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Ethical Dilemma Essay

2241 words - 9 pages

Ethical dilemmas that pull us in different and often irreconcilable directions are a part of professional life as therapists. With a true dilemma there is probably no right answer, yet we still need to decide what to do or not do and commit ourselves to the decision bearing in mind our ethical and professional responsibilities. The following vignette shows how I responded to an ethical dilemma in my clinical practice as a trainee person centred psychotherapist. I chose this dilemma as it highlights the issue of boundary lines as a crucial aspect of effective and safe client-counsellor relationships.

I run as a regular pastime with my local running club which is held on a mid week ...view middle of the document...

As a member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), I used the decision-making model (Gabriel & Casemore, 2010) suggested by them, which offers a decision-making process guideline. It is offered as a productive way of responding to ethical challenges or dilemmas to offer support to practitioners through their thinking so that actions they take are likely to be ethically justifiable to clients, the profession and society in general. Bond (2000) states “Professional codes and guidelines are a valuable source of ethical information. They will be the first points of reference for many counsellors” (p. 44).

In this case, step one (‘stop and identify the situation or problem’) was a matter of recognising a situation of a potentially difficult dual role relationship. I constructed a description of the situation (step 2) to be able to discuss it more clearly in supervision. I align with Tolan (2012) who states that “additional support, in the guise of peer and/or supervisor review, could be a valuable part of holding and monitoring the processes and progress.” (Kindle Ed). With regard to ‘whose problem is it?’ (step 3), I thought it was a problem for myself and my client. In order to maintain anonymity and client confidentiality I did not discuss this with my partner. I arranged to see my supervisor immediately, and scanned the BACP’s Ethical Framework (2002) for guidance (step 4 and 5). I read that ‘practitioners are required to consider the implications of entering into dual relationships that are likely to be detrimental to clients, and to be readily accountable to clients and colleagues for any dual relationships that occur” (p.4).

Although this was clear, I was ethically mindful that I needed to respond in a way which would maintain the safety and welfare of my client. I considered the situation against some of the moral principles that were noted: (1) beneficence (promoting the client’s well-being); I considered questions such as ‘by being in other types of relationships with my client, how am I promoting their well-being?’ ‘does this promote or inhibit their well-being?’ Kitchener and Harding (1990) identified three factors that counsellors should consider: incompatibility of expectations on the part of the client, divergence of responsibilities for the counsellor and the power differential between the parties involved.”; (2) non-maleficence (avoid harming my client) – I was not sure about this principle as I was unsure how my client viewed a potentially overlapping role and what his feelings around this were. I decided that I needed to explore this in supervision; (3) autonomy (respecting my client’s right to be self-governing) again I was not sure about this as I had not discussed the situation with my client so I decided to also bring this to supervision; (4) fidelity (honouring the trust that my client places in me) – I wondered whether and how the social and recreational contact compromised...

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