Ok, now I’ve got your attention.
In case you can’t be bothered reading this story, it’s a sad and sorry tale of a sexual relationship between therapist and client which, inevitably, turned sour. I do not raise this issue in order to heap yet more shame on the beleaguered Ms Bouwman. She has, after all, lost her reputation and her livelihood, not to mention her erstwhile lover. And to be fair to her, she did demonstrate that she is at least on nodding terms with the ethics of her profession by ending the therapeutic relationship before commencing the sexual one. So why do I feel compelled to comment? Because it is so wrong. So very, very wrong.
The purpose of psychotherapy, as far as I can make out anyway, is *to understand how we form and maintain attachments and to learn to regulate our internal experience – including past and present unmet needs – so we can engage with the external world in a reasonably functional way. (Please note that there is no mention there of ‘how to get my needs met’, a phrase which sends me into a spiral of despair and is banned from my therapy room.) This (*to understand….etc etc) is rather more difficult than it might sound. It is much easier to fall in love with your therapist in the hope that this love will soothe away all of your internal conflicts. (I suspect we all have an unconscious desire to merge blissfully with an idealised other; think baby suckling at mother’s breast and you are on the right lines.) It is your therapist’s job (yes, job as in responsibility) to take this transference and use it therapeutically, thus enabling you *to understand…etc etc.
This, in a rather rambling way, brings me to the point of this post. Of course it is flattering, and sometimes, dare I say, exciting, when a client says they fancy you/love you/want to shag you on the couch. We are only human, after all. But in order to use this material therapeutically - in service of the client (rather than in actually servicing the client as in Ms Bouwman’s case) – the therapist must be able to monitor, regulate and then use their subjective experience. This means having personal therapy. And very good, frequent, therapeutic supervision. And more therapy. And an intensive, experiential training which requires them to undertake their own personal therapy. And did I mention the importance of owning your own stuff through personal therapy?
The United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy requires all members to undertake personal therapy throughout the duration of their training, which is usually 4 or 5 years and therefore approximates 250 hours of personal therapy.
Counsellors, as far as I am aware (and I’m sure someone will correct me if I’m wrong) are required to undertake around 20 hours of personal therapy.
Clinical Psychologists and CBT practitioners are neither required nor encouraged to undertake personal therapy. Ms Bouwman is a Clinical Psychologist. I do wonder if there might be a link.
You may have gathered that I feel quite strongly about this. I confess that I am very suspicious of anyone who wants to be a therapist but is unwilling to trawl through their own internal world; it just smacks of wanting to tell people what to do, and that is no fun for anyone.
PS If you find yourself tempted, read David Mann’s Erotic Transference and Countertransference: Clinical Practice in Psychotherapy. It’s fab.