Join Dr. Sheila Addison, LMFT, for a webinar on multiple relationships on Friday, May 10, from 3:00-4:30 pm EST, presented by the Queer and Trans Advocacy Network. Register here.
Many MFTs enter the field because we belong to communities that have historically been poorly served by mental health. We want to bring our expertise to bear, and offer culturally-sensitive services to groups of people whose well-being is important to us. Often, we wind up a minority within a minority – one of the few professionals with lived experience that relates to the people we most want to help.
At the same time, if we are also a part of those same communities, we may find ourselves repeatedly facing questions about how to manage multiple relationships in an ethical way.
- Can my children and I participate in social activities at my temple if I’m one of the very few Jewish therapists in in my area and I have many Jewish clients?
- I attend a consultation group for Black therapists in my area. Now my partner and I are looking for relationship counseling, and all the Black therapists who take my insurance sometimes attend this same group.
- I’m a transgender man who works with many trans and non-binary clients. There’s an annual trans healing retreat coming up that I really need for my own self-care, but at least three of my clients are also talking about going.
- My spouse and I are non-monogamous, and I see a lot of non-monogamous clients as well. I’m always afraid one of my clients is going to turn out to have intimate connections to people who are connected to me, my spouse, or our other partners, and then what do I do?
- My kids go to school at the same school as some of my kid and family clients. What if my kid becomes friends with a kid client? Or worse yet, enemies? I’m the only therapist in my area with my specialty.
Most of us were taught that the ethical choice is to avoid these multiple relationships as much as possible. But what about when it’s not possible? And what if avoiding them means cutting yourself off from relationships and resources that are important to you or your family?
This workshop will look at how we can move beyond a simple “avoidance” framework and engage with the work of how to identify, anticipate, and manage issues of overlap. We will look at the AAMFT Code of Ethics in dialogue with other organizations’ codes, and consider various decision-making frameworks to use when considering the benefits and harms of our complex relationships with our communities.
You will have the opportunity to consider how your own connections, and those of your supervisees or students, can be both a benefit and a liability when it comes to navigating the dual role of “insider” and “service provider.” Together, we’ll identify examples of the dilemmas that the “avoidance” framework creates for MFTs who are part of small communities, subcultures, and minority groups, and practice applying more nuanced thinking to the difficult choices we face.
Dr. Sheila Addison, LMFT, is a clinical fellow of AAMFT. She heads Margin to Center Consulting which encompasses her private practice and supervision, and cultural competency trainings for mental health professionals. She provides diversity and inclusion support, including the Ally Skills Workshop, to corporate, academic, and community clients. She resides in Oakland, California where her practice, focused on couples and relationships, is also located. In 2018 she was named “Best Psychotherapist in the East Bay” by the East Bay Express.