Saturday, August 05, 2006

I Wish I Could Socialize with My Therapist

So, an interesting thing has happened that got me thinking more profoundly about the proper boundaries one needs to maintain if you are in a doctor-patient relationship. It has become clear to me that I absolutely love my therapist. One of the reasons why I like her so much is that I feel like I am talking to a girlfriend when I go. She is the same age as me, has similar tastes, and is wildly funny. She originally hails from Austin, which only adds to her coolness. Her husband is Za's doctor. Za really digs her hubby alot too and was just rapping with him about his trip to Japan. He called me after his appointment and said: "Let's have the Hoopers over for dinner."

"That would be great," I thought.

"But, she is my therapist and he is your doctor. We can't do that; it violates the boundaries of care providers and patients," I thought better.

Those boundaries are even more intense when you are in therapy with someone. But, nonetheless I went to my therapy session and told her that Za and I were wishing we could be friends with her and her husband. She laughed and said that they had been discussing this too. So, we all four acknowledge that we would be great friends, but we can't because of the professional codes of conduct--codes which I don't wholly disagree with in the case of therapy. But, sigh. I really like them. My therapist and I decided to acknowledge that in a different time we would've been great friends, but for now, we will keep our therapist-patient relationship.

I imagine that socializing with her would be fun and awkward. If conversation slided into personal problems and such, her therapist nature might kick and I would feel like I should be writing a check. Moreover, one of the best things about therapy, in my opinion, is that you don't socialize with your therapist. You see, if you treat all your friends as your therapist, soon they recoil when you start to talk about your woes. Your friends just get maxxed out. And, that's not cool. So, you need a therapist for processing all of that stuff without fear that you are wearing him or her down.

On the other hand, I can't help but think about how therapists are to us modern day folk, what our pastors and priests were in a different time. And, heck, there is nothing stopping you from having your pastor over for a family meal. Moreover, in small towns like mine, you would've found country doctors in a different time, who would be, in some cases, as close as family.

As the medical profession has grown more specialized and professionalized, relationships with our healers are more stilted. We recognize that this is a sterile sort of interaction, with all sorts of precautions in place to prevent malpractice lawsuits. We have a harder time opening up to our physicians for precisely these reasons. We see these people for 5 minutes, and they try to rush our conversation along so they can get to their other patients. Insurance companies dictate what care they will pay for and so physicians have less control over the healing process.

Alas, I am left wishing that I could go shopping and gossip with my therapist. Za will continue looking forward to his check-ups with her husband to joke around. And our relationships with the Hoopers will be confined to these circumscribed, highly regulated moments.