Watch out for unethical therapists who don’t watch themselves…
They’re out there — therapists who go to school, fulfill their supervised work requirements and learn all the rules about boundaries and ethics — then open a practice and start breaking them.
Most people know only one rule about therapy — that their therapist is not supposed to sleep with them — and not much more. But did you know that there are literally scores of things your therapist isn’t supposed to do? Did you know that many of these things are often considered harmless or perfectly acceptable by the majority of clients?
Therapists know many rules about ethics that their clients don’t, and therapists are required to follow and enforce those rules. But if you as the client don’t know what the rules are and your therapist breaks them, who can blow the whistle? Certainly not you.
People in therapy are at their most vulnerable. They usually begin therapy when things are at their absolute worst, and often, their lives weren’t the best to begin with. A therapist’s job is to help people navigate their way through these difficult waters and develop behaviors that make things better. The therapist is someone the client comes to trust – as an authority, as a guidepost, and as a source of support.
But while therapists are schooled in what is unacceptable and are bound by the ethics requirements of their profession – clients are not. Some of the rules and guidelines applying to therapists’ behavior may surprise you.
The kinds of issues people in therapy sometimes wonder about are:
Is my therapist allowed to hug me?
Is it okay if my therapist meets me outside the office?
What if I am attracted to my therapist? What if they like me back?
Can therapists do favors, like lend me 5 dollars or tell their friend to hire me?
Can I give my therapist gifts?
Is it all right if my therapist works with someone I know, and they talk about me?
And while you can ask your therapist what the answers to such questions are, if you happen to have an unethical therapist, they can just tell you whatever they want you to believe or downplay the issue. There may also be things that you personally have no problem with, but which your therapist is still not allowed to do, even though you personally wouldn’t mind. It’s important to have ethics rules and guidelines so that what happens in therapy isn’t determined by things like personal issues and mental disorder. Clients’ behaviors aren’t always healthy, and unethical therapists do rush in to take advantage of that very fact.
The following things go a long way in terms of preventing and addressing ethics problems with therapists:
Click here to see the list of things therapists are not supposed to do. If all you’re sure about is that your therapist isn’t supposed to sleep with you, you’re missing out on a LOT of other important information. The link above contains a large checklist of things you might never have considered unethical.
Click here to find the ethics code that YOUR therapist has to abide by and reach the right people to answer your questions. After all, if you want advice about whether something is inappropriate, it’s best to get it from a professional who isn’t your therapist!
Join us next time – we’ll be discussing ways to treat depression and anxiety without medication.
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