Domestic Violence can be defined as a pattern of coercive control that may be psychological, economic, or sexual in nature, reinforced by one of more acts of frightening physical violence, credible physical threat, isolation, emotional abuse or sexual assault. Abusive behaviors may include but are not limited to the following: pushing, shoving, hitting, choking, kicking, injuring pets or property, accusations, name-calling, put-downs, threats against a person or their children, threatening self-harm, controlling the money, not allowing a person to work, not allowing the person to associate with certain people, deprivation of transportation and forcing sex." As practitioners dealing with clients in domestic violence situations, boundary issues have the potential to arise between the client/therapist as well as the therapist and other agencies involved with the client. The therapist, also, might need to deal with his or her own issues regarding domestic violence.
First, lets examine potential boundary issues between the client and therapist. Oftentimes, the client tries to engage the therapist into doing things for them. For example, Joan asked her therapist to find someone to keep her children, because she was afraid that the Department of Human Services would take them into custody. Those of us that work with the human service agencies know that either one of two things happen: 1) children sometimes get taken out of their homes prematurely or more likely, 2) children who report domestic violence to counselors who are mandated to report the DHS are not removed from the home and many times suffer harsh consequences from the batterer for talking to outsiders in the first place. Thus, a therapist might very well be tempted to go around the system and try to find a safe place for the children. In this case, Joans therapist assisted Joan in coming up with a list of possible safe havens for her children without making a recommendation or finding a place for the children herself. The therapist also helped Joan come up with a safety plan for her and her children in the event the batterer (Joans live-in boyfriend) became abusive. Another issue, which is similar to this one, is that the client asks the therapist not to divulge information to human services. This puts the therapist in an awkward position due to confidentiality rights of clients. A client must sign a release of information in order for a therapist to release information. Best practice would be to tell the client, up front, that the only time the therapist would be forced to release information without consent is if there is clear and convincing evidence regarding harm to self or others.
Personal Reflection Exercise #4
The preceding section contained information on ethically setting boundaries with victims of domestic violence. Write three case study examples regarding how you might use the content of this section of the Manual in your practice.
Ethics CEUs QUESTION 15
What are two consequences therapists have to consider when reporting domestic violence?
Record the letter of the correct answer the .
Selected Readings Bibliography/Authors/Instructors
If you would like additional information on this topic,
below are OPTIONAL books to consider buying for your personal library...
Abramson, M. Reflections on knowing oneself ethically: Toward a working framework for social work practice. Families in Society, 1996a, 77(4), 195-202.
Barnett, Jeffrey E. Sexual Feelings and Behaviors in the Psychotherapy Relationship: An Ethics Perspective. Journal of Clinical Psychology. Feb2014, Vol. 70 Issue 2, p170-181.
Bemecker, Samantha L. Helping Clients Help Themselves: Managing Ethical Concerns When Offering Guided Self-Help Interventions in Psychotherapy Practice. Professional Psychology: Research & Practice. Apr2014, Vol. 45 Issue 2, p111-119.
Brems, Christiane PhD, Dealing with Challenges in Psychotherapy and Counseling, Brooks and Cloe, New York, 2000.
Brill, Naomi PhD, Working with People, Longman, New York, 1997.
Buhari, 'Bunmi. Therapeutic Relationships and Professional Boundaries. IFE PsychologIA. 2013 Special Edition, Vol. 21 Issue 3-S, p162-168.
Butheil, TC PhD, “The Concept of Boundaries in Clinical Practice; theoretical and risk-management dimensions.” American Journal of Psychiatry 1998, 188-96.
Calmes, Stephanie A.; Piazza, Nick J.; Laux, John M. The Use of Touch in Counseling: An Ethical Decision-Making Model. Counseling & Values. Apr2013, Vol. 58 Issue 1, p59-68.
Clapton, Kerrin. Developing professional boundaries guidance for social workers. Journal of Adult Protection. 2013, Vol. 15 Issue 1, p37-44.
Gartrell, N. PhD, Boundaries in Lesbian Therapy Relationships. Women and Therapy 1999; 29-50.
Henderson, Kathryn L. Mandated Reporting of Child Abuse: Considerations and Guidelines for Mental Health Counselors. Journal of Mental Health Counseling. Oct2013, Vol. 35 Issue 4, p296-309.
Kangas, Julie L.; Calvert, James D. Ethical Issues in Mental Health Background Checks for Firearm Ownership. Professional Psychology: Research & Practice. Feb2014, Vol. 45 Issue 1, p76-83.
Loewenberg, F. M., & Dolgoff, R. & Harrington, D. Ethical decisions for social work practice. Itasca, Illinois: F.E. Peacock., 2000.
Kottler, Jeffrey A. MA, Compassionate Therapy. Jossey-Bass Publishers. San Francisco 2002
Moe, Cathrine; Kvig, Erling I; Brinchmann, Beate; Brinchmann, Berit S. Working behind the scenes’ An ethical view of mental health nursing and first-episode psychosis. Nursing Ethics. Aug2013, Vol. 20 Issue 5, p517-527.
Penford, Susan PhD, Sexual Abuse by Health Professionals, University of Toronto, Buffalo, 1998.
Plaut, S. Michael; Brown, Janet Klein; Brancu, Mira; Wilbur, Rebecca C.; Rios, Katherine. Characteristics of Health Professionals in a Mandated Ethics Tutorial After Violating Sexual Boundaries with Patients. Journal of Health Care Law & Policy. 2013, Vol. 16 Issue 2, p353-374.
Reamer, F. G. The social work ethics audit: A risk-management strategy. Social Work, 2000, 45(4), 355-366.
Reamer, Frederic G., Social Work Ethics Casebook: Cases and Commentary. Washington, DC: NASW Press, 2009
Reamer, Frederic G., Social Work Malpractice and Liability: Strategies for Prevention, 2nd ed. (New York: Columbia University Press, 2003)
Reamer, Frederic G., Social Work Values and Ethics, 3rd ed. (New York: Columbia University Press, 2006)
Reamer, Frederic G., Ethical Standards in Social Work: A Review of the NASW Code of Ethics, 2nd ed. (Washington, DC: NASW Press, 2006)
Reamer, Frederic G., The Social Work Ethics Audit: A Risk-management Tool (Washington, DC: NASW Press, 2001)
Reamer, Frederic G., Tangled Relationships: Managing Boundaries in the Human Services (New York: Columbia University Press, 2001)
Reamer, Frederic G., Ethics Education in Social Work (Alexandria, VA: Council on Social Work Education, 2001)
Robison, Wade PhD, Allyn and Bacon, Ethical Decision Making. Boston, 2000.
Rothstein, Mark A., Tarasoff Duties after Newtown, Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics. Spring2014, Vol. 42 Issue 1, p104-109.
Schoener, GR PhD, Boundaries in Group Therapy: Ethical and Practice Issues. Women and Group Psychotherapy, New York, Builford Press, 1999.
Stone, M. PhD, Boundary Violations between Therapist and Patient. Psychiatric Annals, 2000, 670-7.
Weiss LCSW, R. (2014). Therapists and Clients: Common Problems and How to Avoid Them. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 10, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/sex/2014/05/therapists-and-clients-common-problems-and-how-to-avoid-them/
Coordinating Author/Instructor: Tracy Appleton, LCSW, MEd