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hippocampus

Is My Therapist Attracted To Me/inappropriate?

44 posts in this topic

Posted (edited)

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Hi there,

I have been seeing a therapist (social worker) for about 4 months now. I am female and he is male. We are around the same age.

I'm wondering if this is a case of transference/counter transference or if some of his behaviours are inappropriate.

1) He has cried three times in reaction to things I've discussed

2) When we were talking about dating advice (I recently went through a breakup of a 12 year relationship) he suggested I date a health care worker, maybe a social worker ?!

3) He has offered to lower my fees to help me out, and has forgotten to charge me for a few sessions.

I should add that I am most definitely attracted to him sexually and emotionally. He is good looking, my age, and well, he has deeply connected with me on my emotional issues.

Thoughts? Opinions?

Edited by sufferinsilence
remove identifying information per member request

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Posted

While one really cannot control who they are attracted to, I would say this is treading in dangerous waters. Rules about professionalism are in place for a reason. They are meant to protect both you and your therapist. My therapist cried quite a few times as we discussed some things. I don't know if that is necessarily a bad thing as it showed me she was human and I think it helped me to connect with her. Because of this I was able to share things I maybe would not have otherwise. It is hard to say the intentions here because I really don't know the background to these circumstances. Some therapists may do work pro bono if they know you are strapped for cash. It might be in the form of a few sessions not being billed or reduced rates. The comment about dating a health care professional or social worker is the thing that really raises the red flag for me. Pllease be very careful. You are in a vulnerable state and he should be aware of that. If things go any further down this path I would say it is time to find a new therapist.

Violet31 likes this

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Posted (edited)

Hey there,

Just from what you said, in my own opinion, I don't see any problems.

1) All of my therapists have cried in front of me, and most within the first couple months. If he is crying as a reaction to stuff you have said, I don't think that's a problem, unless it bothers you.

2) I know the person above mentioned they thought this was a red flag, but I honestly see it as advice. As a health care worker, you are probably a very caring person, and you probably deal with some pretty difficult stuff. It is just general dating advice, especially for people in service-type professions, to date someone who has a similar job. You would probably have more in common with that person, and you would understand each other's struggles better. He may also have recognized that you need a partner who is understanding, compassionate and a good listener, so suggesting someone in social work may have just been his way of letting you know a good filter for finding those types of people.

3) I see this as being kind and considerate, not really a red flag. He probably cares about you, and if you are struggling financially but are benefiting from therapy, I could totally understand that he would let a few payments slip while things got better for you.

Again, this is just my opinion, but I really don't see any of those things themselves as signs that there is anything more than one human who cares about another. However, tone and body language are the tell-tale signs for attraction, so only you can really tell.

The thing that worries me is that you said YOU are sexually and emotionally attracted to him. I'm not you, but I think it would be hard to work with someone I was attracted to. I think that regardless of how he feels, you should probably decide what you are going to do based on your own feelings.

My piece of advice (which seems to always be my advice on this subforum :sigh: ) would be to talk to him about what you are feeling. If those things that you mentioned make you uncomfortable, then tell him that. You are still getting to know each other, so he might just not have a good idea of how best to interact with you yet. I would also be honest with him and let him know what your feelings are, and see if you can still find a way to work together, or if maybe he can help you find a new therapist. As difficult as it is to be open and honest (and I know, myself, I am super guilty of hiding things from therapists for long long periods of time) it really is the best thing you can do to get the most out of therapy.

I wish you the best, and please keep us posted!

Smiles,

Nessa

Edited by nessa

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Posted (edited)

Sorry for the confusion but I gotta disagree. He is there to help you as a professional, not as a "friend" or whatever.

Forgetting about attraction and all that, just think of one thing - if you are someway interested in him emotionally or sexually and if this goes beyond the point it is at now, how will this affect

a. His judgement

b. His career. You may not think it, but that is most definitely a Red Flag if ever there was one. All grand and hunky dory while things going ok, but what happens if they don't.

An analogy - I was a lecturer. I have seen so many unreally beautiful women in the classes. But supposing I just ended up with one. That would open up a barrel of cr@p it would make Pandora's Box seem like a Christmas Cracker (If I gave her a bad grade: Harassment. If I gave her a good grade: Favouritism). Now thats in a domain where not much deeply personal information is passed. All it takes is one jealous work colleague to spill the beans and hey presto - his career in tatters. We live in a cynical and cut-throat world at times. Its Fight Club, not Mills & Boons.

