Counselling Dilemma: Issues with a Separated Couple
You are co-facilitating a mediation session for Patricia and Jonathan White (a separated couple in their early 40s, with two children). In your first session, Patricia expresses clear opinions regarding residency arrangements for the children. Patricia is also steadfast in her beliefs about the fair division of assets and cash. Jonathan is equally sure in his beliefs and expresses these loudly and aggressively. After the first session with the couple, your co-facilitator mentions that she is familiar with the couple through a previous community agency she worked for. She discloses that she believes Jonathon has a history of domestic violence.
You decide to arrange supervision with your co-facilitator and manager to discuss the situation and your co-facilitator’s disclosure about Jonathon’s history. Before the meeting with your supervisor, however, Patricia calls to say that she and Jonathan have worked out an arrangement. The arrangement Patricia proceeds to outline suspiciously echoes the requests Jonathon expressed in mediation. It does not sound like a fair or equitable arrangement.
Patricia continues by saying that they will not be attending any further sessions and promptly hangs up.
As the counsellor, how would you proceed?
You can re-ensure to the client that our services are always here if need be. Unfortunatly you can’t tell people what to do. If the client has issues, you’d welcome them back nicely.
Would place a call to the local police and give them all the details that we had to date. Depending on the agency policy, send them a letter saying that they settled the matter but are welcome back at any time and that they can come for just a chat.
Following up with the police to make sure that there is or was any violence and go from there.
I have to agree with Chris on this one, whilst there is a duty of care element, they have withdrawn from the service and it would not be my place to report something to police when I have not told them I am doing so. I would also feel concerned that to some extent the knowledge about DV is second hand information, and not factual but a belief. Saying that I would feel very concerned and make a real effort to let them know they can return, together or individually.
No way can you interfere – at best, what you know is simply hearsay. Patricia has never expressed that her hubby has violent tendencies within the counselling sessions or that she has been afraid for her own safety…so you can’t take matters into your own hands here. Best thing you can do is call Patricia and advise her that if she’d ever like to return to your sessions then she’s more than welcome or if she’d prefer, you can refer her onwards to another counsellor. You cannot breach your colleagues confidentiality either by voicing your suspicions.