Dual Relationships and Ethical Boundaries
Professional counselors have the obligation to ensure quality and effective counseling toward clients. All the while, counselors are committed to the ethical guidelines that are established to avoid legal, professional malpractice and competent issues. Some of those guidelines consider dual relationships and professional boundaries. Counselors are not to engage in dual relationships with clients, supervisors, and coworkers, and also should be cautioned to prevent situations that may cause ethical boundary violations.
However, after a client has completed treatment and has been terminated for some time, some of those rules tend to change. Therefore, counselors should be able to think logically while having criteria to make ethical decisions. Boundary Issues and Dual Relationships I have developed criteria for former clients to help make an ethical decision as to whether engage in a dual relationship with the former client years after termination. Appendix A describes the criteria within a chart as a process that would take place when the situation arises.
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Before I make a decision as to whether engage in a dual relationship with a former client, I would consider the well-being of the former client, the history of the client, the medical issues of the client, and then any professional issues that may occur. It would create turmoil for a professional counselor to have any relations with a former client engaging in criminal activity, associate with others who abuse substances, and have inappropriate moral values. People do change behaviors and thought patterns within or after five years.
Unless the former client was ordered to counseling involuntarily through the judicial system, I would have nothing further to do with the client after termination of treatment. While considering the criteria from Appendix A, I developed the Ethical Decision Model in Appendix B to describe how I would make an ethical decision. While being approached with different situations, after determining if the former client meets the criteria or not, I would have to identify the situation and dilemma.
Then I would have analyzed the purpose of the approach from the former client, the advantages and disadvantages of such dual relationship, and evaluate possible solutions and consequences from engaging in such a relationship. Also, I would consider what boundaries are being crossed. That is actually different than dealing with current clients. In this particular case, when a former client insists wanting a relationship, it would be important to understand the reasons why, what is the purpose, what are the goals and etc.
Some people want to have relationships for the wrong reasons, which could be selfish, egocentric, domestic, and socioeconomic reasons. Some of those reasons may conflict with the professional obligations of a counselor. It would be a bad decision for professional counselors to get involved. However, some situations are complex and ambiguous and it would be hard to make a quick decision. That is why I have criteria and ethical guidelines to make a decision and I will incorporate them in many incidents that may occur with former clients. First Scenario: A former client name John has quitted counseling treatment voluntarily.
He returns to the facility at closing hour and initiate a conversation. He explains that he terminated counseling because of his feelings of attachment towards me. He also wants to invite me to attend social events and has vowed that nothing serious until after time has passed and we both knew each other. This is when I exited the facility going to my car. The dilemma is he voluntarily terminated counseling. The code of conduct states that it has to be five years before having any engagements with the former clients. Meanwhile, he is just asking to further friendship qualities, not a serious relationship.
Incorporating the criteria, John has been sober, has no mental illnesses or disorders, but he cannot find a job currently, and he associate with other people who are at risk of serious addictions. As a result, I would have to say no. I would decline any involvement with this client because he is not economically sustainable and it is easy to tell his personal values are not clear. That could easily put me in endangerment. Second Scenario: Former client name Jane lives a few houses down the street. It so happens to be that her children associate with my children.
She insists on wanting to develop a friendship since we’re both in the neighborhood, but Jane knows a guy name Joe at the facility whom is a client of another counselor. She walks on my front porch to ring the bell at the front door and greet me. The dilemma in this situation is that she lives down the street and has a positive attitude. However, she is crossing ethical boundaries by coming to my front door. It could so happen that she speaks of another clients business, which should not be disclosed, and perhaps the children are communicating private matters as well.
Incorporating the criteria, Jane has only been out of recovery for only a year. She has suffered a relapse twice. Jane also knows Joe which makes matters more complicated. I would have to tell the children not to communicate private affairs or gossip heard from anyone else. This could possible cause potential harm in some ways. I would also decline this relationship initiative to be friendly neighbors with Jane because I would risk potential harm to the current client. It would exploit negative stereotypes about counseling.
It would cause the current client to trigger different perspectives about certain situations and could disrupt counseling efforts. To avoid that, I would decline being involved with Jane. Third Scenario: A current female co-worker suggests I meet her male cousin. The male cousin has been terminated from his own treatment in a different facility more than five years ago. The dilemma would be the main issue that if I was to engage in affairs with her cousin, then I would be her co-worker and her cousin-in-law, two different roles. That would cause situations at work to arise and that could compromise legal practices and licensures.
It would be more complicated where she would be expecting advantageous friendship to occur all the time and possibly have leniency in the facility, when clearly of course, counselors are obligated to report any violations of professional practice. There is just a measure of precaution to take. However, after identifying the dilemma, brainstorming results, I would have decided to decline the suggestion for the main reason that the male cousin was a client of another facility and he has familial relations with the female co-worker. Fourth Scenario:
A former client wants to revisit the facility after five years and have friends at the facility that possibly have started counseling treatment plans before the former client was terminated. During a group therapy session, the former client arrives and wants to sit in. The dilemma here is that the former client is intruding on property and although the former client may have a nice personality, the former client cannot intrude during therapy sessions. This is an ethical boundary because everyone in the group has signed informed consent forms of their client rights.
In group counseling, the current clients have the right to confidentiality, privacy, and are beware of the appropriateness of how the group members participate and associate information. It could be risks of potential harm if the former client received some input from the current clients, then the former client speak of it to others outside of the facility. Based on the criteria developed and the method of how to make an ethical decision, in my opinion, some ethical issues and appropriateness change after the former client has been out of treatment for five years.
