2019 – New Year’s Professional Resolutions

By Ofer Zur, Ph.D.

As 2018 comes to an end, it is time to reflect back and look forward to 2019. For many of us, it is also a time to make resolutions. Following are some of Zur Institute’s proposed New Year’s professional resolutions for mental health professionals:

I will learn to respectfully say “I disagree,” rather than immediately claiming, “It is unethical!” when I differ with colleagues’ ways of doing therapy:

  • I will use critical thinking and contemplation before labeling another therapist’s clinical interventions as unethical and below the standard of care. In the same manner, I will reflect before encouraging a client to file a board complaint against this therapist, and consider that the practitioner may have a different and potentially legitimate view of the therapeutic relationship regarding the exchange of gifts, non-sexual touch, bartering, dual relationships, and therapy outside the office, etc.

I will remember that if I am not specially trained and court designated as a child custody evaluator, then I will NOT comply with a request or demand from a client or client’s attorney to write a custody letter recommending that the child is better off with the client rather than any other person:

  • I will remember that one of the easiest ways to get into trouble with licensing boards is to act outside my scope of practice and write a letter recommending custody arrangement without being a designated child custody evaluator. Evaluators have special training and know to interview the parents, the child, and other significant people in the child’s life before providing the court with a custody recommendation.

I will remember that one of the easiest way to lose my license is by driving under the influence.

  • I will use solid judgment before, during and after I drink alcohol or use street drugs and make sure that I do not drive under the influence, not only for the fear of breaking the law or losing my license, but the danger I pose to others.

When I join the rapidly growing number of therapists who practice TeleMental Health, I will get appropriate training so that TeleMental Health will fall within my scope of knowledge and expertise:

  • As TeleMental Health becomes increasingly popular and prevalent among mental health professionals, I understand the importance of realizing basic TeleMental Health principles and facts. For instance, Skype is not HIPAA compliant, the complexities of practicing across state lines, providing clients with informed consent, and the many factors regarding HIPAA, privacy, confidentiality, and much more. 

I will commit to being flexible and attend to, when it is ethical, legal and clinically appropriate, each client’s individual clinical needs, personality, and mental state:

  • It is important to remember the obvious: not all our clients are created equal. Some clients are likely to benefit from therapy that is conducted in their home or outside the office. Others may find it helpful if their therapists are more transparent. Still others may prefer a bartering arrangement rather than the traditional fee arrangement. In other words, flexibility is important. Matching therapeutic interventions with clients’ personalities, diagnoses, backgrounds, preferences, and needs is likely to increase therapeutic efficacy. 

I will commit to give and accept appropriate and ethical gifts to and from my clients. This is especially pertinent in the holiday season. The holiday season provides therapists the opportunity to consider the clinical benefits of giving and receiving appropriate and ethical gifts from clients:

  • None of the codes of ethics of major professional organizations forbid all giving or receiving of gifts from clients.
  • Appropriate gifts in therapy are ethical and enhance authentic therapeutic relationships. Authentic therapeutic alliance is one of the best predictors of therapeutic outcomes. 
  • Rejecting clients’ clinically appropriate gifts is likely to be perceived as personal rejection, or even as insult, and may harm the therapeutic alliance or end therapy.
  • Gifts can be appropriate or inappropriate in regard to their type, monetary value, timing, content, intent of the giver, perception of the receiver, and their effect on the giver or the receiver.


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