Counselor Ethical Boundaries and Practices PCN-505 Boundary Issues and Dual Relationships Dual relationships and the ethical behavior that revolves around boundaries with clients present a multitude of very complicated situations to counselors where a clearly defined course of action is not always evident. Aside from no accord amongst mental health professionals and boundary issues being unavoidable at times, recognition and prediction of potential benefits or pitfalls correlated with dual relationships can prove to be troublesome as well (Remley & Herlihy, 2010).
For most cases, it is best if an outline is used to discern when it is appropriate for a counselor to breach the client-counselor boundary. Apart from the obvious dual-relationships to avoid such as sexual or romantic involvement with a current client, I have learned that it is best to remain simple when outlining measures to consider when contemplating entering into a dual relationship. Avoid all types of dual-relationships within at least five years of the client-counselor relationship unless the potential benefits can outweigh the potential harmful situations to the client all in a non-exploitive manner.
Additionally, it should be a situation in which the expected outcome or issues associated with that outcome are largely transparent. Within the ACA’s Code of Ethics Section A. 5. d. it states, “…the counselor must document in case records, prior to the interaction (when feasible), the rationale for such an interaction, the potential benefit, and anticipated consequences for the client or former client and other individuals significantly involved with the client or former client. Such interactions should be initiated with appropriate client consent. (Remley & Herlihy, 2010, p. 389). The outline I propose, although simple, still incorporates the ethical behavior by which the American Counseling Association expects counselors to act when faced with a decision about whether to cross any boundaries. The toughest situations to consider are those that are seemingly harmless at first glance or present the most ambiguity. For example, a counselor that had been working with a man and woman on their marriage for quite some time has been invited to attend a ceremony where the couple intends to renew their vows.
It would seem at first glance this would be beneficial to the couple, but when analyzing deeper, the counselor finds that there are several people invited to the ceremony that played a big part in the troubles surrounding the couple’s marriage. It’s best the counselor respectfully decline since those people are aware of the counselor’s role and suggestions pertaining to the couple’s relationship with those individuals. In the same situation, if there weren’t any people outside the couple that were influential in the counseling process attending the vow renewals, the situation would seem harmless enough to move forward and attend.
Suppose a counselor was working with a person whose child was on the same soccer team as the counselor’s child. From time to time, the counselor would occasionally see their client on the sidelines during games and practices. During one session, the client suggests that perhaps they carpool for practices or attend these games together. Several things need to be considered: Is or has the counseling included the client’s child in the therapy?
Has the therapy included discussion about the client’s spouse or ex-spouse that may also attend one of these games or be the adult in a carpool situation? Does the client wrestle with trust issues? In this situation, it seems that there may be more ingredients for harm than for good to come out in the end. There would be no reason to ignore one another during games where both the counselor and client were both attending, but stepping up the relationship any further would seem to not really provide the client with any real benefit.
This is a situation, however, that perhaps five or more years after the professional relationship had ceased could be a fair opportunity for a friendship if that was the natural course. If their children were on the same sports team for that entire duration and there were no outside factors that could bring potential harm to the well-being of the client, then I would see no problem with pursuing a friendship at point. Especially since continued contact would be inevitable as long as both children were members of the same team. Development of Your Thinking about Ethics
Upon nearing the conclusion of this class, it is easy for me to see that I have learned an incredible amount about myself and ethical behavior as it pertains to counseling. To be quite honest, I feel I have learned more about myself and the subject of the class than I ever expected at the onset. On our first day of class, the extent of my knowledge within the realm of counseling and ethics could be largely summed up as knowing that I shouldn’t have a romantic relationship with any clients and that their information about therapy should remain confidential.
Not only have I clarified views and gained different insights to boundary issues and client rights, but I have unlocked topics of importance that I had never known related to ethical issues within counseling such as multicultural awareness and therapeutic neutrality. I found the subject matter pertaining to the multicultural environment and value-based/therapeutic neutrality to be fascinating.
I had never considered the impact a counselor’s values could have in the therapy process and the importance of having a truly neutral stance – especially when a counselor’s values are starkly different from those of the client. Understanding that values provide support for rationale and act as catalysts for change has helped me realize the importance of a counselor remaining neutral on these fronts. The inherent power discrepancy in a counseling relationship enables a counselor to exert their values in the treatment of a client if the counselor does not reside within a value-neutral setting.
Remaining in a position of therapeutic neutrality ensures the setting for therapy is unpolluted by opinions or judgment. Being able to digest the importance of therapeutic neutrality will by no means make the state-of-mind easy to reach. It will surely be an ongoing process of learning more about others and their value systems, being able to put my values aside, and being self-aware enough to know when I can’t place my values to the side and a client would be best served by referral.
At the conclusion of this course, I’ve learned that the ethical and legal aspect to counseling is extremely complex and a straightforward answer is not always easy to come by. The most important thing outside of a solid set of morals and values for a foundation as a counselor is a keen sense of self-awareness and excellent professional networking. Several opinions from other professionals are often necessary in determining a course of action when in a position that is surrounded by ambiguity. Most important, however, is a counselor’s assessment of themselves. I’ve learned if a counselor can couple the various codes of ethics with a truly honest perspective of their capabilities, values, environment, and situations they will have the guidance necessary to make the most appropriate decisions.
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