The Invisible Line (in counseling)


One of the biggest privileges I have is sitting across the couch and hearing someone reveal their heart.

How it loves.

How it hurts.

How it scars.

How it burns.

How it shows passion.

How it shows rage.

How it shows affection.

How it breaks.

I met with her last week. A woman who has seen so much hurt and pain in the past 28 years of her life. Trafficked. Undocumented. Abused. Tattered. Torn.

Sex became her economy. She uses her body to trade favors. Favors of protection. Favors of basic necessities. Food. Shelter. Transportation. Sex has never been about love. No one taught her that. None of it fazed her. It was a way of life. Though she is no longer physically enslaved, her mind and heart can only be seen behind the prison bars of her story.


Until last week. After weeks of story telling, something clicked.

Her tiny body was filled with fury and full of wrath.

How could he do this to me? How could he touch me that way? I try to wash it off, every day, and I can’t scrub hard enough. Why did I choose him? The only man I ever loved betrayed me. I chose him and because of him, I couldn’t see my mom before she died. 

It’s my fault. It’s my fault. I couldn’t help my mom. It’s my fault. He promised me he would help me and take care of me.

What is wrong with me? Why do I keep giving him a chance? Why does my mind not connect with my heart. 

I’m so stupid. I’m so stupid. I’m so stupid. 

Her body trembling. Her anger building. Every extremity she had waving in the air. Uncontrollably.

That’s when it happened.

I stood up and I crossed the invisible line.

I sat beside her on the couch, and I held her.

She rocked back and forth. Tears streaming down her face.

And I continued to hold her.

I’m not sure, but, I don’t think she had been held like this. With a nurtured touch. So I keep on holding her, until it all subsides. The pain, the anger, the sorrow.

We recover.

We reset.

We say goodbye for that day.

I sat in my office. Processing. Praying. And then I felt the fear.

I crossed the invisible line! How could I do this?! Does this change our relationship? Is this unethical? Am I a bad therapist? What in the world did I just do?

As I list the pros and the cons of my actions, I start realizing how cold my heart can get when I am trying to ensure that all my actions are ethical. I have made sure that this line, as invisible as it was, was a solid bold color, creating a boundary that was in no way to be crossed.

But I learned something.

Sometimes, I have to cross that line. Because I am not a robot, I am a human being with a ticking heart. If I counsel with a black cloud of fear over me, fearing that a hug will make me lose my license, I will stop operating as someone with a heart and start operating as a robot.


To my friends who are in the social science professions, be wise, yes. But I want to tell you, do not operate in fear or roboticism. Cross that invisible line. Cautiously. But cross it. That person in front of you is not a number. Their fingerprint is unique. They were made by a Creator that makes no mistakes, but live in a world full of them. That’s where we come in.

To love.

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8


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