What are dual relationships in psychedelic assisted therapy?

Dual relationships in the therapy space refer to situations where the therapist has a relationship with a client outside of the therapeutic context.

When we are working with Sacred Plant Medicine or psychedelic substances for healing and awakening boundaries can easily dissolve and get crossed if we are not prepared to hold healthy boundaries and create a safe space.

  • Business
  • Close friends and relatives
  • Romantic, sexual partners

From an ethical perspective dual relationships should be avoided as they have great potential to cause ethical problems. For both the client and therapist it can be difficult to maintain two different type of relationship where different rules apply and this can lead to confusion and eventually crossing professional boundaries.

Why dual relationships can problematic?

  • Impaired objectivity and judgment
  • Power imbalance
  • Confidentiality and privacy
  • Conflict of interest

It’s easy to see how for example a sexual relationship with a client can impair the objectivity and the judgement of the therapist, how the innate power imbalance in the therapeutic container can pressure the client to enter into a dual relationship against their better judgement or how this type of relationship can create a conflict of interest in the therapeutic container on both sides. Not even mentioning the violation of the confidentiality and privacy guidelines.

How to handle dual relationships? 

It is my experience that it is best to completely avoid dual relationships in the sacred plant medicine space to maintain integrity and ethical boundaries.

I would recommend that in case of business relationship the therapist and client should wait minimum 3 months after leaving the therapeutic container. In case of sexual relationships I would recommend minimum 6 months. Personally myself, I avoid taking on my close friends and relatives as clients as I wouldn’t feel comfortable in my capacity to be able to stay detached and centered in that situation.

I believe if for some reason the therapist and the client agrees to enter into a dual relationship based on informed consent, the therapist should have regular supervision to make sure that boundaries are not crossed.

Dual relationships may create conflicts of interest that compromise the therapist’s ability to prioritize the client’s best interests. Financial, social, or personal ties can interfere with the therapist’s ability to make objective decisions regarding the client’s treatment and best practices.

We are all responsible for our choices, still I believe it is mainly the responsibility of the therapist, guide, healer to be educated about ethical conduct and to inform the client of ethical boundaries such as to create a safe space for healing where the client’s best interest is the priority.

To learn more about Sacred Plant Medicine, read our Code of ethics and best practices for Ayahuasca practitioners




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