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Friday, February 1, 2013

Should Therapists Play Cupid?

By Richard A. Friedman
The New York Times Sunday Review
Originally published January 19, 2013

IF you are in psychotherapy, there’s a good chance your therapist knows more about your inner thoughts and secret desires than anyone else.

So, if you’re looking for a mate, wouldn’t your therapist be a more reliable matchmaker than eHarmony and Match.com and other sites that rely on impersonal algorithms?

The idea that therapists might play Cupid with patients tantalizes patients and therapists. An anecdotal survey of my psychiatrist colleagues suggests that the matchmaking impulse is very common.

A senior colleague, for example, tells me he was treating a young man who was struggling to find a partner. My colleague said he knew someone who was perfect for his patient and wanted to set them up on a date, but didn’t because he was afraid — there were too many ways even the most well-intentioned therapist fix-up could go wrong.

Why? Psychotherapy, especially insight-oriented therapy, is designed to conjure intense feelings — on the part of the patient and therapist. Much of what patients feel toward their therapists, the so-called transference, are unconscious feelings that are redirected from important early figures in their lives — parents, family members and teachers. Your therapist mirrors this phenomenon with his own countertransference.

One of psychotherapy’s aims is to use the patient-therapist relationship to better understand the patient’s relationships with others and to remedy problems in the little lab that is the therapeutic connection.

The entire story is here.

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