Compared to the great potential for harm that can exist in a relationship that is both professional and sexual, how dangerous does this situation seem from your vantage point (particularly in regards to psychology student/professor relationships)?
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Since I was sitting on this exposition about ethics and respecting therapeutic boundaries, I thought I would send it to you in hopes that it helps. I am speaking about boundaries because that is the real issue at hand here. I hope you find the information useful and please let me know if I can be of further assistance to you on this or any other topic.
Boundaries (inter-subjective fields) safeguard our personal space and help define our relationships. They also help us to know how we operate within the scope of our interpersonal relationships. This is especially true for therapist given the number of pitfalls violating boundaries, (our own or the clients) can engender. One challenge that all therapists must face is how to maintain therapeutic boundaries. Therapists get to know their clients intimately, and this close relationship can lead to the therapist crossing boundaries. This is viewed as unhelpful to the patient-therapist relationship, and can negatively influence the therapy. It is up to the therapist to be aware of proper boundaries in a client-therapist relationship and to understand the techniques for maintaining those boundaries during therapy. (Rappeport, 1999-2011) The challenge is to maintain the integrity and effective of the therapeutic relationship by providing the best environment possible for the client’s growth. The question is can any of these boundaries, (special, behavioural, verbal and personal) be crossed without violating the therapist-client relationship which at all times is to be a professional one. (After all, this is why the licensing agencies identify them and sanction therapist for violating them.) (Rand, 2011)
Violations of professional boundaries are one of the most common ways that therapist violates ethical and legal regulations. Boundaries can be weakened in any number of ways, from accepting gifts from or giving gifts to clients, to having sexual relationships with them. The therapeutic relationship is often an intense sharing of intimate information and feelings. The client, dissatisfied with his or her own relationships is vulnerable and may try to fill the gap with the therapist. There are many therapists who have lost their professional standing and many a client has been emotionally damaged as a result of these relationships and the crossing of boundaries. It is important that the therapist not engage in behaviours that weaken boundaries, no matter how innocent they may appear. The objective of therapy is to aid the client’s growth. Boundaries should never be crossed casually.
This is the “slippery slope” we encounter by crossing the boundaries and violating the code of ethics. By accepting a small gift, offering an …