The Ethics of Counseling — How Would YOU Handle This Problem?

Another discussion revealed to me that many people have no idea of the ethical quandaries that people engaged in psychological counseling have to deal with, and that their "cut through the bull" solutions would likely have unforeseen consequences threatening to cause more harm than good.

Consider an example which is very common: You are a clinical psychologist or social worker. Pat (unisex name chosen intentionally) has come to you with this problem: he/she has cheated on his/her marital partner and feels very guilty and regretful. His/her question is simple: whether to confess to the marital partner. Let's also assume that he/she has been tested and is free of STD's.

Harmless dissembling like setting up a surprise party aside, we normally assume that total honesty between marital partners is key to a healthy relationship, don't we?

But what about this situation? How would you advise the client: Confess or don't, and why/why not?

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I suppose that confessing helps you stick to your promise not to repeat the infraction. But isn't that because now your partner will never completely trust you ever again?

No, not necessarily. Trust can be broken but quite often it can be rebuilt. If you are sorry you make sure you do not betray your significant others trust again and will be able to prove to them that they can begin trusting you again. 

I have my doubts. Consider an analogy: someone is found to be embezzling money from their company and they confess. How could one ever build up the trust again? Someone has been babysitting and s/he confesses to having gone through their drawers while the baby slept. How would the babysitter every prove that s/he could be trusted again?

I agree Dylan, that confessing relieves a lot of guilt, but aren't you now placing mental images in your spouse's mind that she'll have to live with for the rest of your time together? Is that fair?

I'm not disagreeing, just checking to see if you've considered all of the ramifications.

I still drift in and out of lucidity - so, nothing's new. See you in another six months?

And I probably post too ofter, but whadayagonnado --? Later.

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