Friendships With Former Clients – Survey Results
In February, CRPO ran a survey that asked what you think about therapists engaging in friendships with former clients. 128 individuals responded and shared the following opinions:
Is it a boundary crossing/violation?
15% of respondents believe that friendships with former clients represents a boundary crossing or violation, and that such relationships are never appropriate and should be avoided.
The majority (76%) believe that boundaries are maintained if the following conditions are met:
- The balance of power is relatively equal
- The client is not vulnerable
- The relationship is not romantic or sexual in nature
- There is a significant gap in time between the end of the therapeutic relationship, and the beginning of the friendship.
What does the profession think of a colleague who engages in such relationships?
26% of respondents reported that they would question their colleague’s judgment if they learned that their colleague had developed a friendship with a former client. 63% of respondents felt that they needed to know more before forming an opinion about their colleague’s integrity or professional judgment.
What are the risks?
While 17% of respondents felt there would be no risks associated with such a relationship (as long as the conditions described in the first bullet above were met); nearly 30% of respondents felt that the following risks were possible:
- Too much confusion for therapist and former client
- Therapist knowing more about the former client
- Therapist feeling responsible for needs of the former client
- Client holding therapist’s opinions in higher regard than the opinions of another friend
What should you do if you encounter this situation?
If their colleague was considering entering into such a relationship, a majority of respondents (up to 72%) would urge their colleague to do one or more of the following as part of their decision-making process: self-reflect, consider this as a matter of professional ethics, and/or engage in clinical supervision.
Thanks to everyone who responded to the poll. Stay tuned for more opportunities to share your thoughts!