Dual Relationships and Boundaries
Dual relationships are defined as both therapeutic and personal relations that occur between a client and professional therapist (Pope & Keith-Spiegel, 2008). Although they are relatively easy to define, it also can be difficult for professionals to recognize that a dual relationship has occurred in his or her practice. When a therapist does enter another noticeably different relationship with a client, a dual relationship has occurred (Pope, 1997). Some of the most common types of dual relationships that do occur in this field include second roles in social, financial, or professional manners.
Concerning some interactions with the therapist and his or her clients, the relationships may become slightly more than professional. When the two roles are apparently sequential rather than clearly concurrent it does not mean that the two relationships do not constitute a dual relationship (Pope, 1997). Most of the important relationships that may happen in each individual’s lives have at least some sort-of carry over (Pope & Keith-Spiegel, 2008). The dual relationships that do occur in the psychotherapy field often jeopardize the process of therapy, professional decisions, and patient welfare.
Possible Harm in Dual Relationships
There are a few major difficulties that may happen in the psychological field with dual relationships. First, the dual relationship erodes and distorts the professional nature of therapeutic relationships (Pope, 1997). The professional therapeutic relationship is secured within a reliable set of boundaries on which both the therapist and the patient can depend. When those lines are crossed, the crucial professional nature of the therapeutic relationship is compromised (Pope, 1997). It is important to stress that terming the therapeutic relationships “professional” does not imply that the interactions between therapist and client have to be distant, unfeeling, cold, uncaring, or otherwise conventional of the professionals who may be seen as the worst (Pope, 1997).
A second possible problem with dual relationships is the creation of a conflict of interest, which compromises the disinterest necessary for sound professional judgment (Pope, 1997). The therapist, as a professional, allows placing the interests of the patient foremost. If the therapist allows another relationship to occur, a second set of interests may come about. For example, if the therapist is treating a family member, he or she may be reluctant to allow the patient to attempt options for therapy as he or she may upset the therapist’s family relations. In dual relationships, the therapist may concentrate in meeting his or her own needs, and the therapies, analysis, recognition, and management may become all but impossible (Pope, 1997).
Dual relationships can pose a third set of problems to the therapist-patient relationship; the patient cannot enter a business or other secondary relationship with the therapist (Pope, 1997). For example, if the client believes that he or she was wronged in a business, financial, or social interaction with the therapist, there may be some obstacles by the client seeking legal repercussions. If legal actions are taken in this type of situation, the therapist may refer to the patient’s files to work on obtaining an effective defense in the court. This type of dual relationship may cause negative effects for both the therapist and the patient.
The exploitation and harm that may result from dual relationships between therapist and client have been perpetrated over the years in various situations. Individuals, who are seeking help from a professional psychologist, may have some vulnerability that occurs due to dual relationships that may happen. The harm that may arise occurs to both the integrity of the professional, and the welfare of the patient. When lines are crossed, and dual relationship formed, it can at times make it difficult...
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