Friday, December 19, 2008

Mutual Attraction Between Therapist and Patient

Bird Dog sent me this post from Dr Joy Bliss over at Maggie's Farm who wrote a piece about a column in the Psychiatric Times from Dec 1 about a female psychiatry resident who developed romantic feelings towards a patient.  The resident's supervisor's reaction drew scorn in Joy's post for blaming the resident for the sin of being human:
"Well, I am glad she finally got to Dr. Gabbard, because he is one smart guy. Still, I found her supervisor's reponse deeply disheartening and soulless - if not neutered.

Fact is, as everybody knows, humans are prone to affection, attraction and attachment and there is nothing necessarily different about whether that occurs in a shrink's office, or between a businessman and his secretary, teacher and student, clergyman and congregant, trainer and client, doctor and nurse, lawyer and client, classmates, or business associates and office colleagues. Romantic feelings in offices (like many other emotions) are ubiquitous. Sometimes it's mutual... 
When you put people together, things of all sorts happen. Analysts and psychotherapists have the peculiar and challenging task of figuring those things out rather than acting on them."
She got help and referred the patient out, but I thought the post deserved attention so am linking it here. Interesting to read in the comments about the attempt to contact said psychiatrist, a Dr Lindsay Raymer at Baylor.

Thanks, Bird Dog.

6 comments:

Tiny Shrink said...

As a "navel-gazer" myself, I appreciated her introspective article. I agree mildly with some of the commenters who felt she intellectualized too much, but she clearly didn't act on these feelings and was able to complete the patient's therapy, which is commendable.

I am somewhat concerned for this resident's safety, as it seemed to be pretty easy to find her contact information, and now it is splashed over the internet. True, she wrote an article under her full name and residency affiliation, and had no expectation of privacy, but I am still concerned about some of the more "anti-psych" commenters. Perhaps I'm just paranoid (actually, that's probably likely)...

FooFoo5 said...

Clink mentioned a bit ago about an interest in women who are "attracted" (whatever...) to inmates. I would note that this is not an uncommon event for healthcare professionals in correctional facilities (e.g. right in your own backyard!) The shock at walking into a facility to hear (or worse see) that a clinician has been "walked off" (i.e. securely escorted out the front gate) for a "relationship" with an inmate never ceases to shock. They should know better? Yea, just like the chief-psychiatrist who completed suicide. By comparison, when a psychologist is walked off for possessing a box of box-cutters, or nurse is using facility medications (one "asleep in her car with the needle still in her arm), or a CO is selling drugs or tobacco (all equally stupid), I am not usually surprised. My bias?

I told a colleague who recently was hired by the CDCR, "If you get hooked-up with a prisoner, you better be sure to let me know from somewhere on the east coast." Preferably not Maryland.

Therapy Patient said...

I enjoyed the resident psychiatrist's article, but I felt that the posters on the "Maggie" site quoted her out of of context warping the meaning and ridiculed her. It's really worrisome they have her email and may have her phone number as well.

From a patient viewpoint, reading her account made me realize how much more complicated transference is for the therapist. It's uncomfortable from both sides because most patients also realize it's an impossible situation. The only "good" part of transference for me was that it seemed to make the therapeutic relationship more effective. I felt more supported, more strengthened, more empowered.

Roia said...

It is indeed "human" to be attracted to patients (and experience patients' attraction), so I didn't find that aspect of the article to be of issue. And I thought it took some courage for the author to share her struggles with this rather difficult issue.

What I found somewhat frustrating was the fact that, in spite of addressing transference and countertransference, the actual content of the article could have been much deeper. There was no mention, for example, of projective identification. It just seemed to me that, rather than simply intellectualizing, the resident's description of the situation wasn't as introspective as I would have preferred. But, well, maybe that's just my personal preference.

I was rather surprised, at any rate, to read the rather caustic reactions of those who commented on the article. It seems to me the real point to be made about the whole thing is that this resident made the (wise, I think) decision to look at her feelings with a more experienced supervisor. That doesn't necessarily make her a hero, but it does make her a responsible psychiatrist/therapist.

Anonymous said...

we (psychiatrist/patient) are so in lust with each other, can't think straight, what a package we are ,now that the therapy is complete. Freud you really can stick your theory.

Anonymous said...

it is not always just a matter of being "in lust" often it is as simple as a man and a woman falling in love.