Navigating the Intersection of Work and Mental Health
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Working Better and Stressing Less

Ideas on work and mental health

What if I need a therapist for me, my family, my kids, and my relationship?

It is more common than not for psychological pain (stress, worry, anxiety, sadness, etc.) to spill over into other relationships. Of course, our family members, partners, colleagues, and intimate others have their own pain to deal with too. This pain fills up, spills over, mixes together, and can cause a  whole new set of discomfort that could benefit from therapy. In general though, as an individual's therapist, I can't also see that person's family, partner, colleagues, friends, or intimate others. I will give my clients names of other professionals I trust to help while I will keep working with the individual on their personal goals for treatment. 

There are rare exceptions to this rule. For example, if I worked in a small town and was the only mental health professional for 100 miles, then I might take on both an individual and their family. However, I work in Portland and there are plenty of other therapists here. There is no good excuse for me crossing that boundary. 

Why is it a boundary?

1. When I am in a professional therapy relationship with a client, I get to know how they think and am therefore biased toward them. If their partner or children came in to see me, I would automatically already see the situation from the individual's perspective. That is simply not fair to the other participants. 

2. When doing family therapy, my "client" is the family or the couple and NOT the individual people.Again, it's not fair to the other participants to have the person helping their relationships also be allied with one individual. 

3. I can't always remember what the individual might have told me in individual sessions vs. what they told me in a family or couples session. So let's say a client tells me that they are spending each evening drinking at their local bar after work in their individual session and during a couples session, I casually mention the bar, forgetting that the story was from individual rather than couples therapy. I just breached the individual's confidentiality accidentally and may have caused a huge problem for the relationship. 

So yes it might be a big pain in the butt for you and your family and your partner to see separate therapists but in generally, it's better and safer for all involved. If the therapists need to consult each other, we can do so carefully and in a way where we are intentionally avoiding the perils of an individual serving all of the roles. 

Katie Playfair