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Setting Clear and Ethical Boundaries with Clients

Section 4
Track #4 -
How to Reconcile your Paycheck with your Principles

Question 4 | Ethics CEU Answer Booklet | Table of Contents
Counselor CEUs, Social Worker CEUs, MFT CEUs, Psychologist CEs

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Share on Facebook The "Rational Suicide" Question
Suicide
brings up the conflict with your client's needs versus your client's rights related to setting ethical boundaries. One purpose and a significant feature of the therapeutic relationship is the process of enablingpay your bills Setting Clear and Ethical Boundaries counselor CEU clients to exercise and increase his or her ability to participate in the therapeutic decision making. The individual's right to and need for self-determination are areas in which we often get confused, because of the social implications.

When one person's exercise of self-determination adversely affects another, the necessity for some limitation becomes obvious. However, this necessity does not negate the existence of the need for self-determination as part of the relationship. A major area of therapeutic controversy is that of the belief in rational suicide.

In short for example, for a severe burn patient in constant pain whose self-determination is an all consuming wish to die, where do you draw the ethical boundary concerning your ethic responsibility to protect your client from harming him or herself? Thus, the ethic of self-determination is at odds with the ethic to protect one from harming him or herself.

Share on Facebook Time Limit Boundaries
Keep in mind the setting expectations: the Duty-to-Warn and Protect. Let's relate it to one definition of therapy. By definition, therapy is purposeful and goal directed. It is directed toward enabling the client to achieve a more satisfactory degree of functioning.

A boundary is set because the relationship is time limited. This seems pretty obvious. When the purpose is served and the goal achieved, the specific relationship is terminated. It is also an unequal relationship, as I mentioned earlier, in which the therapist and client or patient have differing roles and responsibilities - the therapist to give and the client to receive help. Therapy is directed to meet the needs of the client through provision of the needed help by the therapist.

However, in this unequal relationship regarding the boundary of time, unnecessarily prolonged therapy tends to become sterile and meaningless, and can create client dependency. As you know, the therapist's role demands teaching clients how to use help, how to use their own capabilities, and where to turn when future assistance is needed.

It is a basic fact in setting boundaries that a helping relationship is geared to meet the needs of clients and not that of the therapist. Yet, as we discussed earlier, if the needs of therapist are not met, for example regarding conflicting feelings toward the client, the therapist will not be able to function to his or her fullest potential.

Share on Facebook Your Paycheck vs. Your Principles
For example, ask yourself, "When is an issue resolved to the point where I recommend to the client that he or she no longer needs therapy?" Or, when is an issue to the point of needing a referral to another therapist with expertise in a different area that would better suit my client's goals? It would be wonderful if therapists were independently wealthy, but in the back of your mind you may know that ending the therapy relationship also means less money to pay your bills with at the end of the month. Ask yourself, "If my paycheck depends on my caseload, what am I doing to reconcile the time limited nature and the basic premise of the therapeutic relationship of meeting the client's and not my needs?
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QUESTION 4
What can be the end result of unnecessarily prolonged therapy? To select and enter your answer go to Ethics CEU Answer Booklet.

 
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