In short, there is such a thing as a professional relationship and in therapy that’s it. Therapy is often an intense relationship where two people spend time together for say an hour a week for several months. A lot of intimate thoughts are expressed and personal information is revealed.
But for the best result possible from the therapy sessions, the client must have a trusting relationship with the therapist and not a friendship. That’s not to say that the atmosphere during therapy sessions can’t often be friendly. It most certainly can be friendly.
But in a friendship there is give and take from both friends. In therapy the giving is mostly from the client. They unburden their soul to the therapist who, if nothing else, is there primarily to listen.
In a friendship both parties share secrets or information. This is not the case in therapy. The client does not need to know the inner thoughts of the therapist whereas the therapist almost certainly needs to know the inner thoughts of the client.
This is why trust is such an important factor. The client trusts the therapist to keep everything said in therapy in the strictest confidence. The therapist trusts the client to give as much relevant information as possible.
The client trusts the therapist to provide helpful, practical advice. The therapist trusts the client to follow through on any exercises or homework which might be set.
This is not a friendship and should such a relationship develop, the therapy should cease immediately. Leaving asides issues of possible professional misconduct, which, if they occurred must never be put aside, therapy only works well when the relationship between client and therapist is based solely on trust and respect.
A duel relationship is where a couple connects on separate levels. Two friends would have a social relationship but if one became the client of the other in a professional situation – lawyer, doctor, therapist etc, problems can and often do arise. It is possible to have a friendly professional relationship but a professional relationship with a friend is far trickier.
There are many cases where once therapy has finished, a client may contact their therapist to advise him or her of the progress being made since therapy. This could be a letter or email and should be of real interest to the therapist knowing that the client has gone on to make real progress. But the only professional relationship is just that – professional.
Many experts say that if clients feel uncomfortable with their therapist they should either state the case and see what happens or end the relationship and seek another therapist. It is the client who is paying and they must not only get the best treatment but believe they are getting that treatment.
In some cases it may simply be a personality clash. The service provided by the therapist could be excellent but some people prefer a certain type of therapist. This is a case where the processional relationship did not work – it’s nobody’s fault but simply break it off and start again elsewhere.
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