Dual Relationships

One of the most bedeviling challenges in counseling and other helping relationships is navigating dual relationships.

Dual relationships occur when the helping professional runs into clients in public, has another role in the client’s life, or encounters the client outside the professional setting. These challenges are pronounced in close-knit demographic groups: ethnic and faith communities, recovery networks, rural areas, and small towns. Digital, online, and other electronic technology have transformed the nature of helping relationships, adding another layer of potential hazard (and benefit!) to these challenges.

Historically, the common wisdom was to avoid dual relationships at all costs; however, most practitioners realize that they are sometimes unavoidable. Some practitioners suggest they can be helpful in some circumstances. How can practitioners navigate dual relationships with intention and self-awareness? How can they anticipate impacts and avoid conflicts of interests? When are dual relationships clinically beneficial, and when do they do harm?

Planning for these sometimes awkward encounters and overlapping roles can reduce surprise and poor handling in the moment. This scenario-based workshop allows practitioners to do a “deep dive” into one area of clinical ethics–dual relationships and conflicts of interest–and to apply critical thinking and context-based analysis to their decision-making.

The workshop will be offered November 7, 2019 at Lane Community College in Eugene, Oregon. When you register for this ethics workshop, you get a 50% discount on Getting Unstuck, which occurs November 8th at Lane Community College. Write to the organizer for your discount code.


It will also be offered on December 5, 2019 at Revolution Hall in Portland, Oregon.


By the end of “Clinical Ethics in Close Quarters: Navigating Dual Relationships,” participants will:

  1. Articulate the pros and cons of dual relationships as they relate to their agency setting, professional identity and role, type of treatment, and model of practice;
  2. Describe the harmful impacts of conflicts of interest and explore what these look like in participant’s area of practice;
  3. Explore the hazards and benefits of social media to the helping relationship;
  4. Draft a statement about handling public encounters with clients, the potential for dual or multiple relationships, and avoidance of conflicts of interest, including a clear social media policy; and
  5. Understand the nature of sexual transference and underscore the prohibition on sexual relationships with clients.