Thursday, March 24, 2016

Ethics and Sex, Part 2

Part 1 of this topic touched upon the reasons why sexual contact between therapist and patient is harmful, and covered the standards in the Code of Ethics that dictate proper sexual behavior between therapist and patient.

There are additional guidelines for sexual contact with colleagues:  

The Code prohibits sexual contact with a colleague who is your supervisee, student, trainee, or anyone else over whom you have authority (standard 2.07[a]). 

It’s advised against having a sexual relationship with other colleagues if there is any potential for conflict of interest (standard 2.07[b]). 

Sexual harassment between colleagues is also prohibited (standard 2.08).

How should you go about answering exam questions about sexual content?

If there is a question on the exam about you as the therapist having romantic or sexual feelings for a client, obviously don’t select answers that involve you acting on your feelings. 

However, the correct answer usually isn’t to terminate immediately, either.  You can’t realistically terminate everyone to whom you feel attraction.  

Sometimes the best answer on the test includes talking about the sexual/romantic attraction with the client.  However, the “best-best” answer usually involves seeking consultation with a colleague to process your feelings.

Specifically for California test-takers, if you learn someone has previously had a sexual relationship with their therapist, you should give them the booklet entitled Professional Therapy Never Includes Sex.

Also important to note -- If you learn that a minor client has had sexual contact with their therapist, that is a mandated report of child abuse.

The booklet states that “A national study revealed that probably fewer than 10 percent of all therapists have had sexual contact with their patients,” though it does not give a citation for that study.  Anyone know it? 

Regardless, any number of therapists having sexual contact with clients is too many, and up to 10% is an astonishingly large number.  So although this topic may seem obvious, it bears reminding – don’t do it!

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