Can I follow my ex therapist?

A letter writer really misses her former therapist and is wondering if she should follow her on Instagram.

Bad idea, says our elder. Bad. Idea.

Dear EWC

I saw a therapist weekly at my college’s health center from the very first week of my freshman year until about now, the end of my fall semester of sophomore year. I’ve been in and out of therapy for years (with little real success in finding someone that I actually liked and could talk to) until I found this one. It was different from other times in therapy for so many reasons. Our sessions, even in the beginning, were never impersonal and clinical. She was always so open with me and, for the time in my life, I was able to to begin working through some of my problems. Even from the very start, I felt like I connected with her as a person, not just as a therapist, and that was endlessly helpful in being able to talk things through and be comfortable. She found out she got another job and then, about a month before our last session, let me know that she would be leaving. I was devastated and we both spent our last few sessions crying and talking about how intense this therapy was.

Before all of this happened, I ended up accidentally finding her personal Instagram account last March and suddenly knew all about her personal life. I knew it was wrong and an invasion of privacy, but I regularly checked it to see what she was up to. What hurts the most is at our last session she said that I reminded her of herself, and that “while I don’t know much about her and the relationship is one-sided” I could probably assume the type of person she was and I could probably assume how similar we were. In reality, I’d been looking at her Instagram for months and had a pretty good idea of who she was — and that, if she wasn’t my therapist, we would have made good friends. I know I probably shouldn’t, and I know this would definitely put her in a conflicting situation with ethics and boundaries with therapy, but I really want to follow her on Instagram. It’s not like we’ll ever see each other again (she’s taking a job on the other side of the country), so I don’t necessarily see the harm. Also (maybe this is bad, but…) I can’t bear the thought of someone I’ve connected with so much, even a therapist, just vanish from my life. (She gave me her personal email to send her updates about my life if I wanted to, so I guess it’s not like she’s “vanished,” but… I don’t know). I don’t know if I should let this go (although I’m worried I can’t) or if I should just press the follow button and see what happens.

Sage replies

While it is not a common or frequent occurrence, a friendship can develop between therapist and client when you are finished with therapy. However, as you stated in your request there are ethical guidelines to consider in such a situation.

I believe that the fact that you are questioning whether you should follow her on Instagram is a sign that you have reservations about it and should not be doing it. You may have conflicted feelings about needing and wanting a close friendship with your ex therapist. (Is it OK with you that you need and want a reciprocal friendship with her?)

I do not think it is a good idea to follow her on Instagram and/or seek a friendship because of the following reasons:
· If you are still in therapy this could create a problem with your new therapist.
· You are correct when you say that it could be considered a breach of her privacy and you should have told her that you were following her while in treatment.
· I do not understand your motivation to follow your ex therapist. What does that do for you. I would suggest that you thoroughly analyze your reasons for needing to continue to know what she is doing.

I understand that your ex therapist was very friendly and easy to talk to. However, you must remember that therapy is not the same as friendship. It seems as if the therapy relationship was good in that you gained therapeutic benefit from the interaction. According to your letter, she helped you a great deal.

If you were to contact her as a friend, you may find that her friend persona is quite different from her therapist persona. She may interact with you one way as a therapist and quite differently as a friend. There is a possibility that as a friend she may not be as compassionate, understanding, selfless, kind, caring, etc.

Understand that there is an inherent power differential between therapist and client. You, as the client, revealed so much about yourself yet you learn very little about your therapist. The relationship was one sided by design.

Realize that the therapeutic relationship is not a symmetrical relationship where there is mutual sharing on both sides. There is a natural imbalance. Although she was a caring and empathetic therapist who you feel became a friend, she is also an authority figure to whom you chose to turn for professional help and support.

The problem here is that is that no matter how much your former therapist discloses to you as a friend, she will always have that knowledge that you might not have shared had you two not had a therapeutic relationship.

While I do not think you should follow her on Instagram or try to be friends with your ex therapist, of course, the decision is yours, but from my perspective it would not be in your best interest.

If you do decide to follow your ex therapist on Instagram and/or pursue a possible friendship, you should let her know. Even if the conversation is a bit uncomfortable I would suggest going forward with letting her know. The only way to know how she feels is to ask her directly.
I believe that most good therapists generally care about their clients tremendously and want to genuinely see them get better. To do so, they will keep the therapeutic boundaries clear and intact.

I must warn you that there is a strong possibility that what you want is not possible and the process of talking with your ex therapist and letting her know what you have done may not yield results that are most beneficial for mental well-being in the long run. If you are currently in therapy, you might discuss this with your new therapist. I wish much success.

Letter #: 416543
Category: Friendship


  1. […] If you do decide to follow your ex therapist on Instagram and/or pursue a possible friendship, you should let her know. Even if the conversation is a bit uncomfortable I would suggest going forward with letting her know. The only way to know how she feels is to ask her directly. via […]

  2. I’m coming to leave a quick comment as k googled “can therapists stalk their ex clients” and all I got was a tonne of results saying “what to do when therapists feel threatened or are being stalked by current or former clients… which isn’t what I was looking for.

    I just wanted to comment sharing something that happened to me a few months ago, I have a very cryptic user name on social media to my real identity, which happened when my real account was suspended in the same year event went down with therapist in question.

