Limits of the Therapy Relationship: What Clients Should Know
Psychotherapy is a professional service I can provide to you. Because of the nature of therapy, our re-lationship has to be different from most relationships. It may differ in how long it lasts, in the topics wediscuss, or in the goals of our relationship. It must also be limited to the relationship of therapist andclient only. If we were to interact in any other ways, we would then have a “dual relationship,” whichwould not be right and may not be legal. The different therapy professions have rules against such re-lationships to protect us both.
I want to explain why having a dual relationship is not a good idea. Dual relationships can set up conflicts between my own (the therapist’s) interests and your (the client’s) best interests, and then yourinterests might not be put first. In order to offer all my clients the best care, my judgment needs to beunselfish and professional.
Because I am your therapist, dual relationships like these are improper: • I cannot be your supervisor, teacher, or evaluator.
• I cannot be a therapist to my own relatives, friends (or the relatives of friends), people I know • I cannot provide therapy to people I used to know socially, or to former business contacts.
• I cannot have any other kind of business relationship with you besides the therapy itself. For ex- ample, I cannot employ you, lend to or borrow from you, or trade or barter your services (thingslike tutoring, repairing, child care, etc.) or goods for therapy.
• I cannot give legal, medical, financial, or any other type of professional advice.
• I cannot have any kind of romantic or sexual relationship with a former or current client, or any There are important differences between therapy and friendship. As your therapist, I cannot be your friend. Friends may see you only from their personal viewpoints and experiences. Friends maywant to find quick and easy solutions to your problems so that they can feel helpful. These short-termsolutions may not be in your long-term best interest. Friends do not usually follow up on their adviceto see whether it was useful. They may need to have you do what they advise. A therapist offers youchoices and helps you choose what is best for you. A therapist helps you learn how to solve problemsbetter and make better decisions. A therapist’s responses to your situation are based on tested theoriesand methods of change. You should also know that therapists are required to keep the identity of theirclients secret. Therefore, I may ignore you when we meet in a public place, and I must decline to at-tend your family’s gatherings if you invite me. Lastly, when our therapy is completed, I will not be ableto be a friend to you like your other friends.
In sum, my duty as therapist is to care for you and my other clients, but only in the professional role of therapist. Please note any questions or concerns on the back of this page so we can discuss them.
HANDOUT 1. Patient handout on limits of the therapy relationship. From The Paper Office. Copyright 2003 by
Edward L. Zuckerman. Permission to photocopy this handout is granted to purchasers of this book for personal use only (see copyright
page for details).



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