Saving Therapeutic Relationship

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Editor’s note: This is a followup to a previously published question. My therapist and i became entangled in an intense transferent/countertransferent drama that included both maternal and erotic/sexual components. We are both females, I am 48 and identify as bisexual, and she was two yrs older and married, identifying as heterosexual. Within a short time of our budding alliance, i became intensly attracted to her sexually, emotionally; a kind of peak experience that I quickly divulged. She was never unaware of my overwhelming feelings for her, but our work was intimate and helpful to me. There were countless displays of love from me like more and more expensive gifts, emotional support towards her, and coffee every visit, like we had become a bit past the boundary of therapist/client. During the fourth year of our work, things took a turn, with me projecting more demands for her, and her becoming more angry, ineffectual, defensive and unable to speak honestly about this impasse. I questioned her many times about whether she was seeking supervision, because I knew she was not in control, but it kept on until one day I called her to say i couldn’t do this to myself anymore. We ended, but shortly after, I ran back; she knew i had acted impulsively out of fear and angst. When she returned the call, she stoically said that her supervision group advised that she not see me again, and referred me to another therapist. There was no ending, no closure, no communication about what was happening between us, and I am still working this through (3 yrs with present therapist0. I have remained in communication with my former therapist because I cannot move past the unprofessional way it ruptured, and how I felt abandoned and betrayed. I still send holiday gifts, which she accepts, and letters to ask for reparation. She even responded to a letter wishing me well, but will not address a reconsiliation. She has never contacted my present therapist, nor has she ever asked me to stop communication with her. Although my present therapist is clearly very skilled, I am still devastated by the way my heart was broken and i was left so wounded by someone who was supposed to protect me. Instead, I feel like her actions were ultimately to protect herself from her own emotional feelings about me and us. I think that I am strong enough for the challenge of revisiting what was unmanaged, but she will not totally open, nor totally close the door on what we established in the past alliance. PLEASE SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS. Thank You.

A. I appreciate you taking the time to write back and provide more details about your question. This information helps me to answer your question more thoroughly.

Whether transference and countertransference is good for the therapeutic relationship depends on which theorist or school of thought one adheres to. Regarding your specific situation I believe it is unhealthy that you are still focused on your ex-therapist. You and she ended therapy over three years ago. You have tried to contact her for the purpose of either reconciliation or closure. What you may be overlooking is that she gave you closure. She explained that her supervisors advised her to terminate and then ended treatment. Your therapist probably did not end the relationship unexpectedly. As you mentioned, you and she discussed termination. This should have served as sufficient closure. She does not owe you any further explanation.

You cannot force someone to have a relationship with you. When it comes to relationships, you usually do not get to vote on whether or not it will continue. If one person in a relationship decides that they no longer want it to continue then it’s over.

The problem seems to be that you cannot accept the fact that the relationship is over. I would recommend continuing to work on this issue with your current therapist. You should stop attempting to contact your ex-therapist. You should also stop sending her gifts.

I understand that this will be a difficult process but it is not healthy for you to continue to focus on the past. There is important work that you need to do in your current therapy to help put this relationship behind you. It won’t be an easy process but it is important that you realize the truth and come to terms with it.

Thanks again for writing back and providing more details about your question. I wish you well.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 19 Jun 2010

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2010). Saving Therapeutic Relationship. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 23, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/06/19/saving-therapeutic-relationship/