Can Other People Come with Me to My Therapy Sessions?

In some settings, therapy may involved other people. In others, your therapy session will only involve  you and your therapist. Different circumstances will dictate who should attend your therapy session and what type of therapy will be practiced. Here, therapists discuss who should come with you to your therapy sessions:

Lubow-CynthiaCynthia W. Lubow, MS, MFT: Many therapists work with couples and some work with families. Some also work with two or more people who are not in a romantic or family relationship. Aside from that, when an individual adult is having a mental health or life issue, generally they go to therapy alone.

In some cases, when that individual feels so anxious or so depressed that he or she cannot get to therapy without someone else, a therapist may agree to have both of them come initially. Also, young children who go to therapy generally take their parents with them, at least the first time.

In individual therapy, therapists generally see their relationships with people as private, and do not interact with anyone in the person’s life (unless they get written permission—usually to consult with a doctor or other caregiving professional in the person’s life). Exceptions to this level of privacy are if the person reports the intention to kill himself or herself or someone else, or the person describes a situation in her/his life where a child or a helpless adult is being abused or is in danger of being abused.

Noel-SarahSarah Noel, MS, LMHC: Yes! Relationships are among the most common issues to be discussed in therapy, so it often makes sense to invite significant people in your life to participate in one or more of your sessions. Certainly in couples therapy or family therapy, the idea is for people to come to therapy together and have a therapist help them move from conflict to stronger relationships—relationships that allow productive communication and the resolution of conflicts. But, even if you are participating in your own individual therapy, you might find that you would like to bring a friend, family member(s), and/or intimate partner to a session or series of sessions.

If you are interested in exploring this possibility, talk to your therapist about it. The setting where you are seen may play in role in determining if this is possible—some settings may have policies that prohibit this. Assuming there are no prohibitions, the next step might involve some planning with your therapist. You will likely want to agree on what will be discussed with the person/people you are bringing into your session(s). Your therapist might also want to try to work with you on imagining some possible outcomes and preparing you for them.

fuller-staceyStacey Fuller, LMFT: Therapy can take place in a few different ways: individual, couples, or family sessions. If you are in individual therapy and there is someone you would like to attend sessions with you, it would be important to discuss this with your therapist prior to bringing that person into your next therapy session.

While most therapists are adept at working with many potential configurations of people in therapy sessions, it is important to advise and prepare your therapist in advance if you would like to bring another person to your therapy session. This allows your therapist to be sure that each member included in the session is informed of the laws that therapists must abide by, and to ensure that each member in the session understands these laws and consents to them.

In addition, therapists will frequently create different boundaries or “rules” when working with a couple or a family in comparison to working only with an individual. For example, many therapists will create a “no secrets” policy when working with a couple, asking that each member of the couple agree to disclose all information shared with the therapist, either in or outside of the session, with the partner as well.

Provided you have discussed it with your therapist in advance and all are in agreement, it is perfectly fine to bring someone with you into your therapy session.

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  • Oscar

    Oscar

    February 3rd, 2016 at 2:50 PM

    I do understand that initially that having another person participate attend an individual therapy is ok. However My question is at what point do that third person need to be excluded? It’s call “individual therapy” not “couples therapy”. Once the primary person has opened up then the third person for who isn’t apart of the problem should be removed. The third person may think the solution to the primary person’s dilemma will solve theirs and giving him/her too much power of knowledge. This is why having a third person attending therapy shouldn’t be allowed beyond a certain point.

  • Michael D

    Michael D

    July 14th, 2016 at 12:50 PM

    my wife has a mental health issues,she already see’s a health professional,but should she be including info about family on intake forms?

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