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Trinity Presbytery

Communication from the Rev. Harold Bone


The following letter was sent as an opinion. I do not possess the authority of a committee chair in this area (probationers)- nor do I pretend to have such position. Nevertheless, I do wish to communicate my opinion as one single member of Trinity Presbytery. I, respectfully, request that this letter to be recorded by the Stated Clerk of Trinity Presbytery as a matter of business. It should stand that we as ministry professionals should eschew, all duel relationships, when and wherever possible. The following is my professional opinion. I am suggesting that Dr. Bob Weston, If he is agreeable, to mentor Ron Palmer. I am aware and respect that the authority to make this decision is with the committee on probationers. I wish to make my opinion known. I am fully aware that this issue is contingent on Mr. Palmer's acceptance by the committee on probationers. (Please see below).

Dear Dr. Weston and Rev Kessie,

Per Mr. Palmer's acceptance as a candidate for the ministry: Ronald Charles Palmer (one of my employees) will be requesting to enter care, as a candidate for the ministry, of Trinity Presbytery. "Ron" is a Pastoral Counselor in training with Ru'ah Pastoral Counseling and a doctoral student in counseling at St Mary's University.

 I cannot be his mentor; nor should Kevin Colvard be his mentor because this would constitute a duel relationship. Kevin is the pastor of our client church and I am Mr. Palmer's employer. Per Mr. Palmer's acceptance as a candidate for the ministry: A duel relationship exists:

... whenever a therapist (or other professional) interacts with a client in any capacity beyond the one role as therapist, for example, also being their client’s teacher, consultant, business partner, or sexual partner. If you perform a role other than therapist for your client, it may introduce desires and goals that are yours rather than the client’s and can risk the possibility that you will place your needs above theirs. Maintaining unselfish judgment is critical to your role as an effective, professional therapist.

Why Should You Avoid Duel Relationships?

Duel relationships seriously risk distorting and/or eroding the therapeutic relationship. While they nearly always prove damaging to both the therapist and the client, Duel relationships tend to be much more detrimental to the client, provoking such negative effects as:

· Interfering with or critically limiting the effective handling of such significant therapy relationship variables as transference.

· Exploiting the power differential inherent in the relationship between the therapist and their client to seduce or intimidate the client into a Duel relationship. Addressing such exploitations can be much more problematic for the client than confronting problems with other issues, such as fees, since they must overcome both the power differential and transference to express and assert their own needs.

· Closing the door to the client pursuing needed therapy in the future.

Duel relationships usually have subtle and innocuous beginnings and can be the consequence of the therapist’s inattention to the dynamics of the therapeutic relationship, or it could even stem from a genuine desire to provide additional help to the client. Duel relationships can also arise from a client’s own manipulation prompted by transference, pathology, or other issues.

Types of Duel Relationships

The many possible types of Duel relationships can be simplified into the following three categories:

Double Roles

Examples of double roles include providing therapy for friends, social acquaintances, or business contacts; being a client’s therapist and their teacher, dissertation advisor, or research supervisor; having a sexual relationship with a current or former client; conducting any kind of business relationship with a current or former client (e.g. mentor, partner, co-author, consultant, lender, debtor, etc.); providing psychological services to children of friends, colleagues, employees, or frequent social contacts.

Double Professions

The term double professions applies to situations in which a therapist serves in a second professional capacity for their client, for example, practicing law, medicine, or financial advising without a license.

Double Financial Relationships

This type of Duel relationship is defined by trading or bartering therapy for legal or professional services, goods, or discounts whether it’s determined by a dollar-for-dollar value or task-by-task basis.

Unavoidable Duel Relationships

Duel relationships are unavoidable in small communities, rural areas, or in the military. The APA ethics code addresses the issue of conflicting roles and recognizes that “in many communities and situations it may not be feasible or reasonable” (APA, 1992a, Section 1.17A) for a therapist to avoid nonprofessional or conflicting encounters with clients. While the code does not forbid Duel relationships, it does hold the therapist responsible for carefully and diligently keeping such multiple relationships (2011)

Dr. Weston, would you consider entering into a mentorship relationship with Ron Palmer? It is my professional opinion that assigning either myself or Kevin Colvard as mentor to Ron Palmer would create a dysfunctional duel relationship and would be a disservice to Mr. Palmer. Your help is greatly appreciated.

Grace and Peace

Rev. Harold Bone PhD

Reference (2011) "Duel Relationships," retrieved on July 28th 2013 from:

P.S. I have recused myself due to a conflict in interest. I have resigned from the committee on probationers.