Is My Counselor Being Inappropriate? Guest blog by listener Mutindi Marie

Is My Counselor Being Inappropriate? Guest blog by listener Mutindi Marie

I started going to counseling when I was 25.  My counselor was a pastor and respected man in his 50s.  At the time I was in a deep depression and was suicidal.  I had never been in counseling before so I didn’t know what the counselor/client relationship was supposed to be like.  At the time, I wanted to die, and going to this counselor was the only hope that I could hold on to.  I depended on him.  I gave him my trust, and I told him my deepest thoughts, feelings, and fears.  This brought me a sense of closeness to him.  He emphasized that closeness.

I had often wondered if our friendship that came from the many counseling sessions was too close of a relationship.  It is hard to differentiate what should and shouldn’t have happened between us.  We became really close and I did feel loved by him, but should I have?  Was my counselor being inappropriate?  How do you know when to tell someone to stop loving you when you feel so alone and horrible about yourself as I did at the time?  It seems like I should have been able to figure it out, but in the midst of things, all I knew was that I needed him so that I could stay alive.
Was I responsible to stop something that I didn’t even know was happening?  If so, when should I have known to stop it?  Was my counselor being inappropriate?  Here are some examples of the things that my counselor did that took us down this path.
He:
  • Sat next to me on the couch in his office when I was severely depressed
  • Held me while I cried
  • Got me a free membership at a gym
  • Found a place for me to volunteer where his wife worked
  • Talked with me on the phone at any time when I was sad or wanted to die
  • Let me stay at his house for safety on a night when I was going to kill myself
  • Confided in me about his struggles
  • Asked me if I would still trust him if it was found out that he had done something wrong
  • Took me on a fast ride in his son’s sports car just because
  • Met with me at a coffee shop one day instead of his office to tell me he was fired as a counselor because he had an affair with another client
  • Told me he had been seduced by the woman client he had the affair with
  • Continued to see me one on one after being fired as a counselor
  • Met me at my work and took me out to lunch regularly
  • Called and talked to me for hours when his wife was out of town
  • Hung up on me when we were talking on the phone if his wife came into the room with him
  • Caused me to get suicidal because he was suicidal
  • Told me that I understood him in a way others did not
  • Didn’t tell his best friend about me because his best friends wouldn’t understand our special relationship
  • Held my hand while walking around the city
  • Kissed me on the top of the head when we would say goodbye
  • Told me that he loved me on a regular basis
Was my counselor being inappropriate?  Were any of these things ok?  These things made me feel special at a time in my life when I thought I was a horrible person.  Not being a counselor myself, I didn’t know about boundaries in counseling.  I didn’t know about relationship definitions between counselor and client and the possible negative impact these could have on my mental health.  I didn’t know that a counselor should just be a counselor or that I should be learning to have strength on my own and not get all my strength from my counselor.
How is a person in the midst of the biggest struggle of her life supposed to have the strength to stop something that she don’t even know could be wrong or damaging?  When someone loves you in what you thought was a pure love, how do you say no?
After years of these things, I ended up being the one to start questioning him.  I asked him if his wife knew about us meeting together.  I asked him if any of his friends knew about our friendship, especially his best friend.  I started questioning whether a married man should be telling his deep struggles to another woman.  I started wondering if I was the other woman…
…and then one day, when I called him, he said, “Oh, I didn’t know it was you.”  Then he hung up on me.  He never spoke to me again.  I guess I got my answer.
Sharing this makes me feel very exposed and even ashamed that I didn’t recognize what was happening sooner.  So, why do I tell all this?  I want you to know that these things are not ok.  I want you to be able to recognize some signs that your counselor may be going down the wrong road with you.  Maybe you can avoid the confusion and pain that I went through.  If your counselor is trying to become more than a counselor, it is not ok.  The counselor is not helping you at that point, they are helping themselves.  You need help from a counselor, not confusion.  You deserve not to be deceived or used for someone else’s gain.  Please know that you are worth having a safe counselor to go to.  A counselor that will respect you and the counseling relationship.