A Guide to Psychology and its Practice

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Page Contents: Sexualized psychotherapy.                    


I have been in therapy for about eight months now with a 51 year old male psychoanalyst. He is very professional. I am a 34 year old female being treated for Depression as well as PTSD. I’ve dealt with abusive relationships in my past. My therapist does the following: he ogles me (usually my legs and foot area); compliments me (such as you’re sexy, sexual, attractive and classy); initiates comments about my past sexual experience (like did your high school boyfriend perform cunninglingus[sic] on you?, also did you enjoy it?); he is always late starting sessions and late ending them. Sometimes he is warm towards me, other times he is strangely distant. He always misunderstands and claims my opinions are extreme or unfounded. (Almost every session he does this). I chose to discontinue treatment with him and he was upset. (He always seems mad at me for something). So I apologized to him, and said that I would continue treatment with him. Now I am so confused, because he has me on paxil, and ambien for my insomnia. I want him and this medicine out of my life. I feel really fatigued and drowsy all the time. Just recently because he claims he has a hard time trying to hear me far away; he asked me to start sitting closer in our sessions. Although I don’t think he will ever try to molest me, I feel terribly uncomfortable. How do I get out of this? I’m really afraid of him more than anything. He sometimes sets his his jaw and stares at me with the most serious facial expression. He constantly tells me I’m having a transference. (I sometimes dream of him in a sexual manner.) When I wake up, I’m ashamed and embarrassed of the dreams. He seems to like talking about them. He also says that he thinks about our sessions a lot (when he is being warm towards me). The very next session, he’ll say that I am the sickest patient he has. (In all my effort to get better, that makes me feel really bad.)

As you describe it, your “psychoanalyst” is guilty of bad psychotherapy, professional misconduct, and—depending on the laws of the state in which you live—criminal activity. Is that clear enough?

Of course you’re “having a transference” because every client in psychotherapy has a transference reaction to the psychotherapist. But no matter what the transference feelings might be—even if they are sexualized—the psychotherapist should interpret the unconscious meaning of the client’s feelings so as to help the client understand the feelings and grow in wisdom because of them.

So this so-called “psychoanalyst” is guilty of bad psychotherapy because he is treating the transference literally, not clinically, and he’s getting stuck in his own countertransference. I say he’s guilty of professional misconduct because he is feeding off the sexualized atmosphere he has created. And I say he may be guilty of criminal activity, because in California, for example, any sexual contact, asking for sexual contact, or sexual misconduct is a crime. (“Sexual contact” means the touching of an intimate part—sexual organ, anus, buttocks, groin, or breast—of another person and so is not limited to just intercourse, sodomy, or oral copulation. “Sexual misconduct” includes such things as verbal suggestions, innuendoes, advances, kissing, spanking, and nudity.)

You say “I don’t think he will ever try to molest me,” but his behavior so far has all the warning signs of serious sexual abuse or exploitation. Given all these warning signs, it’s no wonder you feel bad; in the present circumstances, you should feel bad. And so you should get out. And run for your life.

And then call his licensing board and report him.

As for the medications, although it’s possible you might actually have a need for them, it’s also possible that this man has prescribed them in order to make you more easily controlled for his own purposes—as gruesome a thought as that might be. However, you can’t just quit the medications “cold turkey”—you have to taper off the dosage so that you don’t suffer withdrawal symptoms. Find a competent psychiatrist to advise you on this. Then find a competent psychotherapist to guide you through the healing process you hoped for in the first place.


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Raymond Lloyd Richmond, Ph.D.
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A Guide to Psychology and its Practice



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