Updated 29 September 2015

What you can't expect from your therapist

A therapist is there to offer a supportive, safe environment in which you can deal with your problems.

A therapist is there to offer a supportive, safe environment in which you can deal with your problems. But there are certain limits to what you can expect from your therapist.

  • Don’t expect your therapist to have a magic wand. You’ve established patterns over a number of years and these can’t be unravelled in one or two sessions.
  • You cannot expect your therapist to waive her fees when you are cash strapped. It is your responsibility to ensure that your account is settled either by yourself or by your medical aid. You may, however, raise the issue with your therapist and see if you can come to some arrangement to settle your bill. If you ignore the problem, your therapist is bound to feel resentful and this will jeopardise your therapeutic relationship.
  • Although you might feel that your therapist has become your friend, your therapeutic relationship should only exist during therapy. A therapist cannot be on call at all times and should not cross boundaries by forming friendships with you outside of therapy. If a friendship does develop, it will be your therapist’s responsibility to refer you to someone else.
  • Your therapist cannot “fight your battles for you”. Only in certain cases (and only with your consent) will other people such as your employer or spouse be contacted by your therapist.

Ilse Pauw, Health24


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Michael Simpson has been a senior psychiatric academic, researcher, and Professor in several countries, having worked at London University in the UK; McMaster University in Canada; Temple University in Philadelphia, USA.; and the University of Natal in South Africa.

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