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Marriage and Family Counselling: Scenario

You are a therapist seeing a couple as your client. Individually, each party often calls you between sessions to tell you information about the other. You saw the husband for one session alone and he revealed having an ongoing affair and asks you to keep it secret. You saw the wife for one session and she revealed that she wants a divorce but has not told her husband and she asks you to keep that secret until she obtains legal counsel. After six sessions they have decided to get divorced. The woman's lawyer is requesting all of your records. You do not have any releases.

1.) What does the AAMFT and IAMFT say about working with multiple clients and confidentiality?

2.) How would ethics apply to this scenario? What would the therapist say to each of them? In what ways can you work with clients to establish compliance with the ethical code when it comes to working with multiple clients in a session, such as in couple and marital counseling?

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(1) What do the AAMFT and IAMFT say about working with multiple clients and confidentiality?

A primary objective in any therapeutic intervention is to avoid harm to the client. Thus, in a family intervention, the therapist, although working with couples or the family as a unit, must consider all issues in which the clients may be exposed to harm. Margolin (1982) explains that marital and family therapists differ from individual counseling and/or therapy from both a practical and conceptual level. For instance family therapy is focused on family issues, and within a family system. This involves having members of the family unity listen to the feelings of other members. Conceptually, individual therapy deals with the conflict within the individual; whereas family issues are between people. A couple or family entering into a therapeutic relationship must be assured of the confidentiality of information that they disclose. On the other hand, the counselor must treat persons in the relationship as individuals and therefore, information provided by one member cannot be shared with another partner without the other's consent. Under the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapist (AAMFT, 2005) ethical guidelines, marriage and family therapist are encouraged (and expected) to respect the privacy of each individual client in the therapeutic relationship. The issue of confidentiality as addressed under AAMFT ethical guidelines are restated in part in the following summary:

2.1-Marriage and family therapists disclose to clients and other interested parties the nature of confidentiality and limitations of the clients' right to confidentiality.

2.2-Marriage and family therapists do not disclose client confidences except by written authorization or waiver, or where mandated by law. When providing ...

Solution Summary

The solution discusses a marriage and family counselling scenario.