Why Can’t My Therapist and I Be Friends?

Friends share a cup of coffee togetherOn more than one occasion, previous clients have asked if we could remain friends during or after our therapy sessions. While I could envision being friends with some of my previous clients if circumstances were different, I usually refrain from doing so and explain why I don’t encourage it.

As clients, it’s wonderful when your work with therapists has developed a strong sense of trust and safety over time. You have successfully been able to open up, gain more insight, and work through the primary issues for which you initially chose therapy. Perhaps you saw the evolution of talking about intimate details to a virtual stranger who then became what feels like a friendly confidant.

Good therapists with appropriate boundaries often do not view the evolution and closeness of the change in the therapeutic relationship with the potential for a friendship after therapy concludes, as some clients may. It is not that therapists wouldn’t like there to be a friendship in some instances. Nor does it mean they don’t care about or are indifferent toward their clients.

Therapists are usually not friends with their clients for two reasons:

  1. To maintain objectivity in the clients’ best interests
  2. To avoid conflicting dual relationships.

While some dual relationships are inevitable, ethically and legally therapists must evaluate and avoid dual relationships that harm or hinder the work with their clients. Therefore, other types of relationships that evolve during or after the therapeutic relationship are not normally encouraged. As an example scenario, let’s say you are hosting a dinner and wine tasting party at your home, and invite your therapist to meet your new significant other. Your therapist declines, and you feel angry. How will this affect your next session? Will it affect whether you decide to show up or not?

In another scenario, maybe you have successfully terminated your sessions, and somehow remained friends with your therapist. But what if another issue comes up for which you would like to resume therapy? The nature of the relationship would then be clouded and the boundaries unclear.

The therapeutic relationship is not a symmetrical relationship where there is mutual sharing on both sides. There is a natural imbalance. While a good therapist is a caring and empathetic person who you feel became a friend, he or she is also an authority figure to whom you are choosing to turn for professional help and support.

In friendships, there is normally a two-way dynamic in which both parties get to know each other and can mutually share vulnerable information about themselves over time. In the therapeutic relationship, the client primarily holds the role of sharing vulnerable information with the therapist. The therapist does not usually do so in turn, especially on the clients’ time. When personal issues come up for therapists, they will often seek consultation, supervision, and even their own therapy when needed.

The role of therapists is to serve their clients through listening, empathizing, mirroring, offering a different perspective, and assisting their clients gain more insight into their situations and their reactions. They help their clients with coping skills and equip them with tools to deal with their situations or relationships in a healthier manner. The therapist focuses attention on the primary issues a client is struggling with, rather than the other way around.

It is never the responsibility of the client to take care of the therapist or to solve an issue a therapist is struggling with in his or her personal life. This is one of the primary reasons developing a friendship with your therapist outside the appointed session time is not highly encouraged.

Most good therapists generally care about their clients tremendously and want to genuinely see them improve. In order to do so, they will keep the therapeutic boundaries clear and intact.

© Copyright 2013 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Gracie C. Lu, LCSW, therapist in Irvine, California

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Clarke

    Clarke

    July 6th, 2013 at 4:29 AM

    The role of your therapist is not to become your BFF. Their role is to help you sort out your feelings and to lead you on a life journey to becoming healthy and discovering the person you are beneath those layers of hurt. If you bare looking to the therapist to become your frined then I think that your real issues are the you are seeking out acceptance and relationships in all the wrong places. Maybe after therapy the two of you can somehow remain in touch somewhat professionally, but it can’t be any more than that. That would be totally unprofessional.

  • Vijay

    Vijay

    August 7th, 2015 at 6:11 AM

    I have one of those totally “UNPROFESSIONAL” relationships you mentioned, and we are both loving it! This is after 18 months of intensive therapy and 2 years of friendship.

    Was in the mist of a family crisis, and like two of my other close friends she was there every step of the way. I was concerned about compromising our friendship when I reached out to her regarding a particular matter. She explained that she has used her expertise for other close friends and family when in need and she was okay with it. It involved lots of email and phone calls to reassure me. I In turn share what I know with her and other friends. The life I live now is new and its foundation got tested. Friends (my ex therapist being one of them), came together to help me weather the storm. It’s done, over with (I can’t say I won’t want or need her expertise down the road), yet our friendship survives. I thought about friends that have needed me to emotionally go down into the depths with them, but I would not call on them to do the same, because there are others. I don’t think less of them or our friendship. In the beginning when my therapist and I talked about having a friendship she felt that I would be a friend she could call on when in need (a concern of mine at the time), and I will be. At no time after therapy have I felt “less than” in our friendship. For us, it is a friendship worth having.

