Psyborgue posted valuable reminders of how licensed therapists are supposed to behave.
I will add a few items.
Be aware of boundary shift. This is not an actual boundary violation. But if a therapist begins to shift away from the boundary rules he or she stated as being important, watch out.
You, the client, may have signs that something is not right.
You may feel glad you are ill, because that means you dont have to go to a session.
You may become more and more resentful of the money you are spending.
You may find you are referring to your therapist with a derogatory nickname, such as 'shrinkie'.
You may find yourself feeling more and more angry bark at your therapist and not know why.
You may have dreams about weapons or suddenly find you want to own a weapon and you never, before had such a desire in your life. This last can signal an unconscious sense that your boundary is being pushed and you feel unsafe.
If your therapist refuses to respect and listen when you try to discuss any of this--insist on taking a break of at least two weeks. And if your therapist refuses to respect this, something is indeed off.
Therapy isnt jail. And should not feel like it, either.
A therapist must never divulge his or her belief system, not even in the form of coy hints. And should not recommend new age or inspirational reading material or even mention workshops or belief systems.
It is possible to maintain privacy for ones belief system yet without generating an air of mystique.
**If a therapist just cannot refrain from discussing spiritual stuff he or she should get licensed as a pastoral counselor or chaplain and use those terms on the business card.
A therapist may start out well. The two of you may do excellent work together for a long time.
But over time he or she may lose touch.
Even a quite good therapist and client relationship may progress and then reach a point of impasse.
Sometimes an impasse can be worked through.
But there are times when an intractable impasse is a signal that you've done all the work you can do with a particular therapist. A good therapist should recognize this and not try to deny it and hang onto a client.
Many therapists start out well, but might be enticed into joining a cult.
Some may be cult members and then become therapists, even getting good degrees from excellent clinical programs. This latter is quite a difficult matter because commitment to a guru and especially to a secretive and elitist belief system entails a degree of unconsciousness on the part of the therapist and it is rare for this material to be divulged to one's clinical supervisor. Thus a person may go through a good clinical program with distinction, pass the tests, get licensed, and yet have large areas of unconsciousness in his or her psyche that are condensed around the guru and group.
(Though there are remarakable exceptions. Dan Shaw was in a guru led group. He studied to become a social worker and realized that the ethics of social work contradicted the behavior of his guru. This, along with other matters, opened his eyes and he left the guru)
It can be very, very tempting for a therapist in such a predicament to have a preponderance of clients who either are in the same cult or later join it.
***If you are working with a therapist and find that at least 3 or more clients happen to share the same guru as the therapist, or in the course of time you notice more and more clients converting to this group, take this as a signal to consider working with a another therapist after you resolve your current issues.
If a therapist is preserving boundaries this should not be happening. Set a deadline and mark it on your calendar. Keep quiet. Do some research on the group your therapist belongs to. If this scares the living shit out of you, thats a signal something is up.
\Therapists are high value recruits.
Student therapists are especially high value recruits to cults. They will rarely be shown the bad side of a cult--or may only be in on it after they're so far gone that they cannot leave. They may not be put through the oppressive shit that lower ranking members endure. Secrets may be kept from the therapist and they may be shown only the best side of a cult.
So if you have had a good relationship with a therapist and then he or she starts recommending inspirational new age literature, starts bugging you to go do a Large group Awareness Training (one of those workshoips where they never tell you what will happen), or the therapist lets slip what his or her belief system is, and it has an air of mystique--the anonymity boundary is being violated and you need to watch out. This is wrong.
Be alert. This can happen gradually, ever so gradually, in the form of subliminal hints.
Therapy sessions should not degenerate into spiritual discussions. If a therapist is into Theosophy or UFOs, he or she should keep this OUT of your therapy. You (or your insurance company) are not paying boucoup bucks for that sort of thing.
A therapist should beware of recommending inspirational or spiritual books or materials. Instead, a therapist must respect client autonomy and let clients feel free to select their own material.
Why? Because a therapist must maintain anonymity about his or her personal life and belief system. Recommendations of inspirational literature, spiritual literature, a guru's picture on the wall divulge information to clients about a therapists preferences and biases.**A therapist who considers this sort of boundary keeping 'oppressive' is being self indulgent.'
In such a situation where a therapist violates anonymity by subtly leaking this kind of information, it can be tempting for a client to convert to the belief system held by the therapist. As little kids many of us give our true selves away to earn parental approval. So a therapist is under special obligation to keep the therapeutic relationship clean so that a clients true colors can, shyly, slowly, carefully emerge.
A therapist should beware of recommending inspirational material of any kind to clients. Dont recommend books or tapes. Inspirational stuff is written or produced to influence moods. After years spent reading material on this message board, Corboy is sorry to report that nspirational authors and speakers too often are guru types and profiteers -- or they start out well and then too often sucumb and become guru types and profiteers.
Perhaps, very cautiously, a therapist can offer advice on how to select good quality information and which material to beware of.
A therapist should beware of having clients from his or her church, sangha or spiritual group--these are dual relationships.
A therapist's consultancy group should not
have other members who share the therapists affiliation with the same church, sangha or spiritual center.
Therapy discussions should not degenerate into spiritual discussions. If a therapist reveres a guru as the highest level of human development, it can be fun and tempting for that therapist to play guru or apprentice guru.
But that should not happen.
That is why we pay them by the hour--to exercise this kind of restraint.
Therapists must maintain records according to legal standards. But they must keep this information confidential unless certain very rare situations come up where a client may be a danger to self or other. A therapists guru should never be told the contents of counseling sessions, not ever.
It is becoming fashionable for many therapists to recommend meditation or mindfulness meditation.
**If so, that therapist must never
recommend a particular group or guru. And should frankly educate patients how to tell whether a meditation group is OK or dodgy.
Therapists do not: (Corboy note: I would say should not)
1. imply a client will fail, or implode without their therapy.
2. disclose private details of client's lives to others, even if their clients talk about them in public first.
3. act like they have the one true solution.
4. tell people not to read books, lest it be bad for them. (Corboy:a therapist should beware of recommending books, especially inspirational or spiritual material, as this stuff is often written for profit and violates confidentiality by revealing the therapists own spiritual biases--a client may be tempted to buy into it to get therapist approval, re-enacting dysfunctional family dynamics)5. take advantage of client's weaknesses - instead they build healthy boundaries.
6. encourage dependence on the therapist. (A few therapists undercharge. Dont get sucked into this.)
7. accept lavish gifts, much less encourage them.
8. encourage people to stop thinking for themselves.
... at least not without risk of losing their license. By what I've read here, I can say that it appears Guru Swami G has done all theses things. You're right that legally, she probably can get away with a lot of these things as religious figures (and peer-to-peer groups) are exempt from regulations and oversight concerning therapists, but that's hardly saying much. It's the same excuse countless gurus, cults, and cult-like groups have used in the past to take advantage of people. It speaks more to an unhealthy over-abundance of religious tolerance than anything else.