Why love and counseling don’t mix – ethical Loophole 4

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Falling in love in recovery.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

This time love is not the answer.

We thoroughly enjoy our romance. Everyone can connect with the story of Cinderella and the price, wouldn’t it be nice if every commoner girl could find and marry her prince charming?

There is a whole category of books devoted to romance. There are plenty of films that script out the story of someone who finally meets this wonderful person who makes their life complete, and they live happily ever after. It is when we try to bring that fantasy into the real world that things go wrong.

Men, particularly older men have this fantasy, that should some woman, usually, a beautiful younger woman, enter their life, they will have wild passionate sex and live happily ever after. As long as this stays in the world of fiction this may cause few problems.

When these fantasies make their way into the counseling room this looks less like a flowery romance and more like a fatal car crash viewed in slow motion.

It is not unusual for a client to find they are falling in love with their therapist. They may be weak, vulnerable, and needing love and affection. Clinicians are taught to be aware of this and to work on helping the client learn to love again without taking unfair advantage of the client and becoming that new romantic partner.

Some codes of ethics say that a therapist or counselor should never date or become romantically involved. Some set limits, 2 years, five years, or more. The thought here is that after many years of not being in a professional relationship, then should you meet a former client on a cruise or at a school function you might establish a relationship. Even here the counselor is supposed to make a note in the chart indicating they thought about this, that enough time has passed and they believe this will not harm the client.

This is critical; will falling in love with former client harm them? By the way, ending therapy and giving the client a love letter saying call me in two years on date X and then we can date. That is just as bad as starting up the relationship while the counselor is still seeing them.

Given all these warnings why do counselors still engage in romantic and sexual relationships with clients?

Every time the new professional magazine arrives we see a list of professionals whose licenses have been suspended or revoked. Counselors who started using drugs or abused alcohol is always a big one. But right up there, sometimes in first place, are the reports of therapists that engaged in sex with a client.

Why does this happen? What is the ethical loophole that people stick their heads through that ends up strangling them?

Frequently this ethics issue begins with the counselor entertaining the notion that yes sometimes it is possible to fall in love with a client and live happier ever after. No, they would not do it, but they can see how it might be all right sometimes for some counselors and clients.

This can also start with the idea that it is possible for a counselor to develop an outside social relationship or friendship, without it becoming sexual. Sometimes it starts with attending a social event, going to a movie or having dinner together. There are all the usual excuses, the client needs to feel safe going out, we are helping them learn to make friends or socialize.

But having once said that it may be OK to have some dual relationship with a client that sometimes it might be OK for some counselors and clients to fall in love and have a romantic sexual relationship, it becomes possible that this time, they and this client, that is one of those exceptions to the rule.

Once we start making exceptions, looking for loopholes, sooner or later we are at risk to put our heads through that hole. Why should we care if an occasional therapist has sex with a client, maybe the code of ethics is too strict?

We should care because those relationships are inherently unequal and have a serious potential to harm the weaker party, commonly this weaker person is the client.

Falling in love with a client, that one is always a bad idea. Beware the tendency to look for loopholes. Many an unwary counselor has tried to put their head through this one and ended up hung.

David Joel Miller, LMFT, LPCC

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!

My newest book is now available. It was my opportunity to try on a new genre. I’ve been working on this book for several years, but now seem like the right time to publish it.

Story Bureau.

Story Bureau is a thrilling Dystopian Post-Apocalyptic adventure in the Surviving the Apocalypse series.

Baldwin struggles to survive life in a post-apocalyptic world where the government controls everything.

As society collapses and his family gets plunged into poverty, Baldwin takes a job in the capital city, working for a government agency called the Story Bureau. He discovers the Story Bureau is not a benign news outlet but a sinister government plot to manipulate society.

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Dark Family Secrets: Doris wants to get her life back, but small-town prejudice could shatter her dreams.

Casino Robbery Arthur Mitchell escapes the trauma of watching his girlfriend die. But the killers know he’s a witness and want him dead.

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

Letters from the Dead: The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead, and you could be next?

Sasquatch. Three things about us, you should know. One, we have seen the past. Two, we’re trapped there. Three, I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to our own time.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

Attachment Styles – childhood follows you into adult life

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

child

Child.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Are attachment problems a mental illness?

The way you relate to adults, especially your parents or primary caregiver during childhood can affect the way you relate to others for the rest of your life.

Generally, these kinds of problems show up in a very young child, and if severe enough and noticed by a professional they will get diagnosed as a mental illness needing treatment. The only attachment disorder formally recognized as a “DSM” disorder is Reactive Attachment Disorder of Infancy or Early Childhood.

Any therapist in practice with adults will tell you that a lot of what we are working on with our adult clients are things from childhood that need to be addressed now because they are interfering with the client’s relationships at home, at work, or friendships. Or these problems are making the client miserable.