  • Jennifer

    Jennifer

    June 2nd, 2016 at 2:21 PM

    Just because this friend of yours is a therapist and gave you advice, that doesn’t mean this person was “your therapist.” I would be very careful the way you talk about this, it sounds like a liability and could get this therapist in trouble. Although it doesn’t sound like this therapist is very concerned with following the rules of ethics. Just so you know, therapists are legally required to maintain those boundaries. If they are not, their license could be in jeopardy. But unless your friend and you entered in a contract that she was your therapist, I dint think this was ACTUALLY your therapist. One liability is if you consider this person your friend and a therapist, say you were then feeling suicidal and reached out to them and they didn’t respond, that’s a liability. Two people should NEVER be “great friends” and therapy clients at the same time, it’s called Dual Relationships. Either your friend is REALLY stupid and doesn’t value her career, or you’re just really delusional about the capacity of your relationship. Cause emails and texts containing adevice is not therapy. It sounds like your FRIEND was misleading and has a big ego to fill too. Either way, what you described is a BAD IDEA legally.

  • lizzie j

    lizzie j

    July 7th, 2013 at 4:38 AM

    Please, this is so elementary and juvenile. Your therapist is n’t in the market for a new best friend. he or she wants to provide you with a high level of care to address the issues that you could be dealing with. They have friends,. They need paying clients. I would hate to think that I was deeveloping a relationship with someone that is predicted and begun based on me telling them my problems and them helping me resolve them. . . yes this is kind of what a friendship is like but not giving them money! If this is what you are looking for then you are all out of whack because therapy is not about creating a friendship with the therapist but about creating a new life for yourself.

  • paul

    paul

    July 8th, 2013 at 3:53 AM

    I realize that the temptation is there.
    You find this person with whom you can finally talk and share your emotions.
    You start to think that this is someone who understands you, and if they understand you in a clinical setting then surely that relationship could continue to grow and evolve beyond that.
    But a professional will not want to take this to the next level.
    Most will want to keep this on a strictly professional basis and find that this is the only way that they can truly help someone in need.

  • Tim (a counselor)

    Tim (a counselor)

    July 8th, 2013 at 10:03 AM

    As a counselor, I try to provide my clients with a pristine experience where using any of the time to attend to my own needs is avoided and if that occurs, is considered to be a fairly serious error. Although I am congruent…or genuine as a person in therapy, I am not actually my real self as I try never to address my own needs. This can create a situation that is very attractive to someone…because the experience me as SO nice and SO accomodating and SO accepting and SO attentive and SO caring….etc. but in real xfriendships, this is not so. Sometimes I am needs or isolative or selfish. This is just not helpful to a theraputic relationship. If someone has this as an unrsolved inclination, my guess is that the theraputic work is not finished.

  • Chris

    Chris

    April 23rd, 2014 at 9:00 PM

    If that is how you view in a therpuetic relationship, then I or any clients who are realistic will smell this a mile away and will leave you fast. I’m a teacher, children sees this and automatically lose respect for me. I need to be real while maintaining a healthy professional boundary. I suggest you reconsider your comment.

  • Lauren

    Lauren

    June 28th, 2015 at 10:26 PM

    Tim,
    Thank you for your honest answer. I think that’s SO true!! Good feedback!

  • margotvwalker

    margotvwalker

    July 8th, 2013 at 2:17 PM

    As a therapist, I am always boundaried and it is implicit in the way I deal with my clients what those boundaries are. Of course, there are some who try to step over the line but I gently but firmly reinforce my role in the therapeutic relationship. You can be empathic, warm & accepting without inviting a possible dual relationship.

  • freddie

    freddie

    July 9th, 2013 at 4:22 AM

    Because you can’t be friends with someone you pay!!

