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Saturday, June 4, 2011

Vignette 3: A new referral?

A psychologist had an intake appointment with a new client.  As soon as he looked at the intake form, he realized that she is the ex-wife of his former client.  The therapy with the ex-husband was brief, and he focused on how he wanted to leave the marriage. The prospective client was using her maiden name and gave no indication that she had known about her ex-husband’s treatment with the psychologist.

When asked about the reason for the referral, she said that her physician had referred her for anxiety. During the session, she stated that he is still in communication with her ex-husband because they share three children.

What are the ethical issues for this scenario?

What emotional reactions may occur for the psychologist?

Should the psychologist treat the woman?

1 comment:

Indian Curry said...

There is a conflict of interest in that the psychologist would be seeing a person who was in an intimate relationship with a former client. Even though he is no longer counselling the former client, there are three issues. (1) the psychologist is privy to information about the new client, because he has counselled her husband previously ...possibly information the new client may not wish share with the psychologist during counselling. (2) The psychologist would have his own bias or opinions formed about the new client when he was counselling her husband previously and therefore his objectivity about this new client is suspect or at least the optics are not right. (3) the old client may seek counselling again in the future maybe. The third reason is not really a strong or a valid ethical reason to avoid the new client. But the first two reasons are ethical reasons for not seeing the new client.
It would be best to not see the new client but I am unsure what reason to give to tell her without betraying the confidentiality of the previous client or outright lying i.e. giving a false reason for declining to see her. However, as he has not started counselling, he could refer her to another psychologist.