Dual Relationships

Revised:  November 27, 2013

By:  Mentor Research Institute

Dual relationships between psychotherapists and their clients/patients are in the most general sense considered inappropriate or unethical.  In nearly all situations a dual relationship involves a risk that treatment may become biased or influenced by a non-treatment relationship between the professional and consumer.

There are situations in which professional and consumer relationships are most definitely dual relationships.   The following are examples of dual relationships:

  • A professional and consumer go into business together while the consumer is still in treatment with the professional.

  • The consumer is also employed by the treatment professional.

  • The treatment professional's employer also employs the consumer and there is a close connection between the employer and the treatment professional such that it may influence the professional and consumer's relationship.

In some professions such as medicine, physicians have been known to treat friends or business partners.  With regard to physician medicine, the relationship is less likely to cause harm. Trust, confidentiality and the ability of a professional to maintain an unbiased perspective are critical in psychotherapy and counseling.  In such relationship a dual relationship is generally avoided.  Some treatment  professionals enter into dual relationships with consumers believing the risk of harm or bias is low or non-existent.  However, it is common for the situation to change for reasons that were not seen in advance and the consumer's treatment relationship can be unduly influenced by the non-treatment relationship.

If you believe that you are involved or may be involved in a dual relationship the best thing to do is to raise the issue with your treatment professional.  If you have any doubts or questions you might  consider contacting another treatment professional first or contacting the licensing board of your treatment professional.