    Look, the therapist serves a great role in the lives of many of us. But there has to be this limit, you can’t cross that line. A friend is sometimes not the most objective person in the world. They are going to love and accept you without condition, but a therapist needs to see beyond that and help you sort out the most productive ways to live your life and live with the things that are harming you mentally. They can’t do this if you two are also invested in a friendship with one another, because often a friend will think that something is good for you or bad for you that a therapist in that role will be able to see in an entirely different way.

  • fork

    fork

    July 9th, 2013 at 9:12 PM

    When I was in my 20s I went to my first counselor and we are still friends 30 years later. Unusual yes but we had a lot of common interests and I wasn’t a client for a long period of time. Funny most of the time after therapy we talk about her!

  • Vanessa Lu

    Vanessa Lu

    December 28th, 2013 at 7:20 PM

    What if you were already friends with a therapist before a therapeutic relationship. However, something happens that makes you guys have a therapeutic relationship. But after the counselling, can you guys remain friends? Since you were already friends before your therapeutic relationship?

  • Therapist

    Therapist

    January 26th, 2014 at 11:42 AM

    An ethical therapist would never take a friend as their client because it’s biased and unethical. A therapist knows so much about a client and when becoming friends the therapist will know so much so it will be hard to be neutral. That’s why we therapists want have friends as well. We need to vent and talk about our own issues. We don’t do that with our clients. So if you like a therapist become their friend not their client or become their client and not their friend. We can’t have it all.

  • Vanessa Lu

    Vanessa Lu

    January 27th, 2014 at 4:57 PM

    Thanks, I needed this for a story.

  • Kris

    Kris

    March 15th, 2014 at 8:11 PM

    I see a therapist about once each month. About a month ago, I was struggling with what to do with an ex harrassing me (she knew of this ongoing situation). I wrote her an email asking what I should do about him. She gave suggestions. I then asked how to go about one of her suggestions, but she never responded. I feel a bit pissed off about that; like she left me hanging. If she didnt want to help, why wouldnt she just write me and say something like she “trusts ill figure it out on my own”? I can understand if she didnt want to email (she was providing me with advice without pay), but to not respond the second time..I dont get it. Could someone please offer me some insight as to why she didnt email me back the second time? Thank you

  • Regina Hill

    Regina Hill

    May 15th, 2014 at 7:36 AM

    As a licensed counselor and health care provider, there are certain rules that limit the ways that counseling can be delivered. Even responding to you over e-mail can be a violation of your HIPPA and cofidentiality rights. Also you may not intend to, but you could be experiencing a crisis as you process your feelings and your counselor may not be aware of this without having a face to face interaction.

    We have to provide you with warnings and statements of your rights at the onset of our professional relationship with you and it’s responsible for us to remind you as needed. As a responsible counselor we may also discuss our role in your life and demystify the counseling relationship when or before we sense transference or boundary issues.

    Boundaries in relationships is a good dynamic to learn for individuals to not only improve and gain healthy relationships but also to reduce much of the stress we experience from the emotional choices made in interactions with others.

    The nature of counseling relationships with sharing intimate details of your life and gaining validation and sometimes advice, mirrors close friendships. However there is a huge difference in that we are there for you and for that to happen we can’t consider the reciprocity of friendships. There is of course secondary gains, you support yourself financially and you feel a sense of good will towards others.

    If you are unable to benefit from the advice you gained via email, consider those limitations and your expectations. Consider the benefits of not having to worry about some of the problems or limitations that occurr when you go to your friends for support. Decide which thoughts help you to advance your healthy goals then choose to give those thoughts your greater attention.

  • Gracie

    Gracie

    March 19th, 2014 at 1:37 PM

    HI Kris,

    Yeah, that can be frustrating when you are looking for answers or clarification on a suggestion. Unfortunately, since I don’t know anything about your counselor, I wouldn’t be able to give you an accurate answer to why she didn’t email back. Sometimes, something unforeseen could have happened. (e.g. an emergency happened, a family member got hospitalize, she could have gotten into an accident) If on a minor scale, she simply got busy and accidentally forgot. Again, without knowing anything about her or who she is, there’s no way to give you an accurate answer.

