When you spend time with a therapist, it’s quite common to start developing a bond that feels a lot like a friendship. After all, this is a person with whom you share your deepest darkest secrets, which is the type of thing that you normally do with a friend. You will likely develop a real level of comfort during your sessions with your therapist, and that may lead you to thinking that perhaps you could spend some time together outside of the office. While this may seem like a perfectly good idea, the fact of the matter is that it really isn’t, which is why your therapist will politely refuse any offers of friendly activities.
When you start therapy, there are some very definite boundaries that are put in place that really should not be crossed. In order to remain totally objective about your issues, a therapist cannot cloudy things by getting into a personal relationship with you, or any of their clients. Even when you are at your most vulnerable in a session, a therapist will keep a caring/gentle boundary so that they can be supportive, but keep their objectivity.
As an example of how things can go wrong, let’s imagine for a moment that you invite your therapist to a dinner party at your home. How are you going to feel when they decline? Even though you may be aware that a boundary exists, there may still be some feelings of anger and resentment that could spill over into your next session, and that may lead to you not being as open as you need to be in order to get the help that you need.
Similarly, you may feel that a friendship can be pursued with your therapist once your issue has been resolved and your sessions are complete. This may seem like the perfect time to take the relationship outside of the office and beyond the boundaries that have been set, but it is still not a very good idea. What happens if you have a setback, or encounter another issue that requires you to go back to the therapist? With that boundary crossed, your therapist would be unable to maintain any kind of objectivity, and you would likely have to start from scratch with someone new.
A natural friendship requires a balance where each person gets exactly what they need from the other by sharing their thoughts and feelings. In the therapist/client relationship there is an agreed imbalance, where you are required to open up while the therapist listens. You are not there to hear about their problems, you are there to share yours. The moment a therapist decides that it’s a good idea to tip the scales closer to center, the chances of you getting the help that you need becomes compromised.