my male therapist

by teresa
(united kingdom)

I'm a single woman and have been seeing my older male therapist for several months, for childhood trauma. He is a lovely kind man and he has been helping me but im having a few problems with my relationship with him. I feel that we have a romantic relationship rather than a proffessional one. He has cried in every session including the very first one when i have told him about my childhood issues. I have not cried. In our sessions he has told me how attractive i am and while i was telling him how better i feel about hugging my friends he said "do you think you will ever hug me?" then said "only joking" and while i have spoken about men in my life he said, "you need a emotional man like me." I have just been taking these comments as jokes; I once said to him that he must dread our sessions. He told me that they were the highlight of his week and he cannot wait to see me. I took this as him just giving me a confidence boost. I also had a new tattoo on my foot which he said was lovely and again commented that my foot was attractive. It was only when i told a close friend about this that she said that was not right and thinks he is stepping over the mark which got me thinking, is this normal therapy? He is a CBT therapist and this is my first time in therapy.

Ben's Answer:

Sorry to say, this is WAY over the line. It can be fine, and therapeutic for a therapist to make an honest, carefully spoken observation about a client's character or even her appearance; And it can be fine to reveal some of your real feelings towards your client - when it serves the client to do so. But personal feelings about you, such as telling you how attractive you are, or that your sessions are the highlight of his week -- totally inappropriate. Same with the joke about wanting a hug. If you met this guy at a party, all of these behaviors would be seen as flirtatious and sexual advances. Just because he's in a therapist's chair doesn't automatically mean that his behavior is part of the "therapy."

And crying. I've cried at times when clients have opened up deep emotions with me. But teary-eyed is as far as it goes. Therapists are only human and it's OK to reveal your natural compassion - but the general rule should be: Never cry more than your client! I mean, who is the one getting help here? It sounds like he's the one whose emotionally falling apart and wanting you to give him a hug and comfort him. This is totally backwards.

He should be seeing his own therapist and doing his crying there; and he should be consulting with his colleagues about his attraction to you, so they can talk some sense into him and remind him of his professional boundaries. It's very unlikely that he's doing either.

You should feel absolutely safe talking about anything and revealing your most personal secrets in therapy, without having to wonder if you can trust your therapist, or if he's getting some sort of vicarious pleasure out of his relationship with you, or having some fear that you're going to make him cry.

Hope that helps.

Take Care,
Ben Schwarcz, MFT
Santa Rosa Psychotherapist

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