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Should I Contact My Ex-Therapist?

by Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

I have an interesting therapist situation that I need help resolving: A little over a year ago, I was seeing a counselor through my college to help me get over a very hard break up. I had never seen a male therapist before but I didn’t mind, because I get along better with men anyway – and I also thought that I would benefit more from it, seeing that the reason I was there in the first place had to do with a man.

Anyway, from the very beginning I was very open, honest, and comfortable with him. The majority problems and hardships I faced in my relationship revolved around sex, intimacy, fantasies, fetishes, etc. So naturally, the content of most of our sessions was heavily based on sex.

To make a long story short, there was some natural transference (which I’m sure he picked up on) and I do believe there was some counter transference but the closest we got to discussing/resolving it was some quick self disclosures on his part (he once told me a story of a past relationship he had – and related it to the relationship I was seeking therapy for – and then he told me that I reminded him of one of his ex girlfriends).

Other than things like that, he was very professional and he helped me out a lot. Therapy ended because his contract with my school was up and he found work at another office downtown. In our last session we discussed our therapist/client relationship and he asked me if I wanted to continue to see him but in his own private practice and not through school. We came to the conclusion that we thought I was ready to stop weekly therapy all together and start living my normal life again. And he gave me his card, just incase I changed my mind.

I was a little sad because we got along so well and the therapy that he induced really changed me but I wasn’t heart broken… He mentioned that all of his patients were special to him, and he continued to say that sometimes there are a few who just stick out and he just wishes he could learn more about them after the fact. And he mentioned me “in particular” and he said he felt like he was “only just starting to get to know me” and he felt like “thats it????”. He almost seemed more upset than I was about our sessions ending…

Right now I’m happier and healthier than I’ve ever been and I truely am so thankful and greatful for having him help me get through such a difficult time in my life. It’s been a year and a half since our last session and from time to time I wish I could just send him an email and just say hi and give him an update.
Would it be wrong if I did? I don’t want to come off like I want free therapy from him – or that I’m desperate to talk to him. But it would be so nice if I could just talk to him once in a blue moon. I don’t think I’d even dream of doing it if he hadn’t said all that stuff about how he wish he could “know more”. I just want the “okay” from another professional…

Is what I’m thinking about valid? Would I be overstepping my boundaries if I wanted to email him?

I do not believe you should contact your ex-therapist as a friend. You knew him as a therapist. That was the relationship you and he had. It was a good relationship in that you gained therapeutic benefit from the interaction. According to your letter, he helped you a great deal. If you were to contact him as a friend, you may find that his friend persona is quite different from his therapist persona. He may interact with you one way as a therapist and quite differently as a friend. As a friend he may not be as compassionate, understanding, selfless, kind, caring, etc.

Another consideration is that if you and he were to become friends, then it may prohibit you from becoming his client in the future, should you want to return to therapy. Ethically, a friendship would create a conflict of interest. Most of the helping professions have a code of ethics that bars its members from treating their friends. Doing so may mean losing their professional license.

I hope this answers your question. It is important to analyze your motivation for why you want to make such contact. Of course whether or not you do so is your decision but from my perspective it would not be in your best interest. Good luck. I wish you the best.

Dr. Kristina Randle

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