Research varies from time to time depending of the incidence and prevalence of the cases being studied. In 2002 the research shows that, United State alone, had recorded millions and millions cases of child abuse and neglect (Alvarez, Kenny, Donohue & Carpin, 2004). Counselors and Psychotherapist, face many challenging issues in execution of their duties. Greipp (1997) argue that, some of the counselors and psychotherapist are victims of child abuse and neglect, or they are healing from a disorder of substance abuse. Such counselors and psychotherapist may react emotionally whenever they are confronted with the same issue that affected them before, therefore, failing to offer a balanced support to his/her client by either sympathizing with the situation of the client or becoming angry and emotional (Greipp 1997).
Child abuse is a significant social problem in USA because millions and millions of child abuse cases are sent to protective agencies every year for counseling and psychotherapy. United States and other several countries across the world have developed strong legal framework to contend with this social menace. Several states have empowered counselors and psychotherapists to deal with challenges as they face them, and report any case of child maltreatment whenever they come across it. For instances, a survivor may need a trustworthy relationship at the same time he/she can not trust any one because of the trauma she/he underwent (Steinberg, Levine & Doueck1997). However, the counselors and the psychotherapists must provide a trust worthy relationship amidst all odds. This paper reveals some of the challenges that are faced by the counselors and psychotherapist, and therapeutic relationship effects that accompany them.
Therapeutic relationship issues
This refers to the old problems and feelings that the customer downloads to the counselors or the psychotherapist (Steinberg, Levine & Doueck1997). As the client interact with other people, he/she is likely to bring past behavior and distortion into the new relationship with the counselor or the psychotherapists. The counselor is expected to pick those problems from the client and organize them into useful mechanisms that will benefit the client. The transference reactions may have severe implications for those victims of child abuse, who might perceive the counselor or the psychotherapist as a contributor to their condition. On the other hand, the client may fall in love with the counselor or the psychotherapist and perceive them as loving and kind as their parents were (Sexton & Whiston 1994).
Several victims of child abuse have low self esteem and feeling of shame which may affect therapeutic relationship. Some may feel guilty and responsible about their condition. The client in this condition may want to stop the counselor from raising any issue that is related to his/her condition, or react to the counselor in regard to the past episodes (Sexton & Whiston 1994).
This issue refers to several answers and reactions that the counselors have toward their clients on the bases of personality and character (Sexton & Whiston 1994). Unhealthy Counter transference may occur when the counselor brings his own unresolved personal issue into the relationship. If the Counselor is not bold enough he/she may cause harm to the relationship by responding to the client’s feelings and issues with counter transference. For instance, the counselor may feel uncomfortable or threatened if seduced by the client but it is her/his duty to stand firm for the sake of ethics and professionalism (Sexton & Whiston 1994).
Adult victims of abuse may be abusive, cruel and violent to the counselor or psychotherapist. To many counselors, this issue might be disappointing and incomprehensible to them. Counselors and psychotherapists may be traumatized by frequent nightmares, anxiety and difficult personal relationships especially when they face parent-child victimization and exploitation disclosures. Such counselors may loose focus and embed towards the client desires. The counselor may unwillingly, negate, minimize or even dismiss the customer’s history of abuse (Steinberg, Levine & Doueck1997).
This is an issue that occurs when the counselor’s spirit is overwhelmed and eluded by the issues and responses of the client (Steinberg, Levine & Doueck1997). Mainly, this may occur when the counselor want to see as many clients as possible and does not receive any help from other counselors or psychotherapist. To avoid this issue, counselors and psychotherapists should work with manageable caseloads, and set a part time to rest and enjoy (Steinberg, Levine & Doueck1997).
Developing Treatment model and Special Issues
Counselors and psychotherapist should yarn towards developing of treatment model that will maintain health therapeutic relationships. Most of the child abuse victims, know no boundaries because they were broken by the perpetrators of their condition (Sexton & Whiston 1994). Therefore, it is the duty of the counselor as well as psychotherapist, to put these boundaries in order to maintain health relationship. To avoid unhealthy relationships, counselors and psychotherapists; should specify regular time of meeting, ensure no personal call with the victim, ensure no session outside counseling session, should ensure no sexual relationship or any act that could be interpreted as sexual. The counselor should end therapy session when he/she is under a threat or violent act occurs. These are simple guidelines that can govern counselors and psychotherapists to maintain ethical relationship and professionalism (Sexton & Whiston 1994).
