Psycho-Babble Psychology Thread 779467

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are handshakes goodbye wih t acceptable?

Posted by widget on August 29, 2007, at 1:52:31

My therapist is a stickler for boundary rules. He knows of my intense feeling for him and is vigilant about enforcing the "rules". He once mentioned that this therapy enterprise is different from most social interactions and there is no touching, questionting if he had even shaken my hand upon first meeting me. Therefore, there is NO physical contact at all. So, the idea of touching him on the arm (just to feel his skin, his realness) becomes a focus for me. If only....Is it reasonable to ask him for this? Am I making a mountain out of a molehill?

At the end of each session, I feel a sense of non-closure that I truly believe a handshake (casual) would ease, offering a seal and official tempoary end to the intimate encounter. I worry that he is so skiddish about the physical contact because of my admittedly erotic feelings toward him. However, this "all hand off" is almost making it more of an issue than it deserves to be. I sometimes feel like a leper with whom he must avoid psychicl contact or pay a very dear cost. If I could just make contact, I think I would feel peace and some acceptance. Is this too much to ask him? I'd really like some feedback as this haunts me every session from the begininng on. Is he scared of me? Is he afraid of giving me the wrong message? And, if he does by such an innocuous means, then that should be looked at. Please, I'm not so scary. Advice please?


Re: are handshakes goodbye wih t acceptable? widget

Posted by Quintal on August 29, 2007, at 4:35:40

In reply to are handshakes goodbye wih t acceptable?, posted by widget on August 29, 2007, at 1:52:31

It's probably not a good idea to push it if he feels uncomfortable with physical contact. I suppose this must vary a lot between therapists, but those are his boundaries. Mine once said we could do a session naked if I wanted. I don't remember how the conversation turned to that topic. 'Rebirth' or 'Primal Scream' therapy I think, but a lot of her techniques were way out there, so I guess it goes with the territory. I am male, but a gay one, and I think she knew that. I suppose that's one reason why she might have been more comfortable with things like that? I'm not sure. I can't see her suggesting this to any Tom, Dick or Harry, but I could be wrong. She was a college counselor too.

I'm starting to realize what an intimate relationship I had with my T compared to some here, though I didn't think anything of it at the time. I even went to her house on one occasion. She drove me there for a session because I wanted to ritually burn an effigy that I'd made. The college Health & Safety guidelines prohibited that kind of thing, so we figured her back yard would be a better place. What type of therapy are you having? Mine was a humanistic counselor, and I think they are well known for being more informal than some other approaches.



Re: are handshakes goodbye wih t acceptable?

Posted by JoniS on August 29, 2007, at 7:28:29

In reply to are handshakes goodbye wih t acceptable?, posted by widget on August 29, 2007, at 1:52:31

I think sometime in the past several months I was wanting the same thing. That physical touch was a big desire. I never did talk to my T about it, the desire just subsided. I wonder if you could just ask him if it would be ok? Of course, he will probably ask you why that is important to you... and then he may go into the "boundaries" talk. but if you can hear that - take the risk that it MAY happen but it is NOT a rejection of you in any way, then go for it. You know it's a risk but if you get what you want, it's awesome.

Good Luck


Re: are handshakes goodbye wih t acceptable? widget

Posted by honore on August 29, 2007, at 10:12:37

In reply to are handshakes goodbye wih t acceptable?, posted by widget on August 29, 2007, at 1:52:31

It's hard to know whether a handshake truly would give you the closure you seek, or whether it wouldn't become a moment fraught with all sorts of covert and obsessive possible meanings. I wonder if you wouldn't begin to focus on it, and interpret the small differences in the way your T shook your hand-- worrying that if he was hesitant seeming, he was angry, or hoping, that if he held your hand harder, he was beginning to be attracted, or well-- many other things.

For that reason, it might be better to keep the no touching rule in place, because in the end, it wouldn't comfort you, but really torment you more.

My T has the same rule, although I need a lot of different and careful rituals around the end of appointments-- like a sense of moving toward the ending in steps and with awareness of how much time is left-- in order to feel that it isn't an abrupt cutting off-- Maybe some sort of ritual or saying goodbye, without touching, could help you have the sense of closure, or the certainty of the continuity with the next time.

I don't know what the touching and the admission of love means to you, or is necessary for-- other than to assure you of being special-- but maybe it stands for the other person's not disappearing, for a solidifying of the connection and a promise of its permanence and importance, that otherwise feels missing to you.

These are things that can be worked on, and feelings that can be slowly developed, even without touching and without romantic love. I'm sure you've talked a lot about why the romantic aspect of love is so important. I wonder, though, if you talk about when it feels most important-- and why at those times? My T would always ask that-- and of course it would always frustrate me-- why is it so important right now? And there were reasons why it became more pressing at times-- even if I didn't like to admit it.

There were times when it didn't seem as though it mattered as much-- and times when it suddenly became like a crucial issue without which nothing else mattered. (This still happens at times, but much less often.)

So I think there's a lot of reason to believe that you can be special to your T without his feeling romantic love for you, or being willing to act it out-- or without his feeling that it's in your best interest (or his) to have any touch, even a casual handshake. (And do you really believe that any contact with him would be casual, after all?) I think that's what you might need to think about-- whether you may not be special, and important, despite the limitations.



Re: are handshakes goodbye wih t acceptable?

Posted by RealMe on August 29, 2007, at 10:46:15

In reply to Re: are handshakes goodbye wih t acceptable? widget, posted by honore on August 29, 2007, at 10:12:37

I don't think the handshake would give you comfort. See Honore's post for more details. I agree with her that it might actually make things worse.

My therapist shoke my hand when we met, and that is it. I know that if I wanted to shake his hand after every session, we would be analyzing why that was I needed that. He will be open to exploring with me why I might have erotic feelings for him which I have had on and off, and he is aware of this, but we are talking about other things, and he knows the feelings are not there right now. I think the erotic feelings one has for a therapist have different meanings for different people, and it would be disasterous as well as unethical to have sex with a patient. I guess if you took it to the ultimate, what do you think you would benefit, for example, from having sex with your therapist.



Re: are handshakes goodbye wih t acceptable? widget

Posted by Dinah on August 29, 2007, at 20:30:53

In reply to are handshakes goodbye wih t acceptable?, posted by widget on August 29, 2007, at 1:52:31

I think different therapists have different boundaries and different comfort zones. It's interesting to see what different therapists find acceptable, but it doesn't change what *our* therapists are comfortable with.

I suspect each and every one of us hears things that makes us wish this or that boundary wasn't as tight with our own therapist. My therapist wouldn't call me unless I asked him to. Even if he knew I was upset. But he's fine with handshakes or even hugs. I think I'm glad about that since I might obsess about it if it weren't allowed, but since it is, it's no big deal.

I know this isn't always helpful, but whenever I run into a boundary in any relationship, I think to myself that ok, they won't give me this, but they do give me that and the other. I sort of remind myself that different people can give different things. I know that's not always helpful.

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