Tangled Relationships: Managing Boundary Issues in the Human Services

Tangled Relationships: Managing Boundary Issues in the Human Services

Tangled Relationships: Managing Boundary Issues in the Human Services

Tangled Relationships: Managing Boundary Issues in the Human Services

Synopsis

Should a therapist counsel a former lover or accept a client's gift? If so, has a boundary been crossed? Some boundary issues, like beginning a sexual relationship with a client, are obvious pitfalls to avoid, but what about more subtle issues, like hugging a client or disclosing personal information to a client? What are the boundaries of maintaining a friendship with a former client or the relative of a client? When do conflicts of interest overburden the client-practitioner relationship? Frederic Reamer, a leading authority on professional ethics, offers a definitive and up-to-date analysis of boundary issues, a rapidly emerging topic in the field of human services. One of the only works in the field to provide a conceptual framework for the dual relationship between practitioner and client, this book provides an in-depth look at the complex forms these relationships take. It also gives practical risk-management models to aid human service professionals in the prevention of problematic situations and the managing of dual relationships. Reamer examines the ethics involving intimate and sexual relationships with clients and former clients, practitioners' self-disclosure, giving and receiving favors and gifts, bartering for services, and unavoidable and unanticipated circumstances such as social encounters and geographical proximity. Case vignettes that help illustrate important points are also included in each chapter.

Excerpt

Only recently have boundary issues become an explicit topic of conversation among human service professionals. Boundary issues occur when practitioners—including social workers, psychologists, counselors, psychiatrists, and psychiatric nurses—establish more than one relationship with clients, whether professional, social, or business. Not until the 1990s did a critical mass of literature on the subject begin to emerge. This is the latest chapter in the evolution of the broader field of applied and professional ethics. Exploration of boundary issues also is the most recent development in my own evolving concern with professional ethics.

I first explored issues of professional ethics in the mid-1970s, at about the time the broader field of applied and professional ethics was just emerging. My inquiry started when I began to appreciate the complex ways in which human service professionals—including clinicians, community organizers, administrators, policy makers, and researchers—encounter daunting ethical dilemmas and decisions. At the time, I did not fully grasp how my nascent interest in this subject reflected a much larger phenomenon: the emergence of a new, bona fide academic field focused on professional ethics. With the benefit that only hindsight can provide, I now understand how significant that period was. What began as a fledgling interest among a relatively small coterie of scholars and practitioners has evolved into an intellectually rich, widely respected field with its own conceptual frameworks, body of knowledge, vocabulary, and academic imprimatur. Professional ethics truly has come of age.

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