Can an individual and therapist have a relationship outside of therapy?
No. Therapy is a one-way street. The therapist knows a great deal about the patient but the patient does not know intimate details about the therapist. Because of this, the therapist often seems to have a greater power or influence over the individual, which could result in abuse or deception.
This does not mean that one cannot have any contact with the therapist outside of the therapy situation. This is especially true in small towns where social contact may be inevitable. However, it is generally not a good idea to seek therapy from someone you know personally or with whom you may have another relationship (e.g., business interest, friendship). In fact, the ethics of most professions prohibit their members from engaging in these types of relationships.
Does therapy involve physical touch?
The use of touch varies. Some therapists may pat or hug a patient as a sign of support or comfort. However, physical touch is powerful and should never be sexualized. Kissing, excessive touching and sexual activity have no place in therapy. While almost all therapists are ethical, a small minority exploits their patients. Any therapy involving inappropriate sexual behavior should be discontinued and the therapist should be reported to the stateÆs ethics board.
Is it okay for therapists and patients to date?
Dating or any sexual contact between a therapist and patient is inappropriate. This includes seeking therapy from someone with whom you have been involved, with whom you had an intimate relationship with in the past, dating during therapy or starting a relationship after therapy has ended. Many states have specific statutes regarding this behavior.
Will my therapist be angry if I switch to another practitioner?