developed that could be otherwise missed if the boundary is not stated and only assumed.
This groundwork can allow things can go in various directions in working with erotic energy. One way that seems to be particularly effective is to frame “sexual” energy as “life force” energy. Most of us are taught that if you have energy that is “sexual” in nature, then you must act it out either through masturbation, sexual fantasy, or sexual activity with someone else. Yet there is a subtler way of moving this energy. By removing the label “sex” or “sexual attraction” and just experiencing the movement of vitality through the body, new options for being with this powerful energy can come into being.
Often what happens is that the “sexual” nature of the energy can shift to becoming “aliveness,” a raw and powerful experience in the session of awakened,unfrozen energy. Sounds pretty good, right!? This is the experience of staying with the energy rather than getting rid of it through the familiar routes of sex and sexual fantasy. Not that sex and sexual fantasy are not awesome, but this experience can allow a new choice in the matter; the choice to discover moving this energy in a way that allows it to beexperienced as pure life force, creativity, or power. The therapeutic relationship is the perfect place, because of the boundaries of the relationship, to experience sexual energy in a new way.
The benefits of exploring this life force and telling the truth about your experience to another human being are often quite unique. We are coming forward with our vulnerability by naming attraction, and in return learning about ourselves, others, and really feeling the aliveness and tenderness of life. Sounds like a risk worth taking!
Karolina Walsh Psychotherapy
Providing psychotherapy, counseling, and support for grief, addictions, trauma, PTSD, relationship issues, and GLBTQIA.
“Karolina walks her talk, her ability to meet another in their capacities is sensational because she has done her own work” -Diane Israel
"An effective therapist needs to do at least two things: be compassionate and provide constructive feedback that actually changes the way people experience the world. I see many therapists who can do one or the other. I routinely watch Karolina do both..." -Patrick Weeg