Preventing Problems Related to the Management of Client Images
The therapy session is nearly over, and you and your client have wrapped up all agenda items for the day. But there’s a residual that still needs to be dealt with before the client leaves: the art that was made in session.
In light of the fact that this art is a tangible record of the client’s psychological condition, what is going to become of it after the session ends? The answer might depend upon your setting. In some treatment settings art products made during the course of therapy are considered part of the medical record and must be kept according to legal standards and regulations. In some treatment settings the client is considered the owner of these art products. Then there are the treatment settings that fall somewhere in between with respect to the handling of client images. What are the possible image management problems that might occur in any of these cases, and how can you work proactively to prevent them from happening in your treatment setting?
There aren’t easy answers to this multifaceted question, as treatment settings are not created equally. If you use art with clients, it’s within your best interest to educate yourself about options for preventing such problems by sifting through existing ethics/best practices documents that address issues related to the management of client images. As I was developing the ethics presentation I provide for mental health professionals, I poured over a long list of ethics/best practices documents and found five that acknowledge such issues (some to a greater extent than others):
- American Art Therapy Association (AATA): Ethical Principles for Art Therapists 05/24/2011 http://www.americanarttherapyassociation.org
- American Counseling Association (ACA): Code of Ethics 2005 http://www.counseling.org
- American Psychological Association (APA): Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct 06/01/2010 http://www.apa.org
- Art Therapy Credentials Board (ATCB): Code of Professional Practice 03/04/2011 http://www.atcb.org
- Association for Play Therapy (APT): Play Therapy Best Practices 2009 http://www.a4pt.org
In reviewing these documents and sensitizing yourself to the issues that are unique to the management of client images, you’ll be able to assess how your handling of these images protects clients or leaves you and your clients at risk. You might want to engage in consultation or supervision to come up with a game plan that is best suited to your treatment setting. Prevention is the best medicine, so don’t wait until it’s too late; it’s the perfect time to tighten up your practices as they relate to what you do with client art. If not now, then when?
With appreciation for the important work you do,
Megan December 2012