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Being Facebook Friends With Your Therapist: Pros and Cons

The Pros and Cons of "Friending" Your Shrink

Say you run into your psychologist at a party. Do you say hello or feign unfamiliarity? I've known psychologists who won't acknowledge patients in social situations unless the patient says hello first, so as to avoid any awkward "how do you know that person?" questions that might put patients on the spot.

To me, the idea of friending a therapist on Facebook is a puzzling proposition. As a recent story in the Los Angeles Times acknowledges, doctor-patient relationships are trickier to navigate in the age of social networking and search engines, where the personal is more public:

Caregivers, especially psychiatrists and therapists, have historically disclosed personal information only when it might benefit a patient . . . Likewise, patients have typically disclosed personal details in their own time, as therapy continues and trust develops. The Web challenges that model head-on.

If a doctor can Google you, why not add her to your friends list? I can think of some good reasons why not to friend your doctor, as well as some potential benefits, so

.

Pros

  • You have more ways to stay in touch. Depending on the doctor, yours may welcome communication over the phone, email, or Facebook. This could give you more ways to make appointments, ask follow-up questions, or even get in touch in times of dire need.
  • It forces you to be honest. Lying to your psychologist is unproductive: if you're supposed to be avoiding your toxic ex-boyfriend, fibbing to your shrink about a recent reunion only hurts you. But if the doc can see your Facebook updates and photos, it's tougher to lie once you're on the couch.

Cons

  • It begs the "how do you know this person?" question. If you don't want your friends to know you're in therapy, friending your therapist is probably a bad idea.
  • You may learn things about your doctor you don't want to know. If your psychologist is giving you good advice, should it matter if she's divorced, single, or married happily with kids? Probably not. But learning too many details of your psychologist's personal life might cloud your judgment about the advice you're getting.
  • It breaks down boundaries. Becoming too friendly with a therapist could make things awkward between you professionally or socially or both. You also run the risk of initiating a romantic involvement — a big no-no.
  • The bond is harder to break. If you decide it's time to move on, either to a new therapist or away from therapy altogether, your socially networked status may make breaking it off more difficult.

Am I being too old-fashioned about all this, or do you think the cons also outweigh the pros?

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Bettye-Wayne Bettye-Wayne 6 years
Definitely a bad idea... and how would the poor therapist even find time in the day to check everyone's profiles for inconsistency?
starbucks2 starbucks2 6 years
If I was a therapist and a patient would try to friend me on facebook I'd decline...So unprofessional...
starbucks2 starbucks2 6 years
If I was a therapist and a patient would try to friend me on facebook I'd decline...So unprofessional...
valeriekw valeriekw 6 years
My best friend is practically my shrink. She's even studying to be a psychologist! It works out perfect for me because we don't have the typical doctor/patient boundaries.
Hiding55 Hiding55 6 years
I'm pretty sure doctors of any type can't approach you in public unless you acknowledge them first. That's the rule the office I work at and it's in the dental field. There are so many privacy rules. If I had a therapist I wouldn't friend him or her on facebook. I think it crosses the doctor patient line. Actually, I think it's an invasion of the doctors privacy.
Hiding55 Hiding55 6 years
I'm pretty sure doctors of any type can't approach you in public unless you acknowledge them first. That's the rule the office I work at and it's in the dental field. There are so many privacy rules. If I had a therapist I wouldn't friend him or her on facebook. I think it crosses the doctor patient line. Actually, I think it's an invasion of the doctors privacy.
xgreenfairyx xgreenfairyx 6 years
Who friggin does this? Doctors/therapists are working with you at their 9-to-5....after that, YOU ARE NOT THEIR CONCERN. They don't want to know you, just like I don't want to know the customers I serve everyday. Just because you CAN cross the barrier of work hours, doesn't mean you SHOULD. God, Facebook=lot of unecessary social awkwardness.
tlsgirl tlsgirl 6 years
I would NEVER do this. To me it just crosses a line. And honestly, if someone asked how I knew a person I'd probably just make something up if I didn't want them to know.
skigurl skigurl 6 years
it's a terrible idea the only legit reason up there is that you can't lie if they can see everything you do - but another way to fix that is STOP LYING! i don't think having more ways to keep in touch a good reason to friend your therapist! i doubt he wants to give you free advice over social networking...if he did, he wouldn't charge you so much for couch time i don't have a therapist, but i'm prettttttty sure this is a bad idea
skigurl skigurl 6 years
it's a terrible ideathe only legit reason up there is that you can't lie if they can see everything you do - but another way to fix that is STOP LYING!i don't think having more ways to keep in touch a good reason to friend your therapist! i doubt he wants to give you free advice over social networking...if he did, he wouldn't charge you so much for couch timei don't have a therapist, but i'm prettttttty sure this is a bad idea
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