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The Sensuous Psychiatrists

Female therapists rarely if ever sleep with their male patients. I finally located one female therapist in New York who had, but this took place in an atmosphere in which her husband-therapist had all but abandoned her for sexual relations with many of his young female patients. There have also been a few reports of male therapists sleeping with male patients, but this is rare. Male patients who are propositioned generally find it easier to say no than women do.

Perhaps male therapists, like male artists in our society, are seen as, or fear themselves to be, more feminine than business executives, soldiers or politicians. It is therefore important to them to be able to "have" as many women as do their presumably more masculine counterparts.

Sexual encounters between patients and their therapists may be a relatively new phenomenon in New York, but historically they are not unprecedented. Many analysts in Freud's time had "love affairs" with or married their female patients when the comparatively short (three to six months) treatment process common in those days was completed. Reich's first wife, Bernfeld's last wife, Rado's third wife, and one of Fenichel's wives were former patients. Freud's disciple Tausk had a love affair with a former female patient, sixteen years his junior. Freud himself encouraged a prominent American analyst to marry a former patient. W. Bern Wolfe, a gifted psychiatrist, was forced to flee the United States in the 1930s for "impairing the morals" of a girl he was treating. Dr. James McCartney, a therapist who encourages sex between male therapists and their female patients (when "necessary"), claims that a number of well-known psychiatrists (Hadley, Sullivan, Alexander, and Reich) told him, despite their writings to the contrary, that "they allowed their patients physically to act out."

Freud once said of a patient, "What this lady really needs is a prescription reading: Rx penis normalis, repetetur." But the founding father has also been quoted as saying, "If you start with a kiss you risk an ultimately very lively scene."

In New York, there have been some lively scenes. One woman refused to sleep with her therapist, then told her husband, who was also seeing the doctor, about the proposition. The wife wanted to end the treatment. But, as often happens, the doctor turned the woman's "illness" on her in an attempt to discredit her.

". . . Women over 35 insisted that they were to blame; they were the real seducers . . ."

Sandra: "I decided that I owed it to Mark [her husband] to go up with him and confront the group we're all in together. So I go up and there's Dr. X and his two assistants sitting there and I figure, well, the cards are stacked against me. Dr. X says, 'Well, well, tell us what happened.' So I tell the story again, and then he proceeds to tell the group how I was provocative to him, how I wore a miniskirt, which I always wear. He made it look as if I were coming up there to seduce him, not to have a session. Then he says I'm using this lie of a proposition to cop out of therapy. He reminded me that I didn't quit a job I once had just because my boss made a pass at me. Then all of a sudden, we're sitting there and he's starting to say things like: 'Sandra, you know how dishonest you are, how dishonest you are with Mark, there are things you haven't told him . . .' [He was referring to a brief affair she'd had.] And I started crying, 'I'm getting out of here.' I mean it was like a kangaroo court. When we left, Mark said to me, 'What haven't you told me, what did you do?' He forgot all about what Dr. X did . . . everything got twisted."

Joyce: "And then I had a dream about going to bed with him. And he said, 'Ah, transference at last'—in his accent. The week before, he'd made me put my head on his lap just like I used to do with my father when I had a bad headache, and he'd stroked my hair. It was very warm. I was a little girl and he was my father. Then his hand slipped . . . The next session he helped me on with my coat, turned me around to him and kissed me quite passionately. And I was quite shocked. And then I burst into tears. I'm melodramatic anyway, but I was really upset. Because I didn't know what to make of it. And I said, 'Why did you do that?' It was a stupid question to ask, really, and he said, 'What? Do what? What are you talking about?' And I said, 'Kiss me.' 'I don't know what you mean,' he said. He was really playing into my hang-up. Because my parents would do that to me. Whenever my mother did something and I said, 'Why did you do that?' she'd go, 'What? I didn't do anything.' "


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  • Archive: “Features
  • From the Jun 19, 1972 issue of New York
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