Ethics and Anxiety

I’ve been asked to teach an ethics seminar in the Spring to our local chapter of the Texas Counseling Association. The subject of ethics generally annoys me. I realize this could be due to my own lack of ethics, but I actually think its more because I believe that the whole subject of ethics within professional organizations has been highjacked by anxiety.

For myself, ethical behavior is to be defined by two broad principles.
  1. I must never use the natural power differential in my relationship to a client for personal advantage.
  2. An effective therapy relationship is redemptive for the client.

These principals, like all principals, require that the clinician be quite mature and exercise careful judgment. However, as Jesus pointed out on more than a few occasions, we humans don’t like principals. They make us anxious. We prefer rules. Rules are much safer.

So, ethics boards, at least therapy ethics boards come up with rules like, “No dual relationships.” This means that I’m not supposed to be a therapist for, say, my proctologist. The fear is that I, as a therapist, MIGHT be tempted to parlay my special relationship with this good doctor into a FREE PROCTOLOGY EXAM!

Now, there’s no doubt that clinicians have fallen prey to such temptations. I suspect that its been more common for a clinician to get an extra good deal from a client who is a car salesman that from said medical expert, but you get my point.

Well, this sort of stuff makes ethics boards anxious, and so rules are produced… like…

  • Since there are a few idiotic and unethical clinicians among us who abuse client relationships, we’re going to decide that all of you don’t have enough sense to use good judgement.

Because I DO happen to be a reactive, narcsissitic maverick who tends to think that rules are for everyone else, I figure I need to see if there is hard research other there that actually speaks to the validity of the sort of ethics dictums that are common. I’ve done some initial research on my own. I can’t find anything.

So, if you know of research – good scientific method type research – related to these concerns, would you please make note of that in the comments section?

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About Wes Eades

I've been a pastoral counselor, marital therapist, and overall listening ear since about 1989 or so.
This entry was posted in Anxiety. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Ethics and Anxiety

  1. francisco says:

    hey wes,
    classes just started up out here so that means most profs. are back in town. I will ask around and see what they have to say or if there are directions they can point me in. is there anything specifically related to ethics that you want to know about regarding research.
    email me if so.
    cisco

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