Engaging in any type of sexual or intimate relationship with a current client is abuse of power. Clients come into counseling emotionally and. Standards of ethical practice and professional conduct: sexual relationships. A client of the agency is considered a client of each counselor, social worker. Nonetheless, therapist sexual feelings to clients span an array of professional.
The same factors that led the client to place his or her trust and reliance in the lawyer also have the potential to place the lawyer in a position of dominance and the client in a position of vulnerability.
Because of the dependence that so often characterizes the attorney-client relationship, there is a significant possibility that a sexual relationship with a client resulted from the exploitation of the lawyer's dominant position and influence. Moreover, if a lawyer permits the otherwise benign and even recommended client reliance and trust to become the catalyst for a sexual relationship with a client, the lawyer violates one of the most basic ethical obligations; i. This same principle underlies the rules prohibiting the use of client confidences to the disadvantage of the client and the rules that seek to ensure that lawyers do not take financial advantage of their clients.
Impairment of the Ability to Represent the Client Competently  A lawyer must maintain his or her ability to represent a client dispassionately and without impairment to the exercise of independent professional judgment on behalf of the client. The existence of a sexual relationship between lawyer and client, under the circumstances proscribed by this rule, presents a significant danger that the lawyer's ability to represent the client competently may be adversely affected because of the lawyer's emotional involvement.
This emotional involvement has the potential to undercut the objective detachment that is demanded for adequate representation. A sexual relationship also creates the risk that the lawyer will be subject to a conflict of interest. Abusive therapists are often exceptionally adept at creating and nurturing these dynamics.
Exploited patients may learn from the therapist that the most important thing is to keep the sexual relationship secret so as not to harm the therapist's career. They may have been led to believe that the sexual relationship was an act of great self-sacrifice on the part of the therapist, a moral and ethical act that was the only way that the therapist could "cure" whatever was wrong with the patient. Ambivalence of this kind is often found among those who have experienced other forms of abuse.
Incest survivors, for example, may experience contradictory impulses to flee the abusive parent, and yet also to cling to and protect that same parent. Similarly, some battered women will desperately want to escape to safety but also feel an overwhelming impulse to submit to the batterer, to take all blame upon themselves, and to keep the battering secret from all others. Cognitive Dysfunction Many people who have been sexually involved with a therapist, whether the sex started before or after termination, will experience intense forms of cognitive dysfunction.
There may be interference with attention, memory, and concentration. The flow of experience will often been interrupted by unbidden thoughts, intrusive images, flashbacks, memory fragments, or nightmares.
These cognitive impairments may interfere significantly with the person's ability to work, to participate in social activities, and sometimes even to carry out the most routine aspects of self-care. Sometimes the pattern of consequences may fit the model of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Emotional Lability Emotional lability reflects the severe disruption of the person's characteristic ways of feeling in a way that is similar to cognitive dysfunction reflecting the severe disruption of the person's characteristic ways of thinking.
Intense emotions may erupt suddenly and without seeming cause, as if they were completely unrelated to the current situation. The emotional disconnect can be profound: Emotions begin to feel alien and threatening, as if they were unwanted intruders into the inner life.
Cognitive dysfunction can involve interrupting the flow of experience with unbidden thoughts, intrusive images, etc. The person begins to feel helpless, as if the emotions were completely out of control, as if he or she were at the mercy of a powerful, intrusive enemy, an occupying force.
Emptiness and Isolation People who have been sexually involved with a therapist may experience a subsequent sense of emptiness, as if their sense of self had been hollowed out, permanently taken away from them.
Frequently Asked Questions
The sense of emptiness is often accompanied by a sense of isolation, as if they were no longer members of society, cut off forever from feeling a social bond with other people. She wrote in If I am alone, I will cease to exist. Guilt People who become sexually involved with a therapist may become flooded with persistent, irrational guilt. The guilt is irrational because it is in all instances the therapist's responsibility to avoid sexually abusing a patient.
It is the therapist who has been taught, from the earliest days of training, that engaging in sex with patients is prohibited, no matter what the rationale.
