Ask Ellie: Man attracted to his therapist wonders if he should let her know
QUESTION: Several months ago, I’d become emotionally “out of sorts” and sought counselling (firsttime).
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 40s 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? — Dilemma
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 therapistclient relationships.
QUESTION: My daughter, 22, recently told me that the same-age young man she’d been seeing had physically abused/assaulted her.
I had a panic attack, but managed to drive to the police station where she revealed all the details of what happened that night.
He’s now in jail, and will go through the criminal system.
How do I help my daughter make her hurt go away? I often find her crying in her room, and it breaks my heart.
How can she survive this and be the young happy girl she once was?
I also cannot help blaming myself. How did I not notice this or see it sooner? I feel I failed her as a mother and her protector. I fear he’d start pursuing her again and she’d speak with him.
The authorities made it clear to both that he’s not to come near her or any places he knows she’d frequent. How do I protect her? — Heartbroken Mother ANSWER: Many therapists and counselling agencies offer specific sexual abuse counselling and related resources which can be found online.
Your daughter, the prime victim, needs bolstering to believe it wasn’t her fault, plus confirmation for her courage in speaking out.
You need separate counselling assurance that you’re not a failed mother.
Her upbringing at home contributed to her inner strength to handle this painful event. Now your ongoing support is essential.
Falling apart with sorrow and self-blame is an especially wrong message for her at this time.
Reader’s Commentary: On one more option for the man with humiliating body odour:
“In 2005, I was told by someone I could no longer go somewhere because people couldn’t stand the smell of me.
I went to see my family doctor who was a holistic type.
He immediately tested me for a zinc deficiency .... and “Bingo.”
I started on a daily supplement regime of zinc (bisglycinate 155mg), as well as copper (bisglycinate 2mg) because zinc will deplete your body’s supply of copper if you don’t), and have done so ever since.
My body odour problem went away and never returned.”
Ellie: I remind readers that even with suggestions of over-the-counter supplements, it’s important to first see a physician in case there are other medically-based causes for body odour.
It’s equally important to be clinically tested for any suggested deficiency, and not rely on another person’s experience and reaction. TIP OF THE DAY If you fall for a helpful therapist, know the potential pitfalls in even suggesting a social relationship.