  • Kristin

    Kristin

    April 12th, 2014 at 9:07 AM

    I have been seeing my therapist since I was 17 and I’m 23 now. (I stopped seeing her for about a year and went back and currently going.) In the past, I struggled with wanting to be friends with her. When I had stopped seeing her for a while, I had emailed her expressing how I wanted to be friends with her. In her response, she remained staying in the professional role and said that her door (at her office) is always open. So I had to realize that our relationship will remain professional even though I really wanted to be friends. My feelings on this are still there, I will always wish that me and her would become friends but I know that’s not going to happen.

  • stuart

    stuart

    July 10th, 2014 at 12:23 AM

    Hi i am in a very difficult situation over this.I have very recently ended counselling,however i have very deep feelings for my former counsellor.She is very much aware of these and recently told me she does have feelings and that we do have a connection and if we had met in any other way!! I have stopped seeing her professionally and she has told me there has to be a year before any possible personal relationship can occur here in the united kingdom.I am determined too wait because of the strength of this connection we have.

  • Claire

    Claire

    August 31st, 2015 at 3:37 PM

    Do you see her now?

  • Desi

    Desi

    November 8th, 2014 at 2:14 AM

    I think the issue of a relationship between a therapist and a client, not having a “dual” relationship, or “not being friends”, is not a “black and white”, “one size fits all” situations.

    I am probably one of the very few people who think that this “not having a dual relationship” with a therapist or doing some socializing upon occasion, i.e., having coffee or lunch, etc.,or even becoming friends, is absurd. If I sit week after week, month after month, year after year sharing my innermost feelings and issues with another human being, and have entrusted them with this information, to me it is absolutely abnormal not to have a connection; and to not to be able to socialize upon occasion, or even be friends, is ridiculous. This should be determined on a case by case basis, that is discussed and agreed upon by both the therapist and client. But to have this hard and fast “rule” to such a degree that a therapist could lose their license over it, is crazy, and frankly makes alot of therapists paranoid.

    I’ve had such an experience, where the therapist was so paranoid about this, they were “cold”, “shut down”, never shared a feeling they had about anything at all, and would not share any part of their life about themselves; they were ineffective. I simply could not relate, trust or talk to this person anymore. If I wanted to just gather information, as what all this therapist did, I can read a book or look it up on the Internet.

    I believe that one of the main reasons 12-Step programs works so well, and have had so much success all over the world, for so many years, is that two people talk to each other and share their stories on a equal basis, and are very open about themselves, their common life experiences and their feelings. Neither one is better or smarter than the other; true one may have more experience in working the steps and the program longer (as would be the case of a sponsor/sponsee relationship), but otherwise, it’s just two human beings sharing similar life experiences, and how they used the 12 steps to heal or let go of an addiction, on an equal basis.

    I have also had the experience where the therapist I was seeing, was not rigid about this “rule”, and we had coffee or lunch occasionally, and socialized sometimes. This therapist was the best therapist I’ve had, and literally saved my life because they cared more about being a human being than some rigid rule(s). Again, this should be discussed, determined and agreed upon on a case by case basis between the therapist and the client.

    I think one day in the future, we will look at this issue, the way we now look at lobotomies that were common many years ago – the old surgery where they stuck a pointed object up through a person’s eye, to “turn off” part of their brain.

  • LuvJoyPeace

    LuvJoyPeace

    July 23rd, 2016 at 8:17 AM

    I really enjoyed reading your comment and totally agree with you. Thanks for sharing it.
    We are all here to “connect” with one another.

  • JP

    JP

    June 20th, 2017 at 10:13 AM

    Desi, thank you for your comments. I agree with you 100%. I think it should be up to the discretion of the counselor. I understand there are some reasons for maintaining professional distance, but I also believe we should encouragement our counselors to display–and to be free to feel–warmth and humanity in response to all that comes in meeting and getting to know their patients (as long as they maintain a respectful and positive regard for them, of course). Although I’m not sure I’d go so far as to say it’s as primitive as old-fashioned lobotomies, I do agree that the idea that a care provider should be immune from and suppress such feelings is outdated. :-)

  • Woman

    Woman

    August 13th, 2018 at 7:50 AM

    Wow, someone with some sense! Thank you. I don’t like the idea of determining who I can and can’t be friends with. I am an adult, it should be up to us and no one else, if we think it will work. I am capable enough to understand how different things could be, but you take a risk in any relationship… not just with a therapist. Seriously absurd rule. Sadly mine is one that is so paranoid yet he very much wants more. We have this connection that is rare, sometimes people just click… and to be told “No” like a child, ugh… makes me feel worthless. So, I’ll be in therapy for life if it is the only way to keep him around

    I’m glad your therapist was so good and saved you. Bless them for taking that risk and not living in fear or rules.

