I often like my clients. I like the people they are and see the challenges they face and how they want better for themselves.
I often also can see myself being friends with many of them! This poses a problem for me to a certain extent. Sure, I am able to keep my professional boundaries as outlined by the ethics of my collage and license. It can be hard to do sometimes though, this is especially the case when treatment is coming to an end.
Sure, I get paid as a therapist. This does not mean I do not care. In fact, when treatment ends for a client, this can also be a challenging time for the therapist as well! I will many times think back to a client that challenged me, we had some good laughs together, or bonding moments. It can be hard to let go, especially when you like a person, you miss their regular appointments.
In the over 10 years of seeing clients, I remember them all. Some of course stick out more than others from time to time but I have learned from them and missed them all. Yeah, yeah, it sounds unbelievable. I didn't say I liked them all, I missed them all. I can probably count on just one hand though how many clients I did not like and even that bothers me! I want to like my clients!
But I digress...
I sometimes wish I met some of my clients outside of work because I wish we could've been friends instead! However, on the other hand, I look back at the work accomplished and I like to think we both found our relationship therapeutic and supportive. I look back at all the clients I have had and feel good that I was able to help. I can't be friends with everyone out there in the world and, most importantly, we all come into each others' lives for a reason-we hope that it is for the best.
I put the picture up from the movie 50/50. It's a decent movie. I used that picture because in the movie, the relationship between therapist and client becomes blurred and confusing for both involved. I truly believe that when a therapist blurs the lines it is unhelpful. It messes with the dynamic and increases bias in the therapy given. When the lines are blurred you start to loss perspective as an outsider, which is important.
Sure, I may see friend potential in some of my clients but that doesn't me we are ‘besties’. We can't be. I won't be effective at my job and my clients are not coming for a friend, they are coming for very important reason: support, help, validation, guidance, another perspective. Being friends after therapy can be too vulnerable and intrusive, let alone the dynamic of the client/therapist is a lingering fact.
So, I guess I think therapists and clients can't be friends but that doesn't mean there isn't a mutual respect and a different kind of relationship, if not a more important one, that happens in a therapy room.
~Amira Lodhi, MSW