It is the therapist whose ethics code clearly classifies sexual involvement with patients as a violation of ethical behavior. It is the therapist who is licensed by the state in recognition of the need to protect patients from unethical, unscrupulous, and harmful practices, and it is the licensing boards and regulations that clearly charge therapists with refraining from this form of behavior that can place patients at risk for pervasive harm.
As the research summarized in subsequent sections will show, gender effects in this area are significant. It is possible that gender may be associated with the ways in which this irrational guilt develops and is sustained. Psychiatrists Melanie Carr and Gail Robinson wrote: The almost universal expression of guilt and shame expressed by women who have been sexually involved with their therapists is a testament to the power of this conditioning" p.
Psychiatrist Virginia Davidson, analyzing the similarities between therapist-patient sex and rape, wrote: Women victims in both instances experience considerable guilt, risk loss of love and self-esteem, and often feel that they may have done something to "cause" the seduction.
As with rape victims, women patients can expect to be blamed for the event and will have difficulty finding a sympathetic audience for their complaint. Added to these difficulties is the reality that each woman has consulted a therapist, thereby giving some evidence of psychological disequilibrium prior to the seduction.
How the therapist may use this information after the woman decides to discuss the situation with someone else can surely dissuade many women from revealing these experiences. Impaired Ability to Trust When therapists intentionally and knowingly violate their patients' trust, as they do when they decide to become sexually involved with them, the effects on the patients' ability to trust can be profound and lasting.
Therapy may rest on a foundation of exceptional trust. People may walk into the offices of complete strangers and, if the stranger is a therapist, begin talking about thoughts, feelings, and impulses that they would reveal literally to no one else. Every state, appreciating the exceptionally sensitive nature of the "secrets" that patients may entrust to their therapists, have established in their laws a formal therapist-patient privilege. The ethics codes of all major mental health professions recognize the therapist's responsibility to maintain confidentiality when patients trust the therapist to the extent that they disclose personal information in therapy.
Beyond investing therapists with trust regarding their own privacy, confidentiality, and "secrets," patients trust therapists to act in a way consistent with patient well-fare and to avoid intentionally engaging in any behavior that not only is unethical and prohibited by law but also places the patient at so needless a risk for harm.
Sex Between Therapists and Clients
In some ways, therapy is similar to surgery. Patients agreeing to surgery allow themselves to be opened up physically because they have been led to believe that the process has some reasonable prospects of leading to improvement. They allow a professional to do to them--i.
- Client-Lawyer Relationship
- Ethical Considerations When a Client Crosses Sexual Boundaries
- Sexual Issues
What would happen to him? Would he shut down and be defensive to future treatment? These were the only questions I was asking at that point.
However, my supervisor sat me down and pointed out that in this situation, I was not just a therapist, but a woman who had just been violated. After long deliberation, many hours of supervisionconsultation, and extreme ambivalence, I chose to press charges against my client. This choice was considered in the long term interests of the client as well as my own self-care obligations.
Yet the obstacles were not over. After pressing charges, the next step I faced was deciding whether or not to continue working with my client as his therapist. It also warns psychologists against entering into a multiple relationship that could cause risk of exploitation or harm to the client. Part b of Standard 3.
As a novice psychologist in training, I felt that I had a lot to prove. I wanted to continue working with my client and also felt the need to demonstrate that I was capable of leaving my personal issues at the door. I wanted to be the best therapist that I could have been. Yet continuing therapy with my client would have been entering into a multiple relationship, one in which not only was I the therapist, but also his victim.
In addition, by pressing charges I had added a level of power over my client that could have negatively affected his ability to truly and successfully gain something from treatment.
Swallowing my pride, I terminated treatment with my client. This was done through a monitored session by my supervisor where my former client was given the opportunity to verbally and personally take accountability for his actions, express his feelings toward the termination of our professional relationship, and for me to express my own feelings about his actions and the subsequent consequences.
Although I was well educated on the theories, reasons, and understanding of the Ethics Code, I was unprepared for the ethical decisions I faced when a client of mine sexually assaulted me. Despite being the most difficult situation both personally and professionally in my career as a psychologist-in-training to date, it did present me and the client with great opportunities for growth.