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Page Contents: Psychotherapist bungles client’s attraction to him.                    


I just terminated psychotherapy after 3½ years. I saw this psychiatrist for PTSD, anxiety and depression. I feel I made good progress. For the past 2 years my therapist and I often discussed my attraction to him. Just recently the attraction became more intense and he encouraged me to come over to his chair and touch his arm if I felt it was unbearable. I did that. He then said the relationship was unworkable. Then he asked if I could come in for 3 more sessions. I said no & cancelled all of my twice weekly appointments. One week later he called my house in the evening asking if I would come in for a visit at no charge for closure because I was anxious the day I left. I agreed to the visit. Nothing seemed resolved & the appointment seemed a little stressed. He did not attempt to talk me into returning to therapy. He said it was not a regular session and that I could stay or go. I stayed. I returned for one final session the following week and told him I was definitely terminating. I had spent the whole week crying, and didn’t realize why until I got there and he told me it was because of this loss. He asked if I wanted a referral and I said no. He asked why not. I said I felt I have made enough progress. He said he thought I had one more visit at no charge available. I refused. He said he agreed with that decision, and said it was not in my best interest to return. This has now been about 6 weeks. I called twice after this last session, and he did not return my calls. I miss him and sometimes wish I had not left therapy. I am feeling some guilt, especially after he gave me his time at no charge. I feel I may have ruined the relationship by telling him of my attraction. My question is, are there circumstances when a therapist offers a visit at no charge after the patient terminates and why? I am left feeling confused and still unresolved.

This is a sad story because it illustrates what can happen when a psychotherapist botches the treatment when he (or she) doesn’t know how to deal with a client’s attraction to him (or her).

You were right to have spoken about your feelings of attraction for the psychiatrist, because, as I say throughout this website, that is what psychotherapy is all about. Unfortunately, your psychiatrist apparently did not know how to treat your feelings clinically, so he essentially kicked you out of treatment. Offering the free sessions sounds to me like an expression of his guilt. It’s no wonder you feel confused and unresolved, because when a psychotherapist makes this sort of mistake, it leaves the treatment unresolved. I would hope that you can find another psychotherapist who is more competent who can help you resolve your feelings for the injury that has happened.

Please understand, though, that such an incident does not necessarily have to be seen as a setback. Coming to terms with personal injury is the whole focus of the treatment for PTSD that you were seeking in the first place, and this is a good test of all you have learned so far. I say this only to help you realize that psychotherapy often has unexpected twists and turns, and, if you accept them all gracefully, you will find true healing. Getting stuck in bitterness and resentment will hurt only yourself. Accept the termination with this man, but don’t terminate psychotherapy, and don’t “terminate” the human need for faith, hope, and love.


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Raymond Lloyd Richmond, Ph.D.
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