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Being in dangerous territory: Ethical decision-making and boundary negotiations

Friday, April 15, 2016, 9AM to 4:30PM

at the Washington School of Psychiatry, 5028 Wisconsin Ave NW #400, Washington, DC 20016

Sponsored by the WSP Developmental Seminar Faculty


Marc A. Nemiroff, Ph.D.

Georgia A. DeGangi, Ph.D., OTR

Kristin Lee, Psy.D.

Jimmy Venza, Ph.D.


Ruth Zitner, Psy.D. and Griffin Doyle, Ph.D.


Elizabeth Maury, Ph.D


CE Award and Fees


Regular Fee $180
Current WSP members $120
Current WSP students $60
(Other students please contact the Administrative Office.)


This workshop will explore the ethical challenges facing clinicians working in different modalities, especially when issues of danger and client safety emerged within the therapy.  The workshop will highlight the additional complexities for clinical decision-making and boundary negotiation amidst differences of views from collaborating therapists and other providers.  Ample time will be provided for reflection about the ethical dilemmas highlighted by two cases.  Role playing will also be used to dramatize familiar clinical quagmires and stimulate discussion around solid ethical decision-making.


  • How to recognize ethical questions and boundary blurring when danger is present
  • What are the essential steps to ethical practice within high risk situations
  • Best practice ethical decision-making  and boundary negotiation
  • How best to support other therapists’ ethical decision-making when not aligned with one’s own.
  • Developing fresh ethical lenses for supporting safety in therapeutic intervention.
  • How do therapists avoid the pull toward “action” and away from reflection in ethical decision-making


9:00-9:30am:      Welcome and introduction
9:30-10:30am:    Dangerous Territory in Couples Therapy
10:30-10:45am   Break
10:45-12:00pm  Discussion
12:00-1:00pm     Lunch
1:00 - 2:00pm     Role play: Exploring common ethical challenges
2:00 – 3:00pm    Dangerous Territory in Child Therapy
3:00 – 3:15pm    Break
3:15-4:00pm       Discussion          
4:15 -4:30pm      Summary reflection

Learning Objectives:

  1. Participants will be able to identify potential ethical pitfalls within couples therapy.
  2. Participants will be able to identify ways to respond when danger factors enter into couples treatment.
  3. Participants will be able to consider varying ways to respond ethically when there is conflicting assessment of dangerousness among involved clinicians.
  4. Participants will understand and be able to operationalize the distinction between boundary crossing and boundary violation.
  5. Participants will be able to evaluate ethical decisions when another therapist on the treatment team takes actions that possibly jeopardize the treatment plan and the emotional and physical safety of the client.
  6. Participants will apply compassionate clinical reasoning in negotiating complex family dynamics in treatment, particularly when the goals for one family member conflict with and obstruct the goals of others in the family - and when one parent becomes incapacitated.


Brown, P.D., & O’Leary, K.D. (2000).  Therapeutic alliance:  Predicting continuance and success in group treatment for spouse abuse.  Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 68, 340-345.

O’Leary, K. D., & Williams, M. C. (2006) Agreement about acts of physical aggression in marriage.  Journal of Family Psychology, 20, 656-662.

Finkelstein, L. (1987).  Toward an object relations approach in psychoanalytic couple therapy.  Journal of Couple and Family Therapy, 13, 287-298.

Scharff, D. & Scharff, J.  (1991)  Object Relations Couple Therapy, Jason Aronson, Northvale, NJ

Knapp, S. J., & VandeCreek, L.D. (2006)  Practical Ethics for Psychologists.  American Psychological Association, Washington, D.C.

Gurman, A.  (2008)  Clinical Handbook of Couple Therapy.  Guildford Press, New York.



Online registration is closed. There is still space available, so please call the office if you would like to attend.

Cancellations and Refunds

Refunds will be made for cancellations received at the School office in writing at least 10 days before the seminar date and are subject to a non-refundable administrative fee of $50.

Who should attend?

The workshop is intended for psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, psychiatric nurses, licensed professional counselors, marriage and family therapists, physicians, medical students, and other graduate students.


The Washington School of Psychiatry is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. The Washington School of Psychiatry maintains responsibility for this program and its content.

The School is approved by the Social Work Board of the State of Maryland as a provider of continuing education for social workers in DC, MD, VA and WV.

The Washington School of Psychiatry has been approved by NBCC as an Approved Continuing Education Provider, ACEP No. 6388. Programs that do not qualify for NBCC credit are clearly identified. The Washington School of Psychiatry is solely responsible for all aspects of the program.

The School is accredited by MedChi, The Maryland State Medical Society to provide continuing medical education for physicians.

The School designates each session for a maximum of _ of AMA PRA Category I Credit(s)™. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.

Disclosure of Commercial Support and the Unlabeled use of a commercial product. No member of the planning committee and no member of the faculty for this event have a financial interest or other relationship with any commercial product.