Psychiatrist-patient boundary issues following treatment termination

Carl P Malmquist, M. T. Notman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Objective: Psychiatrist-patient relationships after termination of treatment are fraught with complexities and are the subject of ongoing debate. The authors discuss the issue of boundary violation allegations that arise after treatment has ended, with the goal of explicating how these issues have been handled in psychiatric discussions as well as in broader sociolegal settings. Method: Clinical illustrations and legal cases are used to illustrate how legal and administrative bodies have dealt with posttermination boundary issues. Results: Courts and regulatory bodies have tended to use the psychoanalytic concept of transference to decide issues in which there has been a complaint of impropriety-be it romantic, financial, or social in nature-arising after termination of treatment. However, a multitude of treatment approaches are currently employed in psychiatry, and often their practitioners either do not use the concept of transference or deny its validity. If the concept is used, it is often present in many settings outside therapy. Conclusions: The concept of transference is subject to continuing debate and modification within psychoanalysis, and its use in judicial or quasijudicial settings raises questions about whether it meets standards of scientific acceptance. Using the concept of transference to decide post-termination issues results not only in confusion but also has the potential for many adverse consequences for practitioners and the profession.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1010-1018
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2001


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