Certain clients, especially those with personality disorders or issues related to bipolar disorder symptoms, often idealize their therapists, putting them up on a pedestal and worshipping every word they say. Behind these feelings often lies a desire to merge with the therapist and to take part in that ideal life as a means of escape from personal torment. These ideas of merger represent a kind of growth-by-annexation where, in fantasy, the client wants to get inside of and take complete control over the therapist. This wish usually goes hand-in-hand with a belief that the client’s own internal world is so damaged as to be beyond repair; they believe this magical usurping of the therapist’s identity represents their only hope to get better.
As a therapist, you might notice that the client starts talking like you, echoing your phrases and speech patterns or developing a collegial manner in your relations. Such fantasies of merger are especially visible in dreams, however. Two dreams from one of my clients, someone I saw many years ago, illustrate the dynamic very well. He entered treatment because of occasional but severely debilitating depressions in which he felt unable to work. On the surface, Jim (mid-20s) appeared extremely appreciative; he was always telling his friends that I was a wonderful therapist and every week he’d repeat to them my “brilliant” interpretations. He’d been in treatment for a few months when he brought in the following dream.