Confidentiality and legal issues in mandatory reporting
Greipp (1997) argues that, Child abuse is a major social problem in U.S.A that should be addressed significantly. To tackle this problem, various Districts in the United States of America such as Columbia, Puerto Rico and The virgin Island, have endorsed laws that are founded on the federal guidelines “The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), 42 U.S.C.5101s” (Greipp 1997). These laws guide that; counselors should report child abuse cases immediately as they happen. The statutes have included old acts of child abuses that include physical, child neglect, and emotional as well as sexual abuses. The aim of statutes is to ensure that abuses of any kind have been stopped and wiped out from the society. The mandatory laws provide the counselor with powers to report to any authority in case of child abuse. They also impose fines, and consequences of failing to report any case of child abuse knowingly. The mandatory laws provide that reporting has no options. However, those who report in good faith and according to the laws of the land are given immunity from public action (Greipp, 1997).
The confusion arises on the issues that should be reported and those which should be left out because there are no margins of reporting, and too much revelation may result to legal punishment on the counselor involved. Furthermore, the counselor or the psychotherapist is compelled to pay the client for the damages that the revealing of the information has caused him/her, or may face charges of violating the code of ethics (Dixon & Dixon (2006).Therefore, Psychotherapists and counselors should handle the client’s information with care and maturity, to avoid misusing the immunity bestowed upon them by the mandatory laws for reporting cases of child abuse to the authorities (Dixon & Dixon 2006).
According to Bryant and Baldwin (2010), school counselors; have very limited access to the child abuse data since, such is piled for study samples by school authorities. Since some administrators also play the role- of counselors, the same, face internal conflict between the data attachment and confidentiality. They are worried that they may interfere with therapeutic bond. Research shows that, In a study that was conducted on clinicians, one out of five clinical officers, accepted that they were compelled by the worry that the report may interrupt therapeutic bond (Bryant & Baldwin 2010).However, reporting of child abuse cases, may strengthen the bond of therapeutic if taken positively (Bryant & Baldwin 2010).Most of the child abuse cases go unreported because of insufficient evidence that the case occurred and the fear of disclosure (Bryant & Baldwin 2010)
Columbus (2007) noted that, due to the development of mandatory reporting laws, several cases of child mistreatment have been reported. Furthermore; reporters have become accountable for the reports revealed to various protective agencies across the states. Although each state has its own legal systems concerning child abuse, still, there are remains similarities that were recommended by US Children’s Bureau since 1962 (Columbus 2007). The components of such relationships become the pivot for child abuse research and inquiries. The 1962 US Children’s Bureau systems of child mistreatments proposes creation of sanctions, fines and penalties for those mandatory reporters who fail to submit to their obligations. However, the mandatory reporting laws protect reporters from legal payback for satisfying their mandate. Therefore, mandatory reporters are covered against any willful reporting as long as he/ she reports within the legal framework. The mandatory laws also protect the rights of victims by limiting information disclosure (Columbus 2007).Despite numerous valid evidences, that the psychotherapist should maintain supreme confidentiality, several exceptions have arisen to counter this doctrine. For instance, the counselor may disclose client information to prevent future crime. A counselor may also disclose the client information in the course of routine business. The psychotherapists or counselors may disclose the client information to defend himself or herself in court of law or to answer to accusations of unethical behavior.
Dealing with Dilemmas, Differences and Damages
Several approaches can be considered to evade conflict of roles so as to purge damages to the parties involved (Brosig & Kalichman 1992). It is obvious that when counselors represent his/her client on a given matter, there is a possibility that, the need of psychological services may arise. When the psychological need arises, the counselor is obligated to discuss the matter with his/her client. The Counselor will show the client the legal need of counselors to report the matter to the authorities. A list of cases that should be reported can be made available to the client by the counselor. The psychotherapist should educate his/her clients on the legal implications of disclosure. With the full knowledge, the client may exercise due diligence to divulge to the counselors or the psychotherapists, or he/she may choose not to disclose to either of them (Miller, Dove & Miller 2007).
