Ethics and books


English: Field boundaries

English: Field boundaries (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


I’ve read a couple of books recently that have had me thinking about ethics and limits. I’ve also bumped into this in my own practice.


The books I’ve read were Ethical Maturity in the Helping Professions: Making Difficult Life and Work Decisions  by Michael Carroll and Elisabeth Shaw and When boundaries betray us  by Carter Heyward.


Ethical maturity is a fabulous book and I wish I’d known about it when we did our first year ethics module. I read it as part of being a book reviewer for BAPCA (it should be in PCQ in this edition coming) and as a net result, asked my training institution to buy copies for the library, which they have. But the book talks about how to make decisions, and when decisions aren’t easy. It also discusses the difference between MAKING ethical decisions and CARRYING OUT ethical decisions (amongst other things). The title is somewhat dry, but the book is fascinating – it’s the most interesting ethics book I’ve read (and I have two other degrees in psychology, so I’ve read a few). It’s a theory-based book, from two therapists’ points of view, and gave me insight into my own processes.


When boundaries betray us however, is a very different book. Written by a feminist lesbian theologian and ordained priest, it documents the story from her point of view, as the client who decides that she would like to move to a friendship with her (lesbian) therapist after her therapy ends. The voice of the therapist is absent in this book, so it is entirely from the client’s point of view. And I find myself sympathising with the client AND with the therapist – I can see where boundaries are pushed, or not held as they might be, on both parts, and I can see wounding happening as well as healing. Of a lot of interest to me is the connection that is discussed a lot in the book. It isn’t what we might call ‘relational depth’ – it is an over-arching connection, rather than a specific one, and as a queer person with a queer therapist myself, and someone who experiences a ‘connection’ that they can’t quantify with their therapist, I wonder if it is the ‘queerness’ that makes it. If not, what does? There is a sharedness about it, an almost unspoken connection, certainly not quantified within the book.


The book is interesting in that it has forced me to look at my own relationship with my therapist. I kind of want to march in with the book, thrust it at her and demand to know if she’s read it. But then, I don’t want to worry her into wondering if I think our relationship is like that one, which ends on a Very Bad Note. But still – there is a conversation to be had. In truth, I noticed the issue with the connection before I read the book – in therapy last week it was in my head but I didn’t speak it. I wonder how many clients do not speak the connection with their therapists and let these go unsaid. I wonder how big an elephant this can become in therapy?

A second thought is about my own relationship with a client. I was poking around with the relationship in my recent supervision, when Fred kindly paved the way for me to see what I had been doing ‘wrong’ (I have an excellent supervisor; sometimes I dislike that fact!), and once I could see what  I was doing I was left with no personal choice but to address it. It involved putting the therapy relationship on the table and examining it with my client. That was *hard*. But the session that came after felt ‘better’ than previous ones. It remains to be seen what the long-term difference is, but that I had addressed it rather than leaving it as my own elephant is of great relief.




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