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Maintaining Professional Boundaries

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This essay analyses a case study for its issues regarding boundary crossings. It will identify the issues relevant to the case study portrayed in three articles on professional boundaries and dual relationships and will conclude appropriate action for the practioner to take.

Issue Identification

Sexual dual relationships are highly immoral and sometimes illegal (Zur 2011, p.29). However, if the therapist assumes that a boundary crossing will lead to a sexual dual relationship the client may miss out on human connection (Zur 2011, p.30). This case study is a typical situation where a young woman wants a more intimate relationship than client-counsellor and the man feels uncomfortable due to slippery-slope argument. This states that all boundary crossings will inevitably lead to a sexualized dual relationship (Zur 2011, p.30). Here, Julia might be reaching out for support and connection. She may feel neglected and isolated by other people in her life and is seeking friendly interaction with someone she trusts.

In a small community, it's difficult to avoid dual relationships (Nickel 2004, p.17). If a practioner refuses to treat a client that they have multiple relationships with, there's a good chance the client will have nowhere else to seek mental, physical or emotional help (Nickel 2004, p.19). The case study does not specify whether Julia and Michael are in a small or rural community but it's still an important issue to consider.

Intense emotions can arise from a boundary crossing and it's important for a practioner to acknowledge that this can alter their personal or professional boundaries (The Australian Institute of Professional Counsellors, 2011). The Australian Institute of Professional Counsellors (2011) also state that it's vital for a practioner to realise they cannot take the place of a friend or partner and they have a strict responsibility behave as such.

Zur (2011, pp.30-1) states that by maintaining a rigid adherence to strict boundaries the client-counsellor relationship remains professional and dual relationships are avoided altogether. However, a rigid relationship may come across as fake and heartless (Zur 2011, p.31). A practioner cannot build significant rapport with a client by remaining strictly business and therefore, the client may not feel comfortable enough to divulge all aspects of the issues they are trying to address. By avoiding all boundary crossings a practioner turns away opportunities to perform a clinically proven intervention that will fall under the category of boundary crossings (Zur 2011, p.31). Thus a client will receive sub-standard care. In the case study, Julia is approaching Michael to extend the client-counsellor relationship. If Michael refuses she may experience personal rejection, especially if she has had issues with this in the past. Also, Julia may not yet feel comfortable enough with Michael to tell him specific things that may be contributing to her condition. For example, it's possible that Julia might be bulimic or have high anxiety or stress or perhaps something more serious like cancer, causing her weight loss. Julia may want to develop a more personable relationship with Michael before divulging that type of information.

The professional relationship and the authority that comes hand in hand with that is of great importance in any business or clinical setting and without a set of boundaries, a practioner would lose some authority over their clients (Nickel 2004, p.17-8). However, maintaining a high level of authority can be dangerous for client's wellbeing because by placing themselves above the client, the practioner gains advantage and the client has an increased chance of being exploited (Zur 2011, p.31). Also, if the client has experienced a similar dynamic in their family, friends or relationships, the client may react badly to authority being held over them. For example, Michael



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