Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue


Should You Share Your Therapist With a Friend?

posted by Beyond Blue

Should You Share Your Therapist With a Friend?I have a friend who lives by this cardinal rule: She will never ever work with a friend.

So when jobs surface in her company, or if she hears of an opening in her field, she only shares the information with non-friends. It’s just too messy, she explained to me the other day.

Having experienced a situation not too long ago that became just that — messy — I can understand her logic and applaud her for sticking by that rule. I am now much more careful about sharing work opportunities with close friends… in order to protect myself.

Should the same rule apply to therapy?

I never thought so. I mean, my psychiatrist told me the other day that I am her third biggest source of referrals, after a local cardiologist and a gynecologist. I don’t hesitate to share the numbers of both my therapist and my psychiatrist because, frankly, there are so many bad ones in Annapolis that I would feel guilty putting my friends into their dangerous hands.

However, in the last month, I’ve heard from two people who regret sharing their therapist with a friend. The first is frustrated because she can no longer get into see her therapist. The head doctor is now too busy with all the referrals. My friend has lost her preferred hour, so she’s had to rearrange her schedule around the therapy visits of her friends.

Annoying.

The other woman started to have friendship issues with the woman whom she referred to her therapist. So when she would discuss the friendship frustrations in therapy, the therapist no longer was able to see the situation objectively. When the therapist “took the other woman’s side,” according to my friend, she ended up so hurt that she quit therapy. She recently explained this in an email:

When we are in therapy, all parts of our lives come up. When something between you and the person you referred happens, and it will, you are backed in a corner you can never escape. The best of friends have arguments or differences and usually work them out between themselves. However, when you put a third party into the mix, especially a therapist who is seeing both people, it is always going to be the elephant in the room and there is no way that cannot affect your therapist relationship.

I can see her point. I remember when my mom and I shared a therapist, and I was doing a lot of inner-child work, exploring the pain of some of childhood memories. In some ways, it was helpful for my therapist to know my mom in that she benefitted from a bit of context with which to assess the situation. However, there came a point when both of us were subconsciously fishing for information on the other. The therapist was placed in an awkward spot. My mom eventually moved on to another therapist, so the situation resolved itself. But it could have exploded into a bloody mess.

?What do you think?
Should you share your therapist with a friend?
If you have already, what happened as a result?

Originally published on Psych Central.



  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Mimi

    Sharing a therapist is on the same level as being really close to your neighbor. There’s no buffer zone.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment JiLLB

    I’d never share my therapist with anyone – anyone else in the practice, yes, but not her! It’s the reasons that have already been brought up – you will inevitably talk about your relationship with that friend and it would be awkward all around, knowing that they know each other. A friend applied for the graduate program in which my therapist is a professor. While I think there is no therapist better and am certain it’s a great program, it would have been obvious that the student was my friend. It’s just too ugly for the friendship.

    Also, I don’t feel like I could vent about my therapist or discuss things happening in therapy. You know, sometimes you’re frustrated or upset with a technique; sometimes you’ve built up such a level of trust that the therapist offers you things that she may not offer your friend. It’s just bound to create unnecessary conflict.

    I vote NO WAY!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Sue

    Many therapists will not see friends of current clients. Not only is it complicated for the client and her friend’s relationship, it can be uncomfortable for the therapist.

  • http://anaturalunfolding.blogspot.com Rooster

    I think there’s a big difference between seeing the same therapist as a friend and as a parent.

    As for friends, I actually have trouble seeing a problem with it, because therapists are supposed to keep things confidential. So there’s no need for “an elephant” in the room; you’re not going to hear about the other person anyway.

    As for parents, I can see that being a huge problem. But my boyfriend and his mom see the same therapist, and he’s fine with it. He says that he feels the therapist separates them really well and enjoys seeing the guy. Personally, I would never do this, though I wish my parents would do therapy and they’ve never been willing to go there. I would want them to see a different therapist, especially because I’m in my 20s and autonomy means something to me, but I would be curious to meet that therapist or do a group session.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment happenings

    my best friend turned me on to her therapist and it was the nicest gift she could’ve given me. i’d already been to three who didn’t do the trick.

    as for our friendship, if we have problems in the future i can seek someone else out, another friend, rather than put my therapist in that situation.

    the therapist and my friend are worth it!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Maddie

    My first therapist was recommended to me by my best friend. He was one of the therapists involved with her group, and my friend thought we would be a good “fit”.