  • Scott

    Scott

    November 9th, 2014 at 11:49 PM

    I have to completely agree with the person above me.

    The idea that this person you’re opening up to could never be involved in you’re life on a personal level is as far as I’m concerned is highly unethical.

    Psychology has all these funny terms to describe it like transference but isn’t this what makes us human?

    Also what this article is stating is that this person you’re trusting is completely fake or least not being their true selfs. I know if it was me and somebody trusted and opened up to me I would feel it’s my duty to be a true friend to them and if couldn’t do that I wouldn’t lead them on believing I care, this is what decent human beings do. But Psychotherapy completely goes against this and in fact I believe ends up hurting a lot of very lonely and vulnerable people, but of course its always the client who is blamed for this rather than looking at many of the flawed views of Psychotherapy. Psychotherapy in many ways is like a religion of beliefs that has no real value and while many will say they have all this data to backup their claims the clients themselves are almost never consulted about these ideas. (but of course what do they know their mentally ill)sarcasm

  • Jon

    Jon

    November 10th, 2014 at 10:23 PM

    This has been on my mind. I’ve been thinking that my counselor has been the closest I’ve had to a friend in years, and thinking about breaking contact altogether someday saddens me.

    Thank you for the article, and the comments; it’s given me food for thought. I realize, ethical implications aside, it would be impractical for her to maintain a friendship with all of her former clients. Maybe once I feel ready to leave counseling that I’ll feel differently?

    I guess it would make sense to discuss the matter with her.

  • Sarah

    Sarah

    January 30th, 2015 at 6:21 PM

    I too think it depends a lot, but having attempted the process of shifting a therapeutic relationship into a friendship I can only say- be really careful!
    I feel lucky to be their friend, but at the same time I lost the best therapist I ever had and seeing her just reminds me what I can’t have anymore. The other thing is, she is far more skilled at friendships, and I feel at a big disadvantage in the relationship, especially since she knows all my vulnerabilities and I’m only beginning to know hers. Sometimes it feels like being set up to fail because I don’t think I can manage to do it, and it’s all going to be my fault for loosing her. So I feel angry and stressed all the time and do things to her that aren’t very thoughtful, and it just makes it even more clear that I’m the screwed up failing person. Everytime I see her I feel like it’s just (accidently) getting rubbed in my face how much I just can’t do and just screw everything up. It’s not all it’s cracked up to be. I hope to be able to sort it out, but just wanted people to know that even a really excellent therapeutic relationship can get really strained when it turns into a friendship.

  • Liza

    Liza

    February 5th, 2015 at 6:43 AM

    I had a therapist and when therapy ended because of my inability to pay her she wanted to be friends because in her words, “I needed a friend”. She is a very charismatic person, so to be her friend felt special; I was privileged. As the years have gone by, being her “friend” has been one sided – with her in power. When she says something, I take it to heart; because she was previously in charge. She has been unethical in other ways- billing Medicare for my daughter when there were no services, inviting clients to MLM parties. I finally asked myself what she is getting out of this and I realized that she wants to be my saviour and transform me. Oh, and the other unethical thing she does is she is relentless about getting people in Landmark (which I did).

    There are reasons for boundaries.

  • Stacy

    Stacy

    January 8th, 2016 at 10:55 PM

    “There are reasons for boundaries.” Agreed!

  • Vijay

    Vijay

    April 8th, 2015 at 10:27 AM

    I speak about post therapy platonic friendships.

    When I terminated therapy I was in a totally different place than when I started therapy. I am healed. My former therapist and I have been good friends for eighteen months. We get together once every two months, phone every two months, and email three or six times a month. This pattern is very similar to my other relationships. I asked her recently if this friendship is working for her, after having read an article on the negatives of post therapy friendship. She said it works for her, and that she really enjoys the times we get together; it is always fun and interesting. For me, too! She knows every intimate detail about me, yet I have never felt ‘less than’ in her presence. She has never used previous information garnered in our previous professional relationship to take advantage of me in our friendship. The integrity she maintains professionally is the same integrity she maintains in her personal life. And I can deal with that. Also, she was not a blank slate therapist, and I am learning more about her with no negative affects on me.

