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Ethics in the Trenches: Boundaries for Helping Professionals Political is Personal: Social Workers United Ethics in the Trenches: Boundaries for Helping.

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Presentation on theme: "Ethics in the Trenches: Boundaries for Helping Professionals Political is Personal: Social Workers United Ethics in the Trenches: Boundaries for Helping."— Presentation transcript:

1 Ethics in the Trenches: Boundaries for Helping Professionals Political is Personal: Social Workers United Ethics in the Trenches: Boundaries for Helping Professionals Marilyn Peterson Armour, Ph.D., MSW University of Texas at Austin

2 CURRENT CONTEXT  Codes of Ethics 1. Highlight high profile violations. 2. Focus on behaviors.  Licensing Boards and Professional Associations 1. Externalize authority 2. Make regulatory function primary.

3 DEFINITION OF A BOUNDARY Boundaries are limits that allow for a safe connection based on need.

4 Two Pillars: 1) Spiritual Base The Ethos of Care: The client’s needs will come first and ahead of our own.

5 2) Secular Base: Basis of Power I. Role II. Expertise III. Client’s Struggle A. Struggle with Self B. Authority C. Expectations IV. Self-Worth

6 What Brings the Professional’s Power To Life?  Client’s Need.  Lack of Resolution and Relief.  Inability to Care for Self.  “Letting Go as a Necessary Condition for Receiving Help.

7 Client Vulnerability (Disparity between client & professional)  Nature of the problem  Gender of client & professional  Educational level of client & professional  Socio-economic class of client & professional  Race of client & professional  Age of client & professional  Sexual orientation of client & professional  Life-cycle stage and associated life-crises

8 Client Vulnerability:Heightened by being in a relationship with us. Client is in a foreign territory. Decisions colored by co-operation & compliance. Client cannot evaluate our competence. Client cannot negotiate rights. Choices are narrowed by “monopoly”. Choices restricted by time. Choices influenced by anxieties about future consequences

9 Two Pillars: 2) Secular Base Power Differential We will use our greater power in the relationship not for our own ends but to protect the client’s greater vulnerability in the relationship.

10 Putting the 2 Pillars Together Care SAFETY Need Power ZONE Trust CLIENT VULNERABILITY

11 Denial of Power/ Denial of Impact What makes us ambivalent, unsure, and uncertain?  Cultural Attitudes about Power.  Family Attitudes and Experiences.  Deficiency Model of Evaluation.  Functioning in a Paradox.

12 Definition of a Boundary Violation Boundaries are the limits that allow for a safe connection based on the client’s needs. When these limits are altered, what is allowed in the relationship becomes ambiguous. Such ambiguity is experienced as an intrusion into the sphere of safety. The pain from a violation is frequently delayed (and may not occur at all) and the violation may not be recognized or felt until harmful consequences emerge.

13 Reversal of Roles Change in Status Elevated N O R M A L Scapegoated

14 Secrets SECRETS ARE ORGANIZED AROUND THE PROFESSIONAL’S NEED  Protect Illicit Behaviors.  Give the Professional an Advantage.  Gain the Client’s Co-operation. Secret Professional Client

15 Secrets: Cont. OW OW OW Prof. Cl. Prof. Cl. Prof. Cl. OW: Outside World Prof: Professional Cl: Client

16 Double Bind Conflict of Interest Fear of Loss C L I E N T’S O P T I O N S Loss of what Loss of Safety the client needs P A R A L Y S I S

17 Indulgence of Professional Privilege  Self Gratification Supercedes Obligation.  Entitlement Supercedes Mutuality.  The Client Belongs to Me Supercedes the Client’s Right. Translation That Establishes Congruence I KNOW BEST. I AM DOING THIS FOR YOU. THIS WON’T HURT YOU.

18 Establishment of a System Establishment of a System (Series of Relational Changes) Indulgence of Professional Privilege (misdirects or changes the power differential) Creation of a Secret (creates a dual agenda) Reversal of Roles (restructures of relationship) Double Binding of the Client (maintains the system and reinforces the professional’s privilege)

19 Ethics Laboratory Vignette Questions 1) What are the professional’s needs? 2) What secrets have been created? 3) How have the roles been reversed? How does it change the power differential? 4) How is the client double bound? (any action is a loss) 5) How does the therapist justify behavior?

20 How Do I Respond? Violations You Create Self-Protection Versus Self-Examination

21 How Do I Respond? Violations From the Client Personal Comfort Versus Honesty and Care

22 How Do I Respond? Violations From a Colleague Personal Comfort Versus Concern for Colleague/ Clients

23 Red Flags and Danger Zones 1.Making a client special: encouraging dependency. 2.Personal sharing. 3.Dual relationships with clients, colleagues or superiors: Working in a “closed” system/ isolation. 4.Making your own rules: altering your limits Seeing yourself as unique or above the rules OR victimed, unsupported, or misunderstood.

24 Red Flags and Danger Zones 5. Grandiosity: I’m the only one who can help you. Presence of conditions conducive to burnout: Constant pressure to do more with less. Using work to satisfy all needs. Lack of definition: job description, written policies & procedures. Ideology before client need. Promising the client loyalty/availability.


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