I have a friend who lives by this cardinal rule: She will never ever work with a friend.
So when jobs surface in her company, or if she hears of an opening in her field, she only shares the information with non-friends. It’s just too messy, she explained to me the other day.
Having experienced a situation not too long ago that became just that — messy — I can understand her logic and applaud her for sticking by that rule. I am now much more careful about sharing work opportunities with close friends… in order to protect myself.
Should the same rule apply to therapy?
I never thought so. I mean, my psychiatrist told me the other day that I am her third biggest source of referrals, after a local cardiologist and a gynecologist. I don’t hesitate to share the numbers of both my therapist and my psychiatrist because, frankly, there are so many bad ones in Annapolis that I would feel guilty putting my friends into their dangerous hands.
However, in the last month, I’ve heard from two people who regret sharing their therapist with a friend. The first is frustrated because she can no longer get into see her therapist. The head doctor is now too busy with all the referrals. My friend has lost her preferred hour, so she’s had to rearrange her schedule around the therapy visits of her friends.
The other woman started to have friendship issues with the woman whom she referred to her therapist. So when she would discuss the friendship frustrations in therapy, the therapist no longer was able to see the situation objectively. When the therapist “took the other woman’s side,” according to my friend, she ended up so hurt that she quit therapy. She recently explained this in an email:
When we are in therapy, all parts of our lives come up. When something between you and the person you referred happens, and it will, you are backed in a corner you can never escape. The best of friends have arguments or differences and usually work them out between themselves. However, when you put a third party into the mix, especially a therapist who is seeing both people, it is always going to be the elephant in the room and there is no way that cannot affect your therapist relationship.
I can see her point. I remember when my mom and I shared a therapist, and I was doing a lot of inner-child work, exploring the pain of some of childhood memories. In some ways, it was helpful for my therapist to know my mom in that she benefitted from a bit of context with which to assess the situation. However, there came a point when both of us were subconsciously fishing for information on the other. The therapist was placed in an awkward spot. My mom eventually moved on to another therapist, so the situation resolved itself. But it could have exploded into a bloody mess.
What do you think?
Should you share your therapist with a friend?
If you have already, what happened as a result?
Originally published on Psych Central.