Monash Bioethics Review 27 (4):10 (2008)

Andrew Crowden
University of Queensland
The moral status of professional boundaries and the ethical nature of dual and multiple overlapping human relationships in contemporary clinical practice remain enduring problems in all health care disciplines. In this paper I explore the ethics of dual or multiple overlapping relationship and apply a virtue ethics framework to the case of psychotherapy.After clarifying the context and meaning of commonly used terminology, and considering what some of the key Australian codes of ethics relevant to psychotherapy advise about dual relationships, I identify some commonly occurring situations where overlapping relationships are unavoidable. A case study from a rural context where size, isolation, and community expectations profoundly impact on the capacity of a psychotherapist to maintain clearly defined professional therapeutic relationship boundaries is analysed. The rural example is pertinent. A virtue ethics approach goes some way toward alleviating perceptions about the nature of dual relationships that contribute to an enduring reticence amongst psychotherapists to practice in rural settings.Clearly, if a dual relationship involves exploitation then that relationship is a boundary crossing that should rightly be categorised as a boundary violation. Boundary violations are exploitative and unethical. However, some dual relationships may involve boundary crossings that are not necessarily boundary violations. Despite their general prohibition by Australian codes of ethics relevant to psychotherapy, I argue that in certain situations, if a psychotherapist acts with professional integrity from the distinct professional role-related virtues and/or regulative ideals that ensure the goals of psychotherapy are met, then a dual or multiple overlapping relationship in psychotherapy will be ethical.
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DOI 10.1007/bf03351302
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Indigenous Health Care, Bioethics and the Influence of Place.Andrew Crowden - 2016 - American Journal of Bioethics 16 (5):56-58.
The Story Moved Me, But Will It Move Health Care Forward?Julija Kelecevic - 2016 - American Journal of Bioethics 16 (5):58-59.
Professional Boundaries and Psychotherapy: A Review.Avinash De Sousa - 2012 - Bangladesh Journal of Bioethics 3 (2):16-26.

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