Sex with Therapy Clients: Its Prevalence, Potential Consequences and Implications for Psychology Training

By Seto, Michael C. | Canadian Psychology, February 1995 | Go to article overview

Sex with Therapy Clients: Its Prevalence, Potential Consequences and Implications for Psychology Training


Seto, Michael C., Canadian Psychology


Abstract Sexual contact between psychotherapists and clients has received growing public and professional attention in the past 15 years. Although such contact is explicitly prohibited by the national psychological associations in Canada and the United States, some psychologists become sexually involved with their clients. A review of the literature suggests the potential consequences for clients can be serious and wide-ranging, including anxiety, depression, and other symptoms resembling post-traumatic stress disorder. Offending psychologists face a variety of professional and legal penalties if they are identified and prosecuted. The recent decision by the Supreme Court of Canada on Norberg vs Wynrib and the amended Ontario Regulated Health Professions Act of 1991 are discussed in terms of their possible impact on the legal status of therapist-client sex. Suggestions for psychology training programs on how to prepare students to appropriately handle sexual attraction to clients and deal with related ethical issues are summarized.

Concerns about sexual contact between providers of health care and their clients were expressed as long ago as the fourth century B.C., as indicated in the Hippocratic Oath:

In every house where I come, I will enter only for the good of my patients, keeping myself far from all intentional ill-doing and all seduction, and especially from the pleasures of love with women and men. (Dorland's Medical Dictionary, 1988, p. 768)

Today, the national psychological associations of Canada and the United States completely prohibit sexual involvements with current therapy clients and partially prohibit sexual involvements with former therapy clients in their ethical codes. The Canadian Psychological Association (CPA, 1991) cautions its members to "be acutely aware of the power relationship in therapy and, therefore, not engage in sexual intimacy with clients, neither during therapy nor for that period of time following therapy during which the power relationship could be expected to influence the client's personal decision making" (Principle II.26). Similarly, the American Psychological Association (APA, 1992) states that psychologists "do not engage in sexual intimacies with current patients or clients" (Principle 4.05), and "do not engage in sexual intimacies with a former therapy patient or client for at least two years after cessation or termination of professional services... [and even after two years have passed] the psychologists who engages in such activity ... bears the burden of demonstrating that there has been no exploitation" (Principle 4.07). The APA code also prohibits psychologists from providing therapy to "persons with whom they have engaged in sexual intimacies" (Principle 4.06). The texts of both ethical codes do not specifically prohibit sexual involvement with a client receiving psychological services outside of therapy. However, prohibitions of sexual involvement after therapy ends or with clients receiving psychological services outside of therapy have been made at the regional level (e.g., Ontario(f.1).

PREVALENCE

Although the true base rate of therapist-client sexual contact is unknown, estimates based on self-report surveys of therapists are consistent. These survey results probably underestimate the prevalence of therapist-client sexual contact because some therapists who engage in this behaviour will not acknowledge it, even if they are assured of anonymity. On the other hand, it is unlikely that therapists would report sexual contact that did not actually occur. Pope (1988) reviewed eight American prevalence studies published between 1983 and 1987 and reported that, unadjusted for sample size, 8.3% of male and 1.7% of female psychologists and psychiatrists reported having sexual contact with a client. Most cases involved male therapists and female clients but other therapist-client combinations, including triads and larger groups, were also represented. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Sex with Therapy Clients: Its Prevalence, Potential Consequences and Implications for Psychology Training
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.