Social Workers as Whistle Blowers. Addressing an Overt Challenge to the Code of Ethics. Like this article? Share it! Riolo, Ph. In a committed relationship, you can break up and go separate ways. You can divorce your spouse and start fresh. However, does your client ever stop being your client, no matter how much time has elapsed since the end of treatment?
Ask your colleagues and co-workers, and see what they say. This way of thinking is intended to be protective of clients and can help prevent various kinds of abuses, up to and including taking advantage of clients sexually. Among students, senior clinicians, and Dating your therapist relationship faculty, this is a near universal opinion.
To challenge it can bring some negative reactions from peers. Before you read further, let me be absolutely clear. In no way am I supporting or encouraging any activity with a client or former client that would be exploitive.
This includes sexual relations with clients, as well as any situation in which we exert undue influence over a client for our own benefit. And if so, what are the logical ramifications or consequences? In small rural communities, this situation would be more acute, but the principle would be the same in big cities, too. Imagine these scenarios: You are interested in politics in your community and decide to run for school board.
When you love your therapist — transference or real?
You find out a former client has also announced his or her candidacy. Do you campaign against your former client, or withdraw because it would be a conflict?
Our clients are often free to many, if not most, of the organizations where we are members. Do we withdraw if they our groups? Do we bar their membership if we can? This could include online networks, as well. You provide therapy to. Ten, fifteen, or more years later, that patient becomes a prominent, top in their field, attorney, surgeon, or other highly specialized professional. You discover that you need someone with those highly specialized qualifications.
If the client is still a client even after all those years of no contact, is that a conflict of interest and a prohibited dual relationship? If it is an issue of power, who is in the position of power? Is power in any relationship always static, or is it variable and subject to change based on the circumstances? When a therapist and client enter into a relationship that is outside of or in addition to the therapeutic relationship, it is generally referred to as a dual relationship. Dual relationships are discouraged by most professional organizations.
However, not all experts in the field believe that all dual relationships are necessarily harmful. It would depend on the context. However, when a therapist and long past patient enter into a relationship separate from the therapeutic one, is that actually a dual relationship? Would it be more accurate to call it a sequential or serial relationship?
Is there a difference? If one believes that our patients grow mature and sometimes surpass us in knowledge, wisdom, and power, then it is a ificant difference. Of course, of all the dual or sequential relationships that are potentially possible with patients and former patients, when the issue of sex comes up, most all therapists of all disciplines react forcefully. Having sex with Dating your therapist relationship current patient or even a recently discharged patient is not only unethical—it is illegal. It is truly a betrayal of the trust the patient places in us.
However, over time as in yearscan that change in some very special circumstances to allow exceptions to the rule? If a therapist and former patient meet some 10 or 15 years after the last therapeutic session and develop a personal relationship, get married, and Dating your therapist relationship children, can we say that an ethical violation or a crime has been committed?
What happens when your relationship with a therapist turns into an affair?
In most all states, laws prohibiting sex with clients are limited to current or recent clients. Washington State is one exception. However, assuming the former client does not file any complaint, how enforceable would such laws be? For example, what if the former therapist and patient got married, Dating your therapist relationship in a committed relationship, and had children? Would or should an ethics committee have the authority to interfere with a marriage or union among consenting adults?
What about our belief in the right to free association? What is the rationale for the prohibition against sex with patients? Many believe it is the power differential. However, Dr. Behnke points out that many relationships have ificant power Dating your therapist relationship, including partnerships and marriages, and that we often do in fact put our own interests above those of clients when we charge fees, for example. So, neither a power differential nor putting our own needs first is in and of itself unethical.
Rather, Behnke says, it is because we have a fiduciary relationship that is compromised and creates additional risks that are not a necessary part of the therapeutic relationship, making psychotherapy impossible. But fiduciary relationships are not static and change with time and circumstances. Some would argue it is based on psychodynamic theory, and perhaps those who practice psychoanalytically have a higher standard.
But interestingly, there is nothing in psychodynamic theory or psychoanalysis that would state such.
'til death do us part: does a client ever stop being a client?
This would include taking patients on vacation and conducting analysis in hotel room beds. We tend to forget that that was a different time with different standards. Therefore, perhaps, our reactions could possibly be a way of denying and reacting against the behaviors of a era we find frankly embarrassing and indefensible. Another possibility is that, whereas all of us require structure of some kind, some of us need more structure and clear inflexible rules more Dating your therapist relationship others.
Some fear that if they bend the rules just a little, they may go down a slippery slope and cross all reasonable bounds. To therapists who believe they are just one rigid rule away from harming their patients, I say maintain all the rules you need. However, not everyone requires such inflexibility. Attempting to impose such rigidity on everyone is not good practice. It is not good for our clients or the field. If we hold that belief to be literally true, then it would not apply only to sex.
We are responsible to protect our clients from harm to self and others. But if we make no distinction between current and long past, can we in this litigious society be sued for the actions of a long past client? Our clients grow mature and often leave us behind.
If we do our jobs well, we have given them the tools to move on. It is unrealistic to think that, after several years, we mean the same to them as when they came to us for help.
Behnke, S. The discipline of ethics and the prohibition against becoming sexually involved with patients. APA Monitor, 37 6. John A. It started by raising some very interesting hypothetical scenarios involving former clients, but then devolved into the standard "don't have sex, I'm so serious" type warning.
It would have been really interesting to explore some of those non-romantic scenarios.
I can think of some interesting ones: Suppose a former client decides to run for political office in the jurisdiction in which the social worker lives. Must the social worker refrain from voting if they were otherwise eligible? Must the social worker vote for the former client in order to assist, or at least not interfere with, his goal of achieving political office?
If the former client is elected, and, via their office, gains some sort of regulatory or personnel authority over the social worker, must the social worker re or quit practicing? Dating your therapist relationship a social worker adopts an abandoned .
Ten years later, the social worker discovers that the child's birth mother is the long-lost sister of a former client. Must the social worker turn the child over to social services as an unfit conflict of interest parent? Robert Columbia more than 2 years ago. I don't believe there has been any standards set for for workers who may develope a mental illness themselves and suddenly find themselves on the other side of the fence.