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MK: The task force prohibited sexual or intimate relationships with family members because counselors engaging in such relationships with client’s relatives can have a harmful impact on clients.
The fact that sexual contact is the only exclusion contained in a malpractice policy indicates how harmful sexual contact is to a client.The old 1995 code stated that counselors were to avoid sexual intimacies with former clients within two years of termination.The revised 2005 code expands the time frame to five years.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.The main goal of counseling should be to focus on the best interests and welfare of the client.
Counselors cannot know each and every relationship or relative of clients, but counselors should not knowingly engage in such relationships. Suppose a counselor is engaged to be married and finds out from looking at the wedding invitations that one of her long-term clients is a very close cousin of her fiancé.Why did the Ethical Code Revision Task Force decide to increase this prohibition to five years?MK: While some may see the exact number of years delineated as arbitrary, the reason a ban on sexual/romantic relationships with former clients was increased to five years was that we wanted there to be a little more time for the counselor to be reflective and to give more time for closure of the counseling relationship. Due to this factor people with erectile dysfunction fail to get an erection or they lose it during sexual relations. These physical problems prevent sufficient blood flow in this penis, needed for an erection, when an individual is sexually thrilled. Editor’s note: American Counseling Association members received the 2005 ACA Code of Ethics bundled with the December 2005 issue of Counseling Today.