    I believe there are not more of these friendships post therapy because of the fear instilled in therapist. These relationships have been so maligned in therapy schools, text books, ridiculous slippery slope arguments, etc., without any empirical evidence. I suspect many a therapist that have harbored ideas of a friendship with a particular client has castigated himself for even thinking about it. I find it interesting that most all the professional boards and state ethics codes have ditched the two year wait for platonic friendships, There really is no research out there post therapy relationships. There is also no waiting period. I She was not a blank slate therapist, and I am learning more about her with no negative affects on me.

  • Katsia

    Katsia

    April 19th, 2015 at 9:05 PM

    I agree with you.

  • Katsia

    Katsia

    April 19th, 2015 at 8:55 PM

    My therapy is ending with my boundary-crossing therapist because of a second opinion when therapy got stuck. My current therapist makes a better caring friend than a therapist apparently. Gives me more time at appointments for no extra $. Has given me a few of gifts while I don’t give to her. Lots of personal disclosure. Have had coffee, movies, dinner, walks, bike riding and wine. She cares tremendously and that has been healing in and of itself because nobody else ever has before. Therapy includes therapeutic touch because I always lacked it and it helped me connect once I was able to do it (slow process where I needed to get over panic in very micro steps) . Nothing sexual.

    Gonna transition to friendship and see how that goes. Should be less of a big deal than for others because it’s not like I need to learn who she really is. I know her. It won’t be weird to go to a coffee shop or a movie. We already have, though infrequently. The main difference will be a shift in focus where I have been the primary focus, and she was secondary, to being evenly reciprocal.

    I’m not all healed though. Completely stuck at this point, where I am. This caring relationship was only good to a point, so I have been told. Sad to need another therapist and start over, but at least I won’t have the terrible grief of the loss of her altogether.

    I don’t feel harmed. I am sure I am not. I don’t know where all that research is that says I am harmed. Maybe love-bombing me is as good a treatment as any for BPD/PTSD. I haven’t railed against boundaries because they mostly weren’t there, with my therapist’s intention. Like, I have been welcome to text if I need to between appointments. I don’t need to freak out wondering if my therapist cares because she tells me clearly she does, that it is “love”. Or even if I am special. She says I am. I don’t do what other BPD clients are blamed for because there just isn’t a reason to be so desperate in this therapy. There is nothing I can do wrong and so I don’t. I try to respect her space and time outside therapy and unless I am a mess, I do. I have just had heaps of love. I have been inundated with it until I could finally actually feel it and not just look for signs of it by carefully studying every detail of behavior, words and face. That felt like a small miracle. The kleenex was for her (joy). No regrets about anything from me. Whatever this love-bomb therapy is (nowhere else to be found) it even translated to better connecting with other people outside therapy. Mindfully seeing myself during conversations while mindfully seeing the other person. Seeing psycho-junk for what it is and being less alarmed by it and less reactive to it. More compassion for myself and for other people. Far less dissociative. More self assertive. Less social anxiety. Less self loathing. So many things better. We got as far as we got which is miles. Not to the heart of environmentally-caused BPD though, and I am still triggered if I feel care for me evaporates with a lightning wave of panic.

    Now, from preschool to kindergarten with a new person. I am sure my current therapist and I will adapt to friendship. We both know cognitively the difference and what will change. The second opinion I got told me this therapy was limited to the purpose it has already served and can go no further for healing. That means there is no need to save the relationship in its current state in case I need to go back. I am told that would be like returning to what a 1- to 4-year old needs, once more grown up.

