I have been suffering from an Eating Disorder since I was 14, now 30yrs. In treatment currently with therapist twice a week and dietitian. Seeing therapist for a year. I have past history of physical and psychological abuse by both parents, and psychological abuse from ex-boyfriend. Depression, Anxiety, PTSD.

Abuse started when I was very young. Hated my parents growing up, hence moved 3 states away at 19 years old to escape. Never looked back. We now have a better relationship as I am continuing therapy and learning new ways of coping with THEIR anxiety and issues. I have been more open and honest with them and forgave the abuse years ago. Problem is that I was never taken care of as a child. I was very independent for fear of relying on my parents. They beat us and I didn't want their love, even if they offered. I shut down at a very young age. I never experienced the love and affection of a caring mother and therefore now fear any hugs or caring touch from anyone. I can initiate it for the younger children that are a part of my life, knowing that I never had that.

My question is this:

Is it ok to ask my therapist to hold me during our session? We are both female and she knows about my past. We have a really great therapeutic relationship and I know that she enjoys seeing me. She has commented numerous times that she wishes she could just hold me until the pain goes away and I am ok.
I have even written out my wants and needs to her and stated that I just want to be held and loved. I am so afraid of rejection that I can't ask. I know that there are professional boundaries and guidelines that she needs to adhere to and that is where I fear the rejection will come in. She is very caring and loving, but also extremely professional. I fear asking. I know that is what she wants....me to ask for what I need. I just don't want to ask and risk embarrassment. But I know that this is ultimately what I need to heal. I know it can't be this way everytime, I just need to feel loved and cared for. I can't even cry more than a few tears before everything just dries up and gets stuffed back down for next time. Yes, I have asked friends, it's just not the same. Yes, I understand transference and all the parameters...I do my research as I want to be informed of the process.

Is asking her to hold me crossing the therapist/client boundary?

Any input would be appreciated.


2859 days ago
Hello there. I am not sure if it is crossing a boundary or not. I am thinking it might be a gray area but leaning more towards crossing a boundary. The thing is this...therapists have to be careful about touch, so they do not trigger you, so they do not get sued later on, lots of reasons. Some therapists do not do any touch of any kind, no pats on back, no hugs, nothing. Some are more lenient. I think it depends partly on where you live, (what laws there are there) the therapists orientation (CBT, person centered, etc). Ultimately it would be up to the therapist. The thing about theraputic boundaries that it is the therapists job to uphold them. But I do not want you getting rejected for something so I see why it is good to think it through. I think if you could talk about how you WISH your therapist could hold you why you cry with your therapist, this would actually be very good. It would be a very good starting point. Interesting anecdote: I had occassionally wished that my therapist would hug me, although I knew that it was more of a wish to be comforted and that really is not my therapists job. One day when I was particularly anxious and upset my therapist did offer to hug me, and I said no. I surprised myself but I realized I just wanted it to remain a wish, it is a sign for me that I have unmet needs and hurts and sometimes I need those signs so I know what to work on in therapy. Talk to your therapist about your wish, about how you cannot really cry. See what happens. All my best. Junie

2859 days ago
Usually a therapist psychologist etc, isn't supposed to touch their clients for obvious reasons but I imagine some do give an occasional innocent hug. I think you should simply explain your request like you did here. She may have a strict policy regarding boundaries and you shouldn't take this as a 'rejection', since it's not personal to you - she would do the same to any patient. If she doesn't permit hugs, you could ask her to recommend a reputable 'touch therapist'. You wouldn't have to quit going to her but just supplement a few tries with a touch therapist.

2858 days ago
Thank you both for your thoughts. I have a better, clearer understanding of where I need to go with this. : )