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Topic: Attachment to Therapist

Jennifer started this discussion 6.2 years ago #2,528

I've read many threads that have to do with attachment to a therapist and it makes me wonder if this is part of therapy. I feel like I've asked this question before but I don't remember. I know every therapist is different and does things different ways and there are just as many different clients with different stories but is this needy pain actually necessary for some therapies to be successful? Is it beneficial in some way in the long run?

(Edited 3 minutes later.)

t joined in and replied with this 6.2 years ago, 15 minutes later[^] [v] #0

it is beneficial only if the therapist handles it correctly and the client can work through it with them

Sifter joined in and replied with this 6.2 years ago, 2 minutes later, 18 minutes after the original post[^] [v] #0

I'd be willing to bet that those of us who experience needy pain in therapy have had many experiences of needy pain coming up in the rest of our lives. We may run from it, bury it deep, ignore it, cover it with all kinds of things but it's central to us. So it does come up in therapy because it's core to us. Therapy does provide the chance to face it, get it out in the open and heal a lot of it. But you sort of have to make the decision that you will do that in therapy - and it's really hard - there's other useful stuff therapy can do without facing that so it doesn't necessarily go that way.

t replied with this 6.2 years ago, 5 minutes later, 23 minutes after the original post[^] [v] #0


Jennifer (OP) replied with this 6.2 years ago, 7 minutes later, 30 minutes after the original post[^] [v] #0

Ok Sifter, that makes sense. So I can assume that because I have painful needing a father figure feelings then those will come up in therapy? I already know why I would have them so its not like I need to explore it. So... what would it actually help? Do you get what I'm asking or am I making no sense?

Ailonna joined in and replied with this 6.2 years ago, 3 minutes later, 34 minutes after the original post[^] [v] #0

It might help because the therapist can help you explore ways to function, and or to gain that figure you are looking for.

Not really sure......just talking out of my ass.

Sifter joined in and replied with this 6.2 years ago, 56 minutes later, 1 hour after the original post[^] [v] #0

(Citing a deleted or non-existent reply.)
Yeah, I get it. Will they come up? Put it this way - you're not looking for a female therapist, are you? Chances are some part of you *wants* the feelings to come up. And not because you like to torture yourself, but because that part is looking for healing. Understanding why you have the feelings is not the same as getting healing. Healing is... really hard to explain to someone who hasn't experienced it. It's hard to imagine something you can't already provide for yourself. But once someone really deeply GETS your pain in all its dimensions, and you know they do, and they're there with you, the wound starts to heal.

Up until that point, the pain will look for all kinds of ways to make itself known and FULLY understood and experienced in the relationship. Clients and therapists end up in 'reenactments', where they're accidentally, unconsciously playing out the childhood pain together, all the time. That's when things are getting worse and worse, and suddenly you see that the relationship with the therapist is EXACTLY LIKE your childhood pain, and it makes no fucking sense, and it's horrible. In that situation the therapist's job is to hold steady, realise that they are somehow hurting you in a way they didn't mean to, figure out what the connection is to childhood and help you both make it conscious together and say/do the things that need to be said/done to lay it to rest. Then the therapist not only *understands* on a surface level, they've *been there with you*.

If you think over the therapy dramas you've seen on this board, most of them would be reenactments of one kind or another. When things are at their worst, that's usually what's going on. And that's when the greatest healing becomes possible.

shh joined in and replied with this 6.2 years ago, 4 hours later, 6 hours after the original post[^] [v] #0

Hi Jen

Are you familiar with Bowlby's work on attachment? There is some theory there, that says that as babies, when we attach to our primary caregiver, we form an internal working model of them in our heads, which we use to guide, advise, and reassure us... you know so when we're in bed and it's dark, we reassure ourselves with the image of our parent in our head, stroking our hair and saying "it's okay, there's nothing to be scared of" and that kind of thing.

When we haven't had our infant needs met very well in childhood or if there have been significant traumatic events, our internal working model doesn't do what it should... and causes us to ill advise ourselves. you know so when you have work to do and you are tired for instance, you might hear a voice in your head, saying "get that work done now, you lazy good for nothing..." rather than "I'm not surprised you're tired, why don't you have a little nap before you do the work, you will be able to concentrate better then"...

...and so through attachment to our therapist, we start to modify that internal working model, and the negative parent voices are replaced by positive therapist voices, and that is how we make progress and make changes to our responses and our behaviours.

The aim when terminating therapy, is to leave with that functioning model of the therapist in our heads to act as our advisor and our guide, rather than the old dysfunctional parent model(s).

Jennifer (OP) replied with this 6.2 years ago, 4 hours later, 10 hours after the original post[^] [v] #0

Yep, that makes sense, what both of you said. Sifter, I do have doubts though about what you've said. It doesn't seem like the therapists that most of the girls here work with have done that, trying to say or do the right thing to put it to rest. I know, however, that we are only getting one side of the story and their personal interpretation of what's happening. I've seen people write many times that their therapist has said that they should have done something, or that if they had it to do over again they would have done something different. Why don't they just do it up front? It seems like a justification or excuse or a blow off, and one that I wouldn't want to hear, say if I were dependent on someone and made a call to them because something big happened in my life and they didn't call back.

(Edited 8 minutes later.)

