Just got done talking with a colleague about how we will handle confidentiality in our about-to-be-launched pastoral counseling center for students in our Seminary. By the very nature that we are all employees of the Seminary, we will engage in dual relationships with our counselees. In professional ethics codes, dual relationships are frowned upon and those who engage in them must prove they are not harmful (guilty until proven innocent). In Christian communities, dual relationships are commonplace and even considered by many to be biblically authentic (The AACC Code discusses this: www.aacc.org).
In our case, we will be their teachers/advisors and their counselor. How will we handle it when someone tells us they are involved in activity that would be considered antithetical to being a wise counselor? Should we have the right to decide that a counseling student can no longer be in the program based on some disclosure they make in a counseling session? Here’s some of my thoughts on the matter.
1. Students are not required to come see us. If we give thorough informed consent about the possible implications of seeing us (normal possible breaches of confidentiality and possible side effects of dual relationships) and they still want to see us, they should expect us to be concerned about their disclosure of behavior not becoming of a healthy grad of the school. They should expect that we will continue to be concerned whether they see us further or not.
2. We will have to live with messiness. We learn things about another and don’t always get to know that it came to a good conclusion. We don’t always get to have a say in how it ends. I will always know of some who decide to present themselves as one thing to the public, but are quite the opposite in private. We can’t be in the business of forcing others to do the right thing.
3. We’d better be clear what might constitute egregious violations that require us to end a student’s pursuit of an education. Sinful behavior cannot be the line since that would end the Seminary’s existence. So, what is? That is the question we will have to answer prior to starting this center.
More thoughts on this later…