    Apparently more boundaries are needed for what is stuck. Ok. I hope I can handle that. It will be like going to kindergarten and suddenly needing to sit still at a desk all day and do learning the same way everyone else does it. Get properly socialized to the institution and hopefully not let it suck the life out of me while I learn what I need to learn with my far more distant, more authoritarian, teacher who believes this is how learning must be, and no other way. Within 4 walls. In a particular room. Structure. Rules. In full submission to the teacher’s approach. The teacher to be a face and a name and a series of lessons. Not looking forward to it even if it’s supposed to be good for me. I wish there was a way to get unstuck without moving onto a new therapist. We have been walking together in the land of taboo, but proof of the lack of harm is my great progress. So whatever…

  • Erika

    Erika

    September 3rd, 2015 at 5:26 PM

    I became friend with my therapist 3-4 years ago while still going to therapy. I introduced her to my boyfriend and we all were friends. We spent holidays and birthdays together, she and I talked or texted every day, and she would text me compliments after group therapy sessions. I became dependent on her as a parent figure. I grew jealous of her relationship with my boyfriend and things started going sour. I retreated and she got more and more mad at me when I behaved the same consistent dependent way I had before. Eventually she dumped me as a friend and told me I was a borderline, and continued to hang out with my boyfriend. My boyfriend then started focusing on calling me a borderline constantly, and just recently our relationship ended as per my ex-therapists coaching. I lost everyone I loved, I made the mistake of being friends with her in the first place, and now the damage is done.

  • Stacy

    Stacy

    January 8th, 2016 at 10:53 PM

    It is NOT YOUR fault!! The therapist is supposed to be the professional and the one who would NOT become your friend. Please don’t blame yourself. You did nothing wrong. ❤️

  • Jean

    Jean

    July 23rd, 2016 at 3:21 PM

    It’s not your fault and I think your therapist went way to far and un did what she was suppose to be as a therapist

  • Nancy

    Nancy

    October 7th, 2015 at 2:39 PM

    Just reading a out crossing those professional boundaries. I love my therapist for caring enough for me until I could start to care for myself but I would never want to lose her as my therapist. Our professiona relationship means too much to me. I want to be able to continue to see her in the office even though a cup of tea or a seeing each other at a show would be fun. I will have to ask where the boundaries are if we meet up in a public place. Thanks for all of your input everyone.2ZkA

  • Dryheat

    Dryheat

    November 11th, 2015 at 10:38 AM

    I’m also friends with my therapist. It works great for both of us. Because our connection is so strong, it simply just happened regardless if she’s had strong boundaries in place for 15 years, it only happened with me. It doesn’t make me special. We both were against it while seeing it coming. I don’t think of her her as either unprofessional or selfish. At the end of the day, I’m the paying client that knows teacher/student does not work me. I would not crumble if our therapist/relationship would end, I would just be really sad and with time get over it. By all means, it is the first person I truly open-up entirely; proving me that I can do it again with a lot of work but still. True, I pay her like I get paid professionally in my industry. My clients confine in me their deepest issues. By saying that, in 25 years, among close to 1,000 clients, I’ve only became friend with one, 6 months ago because again of a strong connection. It’s bound to happen with the ratio. I never mix private and professional life because in my profession I have to put my client first. They pay me up to 3 didget an hour then put me on a pedestal leaving me with the teacher/student position if I want to..I did go for it for a while but was told I came across as condescending, difficult to be approached and fake because I kept a strong distance. My business, marriage, any relationship really were going downhill fast and then finally reached for a therapist. Obviously, there is more reasons why I see a therapist but I do find myself healing safely, well and fast with my current therapist that also happens outside of therapy being my friend. To each his own.

  • Eve

    Eve

    November 12th, 2015 at 12:41 PM

    My therapist of 7 years remained close to his analyst for 40 years; until the day he passed away. Our relationship is very unique and he has tailored his approach accordingly. We’ve had many ruptures and have a strong enough bond where, even in the toughest of times together, we prevail. He shares a good amount of his private life with me; not too many details and I know him fairly well. His disclosures have helped me very much. It took me a very long time to allow his authentic care to penetrate my armour. I’ve experienced massive loss throughout my life and he knows me letting him in was miraculous and he respects me tremendously for staying with this process. We both know we will never lose touch with each other when it’s time for me to end my therapy. Neither of us will let that happen. He is seasoned enough to know how to stretch the boundaries and we’ve broke most all of them and have maintained the utmost respect for each other. It works very well for us. The emotional intimacy is nothing short of a special love we share for each other. It is very real, and it is love, contrary to how some may respond to that truth. I would not be able to work with the “average” therapist who would adhere to rigidity and not be secure enough to follow their heart and instincts. I do understand the reason for boundaries. However, every therapeutic experience is different. The standard rules would prevent me from the growth I’ve am experiencing and my therapists knows that for a fact. The “norms’ are changing too. He refers to our working relationship as “avant garde”; I have to agree. There is no way I could every fully say goodbye to such an instrumental person in my life as long as we are still breathing.

