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  • 0 NETWORKER EXCHANGEThe Ethical Dilemmas No One Talks About 12.29.2010 01:32
    Twenty years ago I saw a client who fell in love with me. His expression of this love was the same action he had felt compelled to use to try to keep his former wife from leaving him: he bought her a fur coat, then a new car, then a swimming pool.

    She in fact did leave him at the peak of a depression caused by severe physical injury on the job, rendering him disabled. I shepherded him through many hospitalizations and recovery to the point where he was able to regain his hope for a better life and a return to physical activity.
    He was a truly delightful gentleman and on a personal level, I found him to be rather exciting (my counter transference) since he was the Santa Claus I’d never known in my young life.

    However, I held on to my clinical/ethical/sane/ known self and sacrificed my momentary, yet powerfully compelling, desire to discontinue therapy and/or accept the gift he offered. It shocked me how much this required of me, this wild ride on the therapy boat, steering it through rapids. I dragged into the therapy issues of need, power, and love. Both of us found it difficult to admit culpability, but if there was ever was a chicken or egg question, it was clear that the reason for his coming to see me never did include looking for a wife in the yellow pages of therapists.

    What was the gift? Deprived of asking me to marry him, my client told me he’d visited his attorney and arranged to leave his (considerable) acreage and home – yes, to me - in his will! I told him I can’t accept it – pure and simple. I love my work, I told him, and I don’t want to lose my license. He told me his attorney told him this happens all the time and it’s fine– it was a gift of gratitude for my services, etc. I was still hooked on “being given to” and it took all my strength to say no again and again.

    In the weeks that followed, all documented, we slugged through a number of painful issues with more candor than I knew I had in me - his need for control, his lack of belief that he is a lovable human being without having to prove anything, his unwillingness to take no for an answer and the resultant lack of authentic connection, my appreciation for his generous spirit and, yes, for him, and finally the goal of all therapy and transferences of love and need – the joy of knowing and feeling your human heart. His job was to take that inside himself and be open to new life outside of our work together, for it would surely happen, I told him.

    He was wounded, but realistic about what therapy can and cannot be. This, of course, opened the door to growth.

    During this time, I consulted with colleagues. Some of them joked, does he have a brother? But, I never would have taken this to a risk management/ethics conference, which usually creates and feeds paranoia with a focus on harm and pathology. I think I speak for a number of us who did not come into this field for those purposes. I completely agree with and applaud Dr. Zur’s writing that this healing work we do cannot be held to rigid, fear-based applications of “rules” that keep us away our humanity.

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