Major Problems with Mandatory Reporting
Mathews and Walsh (2004) have noted that, Mandatory reporting debate as got the opposing and the proposing sides. The opposing side argues that, mandatory reporting is a waste of time and resources because the reporters inflate vague reports that are inaccurate. Furthermore, such reports will deprive the “deserving cases” enough resources and harm innocent suspects and victims (abused children).They further argue that mandatory reports are persuasive objections since it is not logical that, individuals can be affected by reports that are not accurate and authentic. The argument bases on the ideology that, it is not reasonable enough to spend money, time, energy and resources on cases that do not deserve. The research argues that, if the objections were tested on the scope of mandatory reporting, and the results depicts the evidence of over reporting, then, proper analysis should be made to ascertain the problem of the law systems of that land (Mathews & Walsh 2004).
The statistics have showed that, all reports concerning the child abuse cases designate that, over reporting is a major problem in Australian schools. The research further indicates that, in 2002 and 2003, one case of child mistreatment and neglect out of the reported five, was verified. However, there are no proper records that indicate the number of reports done by the counselors or the reports that have been verified. These misplacements of the information give the opposing side power to continue with their objections (Mathews & Walsh 2004).
Justifications of mandatory reporting by counselors and therapists
Bryant and Baldwin (2010) noted that, the Australian Law Reform Commission had proposed the ratification of mandatory reporting statutes of counselors and psychotherapists in 1981.The enactment of these laws was supposed to protect the children from maltreatment, and provide the necessary help that will ensure safety of children’s privileges to health and life. Since children are perceived not to have enough resources to protect themselves, Mandatory reporting laws are made available for the purpose of guarding children from maltreatment. Protection of children’s rights and freedom forms the basis on which mandatory reporting laws are formed (Bryant and Baldwin 2010).In USA and major parts of Canada, counselors and psychotherapists are trained to join the reporting team of child abuse cases. School counselors are better placed to become reporters of child abuse cases because they are very close to the children, and they are equipped with the understanding of child development. Therefore, it is very easy for them to detect any unfamiliar behavior in the maltreated child (Bryant and Baldwin 2010).
Health and Economic prices
The recent research shows that, organized legal framework, professional trainings, and organized reporting systems are the proponents of timely mandatory reporting interventions against child maltreatment and development as well as health-related effects. Furthermore, the research shows that significant evidence has been found ascertaining that numerous costs have been identified regarding child abuse cases, either to the individual society or the state in general. Individual costs may be physical or psychological (Bryant & Baldwin 2010). Victims of sexual abuse, indicate low school performance, teenage pregnancies, children disappearances, self murder and linkages with criminal offenders (Bryant and Baldwin, 2010 p. 13). Several survivors of the abuse may not get compensation especially if the legal systems are not friendly. Meaning that, child abuse has immediate and long term effects as well as intergenerational consequences to the survivors.
Mandatory reporting procedures, is also an exercise of criminal detection bustle because
The suspects of child abuse are also the suspects of criminal acts. If these perpetrators are convicted of the crime committed, they become the criminals of the state. Therefore, mandatory reporting amounts to a good system of fighting crime in the society. In most cases, the sexual offenders have committed such crimes severally with several victims. Meaning that, they have several cases to answer. Several countries across the world have developed mandatory reporting laws that necessitate counselors and psychotherapists who come into contact with victims of child abuse to report such cases to the required authorities. In other countries, counselors are empowered with trainings that make them able to detect victims of child maltreatment at very first sight (Rankin & Ornstein 2009). In South Australia, counselors and psychotherapist are empowered to report any case of child abuse provided that, they can be supported it with evidence (Miller, Dove & Miller 2007).
Columbus (2007), argue that, In Australia Mandatory reporting law systems are well developed in that, the country has set up organizations such as Australian Psychological Society Code of Ethics whose mandate is to promote and set values to guide counselors and the general public on the components of professional ethics and proper conducts. An organization such as Psychotherapy & Counseling Federation of Australia (PACFA) has the powers to ensure that their members have all the necessary tools in line with their profession. PACFA seeks to bring together several group organizations that belong to diverse associations, but with a common goal of counseling and psychotherapy. ACA (Australian counseling Association), was developed to maintain and improve counseling values and practices (Melton 2005).
Ultimately, all states should strengthen legal sectors to ensure that, child abuse perpetrators do not go scot-free while the victims suffer. Mandatory reporting laws should be spelt clearly for the professionals and members of the public to understand which issues are to be reported and which should not. Victims of child abuse should be encouraged through assurance of protection so that they may speak out the hideout of their perpetrators. Professionals should receive proper trainings on substantial reporting to avoid wastage of money and resources on undeserving cases. Laws should ensure protection of reporters as they carry out their duties.
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