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Dual Relationships in Psychological Counselling Essay

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Updated: May 14th, 2020

Dual relationships are peculiar associations that occur mostly in psychological counseling. In these unethical relationships, a counselor plays more than one role: the counselor and another non-psychiatric role. Most of the time these dual roles are avoidable but at other times, they can only be managed. For example, it is considered harmless when a counselor is treating a close friend or relative.

Dual role in this case can only be managed, not avoided. Dual roles are risky associations between the counselor and the patient because the course of that relationship is likely to be influenced by non-treatment factors (Mentor Research Institute, 2007). This paper will highlight several cases of dual relationships and provide the ethical issues and guidelines in question.

The first case highlights a setting in which a female counselor is dealing with male client who has suicidal thoughts. After several counseling sessions, he does not improve and on a particular day calls his counselor and threatens to kill himself. She pleads with him not commit suicide but give her a chance to intervene. He refuses and she calls the police who intervene before he acts on his threats. Eventually he files a suit against his psychotherapist for breech of confidentiality (Ford, 2006).

In this scenario, the dual relationship is seen when the psychotherapist acts as a protector of life and involves the police. Confidentiality is a psychotherapist responsibility (APA, 2010, 4.01). However there are certain circumstances that makes it ethical and even legal to disclose clients confidential information without the consent of the client, such as when the clients intends to harm themselves or others (APA , 2010, 4.05,b,3).

This dual relationship can only be managed, not avoided. When a client enters into a counseling session, the counselor should explains the limits of confidentiality clause appropriately to the clients such that the client will understand under what terms revealing their information is ethical (APA 4.02,a).

Scenario 2 involves a setting in a child custody case, where a father is contesting the custody. A court engages a child psychologist to evaluate the mental health of the child’s parents. During the course of the evaluation, the psychologist discovers the mother is a reserved and a strict physical disciplinarian. This information is valuable in determining the case (Ford, 2006).

Dual relationship in this case is seen because the counselor has a personal concern for the welfare of the child and is showing tendencies to discriminate against the child’s mother.

Ethical rules stipulate that even though it is a hard call to make psychologist should avoid being biased towards a parent who possess parenting characteristics as their own (APA, 2010, Principle E). to manage this situation, professional remain impartial in reporting to the courts about their findings. This is only possible if the clinician does not possess prior knowledge of the family and only acts upon appointed by the court and not by either parent (Ford, 2006).

In conclusion, dual relationships are unavoidable in psychiatric counseling. This is because the professional may be called to act in another capacity other than the psychotherapist for the best interest of the patient. In such cases, the American Psychological Association has provided guidelines that ensure that these dual roles are performed professionally.

Psychologist however should remain as objective as possible. Clients who find themselves in dual relationships are advised to terminate that relationship and engage another psychotherapist. This is not always possible as some of these dual roles are a requirement of the law.

Reference List

America Psycholgical Assocaition. (2010). Ethical principles of psychologists and code of conduct, 2010 amendments. Web.

Ford, G. (2006). Ethical reasoning for mental health professionals. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Mentor Research Institute Dual relationships. (2007). Web.

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