Sexual Misconduct among Therapists

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Therapists are instrumental in the society for their input in mentaland behavioral complications that befall the citizens. When patientspresent themselves for therapy, they usually develop a significantlevel of trust in the professional, and it sets the platform wherethey confide and share their problems. Most of the information giveto the therapists is classified to the patients, and it is notsupposed to find its way into the public domain. The level ofconfidence they develop with the professional may also put them in avulnerable situation whereby professional who do not uphold ethicsmay abuse them sexually (Glasgow, 2002). Although the available casesin the society are not so many to cause a public outcry, those whosuffer abuse may not recover completely and it might be a gateway toanother wave of mental distress. Although many people hold theprofessionals liable for any sexual misconduct perpetrated againstthe patient, it is imperative to note that the patients may alsowillingly engage the therapists. However, the American PsychologyAssociation is very clear on the boundaries that should exist incounseling and therapy session to protect the profession and thepatients.

Glasgow (2002) quoting the American Psychology Association sexualmisconduct extends to any unwanted sexual activity through the use offorce, making threats or taking undue advantage of the victim who maynot be in a position to give their consent. In this form ofmisconduct, the victim and the perpetrator know each other very andthey may have established a relationship that leads to themdeveloping trust. Luring the victim into the action is, therefore, aneasy task since most it is just a matter of time before the patientyields (Coy et al., 2015). According to , the victims of sexualmisconduct may suffer shock, fear or disbelief. There are alsosusceptible to develop long-term complications that include anxiety,fear and post-traumatic stress disorder. The problem exercabatesbecause the most effective method to treat such symptoms is throughtherapy. If the initial therapy and the relationship that patient hadwith their psychologists resulted in sexual misconduct, it becomesvery hard to have them develop trust with other therapists.

According to Reamer (2013), sexual tendency between therapists andclients is a significant phenomenon that the various professionalshave not recognized as a problem that requires a further enforcementof ethics. Research shows that clients suffer most from the outcomesof the perpetrated misconduct. Reamer also provides that the rate ofsexual misconduct in the United States stands at 4.4% with malesaccounting for more than half of the behavior. Pope points out thatalthough the rate of the problem is low to attract a lot ofattention, the regulating bodies should keep the culprits aloof thepsychologists aggravating the behavior.

The American Psychology Association has been on the front line ofensuring that those who operate under its umbrella adhere to ethicalprinciples that work to protect the practitioners and the clients.Article 3 section two of the ethical standards provides theboundaries set by the body. According to the provisions,psychologists should not engage in sexual harassment. It definessexual harassment as solicitation, physical advances or thenon-verbal cues that are sexual in nature (Coy et al., 2015). Theseadvances may occur in connection with the activities being conductedby the psychologist are they are either unwelcome, offensive, andthey create a hostile relationship between the client and thepractitioner. The regulatory and licensing bodies also create aboundary that prevents multiple relationships between the clients andthe therapists during the process. Multiple relationships occur whena psychologist or a therapist is in a professional role to aid aclient while being in a relationship with the client or a personclosely related with the client. Practicing therapists are also notsupposed to make promises future promises of entering into arelationship with the clients or their close acquaintances. Despitethe regulation being clear, there are a few offenders who overlookthem to take undue advantage of the clients. However, should ithappen, there are various legal implications that may occur tocontrol and punish the behavior of the offender.

Various states have varied statutes that address sexual misconductamong therapists. Juries have been critical in awarding sexuallyexploited clients millions of money in compensation and as a punitivemeasure. Courts and legislature have developed structures that helpto protect clients legally. Courts have held that therapists who takepart in sexual misconduct with their patients are liable formalpractice. As Glasgow (2002) articulates, states have been in theprocess of strict statutes that criminalize sexual misconduct. Beforethese statutes, practicing therapists who engaged in sexualmisconduct were only liable for rape, assault or attempted action.The current law eliminates consent as part of the defense, and it hasbecome easy to apply the law on therapist held on accounts ofmisconduct.

A practicing professional who engages in misconduct may lose hislicense in two major ways. The licensing body can revoke it, or aclient can file a civil case to be determined by a court of law. Someof the bodies that may revoke a license of their registered membersinclude the America Psychology Association, the National Associationof Social Workers among others. The assaulted client fills a formidentifying the specific standard that the therapist has defiled andpresents it to the respective bodies. Upon receipt, the licensingconvenes a sub-committee that conducts the preliminary investigation.Upon finding the practitioner guilty, the body can revoke the licensewith immediate effect. Also, the body can also conduct preliminaryinvestigations and hand the case to the attorney and a civil casecommences.

The client can also directly file a case against the practitioner.For the court to consider revoking a license of practicing therapist,the plaintiff must demonstrate that the therapist deviated fromstandard regulation provided as part of the outlined codes of conduct(Glasgow, 2002). Where an abused client seeks the professional helpof another registered therapist, the professional can act aprofessional witness in the case. Upon finding a therapist guilty thecourt can either revoke, fine, impose probation, regular surveillanceor demand an apology on behalf of the client.

The revoking of practicing license my result to a lot of frustrationto therapist especially if they have no other means of supportingthemselves. In various incidences, a therapist may challenge a courtruling by filing an appeal to have their license reinstated. Theprocess is referred to as supersedes (Glasgow, 2002). It is a form ofrelief granted by the court of appeal after pointing outinconsistencies in the decision of a lower court. The processinvolves the therapist filing an appeal for a final order of thecourt of appeal.

The court of appeal can either reinstate the revoked licenseimmediately after faulting the decision of the lower court. It canalso uphold the decision and restrict the practitioners from seeingclients. However, it is worth noting that the revocation of licenseby a lower court holds until the court of appeal rules otherwise(Glasgow, 2002). Robert &amp LMHC (2016) caution that practitionersshould desist from both public and private practice lest they becomeguilty of a felony. That is, operating without a valid license.Therapists should consider involving the services of a lawyer with awealth of experience in licensing laws. Statistics show that most ofthe cases presented before courts of appeal by therapist seeking afinal decision on the revoking their licensing resulting the highcourt affirming the decision of the lower courts.

In conclusion, there have been recorded cases of therapists engagingin sexual misconduct with their clients. Some of the cases do notfind their way into the public domain and it, therefore, results inless public attention (Glasgow, 2002). The licensing and regulatingbodies have definite guidelines that define the kind of relationshipthat should exist between a client and a therapist. The standards ofconduct outline the boundaries that therapist should not cross whiledealing with clients. Therapist offenders can either lose theirlicenses through the decision of the licensing bodies through an actof the court. The clients must demonstrate that the therapist wentagainst the outlined codes to engage in sexual misconduct. However,if the therapists refute the decision of the court, the can file anappeal with the appellate court to get a final order on their case.The court of appeal can either affirm the decision of the lower courtor reinstate the license with immediate effect.


Coy, J. S., Lambert,J. E., &amp Miller, M. M. (2015). Stories of the accused: Aphenomenological inquiry of MFTs and accusations of unprofessionalconduct. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy.

Glasgow, J.(2002). Sexual Misconduct by psychotherapist: legal optionsavailable to victims and a proposal for change in criminallegislation. Boston College Review, (3), 33. 645-690.

Reamer, F. G.(2013). Ethical competence in social work. Achieving EthicalCompetence for Public Service Leadership, 163.

Robert, P.,Tarvydas, V., &amp LMHC, C. (2016). Ethics and decision making incounseling and psychotherapy. New York, N.Y: Springer PublishingCompany.