I am in love with my psychotherapist, so maybe my perceptions are biased
or delusional, but at the same time I feel violated and disrespected and
that I am being driven to secondary insanity.
A few months ago, when he told me that he was leaving on vacation, I mentioned
how difficult it is when he is gone. He replied, You should just come
to [...]. Its not a bad idea. The following week during
the same scenario he replied, You should just come with me. We could
spend some time, you know, talking about [expletive deleted]
No, he didnt mean what he was saying, but the lightness of these comments
felt demeaning. . . . We spend large portions of our sessions
in casual conversation, sometimes up to half. Once, when I stated we had
wasted to much of our session he replied, Thats what happens
when you have relationships that only last one hour a week. A few weeks
ago after we had spent fifty minutes visiting I asked how much time we had
left and he answered, Ten minutes. Why? Did you want to talk about
things? He says that he thinks psychotherapy should be personal, and
that feelings of closeness and caring are to be expected. After working as
a nurse aid for the past ten years, I understand the importance of respecting
feelings that my patients have for me, and the importance of preventing confusion
around those feelingsand Im just a dumb bed-maker. As I stated
at the beginning, maybe my infatuation is clouding my vision, but this behavior
seems to resemble that of the annoying guys who follow me around the grocery
store asking me if I have a boyfriend and what my phone number is. Maybe
Im just confused. I understand that rules regarding boundaries in
psychotherapy are open to a wide range of interpretations, but are there
any circumstances under which this behaviour would be considered
Are there any circumstances under which this behaviour
would be considered normal? Yes. In a grocery store.
however, is different from shopping for groceriesor
One basic tenet
psychotherapy asserts that, until we have reached a relatively deep state
of psychological awareness, unresolved emotional conflicts from childhood
motivate all the interpersonal interactions we have in the present. So, yes,
even though your feelings for your
psychotherapist are genuine, they still derive from unresolved feelings from
your past, most likely about your father. Your psychotherapist could give
you all the comfort of casual conversation and light comments in the world,
but it would never be enough, and it would never heal your inner pain. Why?
Because you really yearn for your
comfort which, as a result of all his emotional failures, you never received.
And in that frustrated yearning you feel tremendous hurt and
Your task, then,
is to keep looking at the present with an eye to the past. You have to come
to terms with your fathers failures. You need to look at them
shame or maliceand see clearly how much you were hurt and how much
that hurt still lives within you, in all things, to this day.
start this task, honestly, in small bits here and there, you can begin the
broader effects of healing: to give to others the comfort that
you never received as a child.
But you need
a psychotherapist who can guide you competently
into this process. Now, if your psychotherapist said the things you say he
said, in exactly the way you say he said them, then his casualness misses
the point about true psychotherapy. He could be taking his own unconscious
cynicism out on you.
It often happens,
however, that a psychotherapist might seem to be making idle conversation
when really he is poking around looking for unconscious clues
to the clients experiences. In medicine, when a physician examines
your body with a stethoscope, this is called auscultation (from the
Latin auscultare, to listen), and in a similar way a psychotherapist
will be listening for significant hints of the unconscious in the casual
things you say.
Also, when a
psychotherapist points out an unpleasant aspect of a clients behavior,
the client can become confused and upset and can even
project his or her
own feelings of anger onto the psychotherapist; thus the client will end
up believing that the psychotherapist is angry and purposely saying hurtful
things. This is
its most destructive aspects.
For the client,
though, it can sometimes be almost impossible to tell whether feelings about
the psychotherapy are based in transference or whether they are based in
genuinely inappropriate behavior of the psychotherapist. Thus the
psychotherapists entire demeanor must be considered. If the psychotherapist
is always professional and considerate, then a clients feelings of
being dismissed are likely transference reactions. But if, even in a joking
way, the psychotherapist ever suggests something unethicalsuch as going
on vacation with himor if he never links seemingly idle chit-chat in
one part of a session to a later psychodynamic interpretation, then its
time for the client to beware.
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