We have now seen several groups of postings by non-professionals on various aspects of inappropriate therapist behavior. Most recently, some of these people have protested the restriction of this Forum to professionals--
which, as you know, is the specific mission of this enterprise.
These outraged postings provide good examples of transferance: a generalized sense of violation, abandonment, and powerlessness aggressively expressed toward a recipient who is perceived to have caused the wounding that has led to the rage. Note that the targets have, variously, been all psychologists, male psychologists, this Form's psychologists, and "Dr. Marty Klein," as constructed in the minds of the writers.
All of the writers say they feel violated. Undoubtedly, some of them have been. All of them feel they have been in a relationship in which their partner (their therapist, this Forum, me, etc.) has violated their boundaries. Note that many of these people feel a right to violate OTHERS' boundaries--in this case, the professional nature of this Forum, not to mention attacks on me and an entire profession. This illustrates an important dynamic--
vulnerability to being boundary-violated is closely related to difficulties in respecting boundaries. To put it another way, difficulty in maintaining one's own boundaries makes one vulnerable to others' exploitation--and typically co-occurs with difficulty in respecting others' boundaries as well.
We should not be surprised at this phenomenon. Does this mean that all boundary violations are equivalent? In terms of content, of course not. Psychodynamically, however, we can see structural similarities. This willingness to violate another's boundaries should not be mistaken for a sense of entitlement that comes from high self-esteem. If anything, it expresses a poor sense of self.
This group of postings reminds us of another issue: the importance of a therapeutic alliance when working with transference. Obviously, there is no therapeutic contract with people writing into this Forum. Thus, they are not obliged to give a Moderator who simply maintains Forum boundaries the benefit of the doubt; nor to carefully consider an interpretation of their behavior; nor to examine the impact of their behavior; nor to consider the irrelevance of their emotions in this particular context. This should remind us to establish a firm a therapeutic alliance with a patient before working with transference, or we run the risk of undermining the therapy.
The obvious pain of the people who are in fact exploited by therapists presents a difficult challenge to the rest of us. We certainly want to empower our patients to deal with exploitation in the most positive way possible. We also have another interest--challenging exploitative therapists and letting them know they are being watched by colleagues. How can we balance these entirely separate things? We must be very careful not to use an already-exploited patient to pursue the very honorable goal of policing our profession.
Finally, let me remind us that transference and countertransference are not " bad." They are fundamental phenomena in the therapeutic relationship. They each provide clinicians with valuable information. What we do with this information often determines the value of the therapy.
Those interested in the issue of lay people having access to this Forum should see my post at the bottom of the Forum.
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