Is It a Bad Idea to See the Same Therapist as Someone I Know?

Imagine this: your best friend started going to therapy a few months ago, and she’s glowing. She seems so much happier and healthier, and she raves about her therapist. From the way she talks about her therapy sessions, they seem like exactly what you need. She tells you that you should consider contacting this therapist.

Your experiences in therapy haven’t been great, and you’d love to see this therapist who has helped your friend so much. You’ve been searching for a new therapist for a while, and your friend’s therapist seems like they’re what you’ve been looking for. You’re relieved that you can now start therapy with someone who you already know is good at what they do.

But is it a bad idea to see the same therapist as someone you know? Are therapists even allowed to treat two friends, or two members of the same family? 

The short answer is that there isn’t a law that prevents therapists from seeing two friends 一 but it still might be a tricky situation to navigate. Here’s everything you should consider before deciding to see the same therapist as someone you know.

Related Blog: "7 Signs your Therapist is a Keeper"

Confidentiality Laws Mean Your Therapist Won’t Spill Your Secrets

First of all, if you’re worried about your therapist spilling your secrets to the friend who also sees them, there’s no need to worry. There are strict confidentiality laws that legally prohibit therapists from sharing any information about any of their clients to anybody. If your therapist reveals anything you’ve told them to your friend (or anyone else, for that matter), there will be serious legal consequences.

In fact, these laws are so strict that your therapist won’t even be able to affirm or deny that they are treating the person you know at all. And they won’t tell your friend that they’re working with you, either. 

So if it’s confidentiality you’re worried about, then there is no concern there. Your therapist, if they’re following the law, will protect your deepest secrets no matter what (except in specific situations, like if there’s a child or elder being abused, or if they think you may harm yourself or others).

Legally, Therapists Can See Two People Who Know Each Other

There is no law that prohibits therapists from seeing two people who know each other, or even two members of the same family. In some small communities, there may not even be a choice. For example, a high school or college may only have one mental health therapist on-site. In these cases, it’s likely that many people who know each other will end up seeing the same therapist 一 it just can’t be helped.

There’s nothing explicit in psychologists’ and counselors’ ethical codes that prevent them from working with two people who know each other, or even two members of the same family.

Therapists themselves are prohibited from having what are called dual relationships with their clients. A dual relationship can range from having a sexual relationship with a client (an obvious no-no) to being in the same professional organization as a client (a gray area that depends on whether harm could come to the client). 

The therapist’s clients’ relationships with each other, however, aren’t listed in the Code of Ethics. Counselors shouldn’t work with clients in any situation where they can’t remain objective, and they should always get informed consent about how confidentiality and boundaries are protected.

Ethically, Maintaining Neutrality Can Get Murky for Therapists

Even though any therapist will keep your sessions confidential, that doesn’t mean that seeing the same therapist as your friend is a good idea. Seeing two people who know each other, especially if they’re close, can get into murky waters for therapists.

One of the reasons that therapists are so helpful is because they can be a neutral guide through difficult situations. It gets trickier for therapists to stay neutral when they’re seeing two people who are close. This is especially true if these two people talk about each other in their sessions.

For example, let’s say that your best friend has been distant lately, and you’re worried about her mental health. The therapist you share with her may be privy to information about what’s going on with your friend. It may be difficult for your therapist to remain objective while listening to you talk about what you think is going on with your friend, especially when what you think is totally incorrect.

It’s also hard for therapists to stay objective while seeing multiple members of the same family, or both individuals in a romantic relationship. Especially when there’s conflict in the relationship, it can become tricky for a therapist to remain neutral and focus on the client who is in front of them.

For that reason, many therapists refuse to see two clients who are involved in a close relationship, especially if it’s a conflictual one. Most therapists, for example, will refer their individual clients to another therapist for couples or family therapy. So if you’re thinking about starting therapy with your best friend’s therapist, you may want to check with the therapist first to make sure that it’s even an option.

Seeing the Same Therapist Could Make the Relationship Awkward

Lastly, you might want to consider how seeing the same therapist will affect your friendship. Is your best friend really okay with you sharing her therapist? What problems could this cause in your friendship? 

Seeing the same therapist as your friend could work out if what you’re looking to go to therapy for has nothing to do with your friend. But if you think that, at some point, your friend’s name could come up in a therapy session - especially in a negative way - then it might be best to keep those two relationships separate. 

A therapeutic relationship is sacred, and the less convoluted it is, the better. Although it’s not necessarily a bad idea to see the same therapist as someone you know, it’s an option that should be very carefully considered before going through with it.

Would You Go To The Same Therapist Your Friend Has?

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