Example Response 1 to Ethical Dilemma 1
A review of Ethical Dilemma # 1 presents several issues to consider; the first being the counselor’s initial decision to meet with John, sans Phyllis. Section 3.05 of the American Psychological Association’s (APA) Ethical Standards defines a multiple relationship as one that “occurs when a psychologist is in a professional role with a person and (1) at the same time is in another role with the same person . . .” (2002). The mere act of meeting with John independently, in effect, created a multiple relationship. Further, Section 10.02 of the APA’s Ethical Standards, which discusses therapy involving couples or families, mandates that “when psychologists agree to provide services to several persons who have a relationship, they take reasonable steps to clarify at the outset (1) which of the individuals are clients/patients, and (2) the relationship the psychologist will have with each person” (2002). Section A.7 of the American Counseling Association’s (ACA) Code of Ethics also speaks to this issue in mandating that “when a counselor agrees to provide counseling services to two or more persons who have a relationship, the counselor clarifies at the outset which person or persons are clients and the nature of the relationships the counselor will have with each involved person” (2005). Thus, according to the standards of both the APA and the ACA, the counselor should have discussed the dynamics of the working relationship with both John and Phyllis at the outset of the counseling relationship, and made it clear that meeting with them separately would be inappropriate. Assuming this was the case, the counseling relationship with John and Phyllis would have been defined as a triad, not a dyad; therefore, to meet with John independently is a breech of their initial “contract;” so to speak. Section 10.02 of the APA’s Ethical Standards further states that a psychologist “refrains from entering into a multiple relationship if the multiple relationship could reasonably be expected to impair the psychologist’s objectivity, competence, or effectiveness in performing his or her functions as a psychologist, or otherwise risks exploitation or harm to the person with whom the professional relationship exists” (APA, 2002). This brings the principle of fidelity, which states that counselors must “seek to manage conflicts of interest that could lead to exploitation or harm” (APA, 2002), to the table, as meeting with John independently could leave Phyllis feeling a sense of betrayal when she learns of the dual relationship; thus causing her to lose faith in the therapeutic relationship, and ultimately creating psychological harm. Additionally, Section A.5.e. of the ACA’s Code of Ethics mandates that “when a counselor changes a role from the original or most recent contracted relationship, he or she obtains informed consent from the client and explains the right of the client to refuse services related to the change.” This section specifically addresses a change “from individual to relationship or family counseling; or vice versa,” and further requires that the counselor inform the client of any anticipated consequences of such a change (ACA, 2005); therefore, the counselor was in violation of this code when he or she agreed to meet with John, independent of Phyllis, without obtaining Phyllis’s informed consent, and also in not informing John of the potential consequence a private consultation may have on the therapeutic relationship that had been established between the three of them. The ethical soundness of the counselor's decision to meet with John, independent of Phyllis, notwithstanding, there are other ethical dilemmas to contemplate in this situation. Specifically, whether or not the counselor should divulge John’s past abusive behavior to Phyllis. Section B.2.a. of the ACA Code of Ethics speaks to both sides of this issue, stating that counselors are to keep...
References: American Counseling Association. (2005). Code of Ethics.
Gellerman, D. M. & Suddath, R. (2005). Violent fantasy, dangerousness, and duty to
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