The notion that relationships between caregivers and children will affect their relationships the rest of their life came from many sources, but two, John Bowlby and Harry Harlow were especially important. Bowlby studied orphans after World War Two and Harlow studied monkeys raised by mechanical “mothers.”

Harlow found that monkey babies would nurse from “wire mothers” but when done would go cuddle with soft cloth “mothers” even though the cloth mothers provided no food. The conclusion here seems well established. Just providing for a child’s physical needs, food, and shelter, is not enough. How that child is cuddled and loved affects their development for the rest of their life.

Bowlby discovered that some orphans had been so deficient in “mothering” that they could not relate appropriately to others as they matured. (We now think fathering is important also see “Fatherneed” by Pruett.)

Early relationships with a caregiver need to be sufficiently nurturing for the child to survive, so closeness is important. As the child grows they also need to develop autonomy, the belief they can do things without the caregiver. Balancing closeness and individuality are tasks humans must undergo to become separate adults who are still capable of close intimate relationships with others as adults.

How a child reacts to others is not solely the result of the parent’s behavior. Not every childhood problem is the mother’s fault. Some children are born fearful and clingy and others are born explorers. The difficult, cranky child can train the caregiver to leave it alone.

The application of Attachment theory has caused some problems when some of my colleagues jumped to unwarranted conclusions that every child’s behavior problems were the parents’ fault, often based on observing a child and parent interact during a relatively brief period of time.

Professionals who do attachment work describe children as having one of four ways of attaching to a caregiver. These are from attachment theory and not all people who use this theory agree on these labels and descriptions.

1. Secure attachment.

A securely attached child likes to be with the caregiver and is able to leave the caregiver and explore but runs back to the caregiver when frightened.

2. Avoidant attachment.

This child has come to expect that the caregiver will hurt them or will not meet their needs. This child does not seek out their caregiver and is just as likely to play with a stranger as with the parent.

These children are over quick to make new relationships with people they do not know and do not seem to get upset when the person they are with leaves.

Sometimes it is hard to tell if a child is avoidant with their caregiver or very, very secure, and does not need much contact with the caregiver to feel safe. Parents with very outgoing self-confident children have been accused of failing to bond with their children because of the child’s ability to function without the parent in the room.

3. Anxiously or resistantly attached.

This child is fearful with or without the parent. This child can’t be reassured by either the parent or a stranger. Children like this may become angry when the caregiver leaves and continue to be angry when they return.

4. Disorganized attachment

A child becomes disorganized during interactions with the caregiver. They may resort to the primitive “F’s” and freeze, flee or fight. This child may disassociate, speak incoherently, or have a loss of memory as a result of interacting with a caregiver they perceive as harmful.

These four “types” of attachment are not universally accepted and a person can have elements of one or more attachment style. A particular attachment style can vary from mild to strong in severity and all attachment styles are influenced by an individual’s personality.

The one attachment issue that has made its way into the DSM-4 and can be diagnosed as a separate mental illness is 313.89 Reactive Attachment Disorder of Infancy or Early Childhood which is then divided into two types, Inhibited Type (like resistant above) and Disinhibited type.

A person with disinhibited attachment disorder will form overly close relationships with people they barely know. This is the type of person to stop a stranger on the street and then begin to tell them all about the most intimate personal issues of their life.

These clinical definitions are extreme cases.

Some adults will report their parents were never there for them and were non-affirming. This results in a personality style of being self-sufficient or avoiding others.

Other adults believe that their caregiver was over-involved and controlling and did not allow them to develop a secure sense of self.

Learning life skills that may have been missing from your childhood learning can be described as “inner child work” or “re-parenting.” The goal for the client in these situations should be to develop the attachment skills that are lacking and to learn the developmental tasks that should have been learned at an earlier stage.

Various schools of psychotherapy will approach the task of addressing attachment issues in adults in quite different fashions.

Have you had to go back and work on attachment issues or do you still struggle with these problems? If something worked for you what worked?

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!

My newest book is now available. It was my opportunity to try on a new genre. I’ve been working on this book for several years, but now seem like the right time to publish it.

Story Bureau.

Story Bureau is a thrilling Dystopian Post-Apocalyptic adventure in the Surviving the Apocalypse series.

Baldwin struggles to survive life in a post-apocalyptic world where the government controls everything.

As society collapses and his family gets plunged into poverty, Baldwin takes a job in the capital city, working for a government agency called the Story Bureau. He discovers the Story Bureau is not a benign news outlet but a sinister government plot to manipulate society.

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Dark Family Secrets: Doris wants to get her life back, but small-town prejudice could shatter her dreams.

Casino Robbery Arthur Mitchell escapes the trauma of watching his girlfriend die. But the killers know he’s a witness and want him dead.

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

Letters from the Dead: The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead, and you could be next?

Sasquatch. Three things about us, you should know. One, we have seen the past. Two, we’re trapped there. Three, I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to our own time.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel