Modern Etiquette: 'I'm a therapist. Here's 12 things I wish my clients would stop doing.'

In 2023, there's one thing that's become alarmingly apparent: No one knows how to behave anymore. 

And it's not our fault. After all, we were locked inside for basically two years. Isolated. Spent a lot of time online wearing stained trackies and watching celebrities make TikToks.

So, in a bid to help remind us all how to behave like polite human beings, we're taking a leaf out of New York Magazine's viral guide to existing in modern society, and sharing some new rules.

In the Modern Etiquette series, Mamamia asks people in different fields to share their hard-line dos and don'ts, according to their expertise.

And now it's the therapist's turn.

Watch: These signs will help you know if you should see a psychologist. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia

We asked a psychologist to tell us all the things clients do that get on her nerves. And she didn't hold back.

Here's a list of everything your therapist wants to you to kindly stop doing.

1. Assuming that paying for our time means we don't really care.

"Some clients believe that because they pay for the therapeutic service, then their therapist doesn’t really care about them. For some reason, clients don’t have the same perspective of their plumber, GP, or even lawyer."

"The therapist-client relationship is extremely private and personal, and the fact that money is exchanged can cause some clients to see the relationship as inauthentic." 


2. Leaving therapy prematurely... 

"Therapy can be difficult, and especially for couples as it can be much harder than individual therapy. Here’s the thing — if you leave prematurely then your life will be impacted much more than your therapist."

"Another client will fill your space pretty quickly — harsh but true — so the only person you are really hurting is yourself." 

3. ...And then continuing to email us. 

"If you are no longer in therapy, then don’t send your ex-therapist emails. They can’t do anything with that information."

4. Texting us between sessions about your latest fight.

"At times, clients send therapists videos or voice recordings of their partner during a fight, or their couple text or email correspondence. I don’t listen to these or even read them."

"It’s not appropriate to flood my inbox with the latest fight you had and there is no appropriate response for me to reply to you. Don’t send these to your therapist — just hold it until the next session and talk about it then."

5. Thinking we're friends.

"Having expectations of a therapist beyond helping you understand yourself and your situation can hurt you. Therapists can be friendly, but we can’t be your friend." 

"It’s not that in a different world we couldn’t be friends, however, because of the contract we share and the unequal nature of the relationship, it’s not a friendship. This means I won’t send you emails between sessions, and I won’t message you on your birthday." 

6. Asking me to see your mother, brother and best friend.

"Boundaries protect you and our therapeutic relationship. If my client’s friends and family see me too, how can they feel safe to speak freely about relationships with them in sessions. You may want to have a b**ch about them or have had a huge fight with them — how would you feel if I were seeing them the next day?"


"This is a boundary issue. I can’t see your mother, brother, sister, best friend… but I will happily provide another therapist’s number for them to call."

7. Putting us on a pedestal — we’re very human too!

"When you are working with a therapist over time, it’s likely that your therapist will go through tough personal experiences in their own life."

"We may have a child struggling with mental health issues, we may be going through a separation and divorce, we may rely heavily on alcohol, we may have an ill parent or deal with the loss of a parent, we may be feeling vulnerable, or having an affair or our child may have left home."

"Therapists experience life and life’s tribulations just like you and still turn up to work. Don’t judge us — we don’t have all the answers for our own lives, and we have our own individual journey to tread."

"Just know that these experiences ultimately make us better therapists as we end up with more life experience and empathy for your journey."

8. Worrying we don't like you.

"A parent doesn’t like their child every single moment but can still offer guidance to them. Similarly, therapists don’t like their clients or their client’s behaviour every moment."

"However, it’s a therapist’s job to think about these behaviours and to put this back to you in a way that’s kind and helpful to you."

9. Ignoring the cancellation policy (yep, it still applies to you — pay up).

"Therapists have a cancellation policy to protect from last-minute changes in the client’s day or changes of heart to looking inwards. We’ve put that session time aside for you and if you don’t show up, that’s on you (unless a child or you are in hospital or a parent has died)."


"Don’t make excuses for why you didn’t show or how your child has a cold — therapists are not responsible for that side. Just honour the policy you signed up to at the beginning. If you don’t, you may be inviting resentment into the therapeutic relationship."

10. Constantly checking your phone.   

"How would you feel if your therapist had their mobile next to their chair looking at notifications coming in? Phones are not for the consulting room unless you have a sick kid, or your child is home alone, and this is a new experience."

"This is completely distracting for the therapist and also irritating."

11. Distorting what we say.

"As you and your therapist are different people, you will have times where you hear the words of your therapist differently from what they meant. In your mind, you may even distort the intention of your therapist’s words."

"Don’t get too worked up behind the scenes creating stories of how awful your therapist is. They’re not usually!"

12. Flaunting your immense wealth.

"Therapists are paid by the session. Even though we can earn a good enough income, we’re limited financially to the hours we work. Sometimes we have very wealthy clients who talk about their massive yachts, private jets, or $7,000 bottles of champagne."

"Your therapist may not let you know this, but you may sound like a w**ker if you’re unaware of the wealth disparity, and if you’re like this in the consulting room, you’re probably sounding like a w**ker with others."

Read more Modern Etiquette articles here:

What do you think of the above dos and dont's? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Feature image: Getty

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