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Ask Julie: Should I Tell My Psychiatrist I Have Feelings For Him?

Q: I have childhood onset bipolar disorder and have been in therapy, on and off, for many years. I have been seeing my psychiatrist for three years now and approximately one year ago, I started seeing him weekly for therapy sessions as well as med management. Over the past several months, I have been having really strong feelings for him. I know this is common in therapist/client relationships, but I think of him constantly in erotic ways.

I am terrified to share with him the feelings I have for him. There was a great deal of male abandonment/rejection in my childhood and I still struggle tremendously with those events. Coupled with the fact that I have so much self-hatred for myself, I fear that if I tell him about my feelings for him, that he will abandon me also. I cannot deal with anymore rejection in my life.

Please note that my psychiatrist is extremely professional and there are obvious boundaries in our therapeutic relationship, yet he is also very caring and sensitive to my thoughts and feelings. I have been able to share things with him that have never been shared with anyone. Yet I am so conflicted as to whether or not I should share my feelings/erotic fantasies for him.

A: Thanks for reaching out for advice on how to deal with this painful dilemma.

I can feel how much you respect your psychiatrist and how meaningful it has been to you to have a safe place to share your deepest thoughts, feelings, and experiences. As you said, it is not uncommon to have sexual feelings toward your psychotherapist, especially if this is the first time you’ve felt emotionally safe and nurtured by a male.
While it would be a huge risk to share these intense feelings with your psychiatrist, I encourage you to do so. It sounds like he has proven to be very skilled, professional, and helpful to you in your therapy so far, so hold on to your positive experiences with him in order to muster up the courage to bring up your feelings in an upcoming session. Start slowly and start with sharing generalities, just like you’ve shared in your email to me. You can share your feelings without sharing all of the details of your fantasies. The ability to work through your erotic feelings for your psychiatrist with him, and to experience his continued support and acceptance may allow you to reach a new level of healing.

Take good care of yourself!

Julie Hanks, LCSW

This post originally appeared in my Psych Central Ask the Therapist column

Self & relationship expert Julie de Azevedo Hanks, LCSW is wife of 22 years and mother of 4, a licensed therapist, a popular media contributor on KSL TV’s Studio 5, and director of Wasatch Family Therapy. Listen to Julie’s podcast You and Yours , on B98.7 radio as the Bee’s Family Counselor, and read her national advice columns on Psych Central! and Latter-day Woman Magazine.

About Dr. Julie Hanks, LCSW:
Dynamic self & relationship expert Dr. Julie de Azevedo Hanks, LCSW loves to make a difference for women. She owns Wasatch Family Therapy and regularly contributes to TV Shows and her advice has been featured nationally including Wall Street Journal, Parenting, Fox News, and others. Connect on Instagram, Facebook & Twitter. Her books The Burnout Cure and The Assertiveness Guide are now available. Dr. Hanks is currently accepting coaching clients.

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