Am I saying not give up on your emotions? No. What I would suggest is that if this urge is continuing, and if you can't fight it, well then, change theraphist and then follow up on your emotions. I believe in love but in certain situations you have to be aware.

Sorry for the ****-joy attitude but hey, you did ask for an opinion. More than anything I hope you are ok in the long run and I am sorry for being the f@rt in a phonebox about it.

Edited by StoniumFrog

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Posted

There are a lot of pertinent facts that are not clear here, but the ones that are indicate a very simple solution: 1) Get a new therapist 2) this opens you up free and clear with #1 to move ahead however might be appropriate. There are a lot of "lines" here....simplify, and reach out for happiness.

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Posted

Thanks everyone for the feedback, I really appreciate it :sigh:

Forgot to mention two other things that are very relevant:

-Before my breakup but while things were rough with my partner, he suggested I bring my SO in for a couples session. So I did. Granted, my SO was definitely not right for me and the relationship was crap, but my T ended up cornering my SO and just telling him how crap he was, what he should be changing, and that I had made a decision to move out. I didn't speak one word in this session, and was bit shocked. My SO was sooo angry after the session.

I brought it up with my T later on, and he apologized and said that he normally doesn't let his own biases interfere with a couple's session but with mine he did.

Also, my T is fairly recently divorced and I think he's single.

I'm not looking for a particular answer, I really do want both opinions on this. I guess I'm trying to figure out if this is something I can "talk" through with him or if I should just go get a new therapist and take things from there. He has really helped me on several things, but obviously therapy can't continue if these "feelings/attractions" don't go away.

Feel free to ask me about more details, if that helps.

Thanks again everyone!

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Posted

The T is totally out of line professionally. Move on...then you can decide how your personal affairs can be best managed for personal happiness. IMHO.

Imim and MisterDavid like this

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Posted

Sorry for the confusion but I gotta disagree. He is there to help you as a professional, not as a "friend" or whatever.

Forgetting about attraction and all that, just think of one thing - if you are someway interested in him emotionally or sexually and if this goes beyond the point it is at now, how will this affect

a. His judgement

b. His career. You may not think it, but that is most definitely a Red Flag if ever there was one. All grand and hunky dory while things going ok, but what happens if they don't.

An analogy - I was a lecturer. I have seen so many unreally beautiful women in the classes. But supposing I just ended up with one. That would open up a barrel of cr@p it would make Pandora's Box seem like a Christmas Cracker (If I gave her a bad grade: Harassment. If I gave her a good grade: Favouritism). Now thats in a domain where not much deeply personal information is passed. All it takes is one jealous work colleague to spill the beans and hey presto - his career in tatters. We live in a cynical and cut-throat world at times. Its Fight Club, not Mills & Boons.

Am I saying not give up on your emotions? No. What I would suggest is that if this urge is continuing, and if you can't fight it, well then, change theraphist and then follow up on your emotions. I believe in love but in certain situations you have to be aware.

Sorry for the ****-joy attitude but hey, you did ask for an opinion. More than anything I hope you are ok in the long run and I am sorry for being the f@rt in a phonebox about it.

LOL, Stonium, I think I'm falling in love with you! "It's Fight Club, not Mills and Boons". Props for bringing up that old romance stuff from back in the day. I haven't read one of those books since the mid-90's.

But seriously, Hippocampus...I'm with the folks who say you need to proceed with caution. This could be a slippery slope. I agree with Nessa that you should talk to him about this.

hippocampus likes this

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Posted

agree w/ @sufferinsilence

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Posted

I had to cancel my appointment this week so no resolution...hehe...avoidance much?

Subliminal likes this

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Posted

I would like to add, you are in no way avoiding, but doing something healthy for yourself.

You're actually giving yourself time to sort it out, perhaps even continue to share here.. and especially get support & advice from the female members, who will understand it from that perspective.

Altogether, I would agree that the 'treading carefully' notion implied with the responses that have been shared here - is one to go with.

Best wishes in figuring things out, and also with the community at large here, brimming with ideas :)

hippocampus likes this

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Posted

I had to cancel my appointment this week so no resolution...hehe...avoidance much?

yes, I think you are avoiding the issue instead of confronting; it would be best to bring it out in the open and see what he says.

as others suggested, go ahead and talk to him about these things bothering you and possibly look for another therapist. you are NOT hanging out with him as a friend, he is your therapist, you are the patient and as such, professional decorum should be observed at ALL TIMES.

if he is truly attracted to you, it won't change just by discussing it with him, so I think its best to find another therapist. when he's no longer your therapist and he decides to pursue you further, I don't see anything wrong with it. if your relationship develops to more than friendship, so be it.

