Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Edward L. Trembley

Second Advisor

Dr. Joseph R. Morris

Third Advisor

Dr. Donald T. Thompson


Ethical decision-making is a crucial part of the daily practice of psychologists. Psychologists are faced with the challenge of developing ethical decision-making strategies that effectively address the dilemmas associated with dual relationships. Nonsexual dual relationship is defined in this research as a clinical professional relationship that occurs simultaneously with a nonsexual professional and/or personal relationship. Psychologists, regardless of the environment in which they work or the client population with whom they work, can experience a nonsexual dual relationship.

The current study investigated whether ethnographic therapist characteristics influence the interpretation and application of the APA Ethical Guidelines and thus psychologists’ decision-making regarding nonsexual dual relationships outside o f therapy. The investigation was conducted through a national survey of 130 doctoral level psychologists at 41 APA-accredited university-counseling centers. Specifically, the major purpose of the survey was to assess psychologists’ self-reported practices and behaviors with clients relative to nonsexual dual relationships. The participants were asked to respond to three research instruments: (1) a Demographic Information Form used to obtain demographic data about the psychologists’ training, years of practice in a university counseling center, location of practice, diversity of their clientele, and personal data; (2) the Inventory for Dual Relationship Judgments, which consisted of scenarios pertaining to nonsexual dual relationships outside of therapy; and (3) the Ethical Beliefs and Behaviors of College Counseling Center Professionals (Sherry, Teschendorf Anderson, & Guzman, 1991), which ascertained descriptive data about the respondents’ practices and behaviors.

Two types of analysis were used in this study. One involved descriptive analysis, which was used in this research to describe the demographics of the participants. The second type of analysis allowed the researcher to address the five research questions that guided this study. The data were tested using the t test of independent samples, one-way analysis of variance, Scheffe multiple comparison test, and standard multiple regression.

The findings revealed that individual psychologists considered several factors when indicating their ethical behaviors and practices regarding nonsexual dual relationships. The findings revealed several factors that influenced individual psychologists’ decision-making process when encountering a client in a potential nonsexual dual relationship.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access