- Center for Ethical Practice - https://centerforethicalpractice.org -

Informed Consent With Couples and Families

Informed consent is a process, not a one-time event; and that process can become complicated with couples and families. We will review both ethical responsibilities and legal considerations to answer questions such as:

Who Must Be Informed? About What? When?
From Whom Must We Obtain Consent? For What? When?
At the initial session, what topics must we cover and whose consent must we obtain?
After theĀ understandings, when must the conversation be reopened?


I. Ethical Standards Governing Informed Consent With Couples and Families

II. Practical Issues Related to Informed Consent

A. Obtaining Information (Informing the Therapist)

B. Providing Information (Informing the Clients)

C. Obtaining Consent

D. Documenting Informed Consent

E. Re-Opening the Conversation

III. Potential Pitfalls If Not Clarified in Initial Informed Consent Conversation

A. Confidentiality and Its Limits

B. Policies About Structure (e.g., Individual Sessions as Well as Couple/Family?)

C. Billing (Insurance, Managed Care, Diagnosis, “Identified Patient”

D. Potential Risks – Possible Positive and Negative Outcomes

E. Issues Re: Minors’ Rights in Family Therapy

IV. Anticipating Future Issues That Have Informed Consent Implications

A. What If Not All Parties Appear for a Session? (e.g., Meet Anyway vs. Cancel?)

B. What If One Party Wants to “Drop Out” of the Therapy?

C. What If the Marital/Couple Relationship Ends?

D. What If Couple or Family Therapy Becomes a Divorce/Custody Case?

Educational Goals:
1. List the Ethical Standards relevant to informed consent with couples and families.
2. Describe some of the pracical issues when planning for informed consent conversations.
3. List some of the potential pitfalls if informed consent conversations are not clear and complete