A few months ago, I would not have dreamed that I would be in this situation. Not that the situation is necessarily bad, but the utterly blatant ethical breaches that I have committed sometimes weigh heavily on my conscience. Were they to ever be revealed to the licensing board, my career as a clinical psychologist would come to an abrupt end.
I had settled into middle age cruise control. At fifty-four, I had been married nearly twenty-five years and practiced my profession from a small, suburban office with the utmost concern for my patients. The majority of problems my patients brought to me were eating or sleeping disorders, alcohol problems, marital discord, and "why isn't my kid normal?" syndrome. In most of those cases, the kids were normal; the problems rested with the parents.
I had concluded that the intimate side of my life was to continue to decline. I don't feel as old as I am. In fact, most people say I don't look nearly as old as I am. My wife, on the other hand, seems old. Her interest in intimate encounters diminished immensely after she had our first child. It has continued to decline in the past two decades. We have sex, but it is the same routine over and over again.
When I found myself losing my erection in the middle of the joyous act or, on rare occasions, failing to get erect at all, I diagnosed myself as simply bored with the repetition. My doctor agreed and prescribed the magic blue pills for me with unusual candor. He explained that many of his erectile dysfunction patients feel the same way. The pills work fine. We are able to satisfy each other. But there was not much more excitement than before; until six months ago when Lori Telson became my patient.
Since many of my patients work during the day, I routinely have appointments in the early evening. My receptionist schedules the appointments, but leaves the office at five. My calendar indicated that Ms. Telson wished to consult me about a personal matter that she would reveal "only to Dr. Gray." That wasn't out of the ordinary at all. Various patients are embarrassed to tell a woman over the phone that they have emotional or mental problems. Not that any of my patients are crazy - just disturbed.
Finishing up with a patient whom I'm helping get over the fact that his wife cheated on him, I ushered him into the reception area and saw Ms. Telson. As my patient exited, she turned her head at an almost impossible angle attempting to hide her face from him. Once he was gone, she turned toward me.
She did not look like a super model, porn star, or cover girl. She looked like a wholesome, attractive young lady whom you might see modeling sportswear in a department store advertising insert in the Sunday paper. He complexion was flawless. Her blonde hair shimmered. Her figure was not in any way voluptuous, but would turn the head of any man alive.
"Ms. Telson?" I asked, noticing for the first time her bright green eyes.
"Yes. Are you Dr. Gray?" she asked in a voice that could have come from a twelve year old schoolgirl. In fact, she looked like she could be anywhere from fifteen to twenty-two years old.
"I am. Good afternoon. Have you completed the medical history questionnaire?"
I assumed she had, since the clipboard was resting in her lap on her skirt. She extended her hand holding the questionnaire. Her fingers were slender and delicate. Her nails were perfectly manicured and painted white at the tips.
I opened the door to my inner office and, with a flowing arm gesture, invited her in. As she arose, I admired the tailored fit of her blouse; not overly revealing, but certainly enhancing her pert breasts and small waist. As she walked past me I caught the sweet scent of her young body. I didn't detect a perfume or cologne. It was more like a sweet, fresh powdery aroma. I motioned to the chair opposite my desk and she sat, crossing her legs in a very lady-like motion. The calf that extended below the hem of her skirt was shapely and smooth.
In reviewing her questionnaire, I learned that she was twenty, unmarried, had no family history of mental illness, and that her contact person was Robert Telson. I recognized him as the CEO of Telson Industries, one of the largest employers in the area. Telson was reputed to be the richest man in the state, having started a shipping palette factory years ago, and branching out into virtually every facet of shipping container manufacture.
I looked up at her, and she was pink. Not red or flushed, as if she were frightened or embarrassed, but pink. Her skin was glowing. She was indeed very pretty, but in an innocent, childlike way.
"Are you all right?" I asked.
"Yes." She paused and looked intently at me. "Dr. Gray, I have come to the conclusion that I have a problem and I need help." Her lower lip, adorned with a lipstick just a few shades pinker than the rest of her skin, was trembling slightly.
"I'll do what I can to help you." I thought perhaps she might begin to cry, which is not uncommon with first time patients. "Tell me about the problem you believe you have."
Her tongue slipped between her lips to wet them, and she swallowed hard. "What we say to each other is private?" Her head was slightly tilted to one side, making her question more of a plea than an inquiry.
"Everything we say is confidential. Only under extreme circumstances may I divulge information about our sessions."
"What extreme circumstances?" Her eyes had widened, and her breath rate appeared to increase.
"For instance, if you tell me you intend to murder someone. In our state, my obligation to society supersedes my obligation of confidentiality to you. Or, if it is my opinion that you need commitment to an institution, I will necessarily need to divulge confidential information about your case. Otherwise, I cannot reveal anything from our conversations, even if I'm subpoenaed to testify in court, unless you instruct me to do so."
She licked her lips again. She squinted at me, as if trying to fully understand. "You mean I could be committed?"
"I seriously doubt that. You appear to be a very levelheaded young lady. Commitment is recommended only in unusual cases."
"What happens in commitment?"
"Well, there is a court hearing where information about the patient is presented to a judge. If the judge decides that commitment is necessary, the patient is sent to an institution for treatment."
"For how long?"
"That depends on the severity of the patient's problem."
She was apparently considering my assurances for a few seconds. "Thank you, ' she said, fidgeting in her seat."I don't want anyone to know what we talk about. I don't even want anyone to know that I'm here," she declared, her voice still sounding girlish, but with an edge of desperation. "If I need to come and see you again, I will want to schedule my appointments so that no one else is in your office. I don't want to be seen or recognized." The depth of the expression on her face accentuated her beauty, making her look almost as old as her true age.
"I can assure you, I will reveal nothing about your sessions to anyone. I can arrange your appointments, if more are necessary, so that you will not encounter anyone in the reception area."
She seemed to consider my guarantee for a few seconds. She pressed her lips together tightly, exhaled from the bottom of her lungs, and uncrossed her legs. She scooted to the edge of the seat of her chair, and leaned toward me.
"I'm a slut," she stated, the corners of her lips turned down in a frown. "I have sex with every man I'm alone with. I can't control it. I crave it," she admitted, emphasizing the word 'crave' as if she were an addict describing her longing for her drug.
The immediate thought that raced into my mind was that she was alone with me in my office. The second was that, from her conservative appearance, she would be one of the last young women I would expect to be promiscuous. In fact, she was the epitome of the pure, intelligent, American coed.
"At first it didn't bother me because I enjoyed it so much. But now, I know it's wrong. I had myself tested for diseases and, thankfully, I'm completely clean. I want to stay that way. I don't want to be a slut anymore."
"How long have you felt this way?" I asked, using the usual routine of questions; never saying anything in early sessions that a patient might consider judgmental.
She sighed, apparently reluctant that she must tell me her story. "For about six months. My mother died when I was very young, and my father was very overprotective of me. I was tutored at home and rarely left our house." As she spoke, her head tilted down, and she focused her eyes on the carpet in front of her. "The only man who ever touched me when I was growing up was my father, and his touch was not very loving. I felt like he loved me, but all he did was try to protect me. I suppose he was afraid of losing me like he did my mother."
"Do you still live with your father?"
"No. That's really when this all started. When I turned nineteen, I thought had to be out in the world, on my own. I wanted to have friends. I wanted to be with people other than my father, my tutors, and the servants. He objected, of course, and we fought about it for months. I threatened to leave and refuse to tell him where I was going. But, finally I got my way." She continued to stare blankly at the floor.
"What are you doing now?"
.... There is more of this story ...