When You’re in a Professional Relationship vs a Personal One.
No matter what type of relationship you’re in, the first thing you want is a good fit. So how do you achieve this? Ask questions. I don’t mean like an interview, or an interrogation. But it is important. How do you find what you need?
In a pro relationship, you need to keep some distance. They aren’t your friend or lover. They’re not a family member either.
But they are someone that you’ll have to tell things you might not even tell your spouse. Like a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher or a therapist. You’ll find you have an odd blend of issues with authority and reliance, and trust that you have to navigate together.
They have to keep you at a distance, reduce attachment so they can walk away at the end of their day and not be a basket case, eg when you disclose trauma. And they don’t always succeed. Esp if it’s some trauma they’ve been thru themselves.
You have to find a way to confide in and trust them. And keep yourself as an autonomous being. So you can say no when they offer you advice. It is just advice after all. It’s your life it has to fit into. So when your professional goals/relationship is over, you can walk away. Sure, you’ll miss them.
So how do you navigate this initial exchange? Without breaching their boundaries? Without triggering their biases? And still get what you need from them and the relationship?
When I do this navigation, I tend to ask them at a distance. Over the phone or email/letter. They can answer what they are willing to.
I ask in a way that makes it about my needs. Vs what they bring to the table. I need someone I can rely on over and above all things. So I need to get my head around what that need is.
- When looking for a lawyer, do I need family, civil contract, landlord tenant, criminal……?
- When I need a doctor, do I need a GP, a specialist, an ER doctor? Do I need someone who is geared to tests or more of a supportive relationship?
With therapists, it’s a bit harder to navigate this initial query phase. But you still want the same goals when dealing with a professional.
- A good fit,
- someone who can meet your needs.
- Someone you’re safe with.
But they tend to get testy when you appear to be interviewing them. Prob cuzz it’s a more intimate relationship. Esp in some types more than others. eg sex therapy. But it’s not like you can go from therapist to therapist, getting more and more disillusioned as after months or years in, you realize they’ve done you more harm than good. And you have to separate yourself from them and try again. Presuming that they will tolerate that as a pro.
And how does a person who is in crisis do all this? Esp if they have been trying and failing over several such relationships? Esp when they keep getting push-back from the people they want on their side.
To keep distance, therapists talk about boundaries and yes those are important. Or they talk about transference/counter-transference. But they keep to themselves that these are typical to the therapeutic endeavour. Struggles over autonomy, trust and authority are all part of the process. Or you just weren’t in it. A trained therapist will help you navigate that. One who is distant and cold won’t and aren’t worth your time or theirs.
But you do need to go thru it and find a way to stay separate enough that you don’t tolerate breaches of ethics or create a stalker vibe for them.
And really, it might be more than nice to know that your marital therapist is in a healthy relationship. That your coach about your addictions knows more than what’s in the textbook. Or the person you seek out when you’re having troubles about your kid has one. But you don’t need to know how often they’re having sex. Where they went to dinner last night (unless you saw them out). Or if their kid had a fever last night. Do you see the difference?
You do need to know that they’re in it for as long as they need in the way you need it. And it’s ok to find out if they are that person. Before you actually engage their services.
So what do you think are good questions to ask of a professional? And what is a clear case of MYOB?