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It is not culturally appropriate to make assumptions about a client’s worldview of who is and who is not a family member. In the case mentioned, neither the client nor the counselor was aware of this situation, and therefore the counselor would not break off her engagement or wedding plans.Rather, the counselor should discuss with the client the change in relationship between the counselor and client (to be cousin and cousin-in-law so to speak).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.
In a cultural context, “family” can be nonblood relationships such as godparents or neighbors.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.DK: That relates to malpractice suits and the one exception that liability companies such as the ACA Insurance Trust make about sexual contact with a client.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.