Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

‘I Am Making Better Friends, Thanks To You’

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on September 22, 2011


Jennifer, twenty-four,, looks to me as a mother-figure. She reports to me about her daily life: school, friends, roommates, job. She tells me about the people she meets and we talk about the quality of her friendships. As a high-school student, this kind of discussion made her defensive. Her pot-smoking friends were “cool”, she would tell me, as if to ward off her assumption that I would be judgmental about them. Now, to my surprise, Jennifer says “I really want higher quality people in my life. I want people with some ambition, some sense of where they are going. I did not realize how important that was, but thanks to you, I do now.” I did not expect this expression of gratitude. I began to wonder, why now, after all these years together, is this coming up? I begin to see that Jennifer is now transitioning to an Occupational Therapy Program, where she is on her way to a career. This is a marked shift from the girl a few years ago who could not imagine herself deciding on a career path. Jennifer went from being aimless to being focused and in so doing, she wanted to shift her friends from drifters to future professionals. She gives me some of the credit for this shift since she assigned me the role of wanting to see her grow and develop into an independent adult. It is true that I wanted this for her, but it is also true that she allowed me to encourage her in that direction. She entered into the relationship with me, wanting a nurturing person in her life. Sure, her parents also want to see her succeed, but Jennifer felt she needed more support for her development. She initiated therapy as a teenager. This drive for development was impressive. Jennifer was likely to succeed; she was determined. I facilitated her, mostly by allowing her to have this mother-transference. The love of a mother figure facilitates growth. Jennifer proved the point.

2 Responses to “‘I Am Making Better Friends, Thanks To You’”

  1. Shelly said

    Did your mother-tranference relationship allow Jennifer to have a better relationship with her own mother, or did she reserve these kinds of discussions just with you? Is this a one-sided “relationship,” and how do you maintain a clinical perspective with your patients without getting involved with the details of their personal lives?

    • No, the mother-transference did not improve her relationship with her own mother, although it did decrease some stress at home, so in that way their relationship improved. Keeping the big picture is a large part of my challenge. That is something that I enjoy about my work. Thanks.

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