By Ofer Zur, Ph.D.
Our profession is inundated with all kinds of unquestioned faulty beliefs regarding what is always right, ethical, legal, or what one must do or not do in certain situations. Such unfounded urban legends that haunt therapists are often fueled by fear and a rigid risk management ideology.
Following is a short list of the 8 most common faulty beliefs:
Myth #1: If a client drops out of therapy, we must follow up with a registered letter and make a referral.
Fact: Clients have the right to terminate therapy any time they wish. While sometimes a follow up letter expressing our concern and offering to give referrals is appropriate, at other times it may not be necessary or appropriate.
Myth #2: Outgoing answering machine messages must mention 911.
Fact: Except in special clinics/situations, there are neither ethics codes nor acceptable standards that mandate all therapists to include a “911” directive in their outgoing phone message. In fact, having the statement, “If this is an emergency, go to the nearest emergency room or call 911,” may hurt a therapist’s private practice.
Myth #3: Dual relationships are always unethical.
Fact: This myth is not only incorrect, some multiple relationships are unavoidable, while others are mandated.
Myth #4: The DSM & ICD is a scientific and valid document.
Fact: The DSM & ICD is a document that has been developed to some extent in service to the psychopharmacological and psychiatric industries. It pathologizes many normal behaviors so that medications can be prescribed.
Resources on DSM:
Free Article on DSM Critique
Myth #5: Touching a client is likely to lead to sex.
Fact: This myth evolved from a paranoid concept that sexualizes most forms of touch.
Myth #6: Therapists are always more powerfun than their “inherently vulnerable” clients.
Fact: This is a self-serving myth that has gone unquestioned for too long. Some of our clients are powerful attorneys, successful CEOs, established physicians, renowned artists, or successful fellow therapists.
Myth #7: Clinicians must use DSM/ICD Diagnoses in treatment plans.
Fact: There is a myth that giving a DSM diagnosis is mandated as part of the initial assessment or treatment plan for all clients. The fact is that many family, humanistic, group, and other therapists do not find DSM/ICD diagnoses very relevant or helpful.
Myth #8: Face-to-face therapy is superior to phone or e-therapy.
Fact: Different clients can benefit from different interventions. Phone therapy/intervention has been known to be very effective in suicide prevention and in the treatment of many conditions.