My therapist texted me: is this normal?

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In this blog we will discuss if it is ethical for your therapist to text you.

We will also discuss what are the various ethical rules of texting between therapist and clients and what you can do if your therapist is being unethical while texting you. 

My therapist texted me: is this normal?

Yes, it is normal if your therapist has texted you regarding your session scheduling or sent you a notice related to your sessions and their services. 

Most therapists post covid has found various ways to communicate with their clients remotely and even have begun providing e-counselling and mental health services and this could include texting or chat based sessions. 

However, what is not normal- or better put, not ethical is when your therapist is texting you like they would someone who they know personally. This could include causal checking in messages, instigating any kind of non-therapy related conversation, sending you unrelated pictures or chats, etc.

The context of what the message is about, the circumstances surrounding the relationship both you and your therapist share, and your feelings about being texted by your therapist will determine if your therapist texting you is “normal” or ethical. 

Texting between therapist and client can be a quick way to get connected and keep both parties informed about the sessions or anything related to the sessions. 

However, there are various ethical issues that come with this ease of access to one another such as the unclear boundaries that might lead to unhealthy dependence on both parties. 

If your therapist is connecting with you through text regarding issues related to your scheduling, your sessions, sudden changes in schedules, or crisis related issues- then you don’t have to worry about it because as of 2022, texting as a medium of communication has become common for practitioners. 

However, what must be understood is that this mode of communication has to be agreed upon by both parties, meaning that your therapist should be aware if you are comfortable or uncomfortable with this kind of communication. 

One way that you can make it known to them is to let them know. When you see your therapist again, take time to discuss the issue surrounding communication outside of therapy. This means that you can either bring up the issue as is or spend some time within that hour to discuss the issue.

Next, the boundaries that you share with your therapist regarding when, what. why texting each other should be made clear. This means that you and your therapist clarify on how they can put across various notices like sudden cancellations or rescheduling etc and how you can also reach out to them for similar issues or because of crisis situations.

Creating boundaries also includes explicitly saying what works and does not work for you- what mediums and what time periods they can reach out to you or you can reach out to them as well as what are the expected response time from each party- to avoid anxieties related to delays. 

Finally, your therapist should not be reaching out to you for any other issue other than for your professional therapy related information- unless agreed upon. 

This means that your therapist should not be sending broadcasts about certain products or services etc, or they shouldnt be inviting you to join a new scheme or some new group etc. that would be crossing boundaries.

Other unethical behavious via texting could include they text you and ask you out for dinner or they tend to make sexual suggestions or romantic propositons etc. 

If you find that your therapist has not been mindful in their responses via email, chat, or calls nor have they helped you feel safe, heard, and supported and the non responses continue- it is possible that your therapist is breaching ethicality and it is best for you to move on to someone else. 

What are the ethical rules of texting between cleint and therapists?

There are no hard and fast rules as to maintaining lines of communication with your therapist through text because e-counselling and e-mental health services is relatively a new paradigm in the world of professional mental health services. 

Regarding ethical rules that must be maintained by client and therapist will include the general guidelines that involves protecting the well-being of the client while also facilitating health and progress. 

This means that your therapist should maintain health boundaries with you while they make attempts to connect with you through text as well as strive to maintain as much confidentitlaity there is as possible.

Other than this particular regard, there is no hard and fast rule that has been generally accepted within the community. Anything beyond this will have to be set up by your and your therapist collaboratively. 

This means could include something like:

  • If the client is very close to a suicide attempt, do not text them. Instead, they must call 911 or go to the hospital.
  • There could also be rules of when the client should call the therapist instead of texting them such as when the client is dealing with suicidal thoughts but not exactly suicidal.
  • The rules should also include the awareness that the therapist might not respond right away and might take some hours and in some cases a day. This should be understood clearly by the client. 
  • Other rules might also apply such as whether the client or the therapist will be able to watch each other’s stories in the case that their messenger has such an option. 
  • When should a therapist message the client and when the therapist is not allowed to text so as to maintain confidentitily.
  • Other issues include when the client can expect a response and when is it appropriate to call versus text the therapist or vice versa. 
  • Another important rule could be clarity in messages when either parties want something and not to be cryptic about what they need. 
  • Other rules could include when to refrain from contacting the therapist such as when the therapist is on vacation etcWhat to do when there is a crisis when the therapist is on vacation. 

Any other rule that is created has to be done collaboratively between the client and the therapist while taking into account each other’s unique circumstances and conditions etc. 

My therapist texted me: What should I do?

Here are a few things that you can do if your therapist has texted you and you are confused as to how you should proceed:

Talk to them about it

If you have been contacted by your therapist without any warning and what has been communicated has nothing to do with your sessions or even if it is to do with your messages, you are uncomfortable with it because of confidentiality issues, the best thing you can do is to talk to them about it. 

When you see your therapist again, take time to discuss the issue surrounding communication outside of therapy. This means that you can either bring up the issue as is or spend some time within that hour to discuss the issue.

Discuss your feelings

During this time make sure that your explore how you felt about being contacted and what it meant to you.

Be honest with your therapist if the texting has made you uncomfortable or even if the mere thought of being contacted outside of therapy has made you uncomfortable.

Collaborate on creating boundaries

Next, you and your therapist should start to collaborate on a channel of communication between you and them for the future. 

This means that you and your therapist clarify on how they can put across various notices like sudden cancellations or rescheduling etc and how you can also reach out to them for similar issues or because of crisis situations.

Creating boundaries also includes explicitly saying what works and does not work for you- what mediums and what time periods they can reach out to you or you can reach out to them as well as what are the expected response time from each party- to avoid anxieties related to delays. 

Evaluate if they are being ethical or not

If you start noticing that your therapist does not seem interested in your well-being and anxieties related to texting, or they do not follow the boundaries discussed, that is a dangerous sign. 

An ethical therapist knows how to listen to you and is attentive to the conversation to find an underlying message, if this is not what they are doing- it could be a sign that they are unethical. 

It is important that you make sure that your therapist is being ethical and some of the ways you can discern that for yourself includes:

An unethical therapist is that they judge you or shame you for what you might have said or decisions you have made etc. 

An unempathetic therapist is an unethical one, so if you feel like your therapist is judging you, you should consider moving on from this therapist. 

When you are working with a therapist, and you notice your therapist is starting to take advantage of your vulnerability, you need to find yourself a new therapist immediately. 

This could manifest in ways such as, they text you and ask you out for dinner or they tend to make sexual suggestions or romantic propositons etc. 

If you find that your therapist has not been mindful in their responses via email, chat, or calls nor have they helped you feel safe, heard, and supported and the non responses continue- it is possible that your therapist is breaching ethicality and it is best for you to move on to someone else. 

Consider seeing someone else

If you find that your therapist has not been mindful nor have they made adjustments and accommodations to help you feel safe, heard, and supported after you have addressed the issue to them, it is possible that your therapist is breaching ethicality and it is best for you to move on to someone else. 

In such a case, you can let them know that you would like to terminate the sessions with them and be direct in your feedback while doing so. 

You have every right to change therapists if you find that the way this therapist works is not the kind of support you need or require. 

Conclusion

In this blog we have discussed if it is ethical for your therapist to text you.

We have also discussed what are the various ethical rules of texting between therapist and clients and what you can do if your therapist is being unethical while texting you. 

References

Psychotherapy by emoji: Mental health community wrestles with texting.https://www.statnews.com/2015/11/30/psychotherapy-texting-mental-health/

The Actual Rules for Texting with My Therapist. https://sageburning.com/2017/10/04/the-actual-rules-for-texting-with-my-therapist/

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