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Sponsored Post: Attraction To Clients: Why It Happens To Psychologists

Radical Second Things received a fee to publish this article.

Attraction is a natural emotion of the human species. Most almost everyone on our planet has been, will be, or currently is attracted to someone else. There are a lot of factors in attraction, some weighing more heavily on certain people than others. However, it can often be hard to quell your attraction urges. This can be an especially compromising position for psychologists who happen to become attracted to their patients.
For psychologists, this can be an incredibly detrimental position to be placed in. For example, a client may ask if you as the psychologist find them attractive. How do you respond to this? Irvin Yalom discussed this situation during his keynote in which he placed in this very predicament. Honesty, albeit an alternate world honesty, is the best policy.

So why do psychologists become attracted to their clients?

Psychologists Are Human

The first explanation is quite simple. Psychologists are human beings and as mentioned in the beginning of this article, attraction is a normal response in the human species. Attraction is an involuntary emotion or feeling towards another human being. It is undeniable and a human cannot simply control their attraction. They can, however, control the responses that they have to that attraction.

Treating a patient differently based on your degree of attraction to them is one of the worst things that a psychologist can do. A psychologist’s attraction to a patient must not cloud their judgement and recommendations.

Additionally, psychologists are in a unique position to take advantage of their client due to their relationship dynamic. This is an incredibly scary situation for both the psychologist and client. On one hand, the psychologist might unknowingly take advantage of the relationship if they do not realize how their attraction is affecting their guidance and care. On the other hand, the client probably will not realize if something is amiss. Who are they to tell the psychologist that the therapy and guidance they are providing is not correct?

Intimate/Personal Setting

Another reason that psychologists can sometimes be attracted to clients is because of the relationship dynamic itself. The psychologist-client relationship is a very personal and intimate setting. It is all about sharing deeply personal information; information about how one thinks, feels, acts, reacts, and fears. It particularly matter if the practitioner is a male or female, religious counselor or standard, or what they specialize in; all psychologists can become susceptible to attraction.

Other practitioners, such as medical doctors can still be attracted to their patients, however they are not placed in quite as intimate of a setting. The extent of their personalization generally has to do with medical history, family history, and surface level personal questions.
Attraction does not only come in the form of a physical attractiveness. People can feel emotionally, mentally, and spiritually attracted to another person. Physically attraction can even stem from another form of attraction. This is why the intimate setting can be such a driver of overall attraction. A psychologist truly gets to know their client, whereas even the client’s own family members may not.

Florence Nightingale Effect

This attraction is a common, and normal occurrence, and thus has earned itself a widely-recognized name.

The Florence Nightingale Effect occurs when a caregiver, such as a psychologist develops an attraction to his or her patients. This could be regardless of physical contact or if there is little communication between to two. However, in the case of a psychologist there should be more than enough communication. It is actually common for the effect to wear off once the client or patient has recovered or moved on.

The Florence Nightingale Effect is named after Florence Nightingale. She was a pioneer in the nursing world during the latter half of the 19th century. She was commonly known for making her rounds during the middle of the night, which was unprecedented at the time. This gave her the nickname, “The Lady with the Lamp”.

The funny thing about the Florence Nightingale Effect is that there is not actual record of her actually falling in love with a patient. She never even married because she was concerned it would interfere with her life’s passion for nursing.

In 1892 Albert Finney, an English actor used the phrase “Florence Nightingale syndrome” to refer to the effect. It had been used earlier as way to represent health workers pursuing non-tangible reward in their line of work. Even though it has an official sounding name, much like Stockholm Syndrome, it actually is not an officially recognized condition by the medical community. Another thing to note is that “Florence Nightingale Syndrome” is confused with but usually means something different than “Florence Nightingale effect”. The syndrome often refers to chronic fatigue disorder, whereas the effect deals with the subject of this article.

Andrew Fujii is a marketing professional with expertise in digital/web and content marketing. He is also a copywriter for multiple agencies and a contributes to the Christian Counseling of WPA blog.


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Michael Orion is a blogger, writer, artist and photographer based in the Bay Area. Besides his maintenance and promotion of Radical Second Things, he contributes to the San Francisco newspaper SF Western Edition, where he writes about local non-profit organizations.

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Radical Second Things is a liberation theology themed blog that has clear cut goals - we see the structural decline of the United States and much of the west and hope to present alternatives that will offer "a preferential option for the poor" as more become vulnerable.

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