Defusing Sexual Attractions
The sexual and loving dimensions of clinical practice can be dangerous for both practitioner and patient . . . if they remain silent, unnamed, and denied. Under these conditions, the potential for acting upon these feelings increases.
-- Nancy A. Bridges, "Meaning and Management of Attraction," 1994
There is, unfortunately, no magic formula for resolving the difficulties of a situation that brings sexuality into your practice. When an attraction occurs--whether it is yours, the patient's, or mutual--the situation is likely to demand a unique solution, because both you and your patient are unique.
Each profession has specific guidelines regarding nonprofessional relationships, particularly romantic ones. Be certain that you know what they are. Write down everything that transpires between you, in the patient's records. Consider seeking some sort of supervision or outside advice; there is no time when you will need it more.
When a sexual "situation" presents itself in your practice, the power is in your hands to safeguard the patient, as well as yourself. But you can do this only if you carefully monitor yourself, as well as the patient. "A stereotypical response of beginning clinicians is to ignore sexual feelings with and toward patients until they become unbearable." 1 Unfortunately, this course of action only increases the risk to both parties. Ignoring or repressing the problem will not make it go away. It will only remove it from rational consideration.
It is necessary--when sexual overtones intrude into the doctor/patient relationship--to tread a very thin line, remaining caring while becoming neither cold and distant nor too friendly. If you feel unable to do this, you should consider referring this patient to someone who can.
The best way to prepare for such encounters with patients is to attend train-