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Borderline Personality Disorder: Google-Stalking Your Therapist

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  1. I feel I have to point out – some therapy models RELY on the therapist being a blank slate. If the client knows nothing, they have to make assumptions. Those assumptions indicate transference issues. The therapist watches very closely for any and all assumptions you’re making about them and reflects them back to you. It’s actually considered a step in the right direction for a client to transfer both good and bad qualities onto the blank therapist. So in some ways, googling your therapist is actually sabotaging your therapy. However, the curiosity drive is innate within all of us. So in some ways I don’t think it’s really necessary to explore everything. If you’re expected to divulge all about yourself it’s kind of inevitable, given the imbalance, that you will be curious about who it is you’re talking to. Exploring why someone else’s life is more fascinating than yours is sometimes really pointless since it’s kind of a normal human response. MOST people are curious about things they don’t know. It’s a drive to learn, to understand, to know. We’d all like to be flies on the wall of someone’s house that we respect and look up to. We are curious, it’s part of our evolutionary history! To say that is something which needs working on, is kind of silly. I think it needs to be brought up if it steps over a line into being obsessive and it’s taking over your life, but the odd google search here or there… no, there’s no issue with that. I wouldn’t mind if my therapist googled me! She’d have no cause to since I will tell her anything she asks though!

    Personally, beyond my therapist’s academic qualifications (Linkedin, professional websites and the BACP) I haven’t taken it further. I people-please to an obsessive, unhealthy level and totally lose myself. I don’t even know I’m doing it at the time. In that state I cannot be myself with the therapist. When they are a blank slate, I have nothing to go on, it forces me to a place of near authenticity. Sometimes I pick up on things and unconsciously start saying things and find myself thinking “where did that come from? I’m not sure I think that” then on closer inspection I realise it’s because I’ve picked up on something the therapist has said or their body language or tone of voice that hints at their opinion and I’m responding and giving them what I think they expect/want to hear. For instance recently I was discussing my religious upbringing and how it almost felt like I wouldn’t be loved by my mum if I wasn’t the perfect little Christian girl and my therapist’s tone of voice shifted and left me with the distinct impression she either is not a Christian or highly disagrees with that attitude (or both) so I found myself all of a sudden turning against Christianity when in actual fact I’m really unsure what I believe. However, that incident aside, while the therapist is an unknown quantity, it is easier for me to truly be myself. So in obsessively googling, I would make that harder for myself and I know I would.

    I think the line between googling someone out of sheer curiosity and taking it to the next level into being inappropriate is how you feel when doing it. Do you feel guilty? Do you hide what you’re doing from others? If so, that’s a clear indication you shouldn’t be doing it and you know it.

    I also want to point something out… in the case of Borderline Personality Disorder… NOT ALL do that! And when a BPD client does that, generally speaking they are not doing it maliciously (I’m sure some do but either way, it’s unfair to generalise to a population where the diagnostic criteria states 5 out of 9 symptoms must be present… not 5 specific ones so there are over 200 possible combinations, making the presentation of Borderlines EXCEPTIONALLY varied). There is a difference between struggling with an abrupt end to therapy and struggling to let your therapist go and therefore looking at their picture online, wondering what it would be like to accidentally bump into them, driving near their house but not close enough to freak them out etc than deliberately and intentionally causing fear. The first is born of a crisis inherent in BPD clients (this is a symptom that most if not all have); a fear of abandonment. They tend to cling to their therapists and the therapist quickly set up shop in their lives as someone they cannot live with or without (a “favourite”). Cut that relationship off without warning, they WILL struggle to let the therapist go, it’s almost inevitable if they aren’t given time to come to terms with the end of therapy and strategies to deal with it. They need that sense of connection, their identity and stability is not strong enough to deal without that.

    How do I know this? I have BPD. I’ve never stalked a therapist in the above fashion, but I have done it with other favourites; looking at their picture to feel that connection, wanting to be near to them, seeing what they’re up to on facebook etc. It’s not malicious. I never intend harm and it’s not done from anger. I just struggle with loss, to me it is like they have died, that is how intensely I feel the pain of abandonment (remember that with BPD comes an intensity of emotion out of the realms of the ordinary human experience). But because they HAVEN’T died and I know where they can be found, I often find myself driving nearby just to… be close I guess. It is harder in some ways than if they HAD died, because everyone would understand the intensity of the emotion of grief and I couldn’t make things harder for myself by behaving in this fashion. I couldn’t prolong the agony. I might end up visiting their grave obsessively instead or driving past where they used to live, but that would almost be considered appropriate for a time and you can’t cause a dead person fear of harm.

    However, I do appreciate your article, it was reassuring to know that most would not consider checking a therapist’s credentials before engaging them and lining their pockets with cash as a stalking behaviour. Potential employers do it, and that is essentially what is going on… an employee (therapist) to employer (client) relationship. If you cannot check them out before “hiring” them and spilling the most sensitive parts of your soul out to them, who IS entitled to do that?!

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