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The Ethics Curriculum

Sexual Misconduct (Ethics 7)

Learn how sexual misconduct situations arise, especially when the therapist is vulnerable and needy.

Program Description

After all these years of having it pounded into our heads, one would think sexual misconduct (entering into a sexual relationship with our clients or patients) would be a thing of the past? However, next to suicide, boundary problems and sexual misconduct rank highest as causes of malpractice actions against mental health providers. Repercussions to the therapist are stringent, ranging from loss of license to criminal and civil prosecutions, monetary fines, and even prison. One would think it wouldn’t be worth the risk. Obviously, knowing the rules isn’t always enough to override the risk factors that make us vulnerable. These factors can have disastrous consequences when combined with a variety of factors in our clients and patients.

This ethics program is not the typical ethics program, which focuses specifically on the rules. Rather, we aim at something that Aristotle might have referred to as “developing virtuous character” through a more in-depth look at how these situations can develop. We’ll be focusing on the ethical decision maker vs. the decision making process within ourselves. Our premise is our moral and psychological identity is fundamental to one’s decision making.

Learning Objectives

This program provides clinicians with the opportunity to:

Become aware of situations that may make a practitioner vulnerable to boundary violations.

Be able to recognize signs that a therapist is improperly crossing the patient-therapist boundary.

Understand the reasons why sexual violations are prohibited.

Be able to identify the sexual and eroticized feelings that practitioners commonly encounter within the transference and countertransference relationship.


Overview to Sexual Misconduct - Hugh F. Johnston, MD

We’ll hear an overview about boundary violations, their causes, new findings in neurology, evolution’s role in boundaries, and how we can change a toxic work environment.

Risk Management Mania -

In this interview, we’ll hear how the topic of boundary violations is being used and misused in lawsuits against therapists.

Psychodynamic Understandings - Judith Newman, LCSW

We’ll hear a psychodynamic explanation about the clinician’s experience when his “who-ness” (personal identity, needs, and vulnerabilities) interfere with his “what-ness” (professional role and the implicit trust).

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Client Testimonials

“I found this a very helpful format and nice, leisurely pace of learning. I would welcome continuing the series.”

... Tina O.

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