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Doing It Well and Doing It Right: An Ethics Workshop for Trauma Specialists (ETHICS CREDITS)

Constance Dalenberg PhD, of Alliant University, San Diego, CA
Lucy Berliner, MSW of Harborview Center for Sexual Assault & Traumatic Stress, Seattle, WA

This workshop is designed to meet the guidelines for mandated ethics training for psychologists, social workers and counselors in their work with traumatized populations. The workshop will be highly interactive, but participants’ level of disclosure will be at their discretion. Each subsection of the workshop will be discussed as it applies to the treater of the child and the adult victim. The foci for the workshop will center on four areas. Competence: The concept of ethical professional behavior is intimately tied to the concept of competent practice, as all major guidelines state (including the ISTSS Best Practice Parameters, which will be a centerpiece of this workshop). But what do we believe forms the foundation of agreed-upon competent treatment? Does it mean that all must use CBT, or minimally, some form of empirically-based treatment? How broadly does one construe “empirically-based” in such a mandate? Where is the line that would define that one is not meeting this ethical requirement? Boundaries: The concept of boundaries will be defined in 3 ways, as protections for the frame of therapy that allow it to work, as historical guidelines for defining what is and is not therapy, and as personal limitations that allow a particular professional or patient to be comfortable engaging in therapeutic work. Within these definitions, boundary dilemmas and their ethical resolution will be discussed. Countertransference: The powerful connection that is formed by intimate connection with an individual in great personal distress has been honored in much of the classic literature of our own and prior centuries. The pull of this connection is great, and compassionate and reasonable therapists therefore will at times make what they believe later to be mistakes. The countertransference research literature shows that self-awareness combined with theoretical understanding of the process of countertransference can have a positive impact in protecting against those mistakes. We hope to provide some measure of the latter, and well as some ideas about pursuit of the former. Forensic ethics: The above areas become more contentious and more complicated as professionals battle out their disagreements in forensic arenas. Here the workshop participants will discuss ethical behavior in the evaluative and forensic arena. Time will be taken throughout the workshop and at the end of the workshop to discuss specific ethical dilemmas experienced by the participants. 

Learning Objectives:

  • Describe the main points of the ISTSS Best Practice Parameters
  • Identify typical scenarios in which boundary mistakes are made in trauma treatment
  • Cite specific methods of encouraging more ethical practice in forensic settings

About the Presenters:

Constance Dalenberg, Ph.D. is the founder and director of the Trauma Research Institute in San Diego, CA and a Professor of Clinical Psychology at Alliant International University. Dr. Dalenberg is recognized as an international expert on trauma disclosure and trauma therapy. As the director of the Trauma Research Institute, she has designed and supervised over 50 research studies on the consequences of trauma. Her research on trauma symptoms and trauma treatment has appeared in clinical and forensic journals. Her private practice centers on the treatment and forensic evaluation of survivors of trauma.

Lucy Berliner, M.S.W. is Director of the Harborview Center for Sexual Assault and Traumatic Stress, Clinical Associate Professor at the University of Washington School of Social Work and Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. Her activities include clinical practice with child and adult victims of trauma and crime; research on the impact of trauma and the effectiveness of clinical and societal interventions; and participation in local and national social policy initiatives to promote the interests of trauma and crime victims. Ms. Berliner is on the editorial boards of leading journals concerned with interpersonal violence, has authored numerous peer-reviewed articles and book chapters, and has served/serves on local and national boards of organizations, programs, and professional societies.