A: Thanks for your question. I’m not sure if you are asking if your fondness of your therapist is appropriate or if his behavior and comments toward you are — but I will try to address both. Transference and counter transference are tricky things. On one hand, it is important to develop a genuine relationship in therapy, but on the other hand it can be confusing where the boundaries lie.
Your therapist may very well be saying the nice things you mentioned to bolster your self-esteem and let you know that he cares about you. If he makes no other overt gestures, never offers to meet with you outside of the sessions, and doesn’t get overly personal, I’d say his comments are appropriate within the therapeutic relationship. If, however, he gets too personal, offers to meet outside of therapy or makes any sexual advances, then he has crossed the line. If this happens, I suggest that you confront him and also let his supervisor know because, as you mentioned, he is still in training.
In regard to your feelings for him, it is normal to feel some attachment to your therapist or counselor. You are opening up to this person in an intimate way. Many folks tell their therapists more than they tell people in their personal lives. It can feel like friendship and the relationship is built on trust. However, it is important to remember that all this is happening in the context of a professional relationship. He is providing a service to you based upon his education and training. Even though he may occasionally talk about himself or comment on your similarities, he is providing clinical treatment and most likely billing your insurance for the services.
If you are concerned that you “enjoy” your sessions a little too much or are growing too close to him, the best thing to do is to bring these issues up in a session. I know it may sound like a hard thing to do, but processing your feelings with him directly could be extremely helpful. Not only will it help you clarify your feelings and boundaries, but also help you gain valuable insight into yourself.
All the best,
Dr. Holly Counts