Some key ethical issues that may change would be the appropriateness of self-disclosure, physical contact guidelines reflecting potential harm issues, emotional attachment and autonomy, and instead of concrete professional decisions, the counselor would make instinctive decisions, when approached by a former client and not a current client. Still, ethical issues concerning privacy, confidentiality, privilege communication, and consent are main issues that counselors would or should keep from changing.
If a current client touches me, it would be a boundary issue concerning physical contact, which could either be motivational or intimate. If a current client as a personal question that has nothing to do with counseling treatment, which would also be a boundary violation in the workplace. I think it’s disrespectful for people to ask about the personal life behind closed doors or at home. Those types of violations would not necessarily be violations if the client has been terminated from treatment more than five years ago.
Instead of speaking professionally about a situation, I could be speaking considerably based on what my instincts are concerning the situation. It would definitely be unethical for a counselor to engage in substance abuse with a former client’s friend just because it has been over five years, and it would definitely be unethical for a counselor to immediately engage in sexual affairs with a former client’s counselor from another facility because the required time after termination has been met. Either way, counselors should speak with their supervisors or consult with peer counselors about these types of situations.
Development of Your thinking about Ethics Reflecting upon the duration of the recent course, I have gained better insight about ethical issues. Ethics applies to another only counseling, but many other areas such as culture, character, workplace communications, meeting license standards, dealing with managed care systems, and the counselor (which is me). I have been able to clarify my viewpoint on certain issues which are diverse coming from clients. Developing cultural competency is one of the developments I have acquired throughout the course.
It is important to know that it is indeed unethical for a counselor to enforce their views onto clients. A counselor should be competent of his or her own values, and respect the values of the client, which most of the time would be different from the counselor’s. Development the need to remain professionally competent is something new that I have learned. It is considered unlawful, unprofessional, unethical, and selfish for a counselor to not fulfill their continuing education requirements to renew their license every year and not provide effective counseling and misrepresent their qualifications.
After researching the disciplinary records of other counselors, social workers, independent family therapists and so forth, it was most common that workers did not renew their license and continued practicing. Failure to comply with the board’s guidelines caused their license to be revoked, which also meant loss of employment, and also a misdemeanor was filed, and the risks of potential harm to the clients during the times where the counselor was not officially license.
I know that if I experience burnout, distress, and other forms of inconveniences that cause my effectiveness and quality of counseling to be less, then I know I have options to take time off and perhaps study other techniques and so forth to come back well. If a counselor does continue practicing counseling while incompetent, then the counselor would be showing negligence toward the client. I have also gained a new perspective on how significant counselors are within the facility.
Counselors have a mission, goal, purpose, and obligations to give the clients all the services, products, counseling, and duration of treatment that is needed. However, it is difficult when managed care systems want to perform a utilization review and not really understand the counseling efforts. Therefore, I have developed an awareness to keep legal track of all documents more substantially, securely, and regularly, to deal with these types of legal situations to avoid predicaments of managed care systems reducing fees, services, and products, and resources for referrals.
The clients’ success of recovery from substance abuse and alcohol addictions and remaining abstinent after treatment is very important determination of the professional counseling practices. Although interpersonal communication and comprehensive strategic learning allow counselors to develop a more professional perspective about counseling techniques and efforts, intrapersonal communication allows people to communicate with them self. Discovering own personal values is important to actually handle the diversity of all circumstances and events in the facility.
I have discovered that I am more heartwarming. That is not good for professional relationships with clients. I have learned that I cannot make a decision using my heart, I have to make ethical decisions with my mind and based them off of the ethical guidelines counselors are suppose to follow. In the meantime, I have determined to continue taking precaution during counseling to ensure that dilemmas are less occurring and that when the dilemmas do occur, I would have a strong firm stand on the decisions I make in the facility.
I have learned to managed my feelings and remain professionally concrete during counseling sessions so that the client can remain focused on the counseling treatments. I have also learned that being an ethical practitioner means to develop the skills to make informed ethical choices in and outside the workplace, continue fulfilling ethical responsibilities, being content with own cultural perspectives, and comprehending personal values, and ethically avoid conflicts with former clients.
Being an ethical practitioner means to value the safety, health and wellness of the clients and not commit any ethical boundaries that may put the client at risks for potential harm. Also, being an ethical practitioner would mean remaining ethical and not engage in dual relationships where the client may become confused because of the counselor playing two different roles. After learning, I have modified my thinking to take measurable precautions against how I communicate with people, how I make gesture movements, or how I may touch somebody.
Sometimes what I think I should do is not the ethical procedure I should perform and sometimes what I think may be ethical just as well may not be ethical, therefore, this course allowed me to strengthen those areas of where I make ethical decisions, especially when the situation arises concerning boundary issues and dual relationships. Conclusion Reflecting on the course and research assessments, it has become more significant that counselors, like me, should be aware of circumstances where incompetence can be considered negligence and may cause potential harm to the clients.
It has also become more significant that counselors are culturally competent of diverse relationships with clients of many differences such as faiths, beliefs, values, customs, and stereotypical attitudes. Counselors should be aware of their own values and not impose them on the client which would discourage the client from collaborating during treatment. I have also had the opportunity to gain full awareness of ethical practices and legal situations that may arise to compromise ethical standards.
Above all, to remain an ethical practitioner, it is important to be aware of dual relationships and unethical boundaries that could cause many consequences. To avoid such consequences, I have developed criteria concerning dual relationship and an ethical model to follow when I need to make a firm decision concerning ethical behavior while working as a professional counselor in the future.