Live and love,

-Im

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Posted

Well to be fair, I really did have to cancel to do unforeseen circumstances. I am seeing him either next week or the week after. I don't know if I have the courage to discuss this with him.... :unsure:

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Posted (edited)

I had to cancel my appointment this week so no resolution...hehe...avoidance much?

yes, I think you are avoiding the issue instead of confronting; it would be best to bring it out in the open and see what he says.

as others suggested, go ahead and talk to him about these things bothering you and possibly look for another therapist. you are NOT hanging out with him as a friend, he is your therapist, you are the patient and as such, professional decorum should be observed at ALL TIMES.

if he is truly attracted to you, it won't change just by discussing it with him, so I think its best to find another therapist. when he's no longer your therapist and he decides to pursue you further, I don't see anything wrong with it. if your relationship develops to more than friendship, so be it.

Live and love,

-Im

hi @Imim

i have to agree with you - what is Professional, stays Professional.. regardless of any external influences.

speaking to her therapist is the fastest way get it straightened out, but, I still think that @hippocampus may have needed a bit of time to sort things through her mind.. prior to taking action, as we share our suggestions with her here.

However, any longer.. than a supposedly appropriate time to consider or to cancel the appointment a second time may be in the area of avoidance.

And of course, as a Therapist (Social Worker) or any other field of work.. Strictly Professional means Strictly Professional.

It is his duty to ensure that nothing else enters into the line of work. He should know it.

@hippocampus do you have any family members or relatives you can confide in about this, or speak to to discuss what your strategy or plan may be going about this?

also, I have to agree with @imim that if he is attracted to you then speaking to him about it won't change anything - and should it be the case, I feel it is best to switch therapists, as the Professional Decorum @imim certainly has to be observed at All times. After which, whether he decides to pursue you or you him - can be a separate matter aside from YOUR therapy which YOU Need for your healing, where external influences can be distractions.

P.S. I feel social workers and therapists (helping others) should be respectful enough of whoever they're helping and of THEMSELVES to have the morals and INTEGRITY not to cross the line. They have to know better. If they actually cross the line of professionalism, it's an immediate sign a switch has to take place.

Edited by Subliminal
hippocampus and Imim like this

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Posted (edited)

Can you write down your concerns and present it to your therapist? He can read what you have to say and either discuss it with you at this appointment or schedule a time after he has collected his thoughts himself. If it isn't put out on the table for discussion you won't be sure until it is possibly too late. That would not be healthy for either of you. Please let us know how things go for you. :hugs:

Edited by sufferinsilence
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Posted (edited)

Hi, thanks for the feedback. Yes, I have discussed this with a friend of mine. She has already given me the name of another therapist and suggested I switch immediately. I have thought about writing him first about my thoughts and feelings...I have his email address, and I think you're right that it might be a good idea to send him my written thoughts and feelings first. I just have this feeling that he will ask me to come in person to discuss anyway, but like you said, at least he will have time to think it over first before discussing with me...

I will definitely post when there's an update!

Edited by hippocampus
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Posted

Pardon e typo in my latest post.

Meant: "as the professional decorum @imim *Had Mentioned* certainly has to be observed at all times"

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Posted

P.S. I feel social workers and therapists (helping others) should be respectful enough of whoever they're helping and of THEMSELVES to have the morals and INTEGRITY not to cross the line. They have to know better. If they actually cross the line of professionalism, it's an immediate sign a switch has to take place.

I totally agree. Counselors and psychiatrists should observe professional decorum at all times. More often than not, patients come to them for help and it is safe to assume that most, if not all patients that seek treatment are emotionally and/or mentally vulnerable. They should not take advantage of their patients so that IF they think/feel they cannot act appropriately towards a patient, they must end the therapist (or pdoc)- patient relationship and refer their patients to another professional. What happens later outside of their practice is now up to them. Just my opinion

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Posted (edited)

Hi Hippocampus.

You're in a tough situation and I hope you're doing okay. Let us know how it goes. I have friends who are therapists, and sexual involvement with a client is the biggest taboo in the industry. I'm not sure how it is for social workers, but for psychologists and counsellors, The APA's Code of Ethics even prohibits sexual contact two years *after* the cessation of therapy. This is to protect the client/patient, because the power balance between a therapist and client is completely abnormal for a romantic relationship. I've copied the section below.

p.s. I think even if he has not considered you as a romantic/sexual partner, the fact that you are so attracted to him means you should seek another therapist. I do think some level of attraction is inevitable at times, and can be a distraction even if you're not interested in a relationship with the person -- this is why ALL of my therapists have been female (except when I was in couples' counseling with my husband).

