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David Kraft answers the following question on personal behaviour in the psychotherapeutic setting


How would you decide on where to draw a line between your personal behaviour and your professional role?


Psychotherapists should lead by example. For example, I think that it would be impossible to treat a drug addict if you are a drug addict yourself. Nevertheless, your personal behaviour and your professional behaviour should be kept separate, and how you act in your personal life is no one’s business. Saying that, I personally feel that it is important to act in the family context as a caring person. If you are unable to care for your loved ones you will certainly be unable to care for your clients who you only know in the consulting room.


But what happens if someone you know comes to you for support, and wants to speak to you as a ‘psychotherapist’? This happens to me a lot, and I deal with this in the following manner. I point out that I can never be their psychotherapist because I know them personally, but that we can certainly have a ‘chat’. It often turns out to be a ‘session’ but I use a Rogerian approach and try to understand the feelings of my friend, I also use some cognitive restructuring and work on the premise that I am playing a supportive role. I encourage but do very little analysis. It is in essence a ‘friendly chat’. I also say frequently that ‘therapy’ can be done anywhere—at the side of a ring, at the bus stop, in church, at a friend’s house—and, although it is often not labelled as such, many people are able to lead happy lives by gaining support from their friends without having to speak to a psychotherapist.


In the consulting room, I tend not to talk about my personal life. However, I have found recently that if a client asks me a question they are occasionally trying to check in with my behaviour in order to obtain some sort of model approach. I never volunteer information about my personally life; but, sometimes, it is helpful to give some information out to clients. For instance, a client who was struggling as a teacher made a significant improvement when I told her that I used to be a teacher.

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