An Investigation of Psychologistsand#8217; and Medical Practitionersand#8217; Responses to Overlapping Relationships in the Context of Mental Health Care | OMICS International | Abstract
ISSN: 2161-0711

Journal of Community Medicine & Health Education
Open Access

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Research Article

An Investigation of Psychologists’ and Medical Practitioners’ Responses to Overlapping Relationships in the Context of Mental Health Care

Rosemary Anderson* and David Pierce

Department of Rural Health, University of Melbourne, Ballarat, Victoria, Australia

*Corresponding Author:
Rosemary Anderson
University of Melbourne, Department of Rural Health
806 Mair Street, Ballarat, Victoria 3350, Australia
Tel: +61343016814
E-mail: [email protected]

Received date: Apr 23, 2015; Accepted date: May 28, 2015; Published date: Jun 3, 2015

Citation: Anderson R, Pierce D (2015) An Investigation of Psychologists’ and Medical Practitioners’ Responses to Overlapping Relationships in the Context of Mental Health Care. J Community Med Health Educ 5: 348. doi: 10.4172/2161-0711.1000348

Copyright: © 2015 Anderson R, et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


Aim: The aim of this research was to investigate rural, regional and metropolitan psychologists’ and medical practitioners’ beliefs of ethical appropriateness of overlapping relationships, especially when they are concerned with mental health issues. It was hypothesised that rural practitioners would encounter more overlapping relationships with clients/patients than their urban counterparts and that psychologists would be less accepting of overlapping relationships than medical practitioners. Method: Psychologists (n=439) and medical practitioners (n=478) were recruited by email and mail to respond to 10 scenarios which described a range of overlapping personal/professional relationships in the context of common mental health care provision. Judgements about three scenarios that depicted incidental contact (small talk in the supermarket), a boundary crossing (accepting an invitation by a patient/client to an event) and a boundary violation (taking financial advantage of a patient/client) were measured. Group comparisons were undertaken using nonparametric analyses. Results: Psychologists living in rural areas were less concerned about a colleague’s acceptance of an invitation to a social event than their counterparts living in either a regional or large urban centre (Md=5, n=85), Z=-2.16, p=0.03, r=0.1). For each of the scenarios psychologists were more likely than medical practitioners to express ethical concern about the clinician behaviour. Experiencing previous overlapping relationships significantly influenced attributions of ethical concern for both psychologists and medical practitioners. Conclusions: Overlapping relationships are inevitable for the rural, regional and at times urban psychologist and medical practitioner. Managing overlapping relationships whilst living and working in rural environments creates atypical treatment situations that can be difficult for all health clinicians. Further research is required to understand the specific experience of clinicians whilst living and working in a ‘fish bowl’.