Friend Has Fallen for “Lovesick” Therapist

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

A female friend has always had a bond with her older male therapist. She terminated a year ago with him after revealing her childhood rape in detail to him. However, she continued to see him and pay him for “sessions”. Now she is seeing him at his office as “friends”. This was the result of him coming out and expressing his love for her after finding out she was getting close to me. He texts her and calls her. The therapist is married with children. Well, she has swooned. She thinks he will leave his wife and they will be together. She believes that their love is an exception to the transference and countertransference of a theraputic context. She believes that the therapist is a good person and love can transcend the theraputic context and that they are “soulmates”. This intense bond occurred when she revealed her rape. I have warned her repeatly. Her response is that she is a big girl and can make her own decisions. Do I leave it alone or do I confront this lovesick therapist? I am torn.

A. I am curious about your relationship with your female friend. Is this an individual who you are attracted to or were formerly involved with? Having said that, I believe your concerns are valid and understandable.

There are two main concerns with the relationship. One is ethical. Mental health professionals are obliged to abide by ethical codes of conduct. He may be in violation of these codes. Many of these codes of conduct are in place to prevent intimate relationships between a therapist and client from developing. I’m not certain what specific type of therapist he is (i.e. psychologist, psychiatrist, social worker, etc) but if you feel it necessary, you could file a formal complaint with his respective governing board.

The second concern is that the therapist is married. Your friend believes that he is going to leave his wife and children to be with her. She may soon find out that oftentimes the cheating spouse claims they will end their marriage but do not. It’s one of the hazards of being involved with an individual who is married.

To answer your question, I’m not certain about whether confronting the therapist is the best course of action. It may anger your friend and drive her away from you. Try to understand it from her perspective. She said she is “in love” him. Your confrontation may be interpreted as an attack on her “soul mate.”

I understand that it is difficult to watch your friend possibly get hurt as a result of her involvement with this individual. It’s not easy to watch someone you care about suffer and make bad decisions. Unfortunately, you cannot control the behavior of other people. You can offer advice but she can choose to ignore it. As your friend stated, she is a “big girl who can make her own decisions.” What she is saying is that she is free to do what she wants, regardless of your opinion. She may have to learn “the hard way,” which is that if she continues the relationship, she risks getting hurt. For her sake, I hope that doesn’t happen but unfortunately that is usually the end result of affairs.

What should you do? Recognize that your power is limited in the situation. You should talk to your friend. Let her know about your concerns and continue to encourage her to be careful about the situation she’s involved in. You may also want to suggest that she see another therapist. You could frame the suggestion like this: “You are dealing with many difficult issues right now and things are complicated with your current therapist. It might be a good idea if you saw a different therapist who can be objective.” The new therapist may not be able to convince her to stop seeing her therapist romantically but perhaps he or she could offer a new perspective or an objective opinion that changes her mind.

The bottom line is that there is no easy solution to this problem. Your advice might be wise and logical but if someone does not want it, you cannot force them to accept it. If your relationship with her reaches that point, know that you have done all you can. Thanks for writing.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 8 Apr 2010

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2010). Friend Has Fallen for “Lovesick” Therapist. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 17, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/04/08/friend-has-fallen-for-lovesick-therapist/