Welcome to Format Free Friday, when I break the format of answering your questions and I dispense that which we rarely welcome in life: Unsolicited Advice.
I received an email this week from a woman who found me on Twitter. Apparently she was interested in working with me but was concerned that she might not be able to get past how “hot” I am. She apologized in advance for any offense that might be taken, knowing I’m married, and asked me for a referral for a therapist in her state. I emailed her to tell her that I don’t know of any therapists in her area and she wrote back to inquire why I declined her as a client.
Here’s my response:
I didn't decline you as a client. I presumed that since you asked for a referral for a therapist in your area, working with me would have proven to be too difficult for you. I'm not confused by what I look like, and I find myself thinking that if I was disfigured in some way, you wouldn't feel entitled to say, "I can't work with you. You're too difficult to look at." That said, if you think you can engage in a professional relationship with me, I'd be willing to try - but I take what I do very seriously and I won't tolerate having our work distracted by discussions about my physical appearance. Let me know your thoughts.
I then received an email from her informing me that she’s read my blog posts about a type of transference which occurs between a client and a therapist and that she believed that it was appropriate for clients to disclose erotic feelings for a therapist – that often it is such issues that catapult clients into therapy in the first place.
Yes and No.
Yes, it is appropriate for a client to discuss any such feeling with their therapist, and I have encouraged clients to enter that dialogue when such issues have presented in the past.
The thing is, this woman’s not my client. She’s a stranger who saw my picture and thought it would be appropriate to comment on my physical appearance while simultaneously inquiring about entering a professional relationship with me (she’s since informed me that she’ll have to sort out financial issues and will reach out in the future when she’s able to pay for therapy). Some people call this flirting. Others call it sexual harassment. Here’s what it’s not: Clinical transference.
You need to be in a clinical relationship to have this type of transference. Short of that qualifier, her comments aren’t that different than making catcalls to a woman on the sidewalk (though admittedly more classy).
So here’s the takeaway: Don’t bullshit yourself. If you’re flirting, call it what it is. Own it. Take personal responsibility for it. But don’t tell yourself stories. And if you’re going to play games, I’m definitely not the shrink for you.