When Your Therapist Does Harm (2)
By: Beth McHugh 2007
In When Your Therapist Does Harm (1) we looked at the possibility that some therapists may actually cause further harm in their already distressed patients and clients. This harm usually comes in the form of instigating a sexual relationship with their client.
As previously mentioned, it is imperative that for therapy to work there is a good rapport between therapist and client. In fact, therapy will stall without it. But occasionally, due to the intimate nature of therapy, a client may become infatuated with their therapist. This customarily happens between a male therapist and a female client, but the reverse situation is not infrequent.
A good therapist is well ware of this phenomenon, and will take appropriate steps to quell any growing desires on the part of their client. If the client refuses to take the hint then the best scenario is for the therapist to recommend that the client seeks assistant with another counselor.
Unfortunately, there are therapists who will take advantage of vulnerable clients and actually instigate, or try to instigate, a sexual relationship themselves. These sad cases often make the newspapers and the therapist, if found guilty, is struck off for a period of time.
The most vulnerable clients are those who have come to the therapist seeking help for sexual assault. One such client was told by her psychiatrist: “I am sexually attracted to you, but I won’t let that interfere with counseling.” This is an entirely inappropriate statement for a therapist to make. If the therapist does find a client sexually attractive, they should keep that information to themselves. If it is actually interfering in the quality of their therapy, they should ask the client to find another counselor.
Unfortunately, when seeking counseling, people are very vulnerable and tend to do “what the doctor says.” Alternatively, they may be so starved of love and affection in their life that the attentions paid by an amorous therapist are so enticing that they cannot say no. Plus, they seem to be getting better, as they feel so good. This is because they perceive themselves as being “loved,” “cherished” and “listened to.” This is an intoxicating brew for a person from a dysfunctional background or a poor marriage. At last, somebody loves me and understands!
It is very important to guard against falling in live with your therapist because it is the client who will come out even more damaged than they were before commencing therapy. This is an act of betrayal. It is betrayal of the ethics of counseling, betrayal of the therapist themselves and betrayal of the trust and vulnerability of the client.
It is important for clients to know about and protect themselves against