LoveAndLifeToolBox

Ask the Lisa: My boyfriend is having an improper relationship with his therapist

My boyfriend has seen a therapist over the past year for help dealing with some problems that he has has relating to his children.  Recently he has disclosed to me that his therapist called him at his home and requested that he drive the hour to her office so that she could talk to him.  He did as she asked and after arriving at her office she proceeded to tell him about personal problems of her own.  He said that she actually cried while telling him about her situation.  She was looking for advice from him he says, because he has been in similar situations in his own life.  She also asked him not to tell anyone about their meeting or her problems.  On top of this she has involved him in the lives of other clients in her practice.  Asking him for his assistance.  He didn’t tell me about any of this for at least a month.

When he did tell me I was furious.  It just seemed so wrong to me. He is a very good person and would help anyone in need so I don’t blame him. But when I told him I thought the therapist was unethical he became furious with me because I am not being sensitive to the problems this poor woman is going through. He has even asked me for a break from our relationship due to his anger.  You should understand that before this problem we have never had a jealousy issue or really any serious problems.  I have never seen him this angry. It seems to me that she keeps coming up with excuses for him to spend time with her.

He has told me that I am crazy and sad.  Am I?  Help???

Lisa’s thoughts…

Your instincts are correct.  This behavior is not only totally unethical but illegal as well.  She should not be engaging her clients in a dual relationship with her or involve them in each other’s lives.  She is being paid to be his therapist, not her personal confidante.

Laws and guidelines in our profession are there to protect the public.  Because of the nature and vulnerability of the therapist-client relationship there is a lot of potential for harm done to clients if a therapist acts inappropriately.  He is now feeling protective of her when their relationship should not be about her or occur outside of their paid therapy meetings.  This is outrageous.

Please tell your boyfriend that it is not appropriate for his therapist to be seeking his advice on her personal matters.  This is highly reportable to whatever state licensing board she is connected to and her license could possibly be revoked if it was.  He would be best served to terminate his relationship with her.  This is no longer a therapist-client relationship.  She has muddied those waters.

All this being said, you would likely be well served to approach your boyfriend sensitively with this.  It appears as though he’s developed an unhealthy attachment to her and may not hear it well if you’re not careful.  Try telling him why you can understand why it might be hard to hear because of the relationship that has developed but her behavior is not professional.  How he handles that will be on him but if he has been working with her a full year, if he decides to terminate the therapeutic relationship, he will likely experience a loss.  That is real too and will require sensitivity on your part.

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Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT

Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT is the creator of LoveAndLifeToolbox.com with emotional and relationship health articles, guides, courses and other tools for individuals and couples. She is a frequent consultant for the media having appeared in CNN.com, HuffingtonPost.com, MensHealth.com and others. Lisa has a private practice in Marin County, CA and offers Emotional Health and Relationship Consultations via email, phone or video conference.

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