Counselor Ethical Boundaries And Practices

Counselor Ethical Boundaries And Practices




The intention of the course is to offer understanding of the perception of ethics and boundary matters relating to the professionals in the mental health field. The marriage and family therapists, social workers and counselors are guided by ethical principles. The key objective of the study is to assist the reader to understand that the ethics observed in this profession are intended to protect the profession, public, clients and practitioners. Ethics is not related to science. In addition, they are not recorded at any place. They are stated generally in order to leave the user with a room for modifying the stated principles to complement the situation on hand. The field is principally about analyzing morality. An individual can get entangled in a tricky situation while trying to determine the best decision to take in some situations. Keep reading for more practical knowledge on counselor ethical boundaries and practices.

Boundary Issues and Dual Relationships

The boundaries and dual relationships concepts are closely associated although they are not identical. The relationship occurs when an individual has a couple of responsibilities simultaneously to a client (Syme, 2003). For instance, a counselor treating a client who is a business partner, friend, teacher or relative is an example of a dual relationship.

In order to avoid violating or crossing boundaries, there are four regulations that counselors should follow. First, the fiduciary obligation should be accomplished. This is the basic obligation to the counselor which involves which involves concentrating in enhancing the well being of clients. Second, the counselor has a role of abstinence. The only gratification acceptable to the counselor is the fee paid and the positive improvement of the patient due to the therapy offered. Third, the therapist should maintain a strict counselor-client relationship. Integrating emotions in the therapy can compromise confidence, clarity, trust, expectations and rules between the patient and the counselor. Lastly, the counselor should work within the roles and boundaries of a therapist. The expert should work within the professional limits. Therapists should have slightly higher power than clients such that they can recommend patients to take therapy approach that is against their wishes.

In some cases, some of these relationships are unethical, but there are other times when they are not. For example, if the therapists live in a small community where they are the only qualified counselors; their child’s teacher, hair dresser or friend’s wife may have no other option apart from seeking treatment service from them. These dual relationships are intricate and ambiguous since the patients can seek medication either online. Alternatively, they can travel to the nearest town with counselors.

However, the online treatment might be less effective or more costly than the local counselor. In addition, the patient might require visiting the health expert several times before recovering fully (Syme, 2003). The cost of travelling to another place or attending regular physical lessons when receiving online treatment can be too much for some patients to bear. In such a case, therapists opt to treat patients (Syme, 2003). They also avoid crossing professional counseling ethics by having their fees and patients’ recovery as the only gratification. In addition, they ensure to offer appropriate treatment, as well as avoid integrating emotions when treating them. They also maintain higher authority such that they decide the best therapy approach for their patients.

Another example of a complex and ambiguous situation that may raise boundary issues is a state where a client is dropped in my clinic by a friend who promises to come back for him or her, but he later fails to show up due to an emergency at home. It is getting late, and the weather is vulgar such that the public transport plying the route is not available. The only mode of transports available is taxis, but they have hiked the cost drastically because of the dangerous roads. It is getting late, and my home is on the opposite. Although she can walk home, the therapist is afraid that she would be vulnerable to risks such as lightening strikes and exposure to excess cold. On the contrary, she could have deliberately arranged the situation with the friend. In order to solve the situation without crossing the boundary, the counselor can charge her the normal taxi fee to take her home. Alternatively, he can refer her to his friend for assistance. Offering to drive her home free or allow her to take shelter at your home are potential solutions, but that would violate client-counselor relationships since it is motivated by emotions.

In a situation where therapists are counseling children who are depressed because they are being mistreated by parents, adopting the kids would be violating the boundaries. On the other hand, counseling the kids and then letting them go back to their parents would also be unprofessional because the therapy would not function (Syme, 2003). An appropriate approach by the counselor would be to report the parents to the relevant organizations. The parents are clients and might be opposed against the move, but the therapist has higher authority than clients.

Lastly, long term patients develop a personal relationship with the therapists such that they can include them in their will (Syme, 2003). The therapists should refuse because they have the role of abstinence. Their reward comes in the form of the fees paid and the positive health improvement of the patients.

When therapists comes across a former clients in a club, and he offers to pay his bill for dinner, this would not be ethically appropriate and within the professional boundary. After a patient completes therapy, he became the friend of the counselor. In addition, the former client is not seeking any service from the therapist hence there is no dual relationship in existence to be violated. On the contrary, it would be unethical for a current client to pay the bill for his therapist in a club. Approximately one month after termination of the consultations to the therapist, the dual relationship terms end. All the professional ethics in place are removed.

Development of Your Thinking about Ethics

One of the crucial facts that have developed regarding counselor ethical boundary, and dual relationships, is that the ethics used are intended to provide a fair platform for both the therapist and the patient. They ensure none of them is at a better advantage than the other. The stipulations are also open hence they can be applied in all clinical therapy situations. The counselor can modify the ethics to match their environment or culture.

When counselors are, treating patients whom they have other kinds of relationships such as relatives, business partner or they are relatives of close friends, maximum level of professionalism must be considered (Syme, 2003). When therapists allow emotions to interfere with the relationship with their clients, the situation erodes clarity, confidence, expectations, trusts and sometimes the regulations that are followed by the counselor. For instance, therapists might divulge confidential information concerning their patients. In addition, they might agree to offer medical therapy sessions in an environment outside the clinic or stipulated center. The best way to avoid violating the ethics boundary in counseling is through signing a contract outlining the crucial regulations that patients should follow.

The therapists should also have the final word when it comes to determining the treatment approach used on a patient. This implies that there are no boundaries violated when the expert dictates the therapy a patient should take. There are cases where the patient might prefer certain treatment that the expert might deem unsuitable for them. The expert is permitted by ethics to force the patients to choose alternative treatments that are appropriate.

The therapists should also not accept additional favors from their clients apart from the regular fees and positive improvement achieved after the therapy (Syme, 2003). It is unethical for a therapist to accept dinners and drinks paid by their patients or a share of the wealth of their clients. Nonetheless, these offers would be in line with the counselor ethical boundaries and practices in dual relationships in case the patient in question has completed treatment (Syme, 2003). The dual relationship terminates automatically once the patient has completed the treatment program.

The location and situation of the dual relationship helps in determining when a situation is a violation of ethics. This means it is possible to have an identical situation which is a violation on one expert while it is not to another therapist. As long as the therapist is not exploiting the client, there are no boundaries exceeded.

If the patients described above, had completed therapy, and had no consultations reserved, the dual relationship codes of ethics would not be applicable on them (Syme, 2003). Prior to clients getting into this relationship, they should understand all the possible consequences. Besides, they should analyze whether the present patients are complaining about the professionalism of expert. These relationships are intricate hence the need for discussing the pros and cons of each situation in advance.

In conclusion, dual relationships are discouraged, but there are guidelines that should be used to control them when they are inevitable. The discipline code followed should be outlined to ensure mutual benefit of the relationship to the therapist and the patient.


Syme, G. (2003). Dual relationships in counselling and psychotherapy: Exploring the limits. London: Sage Publications.