No doubt, the phenomenon of multiple relationships is one of the most important aspects of a psychologist’s ethics code. Multiple relationships are those, which may occur between a therapist and a patient and extend beyond the limits of professional aspects. Generally, the attitude towards them is harmful, and those relationships are thought to be banned entirely. However, there are different points of view on this issue, as well as it has its pros and cons.
Regarding the advantages of such relationships, in theory, they may be beneficial for the client. To be more exact, non-professional relationships between a doctor and a patient can bring positive results concerning therapy. The doctor has unlimited access to the patient’s feelings and thoughts. Without boundaries, a psychologist may understand the problem faster and find a better bargaining chip to help the patient. However, the consequences of such relationships are unforeseeable and may be destructive. For instance, if the psychologist does not have feelings for the patient, but the patient perceives the situation as if the doctor was sincere, after revealing the truth, the doctor may make a trauma to the patent’s consciousness. On the other hand, if the doctor has feelings, the client may have the wrong attitude to the partner and may believe that it is obligatory to maintain these relationships, which is wrong.
Considering disadvantages, the most obvious of them is a violation of ethics, which accompanies such relationships. The ethics code of a psychiatrist contains rules that aim to regulate how the doctor can behave in front of the patient, not to cause any harm. Thus, multiple relationships are from the start of the breach of the code, and, therefore, cannot be referred to as a positive phenomenon. Furthermore, these relationships reflect the violation of personal boundaries, whether the initiator of expanding professional cooperation. Either the patient or the doctor is affected instead of getting or giving professional help. In addition, agreeing to be involved in such a relationship, the client is at risk of their data leak because the emotional connection between the partners provokes unpredictable actions in stressful situations. Not extending the relationship, the doctor would have never allowed himself to use the client’s personal information.
I suppose multiple relationships are more complex than commonly assumed. For instance, they may be appropriate if the professional relationship is over and if it does not harm the client’s health. However, there may be cases when even after finishing the therapy, this kind of relationship is impossible due to various reasons such as the ineffectiveness of the therapy, the severity of the patient’s disease, or others. Considering the situation when the psychologist has a close connection to the client during the therapy, such relationships are entirely inappropriate. The psychologist, following the ethics code, should recommend that the patient visit another specialist. After finishing the course of treatment, the patient and the doctor decide whether to continue their relationships or not, but only if it is not traumatic for any party at the beginning.
Considering that ethics codes are the only instruments used to regulate such complex relations as multiple ones, they should be constantly improved in response to changes in social norms or any other benchmarks. In connection to this, the rules should be stricter so that patients do not harm doctors and vice versa. However, suppose they are obeyed adequately under normal circumstances. In that case, there is no need for changing them, as they already contain all the needed information for the psychiatrist facing a similar situation. Ethics codes should not be stricter in multiple relationships than in any other aspect of professional communications.
All in all, multiple relationships are potentially more damaging than positive. Despite personal responsibility for all kinds of such interactions, general rules cannot be violated. The only absolute norm in this sphere is that professional relationships are always in the first place.