Dr. Haris and Miraal’s therapeutic relationship dynamics in Sabaat
The way Sabaat handled the therapist-patient relationship spurred many questions and concerns among the viewers. Was Dr. Haris’ email to discontinue with Miraal’s therapy unprofessional? Was it right to refer Miraal to other consultants? Should Miraal have casually dropped by Dr.Haris’ office? were a few of the many questions that boggled everyone’s mind after the release of episode 13. While some were fumed with anger about Dr. Haris’ email, others found it more appropriate and sensible.
We’re not sure if the decision to add Dr. Haris’ email was part of the original script or was it added after the audience’s uproar, but nonetheless, according to an expert’s opinion, it was a professional alternative to opt for.
Given that dramas play an integral role in influencing public’s opinion and building narratives, it is incumbent upon drama writers to handle sensitive topics like mental health and therapeutic relationships with extreme care, especially in a society like Pakistan where a discussion on mental health is paid no to minimal heed, let alone be acknowledged.
In this regard, and to ease the viewers, FUCHSIA contacted a relationship expert and a family therapist working in the U.S – Dr. Sheeza Mohsin. We asked her questions about the therapist-patient relationship and she was kind enough to enlighten us with detailed insights.
Before starting sessions in a therapeutic relationship, it is imperative to “set professional boundaries” and “very strict laws around it”. When patients approach therapists, they are already in a vulnerable position, so “it is the professional responsibility of a therapist” to ensure their safety and to avoid causing any “further emotional damage” to their clients. Dr. Sheeza Mohsin further added,
It is very easy for clients to develop feelings which can be sometimes inappropriately misplaced. It is very important for the client and therapist to have a guided safe conversation where they can be educated about the process and understand the boundaries of the relationship so the most optimal therapeutic experience can be utilized to benefit the client/patient.
Sabaat didn’t show us any scenes of Dr. Haris explaining and educating Miraal about the importance of maintaining professional boundaries before her therapy took an official start. We believe those would have added a more professional and an expert value to the whole therapist-relationship plot of Sabaat.
Dr. Haris’ email – professional or unprofessional?
Upon asking if it’s unprofessional of a therapist to refer his patient to another consultant in case they fear to develop any personal attachment with them, Dr.Sheeza Mohsin replied:
It is actually the opposite. It is very important for the therapist to communicate the concern with the client and see if you refer and transition them to another professional service provider.
Well, then it was indeed very professional and correct of Dr.Haris to send Miraal an email explaining why he would like to discontinue the sessions, simply because he was on the verge of developing personal affiliation and emotional attachment with Miraal. This is exactly why, while keeping all her information confidential, he referred Miraal to other consultants to avoid transgressing the professional boundary.
Therapist’s own well-being
In fact, Dr. Sheeza Mohsin brought to light how, at times, therapists’ own well-being and health are at risk if they have to forcefully continue with the sessions. Thus, it then becomes necessary for them to refer out their patients.
As therapists, we do not refer them out just because of their personal feelings. Sometimes clients are referred out because they are not a good fit for you, sometimes their personalities may trigger a therapist and bring out their own trauma, sometimes the skills needed to help the client is not strong in the therapist’s portfolio of skills that they utilize to work with the client. So, other than personal feelings, there are many other very very important reasons and justified why the therapist will and should refer out.
Casual meetings with your therapist?
Moreover, we saw how Miraal preferred meeting with Dr.Haris in a cafe, and we wondered if that was an appropriate thing to do? to which Dr.Sheeza Mohsin told us:
They can see their clients in cafés and restaurants but there are certain boundaries and protocols to be followed. There has to be a contract in place which sets the limits of confidentiality as the client and therapist will be seen in public….usually this is common in relationships where there is openness and shame and stigma for working with a counselor is minimal
However, in the scenes where we saw Miraal casually calling Dr.Haris and dropping by his office out of timings, Dr. Sheeza Mohsin answered:
There’s a risk attached to it. The most important thing in this dynamic is consent, both the therapist and client come to some agreement about the relationship dynamic most of the time. Especially, in western cultures having a friendly relationship with a client that is paying you for service is considered unacceptable
Was it okay of Dr.Haris to tell Miral that he would like to see her in a personal capacity after her therapy was complete with another consultant?
Sometimes it’s a part of a multicultural therapeutic relationship to have some form of relationship with the client which makes them feel safe, in other cultures and countries it is considered unethical to do that. There is no one right answer as every market is different and how the statutes and laws and guidelines are stated; At the end of the day you have to remember that a therapist is also a human being just like the client but the responsibility of ethical professional behavior lies more heavily on the therapist than the patientDr.Sheeza Mohsin
Well, then we will have to see how Sabaat handles this sensitive topic, and how Dr. Haris and Miraal’s relationship unfolds ahead. One thing is for sure though, Dr.Haris will and should no longer assist Miraal as a therapist (for his and her well-being). Although, it would have been so much better if professional boundaries were established and communicated even before the sessions took place, but, at the end of the day, life is unpredictable and so are circumstances. You can only do so much with good intentions, but that can never guarantee you any certainty. Thus, the least that Dr.Haris could have done was to disassociate himself from Miraal’s therapy, which he rightfully and timely did so. Let’s now wait and see what Sabaat has in store for us (hopefully, no disappointments). Hold on, folks!
Dr Sheeza Mohsin, PhD, LMFT, LPC
Dr. Sheeza is a relationship expert as a couple and family therapist working in USA who is known to specialize in multicultural family systems. She can be reached on her website
Hiba Shoaib is a student of social development and policy at Habib University. She is currently working as an Undergraduate Research Fellow at Center for Transdisciplinary Design and Innovation Lab. As an aspiring policy-practitioner, she aims to address socio-economic concerns. She uses her research and critical-writing skills to empower people and advocate for social justice.