Multiple relationships exists in cases where a psychologist plays a professional role with a person and at the same time is in another role with the same person. Multiple or dual relationships in psychotherapy is a scenario where a number of roles exist between the client and the therapist. Therapeutic relationships are unlike other social relationships guided by some boundaries. The boundaries in therapy seek to govern the way the client and therapist interact, the place the meet for their sessions, confidentiality or privacy, proximity of therapist and the fees charged (Pope. K, et al., 1987).
According to the APA code of ethics, not all multiple relationships are unethical. A psychologist is expected to refrain from a multiple relationship if the relationship will compromise on integrity, objectivity and effectiveness of the therapist or harm the well being of the client. This is the criterion that is used to evaluate the ethical aspect of a multiple relationship. The multiple relationships should not interfere with the effectiveness, objectivity of the therapist. Also the client should not be exposed to risk or harm. A multiple relationship that does violate any of the above is considered ethical (Scaturo, 2005).
A social multiple relation can exist. For instance, during a session, a client mentions that she really appreciates your work. Since she works for a video recording firm, the client says there are many free tickets to a movie everyone in the neighborhood wants to watch. The star of the movie is a young kid several bocks from the hospital and both you know him and are so proud of his achievements. The patient tells you that he has already mailed the tickets to you. At home, your kids really wanted to go and the tickets were sold out. This is an issue of boundary crossing and can be illustrated as follows:
Matters in a multiple relationship if not clearly examined and evaluated would escalate to a problematic level. Problematic multiple relationships occur when there is a harmful boundary violation. For instance, if the scenario above escalates to sexual contact, it will be considered exploitive. This is a case of boundary violation and can be depicted as follows:
In the instance where there is a problematic dual relationship, measures have to be taken in order to avoid further damage. They include; the therapist should develop a clear treatment plan based on the context of the therapy. He should treat the client as per the plan and not relying on personal intuition. The therapist should ensure the plan clearly distinguishes between boundary violation and crossing. He should not enter into sexual relations with clients or indulge in any form of unethical multiple relationships. Since the dual relationship is already harmful, it should be ended in order to avoid further damage. Refer the client to a suitable colleague on the grounds of existence of a harmful relationship thus integrity and objectivity is compromised. This will result to:
Multiple relationships to some extent cannot be avoided. The distinction between boundary crossing and boundary violation should be considered by practicing therapists. Boundary crossing can enrich therapy while boundary violation can undermine the traditional concept of therapy. This thus implies that boundaries between personal and professional issues should be observed and appropriate perspective maintained.
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