Sexual Misconduct in Counselor-Client Relationships
- Sexual Misconduct –Engaging in sexual or romantic counselor-client interaction or relationships with current clients, their romantic partners, or family members. (ACA Code A.5.a,b)
WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?
- Any type of erotic contact (touching body parts, directly or through clothes)
- sexual conversations
- expressing sexual fantasies
- nonverbal sexual innuendo
- provocative clothing
- seductive behavior
WHO IS AT FAULT?
- The counselor is the one in power. It is his or her duty to set appropriate professional boundaries and then follow through on the enforcement of them.
POSSIBLE WARNING SIGNS INCLUDE:
- Inappropriate sexual jokes or references made by the practitioner.
- Having concern that a treatment relationship is moving from the professional to the inappropriately personal.
- When the practitioner tells you his or her intimate personal problems.
- When the practitioner asks you to go outside the bounds of a professional relationship (e.g. – going on a dinner date, or social meeting outside the office).
- When the practitioner tells you that having a sexual relationship with him or her is good treatment/the only way you can get well.
- When the practitioner offers recreational drugs or alcohol.
- When the practitioner asks you to keep your relationship with him or her a secret.
- When the practitioner suggests to you that intimate forms of touching have been proven to be therapeutic for your condition.
CHARACTERISTICS OF THOSE RISK IT? (Remley & Herlihy, 2007, chap. 8.)
- Borderline Traits
- Ego driven
MORE SPECIFICALLY: (Dileo, 2000, chap. 6)
- Naive therapists.
- Neurotic therapists.
- Severely neurotic therapists.
- Therapists with character disorders and impulse control problems.
- Sociopathic or narcissistic therapists.
- Psychotic or borderline.
- Classic sex offenders.
- Medically disabled therapists (i.e. neurological impairments leading to impaired judgment, and bipolar therapists)
- Masochist or self-defeating behaviors.
WHAT DO THEY HAVE IN COMMON?
- boundary violations
The WHY is different, but the result is the same.
HARM TO CLIENTS:
- fear, isolation and distrust, often leading to depression, feeling out of control, or even suicidal
- indecision/temporary inability to make decisions, to work at a job, or to tend to personal needs
- guilt, shame, and feelings of responsibility
- recurrent nightmares, fears or images of intrusion/flashbacks about the experience, and difficulty concentrating in other areas of life
- identity/boundary/role confusion
- suppressed rage
OTHER RELATED FIELDS:
- Social Workers
- Police Officers
Crossing the Line:
Baker, T.R. (1996). Sexual misconduct among students: Title IX court decisions in the aftermath of Franklin vs. Gwinnett County. West’s Education Law Quarterly, 5(4), 569-589.
Dileo, C. (2000). Ethical thinking in music therapy. Cherry Hill, NJ: Jeffrey Books.
NBCOT (National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy), (2003). Sexual misconduct in professionals. Retrieved April 2009. http://www.nbcot.org/webarticles/anmviewer.asp?a=65&z=13
Somer, E., Saadon, M. (1999). Therapist-client sex: Clients’ retrospective reports. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 30(5), 204-209.
Remley, T. P., & Herlihy, B. (2007). Ethical, legal, and professional issues in counseling (Updated 2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.
Young, J.L., & Griffith, E.E.H. (1995). Regulating pastoral counseling practice: The problem of sexual misconduct. The Bulletin of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 23(3), 421-432.