Counseling is a core part in the development of the society as a whole. Counselors have the responsibility of guiding members of a society through the hard times that they face and they should do so with the minimum financial objectives. Therefore, counselors are put in tight spot where they need to earn a living and at the same time offer professional counseling services that is beyond reproach. However, several counselors have faced law enforcing punitive measure as they performed their counseling duties. This has led to several counseling professional bodies to come up with guidelines as to the code of conduct in executing their duties.
These professional bodies include the American Psychological Association (APA), American Art Therapy Association (AATA), California Association of Marriage and Family Therapist (CAMFT) and the United States Association of Body Psychotherapy (USABP) . This research examines the ethical, legal and professional issues of counseling with regard to bartering, boundary crossing and dual relationships.
In general, bartering is term that originates from the old method of trading referred to as barter trade. It is the method of trading that involves the exchange of goods and services without the use of money. This kind of business exchange has been in use since cradle of civilization. In counseling, bartering is the accepting goods and services or any other non monetary form of payment for the service rendered. It is commonly used for clients are too poor to pay for the service by cash.
Bartering is however not acceptable on all cultures that live in the United States today. Counselors actively attempt to learn the different cultures from which their clients hail. Several counselors have expressed differing views as regard the use of bartering as a mode of payment. Licensing boards, consumer protection agencies and ethic committees consider bartering as a poor business strategy and should be avoided at all cost. The reason why these groups have taken such a strong discouraging stance against bartering is due to the power disparity presented by the parties. In that, it is viewed that the counselor is at a more powerful negotiating position and thus might end in an exploitative manner .
On the other hand, supporters of bartering are for the idea that the poor of the society also need counseling. Thus, their lack of finances should not be the deterring factor in getting valuable assistance. To ensure that such bartering has been done in a professional manner, the professional associations and bodies have provided guidelines. The APA ordinarily advises its members to desist from accepting good and services from clients as a mode of payment due to ethical reasons. According to the APA, such arrangements inherently create conflict of interest and exploitation and therefore a distortion in the professional obligation of the counselor.
However, several professional associations agree on two possible scenarios that allows the user of bartering. The first case is that such a bartering is not clinically contraindicated. Secondly, such a bartering should also not result in an exploitative arrangement. In general though, bartering is highly discouraged by the profession.
Boundary Crossing and Dual Relationship
Dual relationship is another factor that seems to dominate the profession of counseling. Dual relation malpractice has led to several civil suits and professional sanctions. There are several kinds of dual relation in counseling. They include friends, close relative, partnership with a client in other businesses and even being with the client neighbors among others. Therefore, counselors providing professional services with such persons are said to be in a dual relationship
Additionally, it is impossible to discuss ethical issues with regard to dual relationship without the concept of boundary crossings. Counselors are said to be violation of professional ethics once they cross professional boundaries with those they have a relation.
According to Remley & Herlihy (2009), there are two boundaries that counselors need to be aware of. The once kind of boundary refers to the rules that counselors and their role is executing their professional duties. Counselors are therefore not supposed to provides blends of friendship, family ties or business partners as they execute their counseling roles. This might lead to an undue kind of dual relationship that might significantly alter the professional direction of counseling. Thus counselors should behave as counselors for instance, sticking to the counseling time table and limiting the extent to which such therapy affects the private life the counselor.
The second kind of boundary is a more sophisticated kind. Here, there need an abstract understanding of the ego or the personal identity of the client. The counselor must be keen to understand the conscious or unconscious believes of the client so as to tailor any counseling to the benefit of the client and not disparage the client. The ethical issues under these two aspects are quite clear-cut. In the sense that in case of a dual relationship, then there inherent possibility of a conflict of interest. Counselors are a powerful lot. Giving such professionals the ability to manipulate human thought comes with a lot of ethical responsibility.
Remley, T. P., & Herlihy, B. (2009). Ethical, legal, and professional issues in counseling. Columbus: Merrill.