Whenever the wind blows the way it is blowing now, on this cold April day struggling so mightily to escape the icy grasp of an unusually cold winter; whenever the wind howls around the corners of whatever building that protects me; whenever the wind howls through trees and shrubbery and grasses, or down the canyons or across prairie or high or low desert — whenever the wind howls like a hammer, it leaves me wide awake with terror.
I remember noticing this terror, or rather, becoming vaguely conscious of it for the first time, during my first backpacking trip in the Sierra Nevada, with the man who would become my second husband, back in summer 1979. We were hiking a portion of the John Muir Trail, an eight-day trip from Tuolomne Meadows to Devil’s Postpile. We had two hiking companions — a couple, actually: Bob’s therapist (or former therapist) and Don’s girlfriend, also a therapy client, who was 20 years younger than the 48-year old Don.
Yes, I am well aware now of the deep violation of professional boundaries. The metaphorically incestuous relationship between the therapist and his girlfriend was the most egregious. But Don’s relationship with Bob was also incestuous, in a different way. A therapist plays a specific role in the therapy relationship. It is an artificial relationship established for the sole purpose of helping the client work through his or her problems. The work takes place in an office, separated from normal interactions, in order to enhance the specificity of the relationship. A normal friendship is grounded on mutual sharing, on giving and getting from one another in relatively equal ways, and friendship activities take place anywhere the friends see fit.
Each member of a friendship dyad has equal power. In a therapy relationship, the therapist holds a position of power similar to that of a parent — one hopes, a good parent, preferably an ideal parent, or at the very least, an emotionally healthier parent than in one’s family of origin. The therapist has no investment in the client’s making specific choices, although the hope is that, as a result of the therapy session, the client will make healthier choices than in the past. There are…