Psychology ethics dating patients
ACA Chief Professional Officer David Kaplan conducted the following interview with ACA Ethical Code Revision Task Force Chair Michael Kocet. Sexual or romantic interactions with clients continue to be prohibited? The 2005 ACA Code of Ethics continues to recognize the harm that can be impacted upon clients when they are sexually intimate with their counselor.
David Kaplan: Today we are going to be talking about changes around sexual or romantic relationships specifically as they relate to Standard A.5. To start off, my understanding from the new code is that sexual or romantic interactions between a counselor and a current client continue to be prohibited. DK: However, some things that do change include increasing the number of intervening years that must pass in order to have a romantic/sexual relationship with a former client and a new prohibition on romantic/sexual relationships with the family members and romantic partners of clients. The counseling relationship is one based on trust, so we must respect the power differential inherent in any counseling relationship regardless of the counselor’s theoretical orientation or perspective.
All ACA members are required to abide by the ACA Code of Ethics, and 22 state licensing boards use it as the basis for adjudicating complaints of ethical violations.
As a service to members, Counseling Today is publishing a monthly column focused on new or updated aspects of the ACA Code of Ethics (the ethics code is also available online at
Editor’s note: American Counseling Association members received the 2005 ACA Code of Ethics bundled with the December 2005 issue of Counseling Today.
They may be depressed, perhaps thinking of killing themselves.
However, research tells us that the power imbalance remains strong, even after time has passed, and that romance in this situation is usually still emotionally damaging to the one who was the client.
Hormones, brain chemistry, and emotional issues often inadvertently conspire to lead us toward unhealthy romantic choices, which is why therapists are clearly instructed that “Professional Therapy Never Includes Sex” (this is the name of a pamphlet that every single therapist-in-training in California receives on several occasions).
They may be unhappy in their work or relationships, and not know how to bring about change.
They may be suffering trauma from rape, incest, or domestic violence.
Nevertheless, research suggests that perpetrators account for about 4.4% of therapists (7% of male therapists; 1.5% of female therapists) when data from national studies are pooled.