In an earlier post, we discussed Standard 1.3 in the AAMFT Code of Ethics and dual roles/multiple relationships, in general. In today’s post, we’ll explore dual roles/multiple relationships in a specific context, namely the student/teacher and supervisory relationship context.
While Standard 1.3 provides guidance on dual roles/multiple relationships with clients, Standards 4.1 and 4.6 are intended to provide guidance on dual roles/multiple relationships in the context of the student/teacher and supervisory relationship. Examples of situations that have prompted calls to AAMFT’s legal and ethics consultation service include questions about former clients enrolling in a graduate program, taking on former clients as supervisees, and entering into social relationships or platonic friendships with students or supervisees.
Standard 4.1 states:
Marriage and family therapists who are in a supervisory role are aware of their influential positions with respect to students and supervisees, and they avoid exploiting the trust and dependency of such persons. Therapists, therefore, make every effort to avoid conditions and multiple relationships that could impair professional objectivity or increase the risk of exploitation. When the risk of impairment or exploitation exists due to conditions or multiple roles, therapists take appropriate precautions.
Standard 4.6 states:
Marriage and family therapists are aware of their influential positions with respect to supervisees, and they avoid exploiting the trust and dependency of such persons. Supervisors, therefore, make every effort to avoid conditions and multiple relationships with supervisees that could impair professional judgment or increase the risk of exploitation. Examples of such relationships include, but are not limited to, business or close personal relationships with supervisees or the supervisee’s immediate family. When the risk of impairment or exploitation exists due to conditions or multiple roles, supervisors document the appropriate precautions taken.
Standards 4.1 and 4.6 appear very similar in nature. Standard 4.1 is titled “Exploitation” and Standard 4.6 is titled “Existing Relationship with Students or Supervisees.” While Standard 4.1 might apply to dual role/multiple relationship concerns in general, Standard 4.6 may be read to apply specifically to situations where there is an existing relationship with a supervisee or the supervisee’s immediate family.
As explained in our discussion of Standard 1.3, these situations are nuanced and require careful considerations of the facts of the specific scenario, the AAMFT Code of Ethics, and applicable statutes and regulations that govern the therapist’s practice.
The approach to assessing these situations is similar to the approach discussed in the earlier post about Standard 1.3. Generally speaking, when confronted with these scenarios, the Code calls on therapists to assess for increased risks of exploitation of students or supervisees, while also assessing for any increased risks of impaired professional judgment on the part of the therapist/teacher/supervisor. You can refer back to the earlier post for more discussion of what this assessment might look like.
Leaving aside Standard 4.3, which addresses sexual relationships with students and supervisees, there are two more Code standards that offer guidance on specific situations involving students and supervisees that may give rise to concerns about dual roles/multiple relationships or exploitation.
Standard 4.2 addresses situations where MFTs may be called upon to provide therapy to current students or supervisees. Standard 4.2 states:
Marriage and family therapists do not provide therapy to current students or supervisees.
Standard 4.8 addresses financial arrangements between supervisors and supervisees. Standard 4.8 states:
Marriage and family therapists providing clinical supervision shall not enter into financial arrangements with supervisees through deceptive or exploitative practices, nor shall marriage and family therapists providing clinical supervision exert undue influence over supervisees when establishing supervision fees. Marriage and family therapists shall also not engage in other exploitative practices of supervisees.
Standard 4.2 does not necessarily call for assessment of the situation, but rather clearly states that MFTs do not provide therapy to current students or supervisees. Standard 4.8 may call for more assessment of the specific facts of a situation, but overall, these Code standards are relatively straightforward.
Just as MFTs are called upon to attend to concerns about dual roles/multiple relationships within the therapist/client relationship, so too are MFTs called upon to attend to these concerns in the context of the student/teacher and supervisory relationship. Referring to the Code sections discussed in this post is a great starting point.