My Shrink Likes Me Too Much!
(Column: Ask the Therapist)
Try not to have a love affair with your mental health worker
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The Situation: Around a few months ago, I made an appointment with this new shrink. As soon as I saw him I knew it was a mistake. He was really young, just a few years older than me and really cute! I was immediately attracted. He didn't seem like a bad shrink but I knew it was a bad decision to see him again because I was attracted to him. I mean how can you open up to somebody and be really comfortable with them if you want to date them?
I still made a second appointment for all the wrong reasons. I know I am not crazy but I really feel that he was a little flirtatious from the second appointment onwards. Our sessions were so weird; I mean it seemed more like social talk than therapy. I knew something was not right from the beginning, but I liked the guy so I didn't care if he was not being professional. After a few appointments I was really hooked. I knew a lot about him because he told me a lot about himself. I mean shrinks are not supposed to talk about themselves at all, but he did it anyway. And he was single!
I know what you are thinking. We weren't going through transference. I mean if I was attracted to him from the first time I saw him then it's not really transference. Plus, I never really confided in him or spoke in depth about my problems simply because I liked him and wanted to make a good impression. So, it's not like I was in awe of him because he was helping me so much. Frankly speaking, I knew the therapy part was not going well at all.
After a few sessions I knew that I didn't want him to be my shrink so I tested him one day and asked him if he wanted to go see a movie with me and he said “yes” and invited me to this social event. The next day I think he realized what he did was wrong and he tested me and canceled the movie thing and told me that as my shrink, he can't socialize with me anymore.
I decided right then and there that there was no point in continuing therapy because, instead of helping me, seeing this shrink had just added to my problems! I didn't want to confide in him about my feelings, so after some more sessions, I just stopped going without telling him that I wasn't coming back.
He has been in touch and just last week he asked me if he could hire me for an assignment. What do you think is going on? Am I totally absurd for believing that he really did break boundaries? Is there ever a chance of us getting together if we like each other? And please don't tell me its transference; I just had seven sessions with him in six months! And I wouldn't even call them therapy! Please analyze the situation and give me clarity. Signed, Really Confused.
Answer: Dear Confused. Notice that I put your nom de plume in italics. I hear clients say that they are “confused” when really what is the matter is that they don’t like the answer they are getting from themselves.
“Transference” is really not a dirty word. Our initial attraction to someone is almost always based on the previous love experiences of our life. But, I agree that the issue here is not your transference. Rather, the issue is your new therapist’s failure to set appropriate boundaries; and your good sense in leaving the therapy.
He could have offered not to treat you because he was attracted to you. But therapists are not entitled to act on their attraction with someone who is in treatment with them. In Man of LaMancha, Sancho Panza says whether the pitcher hits the rock or the rock hits the pitcher, it is bad for the pitcher. You were correct in feeling that therapy was not possible.
Can you get together if you like each other? Yes, but only do it if he understands what he did. If not, it will be bad for you again.
If you liked your old therapist there’s a good chance you can find another therapist that can understand your needs. It may take a while but do your best. Maybe you can write down what you are looking for on a sheet of paper. If you like your current male therapists, you should set up some ground rules. Have a talk with them and maybe you can find answers together.
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