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June 26, 2017 - Welcome Guest!

Advice » Relationships

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Ethics in counseling


If you have a client who has told you he is using drugs, without ruining the honest relationship you have with your client, how can you ensure the wellness of your client and address the need for rehabilitation?

Felice (25 year-old women)


Dear Felice,

The answer is simple.

You are not a policewoman. You are not your client's mother. You are not his conscience.

You are a helper, a catalyst for the change the client would like to achieve.

If someone comes to me, wanting to beat a heroin addiction, then we work on the addiction. If a heroin addict comes to me for help with a relationship problem, then we work on the relationship problem.

Once rapport has been established, and your client trusts you, it is fine to ask 'Do you want to work on your drug habit? I know that you know it's terribly unhealthy for you, and it must cost you heaps of money, but it's entirely up to you.'

An ethical imperative under the law only comes in if the client is likely to do self-harm (and sniffing cocaine or smoking a cigarette don't qualify), injure another person or cause damage to property.

Have a good life,


This question was answered by Dr. Bob Rich. Dr. Rich has 31 years experience as a psychologist and is registered with the Australian Psychological Society. He practices in Australia. Dr. Rich is also a writer and a "mudsmith". Bob is now retired from psychological practice, but still works with people as a counsellor.

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