Since beginning my internship in Marriage and Family Therapy I have found that many people have a misinformed idea about what a therapist is and does. I’d like to set the record straight. I think it would be easier to list what a therapist is NOT.
A marriage and family therapist is not:
- A mind reader
- A hypnotist*
- A psychologist
- A psychiatrist
- A pharmacist
- A counselor**
- A friend
- A psychic
- A neurologist
Upon finding out that I am a therapist I have had someone say, “Ooooh! Okay, what am I thinking right.now?” I do not read minds nor can I foresee the future. Yes, I pick up on patterns of behaviour that are likely to lead to certain outcomes. Sure, I read body language to assist in my assessment of clients. That’s it.
While it is important for me to be familiar with prescription drugs of all types and their interactions with other drugs, I am not a pharmacist. Please don’t ask a therapist if it is a okay to wash down your Lexapro and Xanax with a glass of red.
I am not friends with my clients. That is considered a dual relationship and is a ethical violation. While the nature of therapy requires that I listen to, care about and support the positive efforts of my clients, my clients should never mistake me doing my job for friendship.
A therapist is not all-knowing. That is part of the reason that continuing education is required for a therapist to keep his or her license to practice therapy independently. Do not be surprised if your therapist has not read the latest pop psychology book or has not heard of the most recent psychologist-turned-talk-show-host.
Do not ask your therapist to diagnosis the reason for your recurring headache or nerve twitch. Yes, we deal with matters of the mind but matters of the brain and nervous system require the treatment of a physician.