  • jean

    jean

    May 25th, 2016 at 7:16 PM

    i feel like you. there are a few people , another being my pain doctor who after 30 years I couldnt not have her part of my life when she retired. same with my therapist after 8 years . i love her and dont ever want to say goodbye I want a friendship

  • david

    david

    February 9th, 2016 at 5:23 AM

    I disagree with the supposed ethics. I have suffered tremendous loss in my life. I have had great difficulty with setting personal boundaries in my life for the majority of my adult life. I have always made myself vulnerable to people and in turn been taken advantage of. Recently I started seeing a therapist who I opened to more than anyone. I shared with her the most painful details of my life. Now, I feel violated. I opened up to her not because I trusted her, but because I wanted her to trust me. In the last couple of sessions I found out we could never be friends. I feel manipulated and betrayed. I was honest from the very beggining with her that I didn’t view her as my therapist but as my friend. Making myself as vulnerable as I have to someone who is unwilling to do the same hurts. I’ll never see a therapist again. Without the willingness to vulnerable to a person that person has no way of knowing whether or not the compassion is genuine.

  • Katsia

    Katsia

    February 9th, 2016 at 12:44 PM

    Don’t give up. A therapist does not need to be a “friend” to help you and help is the main goal. My therapy had a quality of friendship though still professional. Therapy is done now and I am well. My now x-therapist has transitioned to a full friend. A two-way relationship. Uncommon.

    Compassion can be very genuine even with professional boundaries. Don’t give up. It is what it is.

  • Michele

    Michele

    April 27th, 2016 at 7:33 AM

    I don’t see anything wrong with a therapist saying, up front, when a friendship is requested by a client, that they cannot be friends. A therapist is not required to do this and most would see it as a serious boundary crossing. In my opinion, though I personally became friends with a counselor (well after therapy) is that the person who cannot accept that their therapist doesn’t want to be their friend might want to focus on why they feel they need a therapist to be a friend in the first place. It seems to me what needs working on is building trust in a social setting and not a therapeutic one. Not to mention, if at the first session, a client ever asked me whether or not we could become friends, and then decided that because I said no, they were now going to “Doctor shop” until they got what they wanted I’d be seriously worrried. The therapist is paid to be objective, kind, compassionate, non-judgemental and the like and to expect that to transfer into the real world is unreasonable on the clients part and I’m sorry to say it but this is the very definition of transference and at times can be very dangerous for both the client and the therapist. There should never be an attempt by either party to create such emotional dependence that it becomes toxic. To the poster who was so disappointed, I understand, but that therapist did the ethical thing and it should be respected. You may want to think about why opening up to a therapist means that you must have a friendship with them or perhaps start slowly in a social setting and take a friendship slow. People aren’t perfect and loss is very common these days, but there are wonderful people still around willing to become friends with you. Don’t give up on them either. Good luck!

  • siobhain f

    siobhain f

    August 8th, 2016 at 4:50 PM

    im in bereavement therapy at the moment and only have 6 sessions today was my fourth i really wasnt to see my therapist after for suppoert but she told me today thay she cant

  • milootoole

    milootoole

    August 31st, 2016 at 6:52 AM

    I am in grief therapy. I have fallen in love with my therapist. Not the physical her, but the core person she is with extremely high moral values. In those values she reminds me of my late wife. I know nothing can come of it for myriad reasons. The age gap is too big by society’s standards. She is also very attractive, but it is the inner person that attracts me. So, I will finish my course of treatment which has been going very well, thanks to her warmth and understanding, and go on my way.

    I know that it is common for folks to fall in love with their caregivers, but I also know me and I am sure it is true love. Very sad for me. I understand the dangers of establishing personal relationships, but I believe that some truly rewarding life experiences are lost to the code of ethics.

  • milootoole

    milootoole

    August 31st, 2016 at 6:53 AM

    Happy that I found Goodtherapy.

  • Sabrina

    Sabrina

    September 28th, 2017 at 4:52 PM

    follow

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