Jennifer (OP) double-posted this 6.2 years ago, 1 hour later, 11 hours after the original post[^] [v] #0

I think my hypervigilance is doing its thing. I want to know I am prepared for any situation that might come up. I'm putting off making an appointment until I know everything there is to know about it when I bet no matter how much I prepare I will be surprised by something when I go in. I have avoided all relationships just so I don't have to feel those feelings and be caught off guard. There are no guarantees that this person, whoever I see, will be safe when I am at my most vulnerable. I don't want to be taken advantage of. Its easier to do nothing than take a risk.

(Edited 15 minutes later.)

Sifter replied with this 6.2 years ago, 11 minutes later, 11 hours after the original post[^] [v] #0

Hey Jen - yeah, it's fair enough, what you say. I can't guarantee that each of these situations is on the right track or say which ones are or anything. But I do think that the nature of therapy is that it tends to be hard, especially when the important stuff is going on, and very often it's not peaceful until the end. Expecting it to be peaceful would be like expecting to exercise without sweating. But the pattern you might see here - where people are suffering and at war in therapy, and meanwhile the rest of their lives are getting significantly better - is pretty typical. So Helen quitting drinking and self-injuring and sharing much more with her friends, Mekay getting into work and study and her own place, that kind of thing (just to name some changes that have been written about directly). For me it's that I'm much more peaceful with my parents, developing better focus, etc.

But you have a point that the therapists could easily early on say the 'magic words', and generally they don't. I care about you, you're special, it's not your fault, you're beautiful, I love you, etc. Or they could return every call, be utterly reliable, never forget anything and so on. That wasn't really what I meant when I said they try to say or do the right thing. It's like - if you were to make peace with the perfect person, there wouldn't really be much peace in that. Especially if you're paying them to be perfect. Because you still have to deal with the shitty real world and its shitty people who let you down in the first place. So the therapist has to find a way to honestly be their imperfect self AND still lead you through experience to what you need to know about yourself. That you're capable of making your life safe and healthy, that you can love imperfectly, and be cared for or loved imperfectly by other normal humans, that you can recover from pain, that kind of stuff. That's much harder, I think, than them pretending to be perfect and saying and doing everything right for a while.

Sifter double-posted this 6.2 years ago, 6 minutes later, 11 hours after the original post[^] [v] #0

(Citing a deleted or non-existent reply.)
Well, if you're ready to be surprised that might be as good as it gets. You know you've survived all kinds of hell before. You know you have good advice and back-up here if anything comes up. You know a lot about what to expect. It wouldn't be therapy if there weren't challenges and surprises, but I'm willing to bet you will come through with all brilliance intact and shining.

dr-robert joined in and replied with this 6.2 years ago, 26 minutes later, 12 hours after the original post[^] [v] #0

Jennifer-- This is different for everyone. If attachment comes up, it will come up because that is where the work is needed (for example, unconscious fear of attachment might be keeping someone from allowing intimate relations with others). If attachment or the lack of it is not a pre-existing problem in one way or another, then attachment will not be a problem in therapy either, and will not even arise. I have done many therapies in which the client was not attached to me or "in love" with me at all, and others in which I was idealized all out of proportion. Psyche USES the therapist to make her distress evident, and the more she trusts the therapist, the more psyche, speaking in the language of relationship with the therapist, will say where it hurts.

In other words, the problems which arise in therapy (assuming the therapist is working properly) will MIRROR the actual problems of the client in ordinary life (including the ones which are not known to the client, and which the client might even vigorously deny having or feeling). The therapist is not adding anything but understanding and the ability to help someone heal, and the therapy is not about who or what the therapist is unless the therapist MAKES it about him or herself, which is something that only unskilled workers ever do.

Just to make this perfectly clear, Jennifer, if you find yourself becoming attached to the therapist, it will indicate that you have problems with attachment, and that will have nothing at all to do with the therapist. So the question is not whether attachment happens or not, but that a good therapy brings out what had been hidden, whether that is attachment hangups or something entirely different.

For example, I had a client who was not in love with me at all, and was not attached to me either, but who constantly tried to prove that she was smarter than me. So this client did not have attachment problems, but problems with needing to be "top dog" (which I assume, correctly it turned out, indicated a defense against feelings of inferiority). So if you understand this, in the course of this work, psyche was telling us that the client secretly felt inferior. Later it emerged that her father had always belittled her, and implied in various ways that women are not as smart as men. Once this became apparent, she and I were able to work through this and eventually laugh about it.

(Edited 1 hour later.)

Jennifer (OP) replied with this 6.2 years ago, 7 hours later, 19 hours after the original post[^] [v] #0

You used the word mirror, how exactly do they mirror? Will he act just like I act or will he just be on the other end of some pattern I am so used to I don't see but he can?

dr-robert replied with this 6.2 years ago, 20 hours later, 1 day after the original post[^] [v] #0

A good therapist will help you to see unknown (to you) aspects of the scripts you run habitually. Since a good therapist offers non-judgmental acceptance of you as a valid human being, you will find it easier to accept that new informamtion than if it had arisen in a social setting where you would feel judged, and so required to defend yourself. Since the therapist knows his or her own defensive set-up, and comes to know yours, a sensitive worker can find ways of communicating which will not get your back up. That is what is meant by "mirror."

Jennifer (OP) replied with this 6.2 years ago, 1 hour later, 1 day after the original post[^] [v] #0

Ahh ok

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