This has made me think carefully about what has always guided me in my decision to treat or not to treat a friend. Ideally, as we all know, we should not be treating family and friends because their very closeness means that we are not detached enough to see them clearly and to cope with finding out exactly what is wrong with them. We assume, usually very wrongly, that we really know all about them, and can therefore skip doing a proper diagnosis and move straight on to treatment. But my experiences in the past have put a lie to this, for I have often assumed somebody I know is of one element and decided quite some time later that they reveal another side to themselves and I have had to change my mind. This has happened with me with a very close relative and a very close friend, both of whom I had somehow put into an element box which, looking back, I suppose I felt was part of my comfort zone. When I later discovered how wrong I had been, I realised that I had almost deliberately been overlooking aspects of these two people which made me feel uneasy. Since learning these two difficult lessons, I have been very reluctant indeed to treat those close to me, unless there is absolutely no alternative (for example, if geographically there is no other practitioner near enough to treat them, or they are hospitalized and would simply go without treatment).
With family members, however unwise being their practitioner is, it is unlikely that my treating them is going to cause a change in our relationship. With friends, I have found, things are quite different, and my relationship to the friends I have had to treat in the past has always changed, and never for the better. Usually what has happened is that the friend now views me only as their therapist, and wishes me to continue in this role even when I am not treating (by talking over symptoms or the effects of treatment in a social context, for example). In a more extreme case, the friendship itself became endangered by the fact that a somewhat competitive friend did not like to feel that I was somehow gaining the upper hand, and persisted in claiming that treatment was making her feel worse. In the end, I lost her both as friend and patient, because we never rediscovered our easy relationship of before.
In the two examples that have come my way now, I have, with a sense of relief, passed both the friend and the friend of a friend on to a fellow practitioner, knowing that I was doing the right thing. This was not done without a slight tussle, because my first impulse is to offer help to anybody asking me for help, and it requires some strength of character for me to move aside.