Is It Normal To Get Attached During Therapy?
Forming a bond with your therapist is an important part of your therapy journey. You have to be able to open up and feel comfortable, and most people find this process easier if they connect with their counsellor. Of course, all relationships should always remain professional, but therapy sessions do work best when you feel you can talk honestly, without worrying about being judged.
In order for your sessions to be as productive as possible, you have to be able to put some trust in your therapist. At first, it may feel difficult to speak openly, especially about things you may have bottled up for years or never discussed with someone before. But as time goes by, your counsellor will help you to feel safe during your sessions, and when this happens many people find that they build an attachment towards their therapist.
Firstly, we should note that it is normal to form an attachment to your therapist. For person-centred therapy sessions, this bond is known as a secure attachment, and it is extremely useful for both the counsellor and the client. Your therapist might be the one person in the world that knows your deepest secrets and troubles, and as a result, it is very common that people associate their counsellor as a trusted confidant. Therapy sessions turn into a safe place, somewhere where a client is able to bear all their emotional troubles, protected from judgement and disclosure to third parties. This level of comfort can grow into a secure attachment.
In most cases, secure attachment is a positive environment despite the initial feelings of reliance on your therapist. As the therapy journey progresses, this dependence will wane as you gain control and acceptance. However, if you are finding the end of your treatment plan and the end of your secure attachment extremely stressful, follow these three steps to help you understand your emotions.
How to understand your secure attachment:
- Tell your therapist: therapy is very one-sided, and so your therapist is reliant upon you to express how you feel at all times, especially if it has been a negative experience. You should note that an attachment is very common in therapy, and most likely, your therapist will be looking out for signs of it as a means of monitoring it. Nevertheless, telling them how you feel is just as important.
- Explore why you have formed the attachment: forming an attachment to your therapist can often indicate any issues you may not fully understand. No one knows you better than you; you may be able to recognise a pattern of transference throughout your life which in itself may need addressing.
- Acknowledge that these feelings are normal! As mentioned, these feelings are super common and nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, without a secure attachment, your therapy journey can take much longer! Establishing a secure attachment with your counsellor is something they will encourage, so there is no reason for embarrassment or reluctance to discuss it with them.
How to tell if you are getting too attached?
As I mentioned previously, attachment is not only normal but encouraged. However, there are occasions when it can become unhealthy. Here are a few of the warning signs –
It’s impossible to believe that you could survive without therapy in the future.
The ultimate goal of therapy is for you to eventually get to a position where you can independently manage your mental health struggles and live a more fulfilling life. Sometimes this idea may be hard to even imagine at the start of your therapy journey, but if you have been in therapy for a while and feel that you couldn’t live without your therapist, it may be a sign that the relationship is becoming unhealthy. Your therapist should be a crutch, supporting you while you heal, but eventually, you should be able to take steps alone, safe in the knowledge that if needed you can pick the crutch up again.
You are developing strong feelings towards your therapist that you cannot control.
When you are sharing personal and intimate details with someone, it isn’t uncommon to develop romantic or strong feelings. However, feeling strong emotions like love towards your therapist can damage your recovery. It is important that you remember that it is a professional relationship and the closeness you are feeling is a result of the therapy – not the therapist as an individual. You need to be able to focus on healing and stay honest in your sessions. If you are looking at your therapist as a potential love interest you may find that you do not want to disclose personal information that paints you in a less desirable light. Only being completely honest will aid your recovery.
You feel invested in your therapist’s personal life.
When you spend time with someone, sharing your feelings and life experiences, it isn’t unusual to wonder about their lives, especially as your sessions focus on your story and not theirs. Curiosity is normal, however, if you are struggling to maintain professional boundaries, and find yourself looking at their private social media accounts or regularly trying to contact them outside of your therapy sessions, you may be developing an unhealthy attachment. Many people want to know more about their therapists, but keeping some boundaries in place protects you and them, enabling you to have a faster recovery.
If you are interested in opening up to someone in a professional, welcoming and safe environment, please head over to my website today to book in for a consultation. As a person-centred therapist, I understand that my clients require different levels of support, so I offer Zoom and in-person sessions at my Warrington based clinic, so there is an option to suit your needs and availability.