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Is my therapist violating ethics? What should I do?

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Is my therapist violating ethics? What should I do?

Postby Inquirer » Mon Sep 23, 2019 3:51 pm

I’m very confused about this so I really wanted the community’s advice on how to handle it.

I’ve been undergoing therapy for a couple of years now. The reasons that initially drove me to seek therapy were insomnia and stress, although the former quickly disappeared when I started full-time work. My therapist told me from the start that I do not have any “clinical” issue, but we still continued the therapy to explore my relationship with my parents, romantic partners, my existential concerns etc. I’ve found the process interesting and enlightening.

My therapist, a psychiatrist who is trained in psychodynamic psychotherapy (let’s call him Dr. Smith), was recommended to me by a female friend (let’s call her Vicky) who, at some point after I started therapy, became my girlfriend. Now, in the past, Dr. Smith was Vicky’s therapist for a year or so, but because Vicky faced financial problems and couldn’t pay his fee, he suggested that she continues her therapy with a psychologist he recommended, who was new at the job and charged far less. Let’s call the psychologist Ms. Jones.

So, here’s the problem. While seeing me as a client, Dr. Smith continued seeing Vicky (who was now my girlfriend) in concert with Ms. Jones. When I asked him whether this might be unethical or problematic for my or her therapy, he assured me that there’s no issue because he is not Vicky’s therapist and he only sees her to prescribe medication for her anxiety issues. I trusted his opinion, so we continued with the therapy.

It gets more complicated after this, however. At some point Vicky started to suspect that Dr. Smith and Ms. Jones were actually husband and wife, which Dr. Smith openly admitted after being asked. In addition, Vicky and I broke up a few months ago, but, since we both live in the same neighborhood, we lost touch with many of our other friends and we had become quite close to each other during our relationship, we stayed friends and we go out together, we talk about the things that concern us etc. This might be a bad idea (in my experience, it usually is), but the main issue here is our therapies! In our last few sessions, Dr. Smith has been telling me that I should move to another neighborhood to minimize my contact with Vicky. Also, Vicky has been recently complaining to me that Dr. Smith told her that she should stay away from me because maintaining a friendly relationship with her ex is holding her back from moving on, as she’s already 35 and her chances of meeting someone and starting a family are getting slimmer by the day.

Now, first of all, these things sound very weird, inappropriate and manipulative for a therapist to say to his clients, especially to Vicky as he claims that he is only prescribing medication to her but it sounds as if he regularly interferes in her therapy. As a result, I’ve lost my trust for Dr. Smith and I can no longer disclose my personal concerns to him during therapy. Secondly, can I trust a therapist who recommends his own wife to a client without disclosing their relationship? And what about the fact that he decided to treat two clients who are in a relationship, one of them along with his wife? Is this even ethical? To me it sounds like the very definition of a “multiple relationship”, which the code of conduct in psychotherapy strongly warns against.

Most importantly, what can I do? How can I confront Dr. Smith with my concerns when I do not trust his objectivity after all this? Should I ask another therapist? Should I ask the local association of therapists whether this thing is ethical?

Thanks in advance!
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Re: Is my therapist violating ethics? What should I do?

Postby catsup » Thu Sep 26, 2019 5:21 pm

I think the lack of transparency with your therapist is unethical, and as far as I know, referrals are made based on the best interest of the client and not of the therapist (referring someone to his wife is problematic). I don't know if what has happened is a violation of the code of conduct therapists follow in your country, but it's not wrong or inappropriate to contact the College/Association and ask for their guidance.
If you no longer trust your therapist and feel the relationship is damaged, I think it makes sense to find a new therapist.
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