An account of how I learned to be a helping professional – not an instruction manual, but a prompt for you to explore your own story .
This came more to the fore with another female client, a single mother with two or may be three teenage daughters. The girls were, she felt, completely out of her control and she was clearly frightened by what was happening and by her fears for what might happen. We established regular counselling sessions, and a colleague worked alongside me with the most troubled of the daughters.
I realised after a while that I was looking forward to the sessions with the mother rather more strongly than would normally be the case and that I had begun to feel attracted to her. Actually, in writing this down, it makes the feelings rather more obvious than I realised at the time, but I was sufficiently worried to discuss this case in supervision and to refer to these feelings. My supervisor, who as you may have realised from my last blog entry was of a Freudian disposition, saw the issue as a reflection of the client’s forbidden sexual desire that she had formed for me, and he spoke in graphic and physical terms about their nature e.g. the desire to bite and to suck.
My sense of shock about this lingered for many weeks – the possibility of such openness about the nature of sexual desire had seemed I suppose, to belong to pornographic or forbidden fiction, and to private rather shameful fantasies. I had sometimes been reluctant to acknowledge them as part of common human experience, all the more powerful for being repressed or kept secret. It made me contemplate how, six years into a profession in which the secret confusing drivers of destructive behaviour were supposedly at the centre of the job. I was still as disturbed by the reality of sexual feeling as a school boy.
But of course it is commonplace for clients and their counsellors to find they have sexual feelings for each other – there would be no need for the regulatory taboo against acting these feelings out were that not the case. You did not need to be a Freudian analyst to realise that.
Whilst ‘being important’ is something perhaps to which we all aspire, it is an uncomfortable place to be. My first team as a probation manager was located in an office that more or less overlooked the local library. There were not a few evenings when we would look across the road with envy, the library being such a haven of quiet and unnoticed reflection in our imagination.