As mental health clinicians, we all know the importance of setting and maintaining boundaries with clients. We have several posts on this blog about setting boundaries online, specifically in regards to social media use (1 2 3). One boundary that we have not discussed is how to manage situations when you see a client outside of the regular therapy setting.
Therapists generally agree that we do not to approach clients outside of therapy, out of respect for the client’s confidentiality. If someone else knows that you are a therapist, they may make the connection that the person you are interacting with is a client. If a client approaches the therapist first, however, engaging is often considered appropriate. Even so, many therapists agree that it is difficult to maintain professional boundaries while also engaging clients socially.
Legal and technological changes are further complicating the potentially uncomfortable situations where we might encounter clients outside of the office. More specifically, we may see clients in settings that were not previously socially acceptable or accessible. Therapists today are at risk of seeing clients on dating apps, at meet-up groups, and at marijuana dispensaries. The potential for seeing clients in social situations has always been present, but there is added risk that those interactions will reveal private details about your personal life.