The Crush

The Crush

Challenging Our Culture of Avoidance

By Mary Jo Barrett

March/April 2002

Before it happened to me, I had never heard even my closest colleague talk about falling in love with a client. In our consultation group, the subject was once broached purely theoretically, and everyone became uncomfortably quiet. Nobody shared a personal experience. The message we gave each other was clear: Whatever you do, don't talk about having a crush on a client! And that may be why I would rather write about being seen naked by a client at the health club, or dealing with anti-Semitic remarks in session, than describe to you what happened.

Yet, I want to break our conspiracy of silence so that we can get help when we need it. And believe me, when it came to Scott, I did.

Scott was 34 years old when he was referred to my therapy center by the courts. He had nearly strangled a truck loader who had made a major mistake at his metals manufacturing company, and in previous years, police had been called on three different occasions by girlfriends he'd struck in late-night arguments. He had never been in therapy before he saw me. Unmarried, childless and an amateur jazz musician, he worked hard by day and hung out with famous and creative people at night. He was gorgeous, at least to my taste: tall, well-built and (like many men with a history of violence) charming, intelligent and a champion at forming relationships.

Although I had spent years working with violent offenders like Scott, from the beginning, I wasn't sure I would be a match for him. I was…

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