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The Dilemma of an Undisclosed Affair

Napier (1991) stated that he is unwilling to continue therapy with a couple if he knows of an affair from one partner, but they are unwilling to disclose this to the other partner. What is your own opinion about this? There is no single correct answer, of course - as long as ethical requirements are followed in terms of not breaking client confidentiality. But otherwise, it's up to individual therapists whether to work with the couple "as is"; to refuse to proceed with therapy under conditions of an undisclosed affair that has come to the therapist's attention; or to work with the couple, but continue to work with that individual to try to convince him or her to disclose the affair. How would you proceed? Whichever course of action you would choose, how would you handle issues of informed consent and client communication, both in terms of what you communicate to all couple clients at the beginning of therapy, and in terms of how you communicate with the couple if this situation has arisen? (For example, if you choose to terminate therapy with the couple, what would you tell the "uninformed" partner about why you are no longer willing to work with them?)

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(1) How would you proceed?

As indicated in the research, couple therapy is rooted in family therapy. Thus, individuals cannot be understood in isolation from one another (Martel & Prince, 1430). Couple therapy provides the framework for a therapeutic model in which individuals as a couple are interconnected and interdependent within a family system. Moreover, as Martell and Prince point out, monogamy (relationship with one partner), or marriage between one man and one woman is not a universal norm. However, in terms of infidelity, most people think of one man and one woman in a relationship in which one or both partners have breached the commitment to a monogamous, sexual relationship. Thus, sex is at the core of this complex relationship. Martell and Prince cite this as a particular problem for same-sex couples. In fact, they assert that relationships between same-sex couples are more complex than the heterosexist norm (p. 1430).

In addition, non-monogamous relationships are reported to be more common in gay relationships than lesbian and/or heterosexual relationships (Martel & Prince, 2006). In comparing traditional behavioral couple therapy (TBC with integrative behavioral Therapy (ICBT); Martell and Prince recommend ICBT approaches that are focused on skill-building and change strategies-including improving communication skills and problem-solving strategies. Given the comparison, according to Martell & Prince, the ICBT therapist will not refuse to treat a patient who is having an affair. On the other hand, the TCBT would advise the individual to discontinue the affair. The therapy could not continue without this client's compliance. However, they ...

Solution Summary

This solution examines the dilemmas in counseling when there is a refusal to disclose an affair in a same-sex relationship.