Q: Seeking Guidance on Husband’s Unconventional Therapist

I hope this message finds you well. I am reaching out seeking advice and insight. My husband has been struggling with depression and anxiety, and he started therapy a few months ago. The way he chose his therapist is a bit unconventional and was not fully disclosed to me. He met his therapist at the dog park, where he has been going for years. 

According to him, he randomly opened up to someone at the park, and it turns out she is a therapist, so he asked her to be his therapist and she agreed. It turns out that she is part of a dog park group that frequents the park at the same time he has been going. He even goes without our dogs sometimes. 

However, over the last two months, I have noticed a significant change in my husband’s behavior. He seems to be shutting down at home, appearing like a lifeless body and showing little recognition of or attention to our relationship. Concerned, I looked into his therapist’s qualifications and discovered that she has limited experience, having been in private practice for only 8 months, and her previous role was as a patient navigator/counselor at a cancer hospital with no apparent specialization in depression and anxiety. 

Our marriage has been going through a challenging time these past few months, and he has even suggested taking time apart to work on himself before addressing our relationship. We recently started marriage counseling yesterday, but my primary concern is the therapist he chose for individual therapy. 

What adds to my discomfort is the realization that she is friends with some of his dog park acquaintances and is part of that social circle. I even saw a text to their mutual friend asking for a photo of her and her friend (something he said was a funny photo and that’s why he was asking to see it). I expressed my concerns to him, emphasizing the importance of a therapist specializing in depression and anxiety and the importance of a therapist who isn’t crossing acceptable and healthy client/therapist boundaries. 

However, he threatened to stop therapy altogether, insisting that it’s either therapy with her or none at all, and claimed that I am pushing him further away by making this a problem. I now realize that once he started talking to her, he stopped talking to me. 

I also don’t know if being in individual therapy while we are also in marriage counseling with different providers may cause us to go in different directions…causing confusion for the individual and potentially disrupting any progress. The goals of individual therapy and marriage counseling may not always align. Am I wrong to be concerned…is this okay? Thank you.  

A: Hi there,

I am so sorry to hear that you are going through these challenges. Both your marital challenges, and now this very concerning issue with your husband’s individual therapist need to be addressed.

First I would like to address the concern about the therapist. You are absolutely correct about questioning how they met and her professional experience. There is a clear ethical violation here called “dual relationship.” Therapists are not to have dual relationships with clients. The mere fact that they met socially and continue to socialize is not acceptable. All kinds of problems and issues can arise as a result of dual relationships, which is why boundaries are so important.

While I don’t want you to have further conflict in your marriage, you have every right to report your concern to the licensing board where she holds her license. This would be your call; however, I definitely think this should be addressed in couples therapy. The couples therapist should also be concerned about this other therapist’s conduct and professional experience.

Even if it were not for the dual relationship, it sounds like this therapist is not appropriate for your husband. Your couples therapist may need to be the one to get your husband to see all of this, as they can come from a more neutral position.

I wish you all the best and hope this can be resolved so that you and your husband can get about the business of healing.


Valerie Proctor, LICSW