Conflict of Interest — My Mom Wants to See MY Therapist

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Reader’s Question

I have been seeing a therapist for nine months and I am just coming around to fully trusting her and feeling secure with her. I was initially referred to her for PTSD.

Over the past few months, I have started developing and maintaining boundaries with people in my life. My adoptive mom happens to be one of those people and she doesn’t like that fact that she can’t walk all over me and that I don’t run to her aid every time she snaps her fingers. She expects everything in everyone’s life to be about her, and if it isn’t, we are being “weird” or she gets mad and gives the silent treatment (although sometimes I enjoy that).

Last week, my mom decided she wanted to see my therapist for her alleged “PTSD”. When she asked for my “honest” opinion, I told her I would not like nor appreciate this. She got mad and began saying I didn’t want her to get better. I don’t know if my therapist would even take her as a client, but I feel it would be a conflict of interest. Am I wrong feeling this way?

Psychologist’s Reply

Congratulations for starting to develop and maintain boundaries! These are very difficult things to do primarily because, as you are discovering, many people don’t enjoy having their relationships change. It sounds like your mom in particular is having difficulty accepting your boundaries. The demand to see your therapist may be another attempt to get your relationship back to where it is comfortable for her or it could be that she admires your growth and development and wants that for herself.

Regardless of your mom’s reasons for wanting to see your therapist, it is unlikely that it would be a good idea for her to do so. Most mental health professionals have codes of ethics that prohibit us from taking on relationships that would impair our objectivity or expose our patients to harm. Having your mom see your therapist sounds like it would do both. It would be difficult for your therapist to treat your mom and still be objective when treating you or vice versa. In addition, as trust is fundamental to a good therapeutic relationship, shaking your confidence in your therapist’s effectiveness would be harmful to your progress. Consequently, it does sound like a conflict of interest.

You are not wrong to not want your mother to see the same person you do and I strongly suggest that you talk this over with your therapist. Perhaps your therapist will have some recommendations for other therapists your mom can see instead. That way both of you can get the help you deserve, and hopefully your relationship will be the better for it.

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