Sexual Contact with Clients is Always Wrong
- Sexual contact, in any form, between a psychologist or psychological associate and a recipient of psychological services is strictly prohibited by law and by the College. The profession maintains a zero tolerance policy for any form of sexual contact/abuse of a client by a member.
- Such conduct by a psychologist or psychological associate is always unacceptable, under any circumstances. It can never help, but can cause serious harm.
- Most psychologists and psychological associates adhere to professional standards and ethics and care about their clients. A very small number may behave unethically and not in ways which are best for their clients.
- Psychological services are built upon a trusting and objective relationship; bringing sex into the relationship destroys both trust and objectivity.
- Clients trust that their health care practitioner has the expertise to help them with their problems, and often disclose personal information that would not normally be revealed. Clients expect that the practitioner will respect, and not abuse, this trust.
- There is an unequal balance of power and influence between a client and health care practitioner and it is impossible for a client to give meaningful consent to any sexual involvement in the context of the professional relationship.
Appropriate and Inappropriate Interactions
- It is often normal for clients to develop feelings of love, affection, and even sexual attraction towards a helping professional. A good, caring professional knows that it is harmful to exploit those feelings by either initiating or consenting to a sexual relationship. Instead, the professional will help clients find others in their lives with whom they can develop loving, caring, and mutually fulfilling relationships.
- Not all touching is inappropriate. Appropriate touching in a professional relationship may take the form of a comforting hug or congratulatory pat on the back. This is fine as long as it feels that way to the client.
- Ethical professional practice may include talking about sex if it is relevant to the client’s concerns.
Advice for Clients who may have been Abused
- It is very common for people who have been sexually involved with a professional to feel confused about what has happened, and sometimes to simultaneously feel both love and rage at the professional. While it can be very frightening to seek out another professional, it can be helpful to seek help from a qualified therapist to talk about these feelings and your experience.
- If you think your professional’s behavior has been inappropriate, report the professional’s actions to a supervisor, an agency/facility director, and to the College.
- You may be concerned that your therapist will find out that you raised concerns about him or her. You may worry about his or her job, reputation, or marriage. Unfortunately, often professionals who have sexual contact with their clients take advantage of this natural desire not to cause harm to another person. If a professional has taken advantage of you in this way, the person who has been betrayed is you. Be aware that if no one reports the professional’s unethical behavior, the professional is likely to harm others as well.
- Sexual relationships between professionals and their clients are never the fault of the patient. You are not to blame if this has happened to you, even if you were the one who first felt and expressed attraction for the professional. It is the professional’s responsibility not to exploit your feelings of love and attraction.
- Some professionals may engage in such behaviour under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or during a life crisis of their own, however this does not remove their responsibility.
Patients who were sexually abused by a psychologist or psychological associate may be eligible for funding from the College, paid directly to the therapist, to help pay for therapy or counselling required as a result of the sexual abuse. More information about the Funding for Therapy for Victims of Sexual Abuse Program is available on the College webiste (click here) or by contacting the College.
For further information, please contact the College of Psychologists of Ontario.
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Date Printed: 3/10/2014 2:56:41 PM