Sometimes I don’t think much about my personal safety. I mean I feel pretty safe everyday. I probably live like most people cautious but overall safety matters don’t dawn on me. In the last few months I have had to deal with a client who is beginning to invade my personal comfort and safety zone. In Brief the client is seeing me about DV issues and I have figured out there are boundary issues with women. That should be apparent but sometimes things take a while to sink in. I think our nature (at least mine) as counselors is to feel we can help anyone. But every time the client left the building I felt more uneasy knowing I would have to see him again.
It was the way he always TRIED to hug me (I had to establish that boundary quickly). When hugging didn’t work he wanted to shake hands, another boundary that had to be set. But what really made me uneasy is how he plotted to come back in the day and pay me when I was by myself. It was the way he hung in the doorway and wanted to apologize for trying to touch me because “I’m just that kind of person.” After that I made a phone call to my clinical supervisor who immediately removed him from my caseload.
Bottom line. Trust your instincts. It doesn’t matter if you are a male or female counselor your clients can develop crushes on you and obsessions with you. If you feel like something is amiss go with that thought. Talk to someone who can help you sort out what you are experiencing. In the end it could save you, literally.
Julie North is an in home family counselor in a rural county in South-Central Michigan. She has a private practice and is currently being trained in TF-CBT and complex trauma therapies.