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Does it bother you to know so little about your tdoc's life outside the office?


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I have been going to the same p/tdoc for over three years now, and although I have had some pdocs for longer, I've never had much luck with therapy so never have had such a long-term relationship with a therapist. In retrospect, this is the first meaningful relationship I've ever had with a therapist. I'm 60, and had my first psychiatric treatment (of any kind) when I was 40. I had two tdocs early on for about one year each, but I gave up on therapy since it didn't seem to help. I have consistently been under the care of a pdoc since 40, although there have been multiple pdocs due to moving and pdoc retirements.

Now that I've been talking with this p/tdoc for all this time, it occurs to me what a strange relationship it is. He arguably knows me better than anyone else, although if you add up three years of one hour sessions, it's not really that long of a time. I care for him very deeply, although not in an erotic way, and the deeper our relationship grows, the stranger it seems that it's so one-sided. I know a few basics about him - he's married, doesn't have kids, is a music lover, etc., but I never have (and never will) see how he acts around other people, know his opinions on what's going on in the world, know what kind of problems he's having, or any of the rest of his life.

He continues to take excellent care of me, and I thank him for it often. Our relationship is just as it's supposed to be by the rule book, but on some level it's disturbing to me to tell him all my darkest problems and not reciprocate by hearing about his. Have you had this feeling about your tdoc, and how have you dealt with it? 

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I feel much the same about the therapist that I have been seeing for 6 years.  She's too good for her current location and position and I fear losing her.  Like you, I would like for the relationship to be more of a reciprocal sharing of emotions and experiences, but I know that's impossible.  

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On 5/25/2020 at 8:04 PM, Catnapper said:

 I care for him very deeply, although not in an erotic way, and the deeper our relationship grows, the stranger it seems that it's so one-sided. I know a few basics about him - he's married, doesn't have kids, is a music lover, etc., but I never have (and never will) see how he acts around other people, know his opinions on what's going on in the world, know what kind of problems he's having, or any of the rest of his life.

He continues to take excellent care of me, and I thank him for it often. Our relationship is just as it's supposed to be by the rule book, but on some level it's disturbing to me to tell him all my darkest problems and not reciprocate by hearing about his. Have you had this feeling about your tdoc, and how have you dealt with it? 

I can understand how you feel, and it might be hard to accept, but the relationship between therapist and patient is supposed to be a professional relationship, IMO.....The focus is supposed to be on you and your needs, not the therapist--after all, you are the one paying for it...........Some therapists will reveal minor information about themselves, such as maybe marital status, or if they have kids, etc, and some won't even reveal anything personal.

There's also another reason why most therapists might not choose to reveal their personal struggles or problems with patients.....A patient's personal information is protected by HIPPA laws......Any information a therapist reveals to you about themselves, is totally unprotected....A patient could potentially tell anyone about their therapist's problems.

Not to imply that you would do such a thing, but some patients could not be trusted, therefore the majority of therapists don't share more than the absolute minimum about themselves.

I'm glad you have a good therapist, though--they are hard to find.

 

Edited by CrazyRedhead
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The therapeutic relationships that I've gotten the most out of seem to be the ones in which I start to wonder how they really feel, who they really are, what they are like as a person.  If I don't start to wonder at all, I dont get much out of it.  I don't really know why, maybe something about the quality of relationship?  

I don't think they should share too much about their lives.  It weirds me out a little when therapeutic people over share with me, like why are you telling me this and what am I supposed to do with this information.  It reverses the nature of the relationship and makes it weird.  I feel like I think more about what the therapists that affect me more are actually like, though.

Edited by Banana Smurf
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I see things through a different experience. At one time I had a therapist with very inappropriate boundaries. I knew about her, about her kids, her kid’s serious and personal problems, and it all came to a bad end. I felt special to know so much, although probably she was that way with others, and it kept me from ending a bad therapy situation. Now I know nothing about my pdoc except that he skis and hikes. And that may be too much. I pay him to help me professionally, not be my friend, and at this point I want a very clear distinction. If a pdoc told me personal stuff like my former therapist did, I would run far away. Never again. 

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All I know about my current tdoc, is that she's married and has a kid in college.....That is all, and I've been seeing her for a year.

I know absolutely nothing personal about my pdoc......But I do see her professional credentials displayed on the wall, and that's enough for me.

Edited by CrazyRedhead
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Thank you all for your replies and sharing your experiences. I brought the subject up in this week's therapy and we talked about it for a little while. At some level I think I will always feel a certain amount of guilt for sharing the darkest part of my being with him without reciprocating. He has literally saved my life, and still is, and at the risk of using all these worn-out phrases and sounding like a Hallmark movie, I'll never be able to repay him. In my rational mind I realize that on some level this is a business relationship and I'm paying for the services of a trained professional, but still to me, rightly or wrongly, it's a lot more than that.  

