Limits of the Psychotherapy Relationship: What Clients Should Know
Counseling and Psychotherapy is a professional service I can provide to you. Because of the nature of therapy, our relationship has to be different from most relationships. It may differ in how long it lasts, in the topics we discuss, or in the goals of our relationship. It must also be limited to the relationship of therapist and client only. If we were to interact in any other ways, we would then have a "dual relationship" which would not be right, and may not be legal. The different therapy professions have rules against such relationships to protect us both.
I want to explain why having a dual relationship is not a good idea. Dual relationships can set up conflicts between my own (the therapist's) interests and your (the client's) best interests, and then the client's interests might not be put first. In order to offer all my clients the best care, my judgment needs to be unselfish and professional.
Because I am your therapist, dual relationships like these are improper:
· I cannot be your supervisor, teacher, or evaluator.
· I cannot be a therapist to my own relatives, friends (or the relatives of friends), people I know socially, or business contacts.
· I cannot provide therapy to people I used to know socially, or to former business contacts.
· I cannot have any other kind of business relationship with you besides the therapy itself. For example, I cannot employ you, lend to or borrow from you, or trade or barter your services (things like tutoring, repairing, legal advice, dentistry, etc.) or goods for therapy.
· I cannot give legal, medical, financial, or any other type of professional advice.
· I cannot have any kind of romantic or sexual relationship with a former or current client, or any other people close to a client.
There are important differences between therapy and friendship. As your therapist, I cannot be your friend. Friends may see your position only from their personal viewpoints and experiences. Friends may want to find quick and easy solutions to your problems so that they can feel helpful. These short-term solutions may not be in your long-term best interest. Friends do not usually follow up on their advice to see whether it was useful. They may need to have you do what they advise. A therapist offers you choices and helps you choose what is best for you. A therapist helps you learn how to solve problems better and make better decisions. A therapist's responses to your situation are based on tested theories and methods of change. You should also know that therapists are required to keep the identity of their clients confiential. Therefore, I may ignore you when we meet in a public place, and I must decline to attend your family's gatherings if you invite me. Lastly, when our therapy is completed, I will not be able to be a friend to you like your other friends.
In sum, my duty as therapist is to care for you and my other clients, but only in the professional role of therapist.