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Dual Relationship with Therapist Is a Mess

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From the U.S.: I have been in a dual relationship with my therapist for about 4.5 years, and things are falling apart and I don’t trust her and I am becoming more afraid of confronting her. She has also befriended my boyfriend and is going on personal outings separate with him and is hiring him to cat sit and do chores for her.

She has diagnosed me with BDP, and she might be correct, but I tend to behave most like a BDP with her. I haven’t had any suicidal thoughts ever until recently we have had more blowouts in the last year. I feel afraid of confrontations with her and that she might destroy my relationship with my boyfriend, who is 13 years younger than me and 23 years younger than her, and he believes and trusts her more than me since she is his therapist as well. This has turned into an enormous mess.

The reason for my reaching out is that she and I had a big blowout and she wants to use my boyfriend as a mediator to resolve our blowout. My boyfriend rubs his outings with her in my face and feels esteem for hanging out with her, which I understand because I felt special and cool at first. I feel really unsafe and stuck as I fear I will lose my relationship with my boyfriend if I retreat and ask to just reform our relationship to just professional. We have celebrated holidays together, exchanged birthday gifts and had birthday field trips and we called each other weekly to chat. I can text her at any time and she does the same. All of this has happened in the disclaimer that I keep this secret as well, so I don’t have anyone to talk to about it. I forgot to mention that she runs 2 therapy groups and has recently snapped at me given she is currently angry at me, yes, I was behaving out of turn, but the snapping was extreme given the situation.

She has the tendency to side with whomever she is not angry with at the present moment.

I believe she truly cares about me and I care about her enormously as she has truly helped me in my life enormously, but now there seems to have been a shift in tides. I am wanting to blame myself given that I have BDP but I also believe that as a therapist she shouldn’t have taken things this far, especially with involving my boyfriend. I did participate in pushing to be her friends as that made me feel special and powerful. That is my own issue though. Thanks for your help.

Dual Relationship with Therapist Is a Mess

Answered by on -


You’re right. This is a terrible mess. As a client, it’s not up to you to maintain boundaries on your own. That’s our job as therapists and your therapist should know better. It doesn’t matter how much you pushed for a personal relationship. That should have become a topic for your therapy, not an excuse for your therapist to violate boundaries. Of most concern is that you said that you are supposed to keep all this a secret. From what you report, she has broken many of our professional rules.

Each professional organization has an ethics committee that reviews complaints like yours.

If your therapist is a Psychologist, contact the Ethics Committee of the American Psychological Association (APA):

If she is a Social Worker, contact the Ethics Committee of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW):

If a Licensed Mental Health Worker, contact the licensing board in your state.

The therapist you describe is not your friend. However much she has helped you, she is also harming you. You deserve good treatment from a competent healer. Terminate your therapy and find someone who doesn’t make you dependent, isolated and afraid.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

Dual Relationship with Therapist Is a Mess

Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Dr. Marie is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2018). Dual Relationship with Therapist Is a Mess. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 27, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018 (Originally: 1 Dec 2014)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.