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Therapeutic Ethics and the Movies: What Films Can Teach Psychotherapists About Ethics and Boundaries in Therapy

6 CE Credits/Hours - Online Course - $60.00

Co-Developed by Birgit Wolz, Ph.D. and Ofer Zur, Ph.D.

Course fulfills the California and other states' ethics and law requirements. Course may qualify for insurance discount. Check with your insurer.

This course is also offered as part of a Treatment & Education Through Cinema Certificate Program of 37 CE Credits.

This course includes materials consisting of:

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General Course Description

This unique course on therapeutic ethics and boundaries uses movie vignettes to discuss ethical dilemmas. The course focuses on five areas: Confidentiality, Self-Disclosure, Touch, Dual Relationships and Out-Of-Office Experiences (i.e., home visits, in-vivo exposures, attending a wedding, incidental encounters, etc). Each of the above five topics is reviewed in depth followed by a series of movie vignettes and ethical commentary on the vignettes.

Themes in movies have long shown a fascination with therapeutic boundaries. What About Bob depicts a client who crosses the therapeutic boundary and follows his analyst on his vacation. Good Will Hunting shows a counselor who grabs a client, uses foul language and conducts therapy on a bench by the river. Antwone Fisher describes a client being invited to a family dinner with his therapist. Prime takes us into the complexities of dual relationships when the client is also the lover of the therapist's son. Many movies, such as Basic Instinct and Mr. Jones, depict the ultimate boundary issue -- sexual relationships between therapist and client. Prince of Tides puts a twist on boundaries and depicts a sexual relationship between a therapist and the client's brother.

This intermediate-level course is comprised of nine online articles. The first article provides a general introduction on boundary ethics in therapy and the next five articles cover the following topics: Self-Disclosure, Dual Relationships, Confidentiality, Touch and Out-of-Office Encounters. Each chapter provides an in-depth analysis of the topic followed by a description of movie vignettes and an ethical commentary. The seventh article provides descriptions and details of the movies included in the above five articles, and the last two articles provide an update on California law and an extensive reference list on therapeutic boundaries.

Due to copyright laws, this course does not include movie clips, only descriptions of the movies.

Disclaimer: This course is purely educational and does not intend to serve as a license (or permission) to mental health professionals to prescribe or practice any of the approaches discussed in this course unless they fall within the scope of practice of your profession. Check with your licensing board about the scope of practice of your profession to make sure you practice within that scope.

Educational Objectives

This course will teach psychotherapists to:

1.    Ethically deal with issues of Confidentiality, Self-Disclosure, Dual Relationships, Touch and Out-of-Office Encounters.

2.    Apply the updates on professional organizations' codes of ethics to the issues of Confidentiality, Self-Disclosure, Dual Relationships, Touch and Out-of-Office Encounters.

3.    Apply their ethical decision-making process to Confidentiality, Self-Disclosure, Dual Relationships, Touch and Out-of-Office Encounters.

4.    Employ updates on California law and regulations on boundaries.

5.    Further utilize their ability for critical thinking as it pertains to ethical decision-making.

Course Syllabus

  • Therapeutic Boundaries: Introductory Article
  • Confidentiality: Ethical and Clinical Considerations
    • Confidentiality in the Movies (i.e., Good Will Hunting, Antwone Fisher, Girl Interrupted, Grosse Pointe Blank, Ordinary People, Prime, Prince of Tides, Stay)

  • Self-Disclosure: Ethical and Clinical Considerations
    • Selfdisclosure in the Movies (i.e., Antwone Fisher, Bliss, Dressed to Kill, France, House of Games, K-Pax, Ordinary People, Prime, What About Bob?)

  • Dual Relationships: Ethical and Clinical Considerations
    • Dual Relationships in the Movies (i.e., Basic Instinct, Dressed to Kill, House of Games, Mr. Jones, Prime, Prince of Tides, Stay, What about Bob?)

  • Touch: Ethical and Clinical Considerations
    • Touch in the Movies (i.e., Antwone Fisher, Bliss, Dressed to Kill, Frances, Girl, Interrupted, Good Will Hunting, K-Pax)

  • Out-of-Office Encounters: Ethical and Clinical Considerations
    • Out-of-Office Encounters in the Movies (i.e., Antwone Fisher, Bliss, Dressed to Kill, Good Will Hunting, K-Pax, Prime, Prince of Tides, Stay, What About Bob?)

  • California Law in Regard to Therapeutic Boundaries
  • References and Resources
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