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5 Ethical Dilemmas Faced By Marriage and Family Therapists

What is a Marriage and Family Therapist?

Marriage and family therapists, often referred to as MFTs, are crucial members of the therapy field. While you may be familiar with these professionals, it’s important to know the facts before diving deeper.

A marriage and family therapist (MFT) is a licensed professional counselor specializing in marriage and family therapy, a branch of psychotherapy and family systems. These therapists possess a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy, enabling them to diagnose and treat mental and emotional disorders within the context of the family unit. Marriage and family therapists consider family systems theories and their impact on mental health, addressing not only individual but also relational and family issues.

MFTs work in various settings, including private practice, family services agencies, and healthcare institutions. They utilize a range of counseling programs and therapeutic techniques to treat mental health problems, adolescent drug abuse, and other emotional disorders. Their focus extends beyond mental health, as they understand that emotional health is interconnected with overall physical health. Licensed by family therapy regulatory boards, marriage and family therapists play a crucial role in promoting the well-being of individuals and family units, addressing serious clinical problems, and improving the occupational outlook, as indicated by labor statistics and the Occupational Outlook Handbook. Their expertise in family dynamics and organizational skills makes them valuable contributors to mental health issues’ resolution.

Do Marriage and Family Therapists Face Ethical Dilemmas?

While the work of therapists is nothing short of amazing, complicated situations are common. While more and more mental health professionals are directing their attention towards practicing marriage and family counseling, this choice comes with several ethical dilemmas that may arise. All therapists must adhere to the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapist’s code of ethics, but some of these issues get blurry when it comes to counseling multiple people at once. Keep reading along as we dive into some of those…

5 Ethical Quandaries for MFTs

  • Family Versus Individual Members
  • Excluding Family Members
  • Confidentiality
  • Manipulative Therapeutic Strategies
  • Personal Values Versus Ethics

1. Family Versus Individual Members

A marriage and family therapist must build a relationship with each member while simultaneously considering the perspectives of each individual. In marriage and family counseling, it may become difficult for the therapist to decide between what’s best for an individual and what’s best for the family or couple as a whole. Not all solutions will be beneficial to each member, even though each member is facing the same problem. The individual may feel victimized if the therapist chooses the family over them and vice versa.

2. Excluding Family Members

Many ethical issues arise when it’s time to decide which members of the family should be included in therapy and counseling sessions. It is often debated whether or not is ethical to treat a family without all of its members present. This can also so be greatly influenced by voluntary participation. If a member of the family simply does not wish to participate in the sessions, they can’t be forced. At the same time, if a therapist feels that it is better for the family to not include a particular family member, it is still a very controversial decision.

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3. Confidentiality

The American Psychological Association explains that psychologists can only disclose private information without consent if it is required by court order, the patient is being harmed, or the patient is causing harm to others. When there are secrets among family members, some of the members may be aware while others may be intentionally kept in the dark. Ultimately, keeping these secrets confidential creates ethical issues with choosing to serve the family or the individual. Some therapists think that it is crucial to expose a secret to the rest of the family members if it could possibly jeopardize the family as a whole.

4. Manipulative Therapeutic Strategies

It’s the therapists’ job to have control of their sessions which naturally involves manipulating people in order to influence change or growth. It is up to the therapist to decide when it is appropriate to use this manipulative power. There are often be times when deception is the easiest or most effective course of action but it may not be seen as ethical. Some clients are incredibly rebellious or particularly resistant to therapy and the only way to treat them is through manipulation. The therapist is responsible for choosing whether or not it is necessary to deceive family members, even if it’s by simply omitting information.

5. Personal Values Versus Ethics

Objectivity is crucial when it comes to his career and therapists must consider the personal values of their clients and be aware that they may not always line up with ethical values. This may also mean that the client’s welfare is not protected because they’re falling outside of the line of ethics. The therapist may have to decide if they will help to steer their clients towards making ethical decisions or their personal values.

In Conclusion…

The ethical dilemmas that marriage and family therapists encounter underscore the delicate balance they must maintain between individual well-being and the harmony of the family system. These dedicated professionals, often known as family therapists, navigate complex issues within the context of marriage and family, striving to provide effective family therapy while upholding their ethical responsibilities. Licensed marriage and family therapists treat mental disorders not only with clinical expertise but also with a profound understanding of how family dynamics influence an individual’s mental health. As the field of family therapy continues to evolve, it’s essential to recognize the importance of ethical standards and ethical decision-making in safeguarding the welfare of both clients and the family unit. With a positive job outlook and a commitment to ethical principles, marriage and family therapists play an indispensable role in promoting healthier and happier families.

Related resources:

Top 30 Master’s in Marriage and Family Counseling Online Degree Programs

5 Careers for Marriage and Family Counselors

The Choice Between Marriage an Family Therapy and Pastoral Counseling

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