Man finds himself falling for helpful therapist
DEAR ELLIE: Several months ago, I’d become emotionally “out of sorts” and sought counselling (first-time).
I’m male, early 60’s, professional background, permanently separated, no dependents.
At a family services agency, a Cognitive Psychologist was assigned.
She’s in her 40’s and within six sessions, was unlocking a long-lingering issue (from my childhood).
I’ve been able to identify and manage it, and my mood disappeared.
We ended the sessions, and, at a “group social” event, she was nearly always around me.
During the hour-long sessions, we’d communicated with a level of intimacy and occasional humour that astonished me — always strictly professional, yet anyone would sense my growing attraction to her.
However, I’m especially sensitive to the perils of “crossing the line.”
The LAST THING I’d ever wish to do is place her in a position (even by perception) that compromises her standing with her employer.
But I want to know her better, and wonder as to whether, and how, I can express my feelings.
While it’s different if she’s “attached,” I do have some information suggesting that she is not. I don’t want to lose her friendship (our obvious rapport). What’s your advice about my revealing personal interest in this woman?
ANSWER: Decide first whether you’d ever want to see her professionally again. If so, any attempt to see her socially would end that possibility. If not, there’s still the question of “how to approach.” Be aware that it’s not uncommon for some therapy clients and even medical patients, to feel a special “bond” with the professional who helps them.
Make contact with a simple question, such as, “would it be appropriate if we met away from your office for a coffee and social conversation?”
It’s respectful and restrained, yet fairly clear that you’re not seeing this as a professional encounter. Her answer will likely be even clearer. If she’s willing to meet, you’re on a new social level. If she’s not, it should be no surprise or insult, given common professional rules against therapist-client relationships.
TIP OF THE DAY If you fall for a helpful therapist, know the potential pitfalls in even suggesting a social relationship.
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