When Clients Become Friends

When Clients Become Friends

When Clients become Friends

By Ashley Johnson CD(DONA); PCD(DONA)

Years ago, when I started working in the human services field, it was taboo to develop friendships with your clients.

We were paid support plain and simple. 

If a client contacted you outside of business hours, you were instructed to create boundaries and remind clients that they were just that, a client.  I always struggled to cut ties once my journey with a client ended because part of being in human services is developing human connection.  Somewhere along the line we were taught that, as human service workers, we were above the people we support because we were in a position of power, a position of influence       

Years later, I have grown and learned so much about the people I have supported and about myself. There is no hierarchy, we all deserve to develop relationships with whomever we deem fit. Everybody deserves to make the same choices and the same mistakes that I do. I am equal to the people I supported in the past and the people I have the honour of supporting now. 

As I transitioned into Birth Support in 2010, I took my standard of practice from social work, into my Doula practice.  In some ways this served me well, but in other ways it guarded me, to my clients detriment. 

As Doula’s we are up close and personal with our families we support. They share personal stories, they get vulnerable with their feelings and in return we often share some of our personal stories too, so isn’t it natural that we would develop a sense of comfort, a sense of friendship and tribe?

I really struggled with this.

I was a professional and this felt way too easy. The funny thing was, the more I spoke my truth, the more at ease and open my clients were with me. My clients would open a dialogue with me that honoured their true feelings and their birth experience was more positive because they felt like they weren’t alone.  Once my journey ended with my client, I was supposed to say goodbye and that’s it, right? Wrong. I have made some amazing friendships with past clients, one of them even became our business partner!

We can all learn and grow with each other. We serve each other in different areas of life. Some past clients I talk to every now and then but some I see often, we go for coffee, our children play together and we have dinner parties with our families.

How can I call this work?

It’s called Human Connection.

At some point during our journey together our relationship developed into natural support and that is a beautiful thing. That tells me that I was the right Doula for them. That tells me that we live to serve each other in some facet of our lives.

When clients become friends it’s not unprofessional, it’s human connection. 


  • by

    lara thomas

    Posted April 13, 2017 12:27 am

    what a stunning article written with such truth and honesty. What you are saying here is exactly what i so desperately needed as a mother -to-be – a genuine support..a heartfelt care..and YOU were exactly that every step of the way. Thank you for the genuine kindness, thoughtfulness and love you have shown..i am so grateful you were a part of that intimate journey..i wouldnt have it any other way..

  • by

    Nichole Virag

    Posted October 27, 2017 3:36 pm

    I love this article. I searched for commentary on this subject because I too am just about to transition from social work to birth work. When I had my baby, I was unsure how to conduct myself as a client with my doula and expected that there would be the same strict professional/client boundaries that existed in social work. I was pleasantly surprised that it was OK to be friends with your doula (and vice versa)!! I’d love to hear more about your transition if you want to email me!

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