DEAR ABBY: I have a close friend, "Ethel," about whom I'm very worried. She sees a therapist, "Amy," once a week for depression and suicidal thoughts, and while I think it's a wonderful idea, I'm concerned because she has become "friends" with her therapist.
This has gone as far as gift-giving, attending the therapist's wedding, etc. I always thought it was a breach of professional boundaries for a therapist to become friends with his or her patient.
I am the one who gets the 4 a.m. phone calls when Ethel is feeling like the world is ending for her. She says my son and I are the only reason she doesn't do something to herself. When I ask Ethel why she doesn't discuss this with Amy, or call her at 4 a.m., Ethel says she doesn't want to burden her with her problems. She also refers to her appointments as "visiting" with Amy and says that they have lovely talks about Amy's family, etc.
I'm a single mother with a full-time job, taking classes at the university for my MBA. I try to make as much time as I can for Ethel, but I'm worn out and worried about those 4 a.m. phone calls. After seeing this therapist for five years, wouldn't you think Ethel would at least be a little bit better? If anything, I think she's worse.
I have suggested that Ethel find another therapist, but all she says is that Amy is her friend. What else can I do? -- SARA IN SALEM, ORE.
DEAR SARA: It's apparent that Amy is no longer acting in the role of therapist. And because she has become a friend, Ethel doesn't want to impose upon her with her problems.
The next time Ethel calls you at 4 a.m., tell her that she is calling the wrong person. The things she is telling you are the very things that her therapist needs to know about in order to help her. If Ethel refuses, then tell her that what she needs is a therapist with a fresh approach. If Amy is truly her friend, Amy will understand that and give her a referral while maintaining their personal relationship.