    I’m sure I’m looking too far into this, as I wanted to see if this was a thing, I’ve been at home a lot lately because my roommate has a new relationship and I have a air bnb rental next door which has new people staying there almost every few nights, I had a bad experiencing regarding my complex ptsd history and my former therapist over 5 years ago which led to me leaving the therapist and moving away but I was significantly harmed. I had tried after the event to return and reconcile the therapeutic rupture (I was at the time training as a psychotherapist myself, as per recommended in a course by him). I recorded these sessions by recommendations of my ex partner, and a second trauma therapist I started seeing to help deal with the fall out of the trauma symptoms and memory flooding caused.

    Anyway I think I saw him about 10 times over the course of 10 months before I left the area and never returned to therapy as I lost faith in the profession despite it being my life before. I loved psychology and counselling. (I finished my dip in counselling and have resumed my psych and counseling degree now, 6 years later, and I’m back in therapy as of last year but working through the trauma from working on my original childhood trauma without going into it, it was a lot of denying my childhood abuse etc and questioning the validity of my memory).

    However now I’m confused, I had a flashback the week I started back in my study in February, and I tagged a friend I’ve become close with in the last 5 years who is not from my own country. But he knows almost everything the therapist did and more, on the therapist social media page and then thought I deleted it, but I must of been mistaken as a few hours later or the next day the former therapist followed me(I’m a former client but not since 2018 so it’s technically not violating any ethical code here in my country) the next morning.

    My friend said it was probably to mess with my head and keep me speaking out about what happened and I can see maybe how that might be the case but I was unlikely to say anything directly about it on my social media anyway (only indirectly).
    For a few weeks I was so wrapped up with stressful other events happening, I lost my beloved dog in January and had some other stuff go down I forgot he was following and because it’s not under my real name I post rather salacious and sexual content there. When I realise it’s being followed by my former therapist it starts making me question if that’s a “reverse stalking” (I followed him back but it was probably from submissive standpoint as I used to follow him and he knows a lot of my childhood secrets so I did it default almost like it was a conditioned reflex)

    Now I might be thinking too much into it but when I saw the air bnb guests this morning I was trying to move something outside that is really big and the guy next door looked so ki uh like him it sent me into a panic attack. I know he works at a psych hospital I stayed at in 2022 which would list my current address as this one, and he could’ve easily found that information through his 1-2 days work outside private practice as a group psychologist there (I was an inpatient at that hospital in late 2022) and worked out there was an air bnb next door available.

    I feel he has a vendetta to make me “uncomfortable” to get me to get rid of the recordings he now knows I have, as I was upset and wrote a blog saying what one of the sessions was word for word as part of my own healing when i went back to uni in February realising how much I had already done and dissociated over him not being there for me in 2017.

    So I know publishing the sessions is not on, but writing them out word for word is ok and that is what I did, and the next morning he followed me, and I feel like now he might want to stop me doing any more so he would try and “hunt me down” like prey.

    I haven’t told my own therapist about this yet because she wants me to report him for the issues back in 2017 and this would push her to go on my behalf as she works on behalf of an arm of victims services . I also I feel she gets upset (I don’t really understand this in some people) when I have such a difficulty healing from the damage come from a bad therapist. I had the same issue with the second therapist , who was an amazing adept trained trauma therapist who helped me a lot. So I don’t know if it’s unresolved issues within them. He (the therapist I’m talking about) was also weird with me about my admiration of a teacher I liked at university and refused to talk about it with me during our sessions. I wish I could just have one person to be upfront with all these things and without any of these silly mindgames.

    As someone who is now super committed to becoming a trauma therapist of a high caliber I want to bring everything and MORE into my job itj clients to avoid anyone ever going through the hell that I went through with my flashbacks, memory retrieval, isolation, loneliness, emotional pain, highs & lows, dissociation, alienation, fragmentation, questioning my consciousness on my own when I trusted my therapist to be there as a container of safety and support for my secrets. He wasn’t. He left me there to flood and spill all on my own and it was the most haunting experience of my life and if was not for my spiritual side I would’ve 100% suicided.

    So loved experienced and trauma informed care and my own 16 years of recovery dictates I will never professionally do that. But I also don’t know why he would follow me now,
    I hope it wasn’t him and it’s unlikely statistically speaking tis probably just my ptsd playing tricks on my mind.

    Unrelated altogether but I think having a study done into therapists who stalk their clients would help because there is clear bias for clients who stalk therapists, obviously we know that is likely to be a barrier in treatment but has anyone researched the pathology of therapists who go rogue and stalk or have been known to obsess over ex clients ?

    I’m sure it happens (I’m not saying this happened at all in my case but it probably has with other people and unbalanced therapists) and it would be interesting if supervision could become a space we could administer quantitative and qualitative research to understand things like this a little more because I for one, know therapy is not always a safe space, and for improvement in safe therapy practice, understanding when therapy goes wrong and making supervision a safe space to openly dialogue and discuss the real ethical failures without losing credibility (in reason) would maybe open that for therapists before they do something morally or ethically harmful to clients or ex clients or just generally in the practice of therapy, they are not above the code of human.

    we make mistakes and need to be checked when we are working with such delicate emotional and psychological processes).

    One thing my ex therapist said that really made me leave was that he argued he did not need personal therapy or even supervision. I disagreed with him. This juxtaposed the second therapist I had who had 2 personal therapists and 1 supervisor! (Yes I thought that was Admirable!)

    We all as professionals in the field need to be held accountable.

    I just wanted to share that I thought t was interesting that this was my experience. My therapist followed me lol.

    I was wondering what you think about this ?

    There is nothing else online I can find of this phenomena 🙁
    I just needed to get it off my mind

    1. Administration Reply
      April 1, 2024

      Hi Penny,
      Thank you for writing to us, however, our Elders don’t answer through this page. Please go to and a caring Elder will respond to your request.

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