Thelma’s Case in Love’s Executioner by Yalom

Topic: Professional Psychology
Words: 322 Pages: 1

The first chapter of the book by Yalom (2012) focuses on the story of a woman named Thelma, who suffers from love obsession. The primary issue, in this case, was that Thelma’s initial therapist, Matthew, insufficiently managed the professional boundaries in relationships with patients. The author even suggested that it is possible that as a young therapist with little experience, Matthew was using patients to resolve his psychosexual issues (Yalom, p. 49). My reaction to the reading was calm because the case refers to the common issue of patients confusing genuine closeness between people with sharing personal thoughts during therapy sessions. On the other hand, patients can feel attracted to a therapist due to transference (Caddell, 2022). I agree with the author’s opinion that the issue is sourced in the lack of attention to the topic of managing patient-therapist relationships at the training stage.

Thelma’s case emphasizes the ethical dilemma in maintaining professional boundaries with clients. The Code of Ethics developed by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) prohibits sexual relationships with current clients, former clients, and clients’ relatives or others who share close relationships with the client. The rationale for the rule is to avoid the “risk of exploitation or potential harm to the client” (NASW, 2018, p. 15). Thus, by engaging in sexual relationships with his former client and severing their connection later, Matthew unknowingly exposed Thelma to the risk of committing suicide. Avoiding countertransference does not require many efforts if the issue is promptly recognized. Thus, asking for a second opinion on the situation or consulting with colleagues about their experience in managing countertransference is a suitable perspective for working with the client in this case. Furthermore, because Thelma experienced troubles in her marriage, the client might benefit from additional services of marriage counseling. Lastly, the case emphasizes the importance of developing self-awareness in a therapist’s practice because it provides an opportunity to manage relationships with clients effectively.


Caddell, J. (2022). Psychotherapy: How to handle feelings for your therapist. Very Well Mind. Web.

NASW. (2018). Code of Ethics.Web.

Yalom, I. D. (2012). Love’s executioner: & other tales of psychotherapy [eBook Edition]. Basic Books.

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