You’ve grown closer over time. There’s an undeniable bond and the tension between you two had been building towards something big. Now you feel ready. You move closer and closer, feeling each other out, finding what works and what doesn’t, letting yourself become open and vulnerable to the experience. It’s a little scary, but you now know that this is what you wanted. You’ve wanted it for a while, you simply hadn’t realized how badly you needed this. That flood of emotion and fragility, the increasing anticipation as you get closer than you ever had before. As the mounting breakthrough finally comes, you’re overwhelmed with a sweet and engulfing relief that feels better than anything else you have ever experienced. No, we’re not talking about a steamy affair and an earth-shattering climax — we’re talking about therapy!
Yes, a great therapy session can be an indescribable experience. In fact, you might even say therapy is better than sex!
Intimacy is often associated with sex. When people hear that word, they usually conjure up mental images of moments when they were physically close to someone else. However, the word itself means far more than just sex, and that’s not even including the other aspects of a relationship with a significant other. Intimacy means being close and familiar with something or someone. You can have an intimate knowledge of a certain country and its customs. You may intimately understand how something works or how to fix something. You can also have intimate moments with family, friends, and even work associates to a degree.
One of the most fulfilling intimate relationships you can have in life is with a therapist. While this might initially sound taboo, and sexual or romantic interactions are and should be considered inappropriate, in order for therapy to actually help you, you need a deep connection with your therapist. This connection creates trust and understanding that makes it possible for you to reach the goals you need to be at your healthiest. Without that connection, you won’t be able to open up and follow their guidance the same way you would without that intimacy.
This doesn’t happen right away. Emotional intimacy is something you need to build, taking steps to show more and more of yourself to your therapist over sessions. No one, no matter how open they are as a person, can immediately jump into the level of intimacy in therapy that will help you understand yourself. Your therapist will need time to understand you in an intimate way as well. Much like a sexual partner taking time to understand what you find pleasurable, a therapist has to feel you out in an emotional and mental capacity. They need to find your psychological roadblocks to help you work through them.
Because of the cultural assumption of what intimacy means, this deep connection required for emotional and mental healing and improvement will sometimes lead a patient to think they have fallen in love with their therapist. While therapists are people and have their own relationships, it should be acknowledged that they don’t treat people they have personal relationships with. There are multiple reasons why this is, but one of those reasons is that a therapist and patient relationship, while not entirely one-sided, is an all give and all take type of relationship. Mental health workers do get benefits from their work, however, it’s not the same type of benefits that one gets from a healthy romantic relationship. While as the patient you may be getting some of the things you would from a significant other like support, comfort, and a sense of acknowledgment, the therapist doesn’t get these same things.
Instead, their benefits are similar to those you would get from a job well done or solving a puzzle. They enjoy helping others and find satisfaction when their patients are able to succeed, but these things do not encompass what you should be able to expect from a romantic partner.
This confusion of romantic intimacy and emotional intimacy can sometimes impact the results of therapy sessions negatively, but real intimacy in therapy is vital. It’s rewarding and creates the foundation for results that can increase your health and well-being. It allows you to reach those goals that your therapist wants you to reach and that you need to feel better in your life.
Sometimes, people forget that they can be open and intimate with others. They feel it’s crossing a line when they reveal too much or rely too much on someone who isn’t their significant other. This attitude is one of the reasons we get so mixed up over emotional intimacy. Yes, you should rely on your partner for these things, but you can rely on others as well, especially your therapist. Your therapist benefits from your willingness to trust them. They need you to be intimate with them in order to help you more. There’s nothing wrong or shameful in this. It’s a part of mental health.
If you find yourself in a place of that confusion, where you think you may be in love with your therapist, the first thing to do is discuss it with your therapist. When we begin to develop feelings for others, we often become shy and reserved. This is the exact opposite of what you need to do. You need to discuss it and be open to what your therapist is saying. It may even feel like they’re rejecting you, but that’s not the case. They are only helping you to understand the difference between the types of intimacy so that you can continue to grow and become the person you want to be. Emotional intimacy is so much better than physical intimacy, with a longer-lasting satisfaction and a deeper impact on your happiness. Therapy really is better than sex.
This post was previously published on Medium.
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