One major debate for counselors or psychologists is the costs and benefits of a dual or multiple relationship between the clinician and a client. One way a multiple relationship may occur is when a clinician is holding a professional role as well as playing another role with the same person outside of the professional setting (APA, 2002). Two major types of additional relationships a clinician may be involved in with an individual(s) is a sexual or non-sexual relationship. It is ethically wrong to engage in a sexual relationship with a current client, student, supervisee etc., leaving minimal room for debate. This leaves the debate open for therapists engaging in a non-sexual relationship with current individuals for which they hold a current professional standing. The following will discuss the positives and negatives to engaging in a multiple relationship as well as current professional recommendations.
Whether in a classroom setting or conducting therapy sessions, historically, a dual or multiple relationship in the mental health field has been deemed as wrong. However, certain communities or settings may make it difficult to avoid multiple relationships. These settings may be small communities like lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender (LGBT), specific religions, military, graduate school programs, or rural towns. In these specific settings avoiding a multiple relationship would almost mean the clinician blocking out the world around them. Therefore, under some circumstance avoiding these relationships may actually interfere with a healthy professional interaction (Ryder & Hepworth, 1990). For example, a child who has been in therapy may ask their therapist to attend their graduation or some event of importance to the child. If the therapist were to decline the invitation the child may feel as if the therapist really does not care about him/her. Another example of a dual relationship can be the acceptance or giving of gifts. Depending on culture, it may be appropriate for individuals to give a gift to their therapist or faculty advisor as a thank you. If the professional were to decline this gift, not only would it be rude to the culture of the individual it would damage the relationship developed. Giving gifts for special occasions, like a simple card or cupcake, by the clinician may also increase the emotional part of the relationship. For example, a faculty advisor may choose to send their student flowers or buy a baby product for the delivery of the student’s baby. From personal experience, the gift giving from my faculty advisor when delivering my son made me feel special and worthy as a student. The above examples help to form a sense of familiarity and closeness between a therapist and their client, or an advisor and their student, which may in fact increase the trust while enhancing the therapeutic alliance (Zur, 2004).
Situations can arise in small communities where a clinician may decline to provide treatment....