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Ethics of dating a former student

Does that mean that the counselor needs to call off her engagement?

MK: I talked to Rocco Cottone, Harriet Glosoff and Judy Miranti, three members of the Ethical Code Revision Task Force, about this scenario.

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.

MK: This is an important piece for counselors to understand and it is important to plan healthy alternative ways to meet their emotional and romantic needs.

Completed over a three-year period, this revision of the ethical code is the first in a decade and includes major updates in areas such as confidentiality, dual relationships, the use of technology in counseling, selecting interventions, record keeping, end-of-life issues and cultural sensitivity.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.It is really important that enough time has passed for the power differential to be resolved.It is also important to recognize that counselors can decide to make the personal choice to never engage in romantic or sexual relationships with former clients even though the ACA Code of Ethics allows one to do so after a five-year waiting period.

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The client may decide to maintain the counselor-client relationship, but the counselor is obligated to explore the potential risks and benefits to the change in relationship (i.e., seeing each other at family gatherings).

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