Ethical and Legal Considerations of Group Therapy

As a group therapist, you are going to encounter some challenging ethical dilemmas. At times, the ethical approach will be clear, but, at other times, there will be no single “right” or “wrong” answer. When no clear path presents itself, you must consider many factors, including an ethical code, a “standard level of care,” dignity and respect for others, best practices/professional decorum, and, of course, the law. There also will be times when the population being treated will impact your decisions. For example, therapists who work with prison inmates might operate under different confidentiality rules than those who work with the general public. In the case of prisoners, law enforcement agents and parole board members might have full, or partial, access to therapy group files.
Keep in mind that you are not alone in your decision making. Consulting with a colleague might be a good idea. In addition, some professional associations and liability-insurance companies provide free consultations. In your future practice, consider taking advantage of these services, and be sure to document the steps you take.
Select a high-risk population that might benefit from group therapy (e.g., child/adolescent, HIV, abuse, substance abuse/addiction, suicide, prisons, or severe mental health). Consider the ethical and legal considerations that might apply to this population. How might the treatment setting (inpatient versus outpatient) impact the ethical and legal considerations?
The Assignment (5-7 pages)
• Select and describe a high-risk population for group therapy
• Explain two ethical and two legal considerations in treating this population in group therapy
• Explain how you might address these considerations as a group therapist
• Explain how ethical and/or legal considerations might differ for this group if the treatment setting was inpatient versus outpatient

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