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Welcome to the nexus of ethics, psychology, morality, technology, health care, and philosophy

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Vignette 17: Titles, Roles and Boundaries

Dr. Thomas is a psychologist who is a part owner of a private practice in which they offer Employee Assistance Program (EAP) services.  The EAP service provides a solution-focused, three-session benefit for companies within Pennsylvania.  Dr. Thomas normally does not handle EAP services. Several staff members were either ill or overbooked, so Dr. Thomas responds to EAP requests during the day.

When dealing with the EAP program, she thinks her title of “doctor” might put people off, so she announces herself as “Sue” when dealing with EAP clients.  When returning a call from Chuck who works for a company with the EAP benefit, the psychologist indicates that she is "Sue" from the EAP program.  Chuck is a 20-year old man who immediately expresses a great deal of agitation and anger. He complains loudly about his parents and his girlfriend. In the process of conversation, Dr. Thomas realizes that Chuck is the son of her next-door neighbors.  While Chuck now lives in an apartment in town, she remembers him well.  She actually attended his graduation party briefly and hired him to cut her lawn for two years.

Also during the course of the phone contact, Chuck expresses some homicidal rage toward his parents, particularly around financial issues and early childhood sexual abuse from his father. Dr. Thomas wants him to come in immediately for a more in-depth evaluation. Chuck hesitated to have a face-to-face interview at the practice, but agreed only if he can talk with Sue.  Sue schedules the appointment for early in the evening.

What are the ethical concerns in this scenario?

How would you advise Dr. Thomas to handle them?

If you were a co-owner of the business, how would you feel about this situation?