We may like to think that as good-hearted, moral, upright, caring people, we don’t really need
formal codes of ethics. After all, we aren’t going to rob our clients, sleep with them, gossip about them, or manipulate them for our own advantage. In fact, we’d never hurt anybody—intentionally. But there’s the rub. Nowadays, personal and social boundaries have become so loose and blurry that it’s possible to transgress them without even realizing it. In the salad days of psychoanalysis, professional ethics—particularly those having to do with boundaries, dual relationships, and confidentiality—were largely in synch with the times. Even into the '60s and '70s, we lived in a relatively buttoned-up culture where clear demarcations between the personal, the social, and the professional were the norm. Today, all those old notions have pretty much gone out the window.
The seductive informality of our current times has transformed even our most basic ideas of when our “office” hours end and where therapy takes place. A few months ago, attending a psychotherapy conference held at a seaside resort town, I was hanging out by the pool with an old therapist buddy who refused a second glass of wine because he said he had to get on the phone for a therapy session. Indeed, therapy now regularly takes place via Skype, cell phone, email, and even in little therapy smidgens via texting. Do I hear the sound of Freud & Co. collectively rolling over in their graves?
The inspiration for relaunching our popular Webcast series, Ethics in the Age of Informality: Protecting Yourself When Boundaries Blur
is the recognition that in the absence of clear guidelines in so many circumstances, ethical standards—particularly those related to boundaries—matter now more than ever because the culture we live in makes it so easy to disregard them. Rather than existing as formal codes of ethics—antiquated sets of rules periodically reviewed in mind-numbing CE trainings so we can meet our licensing requirements—they make psychotherapy as we know it possible. In fact, it might be said that whenever we conduct a therapy session—whether in person, on the phone, or in cyberspace—those rules are always implicitly present, insuring that whatever therapeutic space is being created is truly a safe haven in a world in which circles of emotional safety and protection are in exceedingly short supply.
Earn 6 Ethics CEs!
Ethics in an Age of Informality:
Protecting Yourself When Boundaries Blur
Get Course Details