Dating my former therapist


The American Counseling Association Code of Ethics, Section A.5.b, prohibits intimate relations for five years.The NASW Code of Ethics, Section 1.09(a), prohibits social workers from engaging in “sexual activities or sexual contact with current clients, whether such contact is consensual or forced.” Section 1.09(c) states that “social workers should not engage in sexual activities or sexual contact with former clients because of the potential for harm to the client.” However, it further states, “If social workers engage in conduct contrary to this prohibition or claim that an exception to this prohibition is warranted because of extraordinary circumstances, it is social workers—not their clients—who assume the full burden of demonstrating that the former client has not been exploited, coerced, or manipulated, intentionally or unintentionally.” Of course, this would be a difficult—if not impossible—burden to meet if it came before an ethics committee.

Imagine these scenarios: You are interested in politics in your community and decide to run for school board. Ten, fifteen, or more years later, that patient becomes a prominent, top in their field, attorney, surgeon, or other highly specialized professional.If a therapist and former patient meet some 10 or 15 years after the last therapeutic session and develop a personal relationship, get married, and have children, can we say that an ethical violation or a crime has been committed?If we believe “once a client, always a client,” then that logically follows.Nonetheless, it leaves open the possibility, as rare as it may be, and does not claim that “once a client, always a client.” In most all states, laws prohibiting sex with clients are limited to current or recent clients. However, assuming the former client does not file any complaint, how enforceable would such laws be?For example, what if the former therapist and patient got married, were in a committed relationship, and had children?And if so, what are the logical ramifications or consequences?

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