The Scary Truth About Mixing Therapy and Romance

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Have you ever wondered what mixing therapy and romance looks like?

You’ve likely come across a movie or two where a counsellor gets into a relationship with their client. On the other hand, some programs just show one person wanting to cross the therapeutic relationship boundary into the territory of love.

Hollywood aside, there are definitely instances where romantic feelings can surface in a counselling dynamic. We are all human, but this is truly an ethical no no.

Let’s have a look at why counsellors should put a stop to any romantic inklings and never pursue mixing therapy and romance…

Posted: March 6th, 2021

Disclaimer: Although I am a mental health professional, all information and reflections are meant for educational purposes only. If you plan to make changes in your life, it may be worth consulting with loved ones and/or your wellness team. Also, this post may contain affiliate links that will connect you with some pretty cool products and when making a purchase through those links, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Ethics

Counsellors have an ethical responsibility to keep our client’s emotional health safe. In the Canadian Counselling Psychotherapy Association (CCPA) standards manual (2015) it states that counsellors have an “ethical prohibition” against sexual intimacies with clients.

Bottom line, the client-counsellor relationship should never be sexualized.

Mental health professionals are even directed not to counsel someone they have had any previous relationship with.

When seeking counselling, we are emotionally vulnerable. This should be a space where you can focus specifically on YOUR needs, not butterflies of seeing your therapist.

I am not judging anyone who gets a crush on their counsellor. Counsellors, though, know that there are many rules around getting romantic with a client.

Even so, an experience like this could be very harmful for a client.

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Power Imbalance

When we trust a professional and are willing to disclose our deepest secrets, we have an expectation that they know how to help us.

This develops a difference in power dynamics. In a counselling office, most clients do not see them as equals. They are the paid professional providing a mental health service.

Because counsellors are well trained on persuasion toward wellness, they could easily utilize those powers for manipulation.

Additionally, if you’ve disclosed so much information, you may be afraid to say no to sexual advances. It is a counsellor’s job NOT to exploit your vulnerabilities, so take this as a warning of a red flag.

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Who Can You Trust?

Imagine seeing a counsellor and something romantic came up. Say they end up breaking your heart somehow.

Now, how comfortable would you be in seeking a new counsellor for help? Likely not very!

Whenever a counsellor steps into the romantic roll with a client, it tampers with the sacred and safe space that should be provided in an office. If boundaries were crossed once, what will happen the next time?

I would never want a someone to be afraid of seeking help because they got romantically involved with me!

Can We Be Friends?

Nope. Not according to the CCPA (2015).

Friendships even come with caution tape and understandably so. If friendships are meant to be equal, are you ready to hear all about your counsellor’s life?

Sure, they were a good listener in sessions, but they were paid to be that way. Personally, they could be no fun at all!

Are you ready to let go of image you conjured up about your counsellor? Probably not.

What if Romance Sparks?

If your counsellor is becoming a little too close for comfort, this bad news bears.

It is up to you if you’d like to report their behaviour to whichever registering body they are under, but if it has happened to you, others are at risk. Either way, it is likely time to find a new counsellor.

If you are the one developing a crush, it is time for some self-reflection.

1. Why do you think this crush has started?

2. What do you like about the counsellor?

3. Could it be you are happy someone is attentively listening to and validating your problems?

This is something you can talk about with your counsellor. We are taught how to maintain boundaries and help clients get to the bottom of emotions that brew. This can include love.

Insight

I hope this has been an enlightening post, and like I said, I am not here to judge anyone.

My purpose here was to offer some protection. Whether you are a counsellor who needed a reminder or a client who needed to learn, thank you for reading!

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