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Popular Topics : Ethics


The Ethical Eye: Beyond “Risk Management”
By Ofer Zur
July/August 2007

Can We Talk?: Let’s End the Conspiracy of Silence about Ethical Dilemmas
By Mary Jo Barrett
March/April 2002

To Tell the Truth: Letting Go of Our Inscrutable Facade
By Jay Efran
March/April 2002

Nightmare in Aisle 6: A Therapist Caught in the Act of Being Herself
By Linda Stone Fish
March/April 2002

The Slippery Slope: Violating the Ultimate Therapeutic Taboo
By Susan Rowan
March/April 2002

The Crush: Challenging Our Culture of Avoidance
By Mary Jo Barrett
March/April 2002

The Necklace: When Does a Rule Become a Straitjacket
By Jenny Newsome
March/April 2002

Love, Dr. Lagerfeld: Sometimes It’s Okay to Trust Your Instincts
By Michael Hoyt
March/April 2002

A Triple Boundary Crossing: From Client to Friend to Client
By Arnold Lazarus
March/April 2002

Everybody’s Business: There Are Few Secrets in a Small Town
By Jan Michael Sherman
March/April 2002



Content Search Overview: Therapists, social workers, counselors and others found these articles helpful in learning more about the importance of ethics in therapy practices. People searching for information on the following terms and concepts found these articles helpful:

Dual Relationships
Risk Management
Sexual Boundaries
Boundary Crossing
Boundary violation

Sample from: The Ethical Eye, by Ofer Zur

The most frequently uttered words coming from these sources seem to be "don't" and "never." Consider the commandments regularly issued against what these experts consider dangerously risky behaviors. "Don't touch your clients—a handshake is the outer limit!" "Minimize self-disclosure; keep your anonymity intact!" "Never venture outside the office with a client!" "Don't accept gifts from a client!" "Never socialize or share a meal with a client." As Richard Leslie, an attorney specializing in psychotherapy issues and a consultant to the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy, put it in one all-purpose rule, "If you have to ask, don't do it!"

The problem with these blanket condemnations is that many of the forbidden acts may be among the most powerful therapeutic methods at our disposal. We know that touch is one of the most elementary human ways to relate, and can have a powerful reassuring and healing effect. Self-disclosure can help fearful and defensive clients connect with us, and learn from us through modeling—a proven cognitive-behavioral intervention in itself. Sometimes going to the client, rather than making the client come to us, is the only reasonable way of doing therapy: take, for example, the empirically successful home-based family therapies with juvenile offenders, or therapy with a homebound sick or elderly client. A gift may be an important way for a client to express gratitude; refusing it could be deeply offensive and shaming. Sharing a meal with an anorexic client is often part of an effective, system-based treatment plan. "Dual relationships" with clients are often unavoidable and therapeutically helpful for a therapist who works in a small town or rural setting—your children may go to the same school as your clients' children; you may belong to the same church or synagogue. Conscientious, ethical therapists know all this, but even as we necessarily engage in these "forbidden" activities in the interest of being good therapists, we may feel a shudder of apprehension that we're somehow dangerously flouting rules written in stone.

From Psychotherapy Networker, July/August 2007


Sample from: The Slippery Slope, by Susan Rowan

Since that day seven years ago, I have been fortunate enough to be allowed to return to practice. I passed a forensic evaluation and my licensing board has reinstated me, under strict conditions that include having a mentor (a specialist in transference and countertransference) to oversee my clinical work. I've undergone prolonged retraining, including an individual ethics tutorial. I've studied the professional literature on ethics violations and have been educated in the need for boundaries. The lawsuit was settled by my insurance carrier and I stopped drinking. As a condition of my license reinstatement, I am required to undergo psychotherapy until my therapist and I feel I don't need to any longer--at least another two or three years.

I realize that some therapists reading this may feel sympathetic toward me--that I tangled naively with the sort of boundary-less client that we're frequently warned against. But the responsibility lies with me. It was my responsibility, not hers, to know my profession's norms and to preserve clinical boundaries. It was my responsibility to understand that power between a client and a therapist is never equal and that a so-called friendship is never appropriate after clinical work. It doesn't matter how provocative, vulnerable or seductive a client is. It is my responsibility not to create pathological dependencies.

From Psychotherapy Networker, March/April 2002

Last modified on Sunday, 16 May 2010 07:44

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