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Legal suits and the cost of defending licensing board complaints cause professional liability insurance rates to rise, thus harming all therapists.Sadly, the stigma and the stress endured by the therapist if found guilty can be debilitating (Warren and Douglas, 2012).The reasoning for this has included the recognition that boundary crossing cannot be totally avoided, some belonging under certain circumstances may even be helpful to the client (or at least cause them no harm), and sometimes boundary crossings are mandated (Barnett, 2017a).
When in doubt, we advise consultation with knowledgeable colleagues and/or professional association ethics committees. Ethics charges based on inappropriate role-blurring account for the majority of ethics complaints and licensing board actions (Bader, 1994; Koocher & Keith-Spiegel, 2016; Montgomery & Cupit, 1999; Neukrug, Milliken, & Walden, 2001; Sonne, 1994). Boundary issues can arise in ways that therapists may not initially predict or even recognize.
But, in too many cases therapists behaved in ways that seem completely out of touch with the impact their decisions and actions had on those with whom they had a professional relationship.
This was a fairly new client with some issues that should have signaled caution on the part of the therapist.
His myopic focus on his own convenience ended up costing him dearly.
What the therapist may deem as an acceptable, even helpful, boundary crossing may be experienced as inappropriate or harmful by the client, as will be discussed further.