    It worked well since I saw him on a more personal basis, and it had helped that he knew both of us.

    However, my thinking has changed. I have relocated, and needed to continue therapy on a more consistent basis. My physician recommended my initial therapist, and when she relocated, she recommended the therapist I see now.

    I think the decision of recommending your therapist to a close friend or family member should depend on how the therapist feels about the situation. I trust my therapist enough to believe she would make the right choice, and would have another recommendation to offer if she felt there would be a conflict of interest.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Anne

    As a client, I don’t think I’d refer anyone with whom I was really close because I’d personally always be wondering. You never know what someone is talking about with “their/my/our” therapist and it would drive me crazy. I know this about myself.

    As a therapist, I would not take on a close friend or family member of a client knowingly. As much as I might appreciate some additional information or other perspectives on the client or events, I don’t think it’s worth the potential damage. A client needs to know that they are in a safe and impartial environment. Sometimes it’s the anonymity and distance from their lives that makes it okay to speak freely. Other therapists might feel differently. If in doubt, I’d always refer on the side of caution. You can always ask your therapist for a referral for that friend.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Razz2

    No. I want to think of my time with my therapist as strictly “ME” time. That the relationship we have is MINE alone. I can recommend the “group” to someone but usually don’t even do that. I share so many other things in life with other people this is the one thing I can keep as special to me.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Sherry

    Generally, even when you have a friend, the same therapist won’t be the same kind of ‘match’ for both of you. Also, I agree that there can be questions of loyalty – who will the therapist ‘side’ with when you and your friend have differences. There may be, as a result, issues in regard to the therapist manipulating one or the other of you. However, I don’t think that therapy is best done in a ‘closed box’, so to speak. All of our issues arise and involve others. We don’t see ourselves clearly. It can be very helpful to invite a friend or loved one into your sessions from time to time. Thus your therapist has the opportunity to see you through the eyes of someone else.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment spareparts

    Hi Therese,

    It depends on the therapist. When I was in high school, my (real) mom started seeing my psychiatrist because she could not get any information out of him about my therapy. Even after she tried that, he STILL would not divulge my information. He asked me if I wanted him to, but when I said “no”, that was fine with him.

    After I ran away to college, my psychiatrist and I both were relieved… You gotta hand it to him though. He was a rock.

    The therapist I have now is the same way, I think. Boundaries are very important to him. But I also know I’m truly blessed. I would think these types of therapists are in the minority, as I think fuzzy boundaries are actually the norm.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/beyondblue/2011/11/should-you-share-your-therapist-with-a-friend.html#post Mary

    As a trained Modern Psychoanalyst, who care deeply for her patients, I find discussing my countertransferences with my supervisors enable me to see multiple persons in a family, as well as friends. When I feel induced to share information, I simply ask the patient in the room many questions about “how it would change our treatment if there were informations shared?” Also before taking on a family member, or friend there is a lot of talking, sometimes months, to be clear on how this action would effect the treatment. It becomes a case by case situation. BTW, I love your blog and all of the ways you reach and touch hearts because of it. Bless YOU Therese!

  • http://zaftigdiva.blogspot.com Zaftig Diva

    I worked in the mental health field and have shared my favorite therapist with several friends. When an issue arose with a new friend recently, my other friend suggested recommending the same therapist I had for her.

    At first I was apprehensive because I didn’t want the therapist to think poorly of me. Things were getting messy. But when my friend reported back that the therapist loved me I was slightly relieved, thinking that she would remain objective in the process.

    However, after a few sessions my friend began telling me things the therapist suggested she say. I suggested she work on her own issues and leave me out of it. This back and forth between the three of us became increasingly distressing to our relationship. Of course, I wasn’t in the sessions so I have no idea as to the accuracy of communication. However, in the end she left therapy and I left the relationship.

    The mess that needed to be sorted began long before I can along. Even as I believe in the therapy process, I will refrain from recommending any therapist with whom I have a personal relationship.

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