Should therapists play cupid?

A really interesting article was published in the New York Times this week, “Should therapists play cupid?”  Check it out here.

Basically, the author, a psychiatrist, discusses his own temptations to set up his patients with each other, or even with other people in his life.  He acknowledges that doing this sort of thing would be the equivalent of entering an ethical minefield, but even so, discusses his fantasies of playing matchmaker.

I was actually pretty shocked to hear how much thought and consideration he has given to setting folks up!  For clinical and ethical reasons, it was surprising to hear that this fantasy was fairly common among therapists.  Granted, I can see why the thought might cross a therapist’s mind, but given the rigorous training in ethics and appropriate clinical practice that one likely has as a therapist, entering into someone’s life like that is seriously considered a no-no, so it was surprising to me that so many people have thought twice about it.

A panel of 4 therapists discussed this article on the Huffington Post, and I was surprised again to hear how much some of them thought about playing the role of cupid – check out the video here.

One of the issues that was wisely brought up in this panel is that of multiple relationships:  in general, therapists should not have dual roles with clients.  I am not too familiar with ethical codes other than that for psychologists, but in my ethical code, psychologists should not have relationships with their clients other than the therapist/client relationship if it might otherwise impair their objectivity or interfere with treatment.

Matchmaking is on seriously shaky ground!

While I agree with Dr. Lazarus (on the video) that many ethical principles are like straightjackets for psychologists, I don’t think the principle about multiple relationships is one of them.  Rather, I think it’s there for good reason.

My view is that the relationship that a client has with his or her therapist is sacred, and it is the therapist’s duty to protect that.  This does not mean playing God by interfering in a client’s life in any other way than in the consulting room.  This especially does not mean introducing people from the therapist’s own life – whether they are other clients, friends or family – into the client’s life.  Such an act, even if harmless in many cases, has too great of a potential to tarnish that sacred space of the therapist’s office.  It is the one place in the universe in which your relationship with someone is mostly one-sided, for you, and separate from the rest of the world and the rest of your life.

Even if it is tempting for you to think about your therapist setting you up with someone, your therapist getting involved like that would just muddy up the whole process. There are plenty of other people out there to set you up.  And who’s to say that the therapist isn’t doing this for their own gratification?  How would a therapist even know?  I’ve wanted to set friends up before and imagining that it might work out is extremely gratifying to me…(which is ok, of course, with friends).

Like I said, it’s shaky ground.  You start bending rules and it becomes a slippery slope.  Suddenly you may not have a therapist anymore but a friend.

Your therapist may care deeply about you and know you better than anyone, but even so, your therapist should not be your friend.  I could see myself being friends with some of my clients as several of them might share my values and sense of humor, and I like them a lot, but I wouldn’t think twice about the possibility because I am their therapist!

I really agreed whole heartedly with Dr. Kolmes on the Huffington Post panel.  Clearly we have similar backgrounds and training – she completed the same doctoral program I did a few years prior to me.  She seemed to be the only therapist of the 4 that didn’t seem to have thought twice about playing matchmaker – it is simply not clinically good practice and so it flies out the window.

So – my answer to whether or not your therapist should play cupid is a resounding NO!

What do you think?  Leave your comments on the blog!

Cheers to your best relationship – not set up by your therapist 😉











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