Is My Therapist Coming On to Me? Should I Find Another One?

I dropped my phone and it slid under the chair. I bent over to get it, and he asked if I knew what I was doing to him. I was confused by this, and he said that if I wanted him to notice me then he noticed. He said I was very attractive and cute, but he was going to keep his hands in his lap because he had more respect for me than that. And he liked me as a person. Should I get a new therapist? Do you think he will try something with me? —Wondering
Submit Your Own Question to a Therapist
Dear Wondering,

Honestly, my immediate reaction to your question is run—don’t walk—away from this therapist and find someone new.

This is 100% unethical and a complete abuse of power. Both the American Counseling Association (ACA) and the American Psychological Association (APA) codes of ethics strictly forbid romantic/sexual relationships between therapists and existing clients. They even require certain time periods between the termination of therapy and the beginning of romantic/sexual relationships between therapists and former clients (ACA requires five years, and APA requires two years). For more about ethics and the codes I’ve mentioned, please click here.

Many professionals, me included, do not think that therapists should ever have romantic/sexual relationships with former clients, no matter how many years have passed since therapy ended. One of the guiding ethical principles for therapists is to always act in the best interest of the client. In other words, the focus of therapy should be 100% about helping the client. In your case, it sounds like you feel more harassed (and possibly even victimized) than helped.

The bottom line is that you feel harmed by a professional relationship that you sought out for help. I would like to encourage you to advocate for yourself in the hopes that you will walk away from this experience feeling empowered rather than diminished. Consider confronting your therapist in whatever way feels safest to you—in session (you could even bring a friend or family member with you for support), in a letter/email, or over the phone. If you feel unsatisfied, or worse yet, further harassed by such a confrontation, you could report the therapist to the licensing board in your state.

I wish you strength in this process and hope you experience the connection and healing that can come from a true therapeutic relationship with a new therapist.

Sincerely,
Sarah

Sarah Noel
Sarah Noel, MS, LMHC is a licensed psychotherapist living and working in Brooklyn, New York. She specializes in working with people who are struggling through depression, anxiety, trauma, and major life transitions. She approaches her work from a person-centered perspective, always acknowledging the people she works with as experts on themselves. She is honored and humbled on a daily basis to be able to partner with people at such critical points in their unique journeys.
  • 8 comments
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  • charlotte

    charlotte

    April 11th, 2014 at 11:47 AM

    Honey find someone new. There are too many good and ETHICAL therapists available for you to have to put up with this kind of piggish and sexist behavior.

  • ylviaS

    ylviaS

    April 11th, 2014 at 1:37 PM

    by all means this is a person who needs to be reported to the proper professional authorities! who knows how he is taking advantage of others who might not be as strong as you are.

  • Amy Armstrong

    Amy Armstrong

    April 11th, 2014 at 3:45 PM

    Ew. That’s creepy. Unfortunately, I’ve heard similar stories from other women with male therapists (sorry guys.) Definitely move on.

  • Thomas Dorrance LICSW

    Thomas Dorrance LICSW

    April 11th, 2014 at 3:59 PM

    I find I have parts of me that are 1. shocked it still goes on 2. discouraged/saddened it still goes on. The training and ongoing supervision/consultation requirements need strenghtening. I guess I’m naive.

  • Ellen

    Ellen

    April 12th, 2014 at 7:58 AM

    Pish, he has no respect for you. He is tawdry and should lose his license for even going there and saying those things. How is this supposed to help you in your desire for well ness and whole ness?

  • franklin

    franklin

    April 12th, 2014 at 1:18 PM

    It is behavior like this which is so unbecoming that gives men everywhere a bad name!

  • LouAnna

    LouAnna

    April 14th, 2014 at 5:16 PM

    You need to work to find a new therapist that you can trust and depend on. Someone who would try to take advantage of you like this is no good and not someone that you need to have in your life. I know that there are a lot of resources available to you right here in this website that could help you find a therapist who is not only local for you but who also deals with the sorts of issues that you may need some help with. There are just too many good ones to let one bad one mess you up.

  • kara

    kara

    April 16th, 2014 at 12:30 PM

    I had this sort of happen to me but with a teacher and not a therapist but it does make you feel very uncomfortable and I started wondering if there was anything that I had done to lead him on, etc. But it was explained to me that even if I did that didn’t give him to right to say the things he did and that this just wasn’t what this relationship should ever be abbout.

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