Crossing Ethical Boundaries Between Counselor and Client
Ida L. Enz
Texas A & M University-Kingsville
This paper was prepared for EDCG 5315,taught by Dr. Steven Bain
Eli Coleman and Susan Schaeffer, authors of the article _Boundaries of Sex and Intimacy Between Client and Counselor_, write, "_Dilemma_. A woman comes to see a male counselor and complains of anxiety and depression associated with her recent divorce. She is also deeply concerned about her attractiveness and ability to attract another partner. The thought of single life frightens her. After five sessions, she confesses to the counselor that she is deeply attracted to him. Although she finds him sexually attractive, she is equally or more attracted to his sensitivity, care, and support of her. Emotional intimacy is something her previous relationships have lacked. And, at times, those relationships have been abusive.
The Counselor does not know how to respond. He too is attracted and has already fantasized about a relationship with her. But because she is a client, he does not dare reveal his feelings. He knows that allowing a relationship to develop would be wrong. That, however, does not solve the problem." (Coleman &Schaeffer 341).
For almost every individual, having to go to counseling can be one of the most nerve wracking things a they may have to go through during his or her life for whatever reason. Becoming attracted to your counselor, or learning they are attracted to you, may just as equally give the same nerve wracking feeling. How can things like this be prevented from happening right from the beginning? Is there not a code of ethics a counselor must follow to ensure that there is only ever professionalism during all sessions, and that clients are only seen during counseling sessions and not pursued at any time outside of sessions?
Believe it or not, when it comes to the code of ethics that a counselor must follow with his or her patients during sessions, it is very vague and easy to see where violations can be made,
often times without even being fully aware of the violation. Samuel T. Gladding, author of _Counseling A Comprehensive Profession_, states, "Some forms of unethical behavior are obvious and willful, whereas other are more subtle and unintentional. Regardless, the harmful outcome is the same." (Gladding 59), in addition to that, "What types of intimacy are appropriate? What types are not? These dilemmas are faced by counselors at one time or another." (Coleman and Schaeffer 341).
"Most programs spend little to no time addressing the prohibition against sexual contact with clients, yet it is the most commonly violated of the ethical principles." Melba J.T. Vasquez writes in her article, _Counselor-Client Sexual Contact: Implications for Ethics Training_. Kathy Hotelling, author of _Ethical, Legal, and Administrative Options to Address Sexual Relationships Between Counselor and Client_, sheds light on the fact that, "Many clients do not know that sexual relationships between counselor and client are unethical and, in some states, illegal. They also do not know that they can file a complaint nor do they know the avenues available for doing so. Unfortunately, many counselors also may not be aware of these facts." (Hotelling 233). The article Hotelling writes is all about educating victims of ethical abuse during counseling, because counselors can not only be an abuser, but a victim as well. "After a few counseling sessions, Dave asked his counselor to go have a cup of coffee, and he agreed. Initially, Dave was flattered that his counselor liked him enough to spend time with him outside of counseling. He enjoyed the counselors company and thought it would be nice to have him as a friend.
Meeting in this setting, Dave's counselor told him much more about himself and that he was having marital problems. Again, Dave was flattered by this display of trust. It made him feel
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