Hugs and best wishes to you,

Lauryn

-------------------------------------

10.08 SEXUAL INTIMACIES WITH FORMER THERAPY CLIENTS/PATIENTS

(a) Psychologists do not engage in sexual intimacies with former clients/patients for at least two years after cessation or termination of therapy.

(b) Psychologists do not engage in sexual intimacies with former clients/patients even after a two-year interval except in the most unusual circumstances. Psychologists who engage in such activity after the two years following cessation or termination of therapy and of having no sexual contact with the former client/patient bear the burden of demonstrating that there has been no exploitation, in light of all relevant factors, including (1) the amount of time that has passed since therapy terminated; (2) the nature, duration, and intensity of the therapy; (3) the circumstances of termination; (4) the client's/ patient's personal history; (5) the client's/patient's current mental status; (6) the likelihood of adverse impact on the client/patient; and (7) any statements or actions made by the therapist during the course of therapy suggesting or inviting the possibility of a post-termination sexual or romantic relationship with the client/patient. (See also Standard 3.05, Multiple Relationships.)

Edited by LaurynJcat
nessa, Imim, NorthernStar and 1 other like this

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Posted

Quick update: Have been completely distracted by other things going in my life, but finally went in to see my T today.

We were discussing my ex (who is trying to get me back) and dating, he said I'm attractive, and I shouldn't go back to my ex (for various reasons, which I agree with). He then said he's not supposed to say that but feels protective towards me. I am still totally attracted to him, so I am going to write him a letter to end the therapy ask him why he feels protective of me, and let him know how I feel about everything.

Anyone else ever had a therapist say they felt "protective" of them?

sage1777 likes this

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Posted

Hey hun!

Thanks for the update...I've been wondering if you had another appointment with him.

I think the letter sounds like a great idea - letters are always nice, because you can plan out what you want to say ahead of time, and make sure everything gets out. I always chicken out at the last minute when I know I need to talk about something, so writing it down ahead of time works.

In terms of a therapist saying they feel "protective" of their clients - it has happened to me before. Most people in general feel protective of me (I'm short and look young, and can seem naive because I'm generally very accepting of people...so it kind of brings out people's protective instincts) but I have definitely had therapists say it. I've never had a male therapist say it though (but I haven't had many male therapists). It actually always makes me feel better when I hear it, like a reminder that they care and have my best interests at heart.

How did you feel when he said it? Was it comforting, or unsettling?

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Posted

hippocampus, you need to walk away. Now.

This therapist is manipulating you for his own purposes.

SpiritSage has given you the best advice of all these posters

(although I think everyone has posted useful advice here).

This therapist is NOT someone whom we should coddle or try to empathize with;

we should not be looking for his supposed good intentions.

This situation is one where there is an IMBALANCE of POWER.

hippocampus, please do yourself the favor of leaving this therapist.

Forum Editor: PLEASE do not delete this post!

PLEASE let the woman hear advice from all points of view!

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Posted

hippocampus, you're better off ending your therapy sessions with him. Better back off now before this guy who is acting unprofessionally takes full advantage of you.

don't be swayed by his being protective of you, that is pure BS!

If your therapist was female and said she was protective of you, I would think it may be her maternal instincts and will take it positively;

but for a male therapist to say that and he probably knows you're attracted to him, I'd stay it is best to stay away from him now before any untoward incident happens later.

Live and love,

-Im

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Posted

Thanks for the differing opinions. I do think that I need to terminate therapy with him and find someone else.

I am writing him a letter explaining everything that I think and feel about our relationship, and that I am terminating our therapy. I'm really nervous about sending it :shocked:

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Posted

Thanks for the differing opinions. I do think that I need to terminate therapy with him and find someone else.

I am writing him a letter explaining everything that I think and feel about our relationship, and that I am terminating our therapy. I'm really nervous about sending it :shocked:

I hope that regardless of his response to your letter (if you decide to send it), you DO NOT change your mind about terminating therapy. If you decide not to send it and quit seeing him, you do not owe him an explanation. If, in case he pursues you for an explanation, just tell him you're not friends, you're his patient. Period.

There is no doubt that your therapy sessions with this guy is not going to be productive. Worse case scenario, he takes advantage of you and leaves you high and dry. Then you'll be far worse than when you started. I hope you find a therapist that can truly help you, not take advantage of you.

Live and love,

-Im

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