My p/tdoc acknowledged my feelings as he always does, and said that he's glad to be able to help me and that it's rewarding for him to see his patients get better. I asked what was the longest time he's treated someone, and he said he's had some patients stay with him since he moved to this area about 12 years ago. He said that having long-term relationships with some of his patients is one of the most satisfying parts of his job.  

This all ties into one of the issues I'm working on with him, which is my ability (or lack thereof) to accept help when it's available. I'm lucky to have found him. One of the few goods things I've experienced during the quarantine is that during our telemedicine appointments, I've gotten to see his two cats in person (more or less). In our last appointment the cat walked by close to the camera, and then her tail blocked the camera a few times, which was a nice break and lightened the mood a bit.  

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I've thought about this a little more and realize it wouldn't be a good idea to have him reciprocate and tell me what's bothering him, as others have pointed out here. I don't have any need to know his personal business.

I think what's more important and within reasonable boundaries is to occasionally find out some basic things about him, or about his earlier research work. I've asked questions in the past along the lines of "What was your favorite subject in school?" or "What kind of music do you like?" I stay away from anything personal or political or religious, but a little bit of understanding about his interests makes him seem more human to me, and less like I'm talking into a void. But I only ask questions every once in a while, and we don't talk about them for very long. 

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i had a pdoc, who did some light cbt and stuff, say little tid bits

 

like when i failed my driving test, he said it took his son 5 times

 

i appreciated that

 

had a therapist overshare though. Ruined the dr/patient thing entirely

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Honestly I don't think it is any of my business about pdocs/tdocs personal life outside work. I know little about the goings on of my pdoc's life. He graduated from Harvard and his MD is from Harvard. His first internship as a psychiatrist was at the pain clinic at UCLA. Since I have chronic pain I find my pdoc is more understanding of that aspect of my diagnoses. I don't know if he is married or has children and actually I don't want to know. I have been seeing him for over a decade and he is great.

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My current tdoc and I actually had this conversation.  One of the things that came up is that I wonder if he is married and has kids.  His response was "what if I told you I was a breeder and had eight kids and supported donald Trump?"  (he then told me that he wasn't, but he didn't answer the question, which I saw was for a good reason.)  He has since shared small bits and pieces--he had a friend who was scheduled to come in March who hadn't gotten back to him about the fact that he didn't come--when I was complaining about a former friend who disappeared.

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I saw my first tdoc for four years, then moved to a substance abuse specialist tdoc for three years, and finally reverted to the original one. In total our relationship was nine years before I severed it. She shared a lot about her life, and It felt helpful and comforting at the time. 

I think I would have left earlier if I had been self aware enough to recognise that the boundaries were iffy. In the end she blatantly overstepped by using what she knew about my job to ask me to bypass some rules in getting her son's university application approved (I declined, if you're wondering).

The point in saying all this is that curiosity about the person we're vomiting our lives all over is natural, but it can turn bad. Especially if you find yourself hooked in with someone with dubious ethics, as I did. They're meant to be a blank slate.

I have not had a tdoc since, and now rely on my pdoc for both meds and therapy. I've been seeing her for five years now, and all I know about her is that she's an animal lover and where she studied.  It works for me. 

I'm glad you got to talk some of this out with your tdoc. It sounds like he's a good one. 

Edited by MiaB
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I basically know nothing about my current tdoc, and that’s absolutely fine. This isn’t a friendship, or a relationship... I’m there for him to help me, that’s it. I’ve seen him for more than a decade, at this point I feel comfortable talking about anything. I would honestly feel rude and prying asking him about anything personal, he clearly isn’t willing to share. 
 

I do know he likes to collect special artsy things (don’t really want to give details) because they’re in his office. 

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  • 4 weeks later...

It's very normal to want to know more, and knowing more than a little bit would be damaging... so how do we deal... hmm. When I ask my tdoc "how are you" he always answers honestly and in detail, I guess he is modelling for me that in the therapy room that question is taken seriously. And every now and then he says the odd thing about himself, he says "do you mind if i self-disclose?" first, as if I am going to say "yes, I do mind!" i'm not sure he gets how asking permission works. Anyway, it's fine.  I think that's it. I had another tdoc who spent a large portion of the session talking about himself, I could tell you all about him. 

It's cool that through the tele-health stuff you are getting to peek through a window into his home, that's really wonderful. A cat person, ❤️ 

 

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  • 1 year later...

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