I am wondering whether there is any hard and fast “rule” about becoming social with one’s former therapist. I stopped seeing my very helpful psychotherapist over a year ago, and we had a very good working relationship. It always remained professional, but he told me on more than one occasion that he believed he and I had a lot in common, and I agree. I would really like to keep in touch, but not for the purpose of “checking in” or “leaving the door open” to go back for treatment. I would rather become more of a mutual friend with him. Something tells me that some people would disagree that this is a good idea (although maybe others think it’s just fine). I don’t want to make him uncomfortable by asking, so I thought I’d check here first. It’s always nice to make new friends, and I think that if this man and I could make that work, it could be fun. Should I bring the idea up?
A. This is a tricky issue. Some people believe very strongly that clients are clients and there’s a clear delineation between client and therapist. Others feel that the relationship that develops between a client and therapist is very real, as real as any friendship or any other close relationship between two people. There are a variety of other “camps” that have differing opinions on the subject. There are also ethical codes that psychologists, social workers and other mental health professionals have to abide by. The codes are clear about having a sexual relationship between therapist and client but they tend to be ambiguous when it comes to friendships.
I think the best thing to do in this situation is to have an honest discussion with your former therapist about a possible friendship. Even if the conversation is a bit uncomfortable I would suggest going forward with it. There may be certain opinions that mental health professionals hold about friendships between clients but your primary interest is in what your ex-therapist’s opinion is. The only way to know how he feels is to ask him directly. Thank you for your question.
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 4 Jan 2010
Randle, K. (2010). Friends with Former Therapist?. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 12, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/01/04/friends-with-former-therapist/