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Engaging in any type of sexual or intimate relationship with a current client is abuse of power.Clients come into counseling emotionally and psychologically vulnerable and in need of assistance, so a counselor trying to engage in such relationships would be trying to take advantage of that client and their vulnerabilities to meet their own needs.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.DK: As mentioned earlier, the 2005 ACA Code of Ethics increases the prohibition on sexual and romantic interactions with former clients.Why did the Ethical Code Revision Task Force decide to increase this prohibition to five years?MK: While some may see the exact number of years delineated as arbitrary, the reason a ban on sexual/romantic relationships with former clients was increased to five years was that we wanted there to be a little more time for the counselor to be reflective and to give more time for closure of the counseling relationship.All ACA members are required to abide by the ACA Code of Ethics, and 22 state licensing boards use it as the basis for adjudicating complaints of ethical violations.

All liability insurance policies that I have seen provide a lawyer and defend a counselor if he or she is accused of sexual contact with a client.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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