This is one of the scenario causing dilemma in social work where the social worker find himself in a dual relationship with the client intersecting his personal and professional life. Ideally it is recommended that social workers should not engage in multiple or dual relationships with clients or former clients. If it is unavoidable, social workers should strictly create and manage reasonable boundaries that protect the client from any harm that might arise out of the dual or multiple relationships.
According to the Academy of Certified Counsellors (ACC) Singapore , Code of Ethics, (Section B. Counselling Relationship, Sub Section 5; ) Counsellors must avoid establishing dual relationships with clients that could affect their professional judgement and may potentially lead to exploitation of the clients.
Based on the given scenario, what can Jack do ?
1. Jack has to critically examine the clinical and ethical implications of attending the common monthly meeting with the client and weigh the merits and demerits (Consider the power relationship between the client and Jack, risk factors that can lead to boundary violations, duration of relationship, date of planned termination of session, to what extend does the dual relationship breach the prevailing ethical standards as well as what would be the effect of the dual relationship on the clinical outcome of the client and the potential conflicting roles if any while analysing the situation). A consultation with the supervisor in this process of evaluation is highly recommendable, especially if there is a degree of doubt.
2. Once Jack arrives a decision (to attend or not to attend) , he has to discuss with the client in the most professional way without bruising their feelings, the concept of multiple relationship and issues of boundary crossing and stressing on why he needs to keep his professional and personal life separate.
3. After this, if Jack feels comfortable and conclude that both parties can participate in the meeting without having any boundary issues in a way matching the ethical standards and fulfilling his professional responsibilities without causing any harm to the client, he can attend the meeting.
4. If Jack decides on attending the meeting, he has to to undergo periodic self-monitoring for conflicts of interest and boundary violations.
5. If Jack concludes that it is beneficial not to attend a common meeting again with the client’s consent, Jack can discuss the issues of dual relationship with the school authorities and seek alternatives like changing the group of monthly meeting.
6. If none of this is possible, after consultation with his supervisor, Jack has to think of transferring the client to another colleague.
7. Proper documentation of all the key aspects involved in decision making process has to be done by Jack including justification of the decision taken as well as the informed consent.
8. If the client doesn’t give the consent, Jack cannot discuss the issue neither with the school authorities nor with the group.
9. At no point of time can Jack disclose professional details or privileged confidential matters related to the client nor their identity to the school authorities nor the group.
10. If Jack thinks his attendance in the meeting along with his client is going to interfere with his professional responsibilities and cause harm to the client, he has to refrain from attending the meeting until a solution is obtained.