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Psychiatr Clin North Am. 2009 Jun;32(2):299-314. doi: 10.1016/j.psc.2009.03.005.

Ethics in psychotherapy: a focus on professional boundaries and confidentiality practices.

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  • 1Aurora Psychiatric Hospital, 1220 Dewey Avenue, Wauwatosa, WI 53213, USA.


The practice of psychotherapy gives rise to many ethical dilemmas. In this article we offered a "primer" on the most commonly cited ethical concerns in psychotherapy related to professionalism and therapeutic boundaries and confidentiality. There is no single answer to the varied and complex ethical issues that therapists may encounter in their treatment of patients. Such dilemmas are dynamic, nuanced, complex, and highly context dependent. Although professional codes offer guidance on optimal standards of conduct, they do not always offer clear answers; hence, therapists need to be able to critically evaluate and interpret such codes in relation to their daily practice. The contemporary therapist continues to face new dilemmas in an ever-evolving and dynamic twenty-first-century practice environment. Ethical therapists serve the well-being of their patients above all other interests or commitments. Therapists who are attentive to the professional obligations they possess can adopt several strategies to increase their ethical competence, including constantly evaluating their own attitudes and behaviors in addition to those of their patients, engaging in dialog and developing expertise in relation to ethics issues, having a solid grasp of relevant professional codes of conduct, and demonstrating an openness to consultation with peers and exposure of their work to peer review.

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