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why your therapist is not your friend

There is something special and unique about the relationship between a person in therapy and his or her therapist. It is a professional relationship, one in which the therapist is providing a service. However, it is also an intimate relationship, one in which secrets are shared, tears are shed, and moments of joy are celebrated. It is an open relationship in that, with consent, your therapist will communicate with other health professionals on your behalf. But it is also a very private relationship, as your confidentiality is held sacred.

A bond and trust are formed in therapy, yet the therapeutic relationship is a bit one-sided; while your therapist learns a great deal about you, he or she is less likely to engage in reciprocal sharing. This is different from a friendship, in which both parties mutually share who they are.

The complexities of the therapeutic relationship are distinct from other relationships, but it is these same complexities that make psychotherapy work. For therapy to be successful, your therapist must maintain healthy boundaries in the relationship and cannot develop a friendship with you.

Because of this, it could seem like your therapist is being fake or disingenuous with you. There have been multiple occasions in which a person in therapy has stated to me, “You don’t care about me, you are only here because this is your job.” It is true that your therapist is doing a job, but this does not mean he or she does not care about you. I rather like and enjoy the people I help. I have had the pleasure of meeting funny, intelligent, successful, and down-to-earth women and men who, had we met outside of therapy, likely would have made good friends. But for therapy to do what it’s supposed to do, your therapist simply can’t be your friend.