The role of our personal values in a counseling relationship is a challenging ethical concept. Even the most well intentioned and cautious clinician will be influenced, even inadvertently, by his or her values. Imposing our own values on a client is a treacherous proposition, and it risks compromising our objectivity. Some relativists would argue that such objectivity is an illusion, and that it is wholly unobtainable.
Initially, I am not entirely sure I saw a conflict with exposing my values (without imposing them on the client). After additional reflection, I am not sure that I am entirely comfortable exposing my values during the course of the interview process. Perception is reality, and I would have no control over the client’s interpretation of the values that were exposed. Despite my best efforts and good intentions, exposing my values would open a number of different variables that could be counterproductive to the interview process.
For example, if my values differed greatly from those of my client, I could risk alienating the client to the degree that they may come to the conclusion that our values differ too much to continue the counseling relationship. The end result is a referral at best, or the client ceasing to pursue psychotherapy as a treatment method all together.
It’s your turn! I am seeking out strategies I can employ that will help me contain the potential damage associated with exposing my underlying core values. How much does your therapist share with you?
I would like to learn to avoid comparing and contrasting client values with my own. This is an overwhelming task given that I have a natural inclination to establish rapport by doing just that. Does your therapist compare and contrast their values with yours?