Prolonged Exposure Fear of Sexually Exciting Therapist

Samantha_38

Confident
Anyone ever have fear of causing arousal in your T while talking through very specific details of sexual trauma?

I have had same T for 3 years. It has taken that long to get to the point where I can talk much at all. This is our 2nd (kind of 3rd) trauma event that we are working through using Prolonged Exposure (PE). The very first event we jumped into one that was too intense for me at the time and I couldn't get through it.

In general I've been becoming desensitized slowly and its working. I have this fear of causing a sexual arousal in my T while talking through my trauma though. It does not help that this specific event is a sexual incident that happened with a previous mental health provider. I also don't think it helps that we are currently only doing therapy over the phone, so I can't see him or what he may be doing. This was a fear even before phone therapy though to some extent.

I have now, after covering it up for weeks, finally told him that fear. He wasn't negative at all. Not even really surprised I don't think. He also didn't have good answers and admitted he was trying to be very careful with what he said. He reiterared his morals and ethics. He also said there's a part to therapy where I don't know what he is thinking and he doesn't know what I am thinking. That part would make it difficult to list this fear on our trauma worksheet because one of the questions after the exposure is "did this fear happen?" I am supposed to answer and I can't answer for him. And I think, he probably can't ethically tell me.

I was hoping for some sort of firm "no" or "this doesn't happen to me when I hear about trauma" from him, and maybe an explanation as to why or how he controls that. I didn't get that. It half has me worried that it does cause that bio response in him to listen to these trauma details. And while I have gained a lot of trust in him and really do feel he wouldn't act on them, I still don't like to think that I'm 'doing' that to him. He tells me not to protect him.

Any advice? Is this a common thing?
 
This is kind of a transference thing, I think, and it is not at all surprising you're struggling with this considering the nature of your trauma. In fact it sounds pretty normal.

All I can say is that I am 100% sure the details of your trauma will not arouse your T. Normal people do not get aroused at hearing the details of someone else's sexual assault. Normal people are horrified by that kind of thing.

Your T is correct that he has an ethical duty of care for you. He's also correct in that you can never actually know what he's thinking. But I think what he's going for is for you to figure out on your own that you're safe in his care.

Tell me, since you've known him 3 years: has he ever shown any inclination in the least to get aroused or anything else inappropriate from discussions of sexual assault? Does he, himself, seem like the kind of person who might do that? Not whether he could, but whether he would?
 

Samantha_38

Confident
Tell me, since you've known him 3 years: has he ever shown any inclination in the least to get aroused or anything else inappropriate from discussions of sexual assault? Does he, himself, seem like the kind of person who might do that? Not whether he could, but whether he would?

He has shown none. I also haven't gotten as detailed as PE requires in-person ever, (dang covid) but when just discussing it more vaguely absolutely not. And no concerns in any other context either.

In PE I have to talk the whole event to him in "real" time from 1st person. "I said this..." "He (perpetrator) said that." ..."I touch him here and feel such and such..." "He touches there..." Etc. It's very much like being back there for me. And back 'there' I was telling the perpetrator similar things about other trauma and said perpetrator did become 'excited' from that, leading to this trauma I'm currently talking through.

So while I do not think intentionally current T would ever do that and I also don't think that if he were to get aroused unintentionally that he'd act on it, I still fear that there's this biological aspect of this where a body could react to the 'story' being told/relived without the individuals approval or control over their own biological sexual response.

I also know I have a limited and at times pathological view of how bodies, in particular male bodies, react in any setting of sexual context. I have a complex trauma history, that lead me to believe that men have very little control ever. Logically I now know this is incorrect and a gross over generalization, but trauma me still creates the fear.

I don't know enough to know that if the logical/ethical man, knowing the context of the event being spoken and how terrible it was, is able to actually overcome the biological responses he would typically have when hearing about those same sexual activities but in different (more appropriate) context.
 
I also know I have a limited and at times pathological view of how bodies, in particular male bodies, react in any setting of sexual context.
I have a male body, and I can report that I would personally never be aroused a hearing the kind of thing you're working on with your T. And I wouldn't have become aroused by it before my own sexual trauma happened, either. Moreover I suspect only a sick individual would become aroused by it. So therefore I assert 99.99% of men would NOT become aroused by hearing the narrative of your trauma.
I don't know enough to know that if the logical/ethical man, knowing the context of the event being spoken and how terrible it was, is able to actually overcome the biological responses he would typically have when hearing about those same sexual activities but in different (more appropriate) context.
Look. We men are not some kind of wild animals completely controlled by our biology. Even if somehow against all odds your T found himself becoming aroused by your narrative, he is a professional who is not interested in losing his job. And he has three whole years of history with you, which he wouldn't be willing to throw away.

If I get sexually aroused at an inappropriate time, I just let it go. All men can and do do that - just like women do. All humans are pretty similar in our sexual responses, regardless of gender.
 

brat17

MyPTSD Pro
I understand your fear. I professionally worked with a therapist who did exploit women, and I reported it. He was sent to an ethics course. I have more issues with trust since then for sure.
 

Samantha_38

Confident
Look. We men are not some kind of wild animals completely controlled by our biology.
Haha. Thank you for the reality check! Yes, logical me does know this! I hope you don't take offense to what trauma-me sometimes tries to push into my brain.

I'm really not as gender- discriminatory as this post makes me sound. My fears come out that way because of my trauma, and so when trying to fully describe those fears, especially written, I know it looks bad.
 
No worries! Our traumabrains make us say some weird stuff sometimes. You don't even want to know all the shit I've said about women in the past, none of which was ever true.
 

Samantha_38

Confident
No worries! Our traumabrains make us say some weird stuff sometimes. You don't even want to know a the shit I've said about women in the past, none of which was ever true.
There's definitely some female components to some of my previous traumas that play into it for me too. Oddly enough, those seem to play in so strongly that I've never gotten past the first visit with a female T.

As messed up as it is, even though I have every reason to fear a male therapist more than females, I don't. I am way more terrified of the other.

Maybe someday someone will psychoanalyze that farther and tell me why, but for now I just go with it.
 
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