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A group of 362 Christian mental health professionals were surveyed regarding their beliefs about and their practices concerning non-sexual multiple relationships (NSMR's). On each of 28 items, respondents were asked to indicate the degree to which they engaged in the multiple relationship behavior and the degree to which they believed each behavior to be ethical. In addition to multiple relationship situations faced by most mental health providers, a number of the items dealt specifically with multiple relationships that arise in faith-based environments or with religious clients. Among other things, results indicated that Christian therapists who worked in church-based settings were more likely to engage in NSMR's than were therapists in other settings. Moreover, respondents indicated that non-sexual multiple relationships were the most frequent ethical dilemma they faced in practice. Implications of the findings for the training of Christian therapists and for therapists who work in faith-based settings are discussed. One of the more important fiduciary responsibilities of a practicing psychologist or therapist is to avoid or manage multiple for dual) relationships that emerge in practice. According to Standard 3.05 of the 2002 ethics code of the American Psychological Association, a prohibited multiple relationship occurs when a psychologist is involved in an extra-professional relationship with a patient or someone else close to the patient and the "multiple relationship could reasonably be expected to impair the psychologist's objectivity, competence, or effectiveness in performing his functions as a psychologist, or otherwise risks exploitation or harm to the person with whom the professional relationship exists" (APA, 2002). All multiple relationships involve a mixing of roles or a crossing of boundaries. However, some multiple relationships involve a violation of boundaries or a loss of objectivity or effectiveness, and it is these kinds of multiple relationships that are proscribed in the professional codes of ethics.

Religion & Spirituality
22 December
Rosemead School of Psychology

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