In Harm’s Way: Thoughts and Reflections on an Unwelcome Struggle
Dr. Sandra Black was a familiar face from my lectures, seminars, and study groups. Attractive and intense, yet shy and private, she seemed liked and respected by everyone, yet close to no one. When she requested consultation on her work with dissociative disorder patients, we went over a number of tapes of therapy sessions she had conducted. I found her to be an astute clinician with excellent skills, judgment, and insight. When I told her this and wondered (in jest) why she would waste her time and money to receive consultation when she was qualified to be a consultant, she blushed with embarrassment at the praise but became clearly uncomfortable. The next time we met she told me that she had been sexually abused as a child; she admitted she had really come for consultation to size me up as a potential therapist. Over the years, many colleagues have approached me for treatment after “auditioning” me in this manner. It is a mixed blessing: the traumatized colleague feels he or she knows me well enough to be safe with me, but usually learns so much about me in the process that the transference becomes somewhat contaminated and muddied.