Therapist dating former patient


However, when a therapist and long past patient enter into a relationship separate from the therapeutic one, is that actually a dual relationship? Would it be more accurate to call it a sequential or serial relationship? Is there a difference?

Can Psychologists Date Patients or Former Patients?

If one believes that our patients grow mature and sometimes surpass us in knowledge, wisdom, and power, then it is a significant difference. Of course, of all the dual or sequential relationships that are potentially possible with patients and former patients, when the issue of sex comes up, most all therapists of all disciplines react forcefully.


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Having sex with a current patient or even a recently discharged patient is not only unethical—it is illegal. It is truly a betrayal of the trust the patient places in us. However, over time as in years , can that change in some very special circumstances to allow exceptions to the rule? If a therapist and former patient meet some 10 or 15 years after the last therapeutic session and develop a personal relationship, get married, and have children, can we say that an ethical violation or a crime has been committed?

In most all states, laws prohibiting sex with clients are limited to current or recent clients. Washington State is one exception.

However, assuming the former client does not file any complaint, how enforceable would such laws be? For example, what if the former therapist and patient got married, were in a committed relationship, and had children? Would or should an ethics committee have the authority to interfere with a marriage or union among consenting adults? What about our belief in the right to free association? What is the rationale for the prohibition against sex with patients?

Many believe it is the power differential. Behnke points out that many relationships have significant power differentials, including partnerships and marriages, and that we often do in fact put our own interests above those of clients when we charge fees, for example. So, neither a power differential nor putting our own needs first is in and of itself unethical. Rather, Behnke says, it is because we have a fiduciary relationship that is compromised and creates additional risks that are not a necessary part of the therapeutic relationship, making psychotherapy impossible.

But fiduciary relationships are not static and change with time and circumstances. Some would argue it is based on psychodynamic theory, and perhaps those who practice psychoanalytically have a higher standard.

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But interestingly, there is nothing in psychodynamic theory or psychoanalysis that would state such. This would include taking patients on vacation and conducting analysis in hotel room beds. We tend to forget that that was a different time with different standards.

Therefore, perhaps, our reactions could possibly be a way of denying and reacting against the behaviors of a previous era we find frankly embarrassing and indefensible. Another possibility is that, whereas all of us require structure of some kind, some of us need more structure and clear inflexible rules more than others. Some fear that if they bend the rules just a little, they may go down a slippery slope and cross all reasonable bounds.

To therapists who believe they are just one rigid rule away from harming their patients, I say maintain all the rules you need. However, not everyone requires such inflexibility. Attempting to impose such rigidity on everyone is not good practice. It is not good for our clients or the field. If we hold that belief to be literally true, then it would not apply only to sex.

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Can Psychologists Date Patients or Former Patients? | Futurescopes

We are responsible to protect our clients from harm to self and others. But if we make no distinction between current and long past, can we in this litigious society be sued for the actions of a long past client? Our clients grow mature and often leave us behind. If we do our jobs well, we have given them the tools to move on. It is unrealistic to think that, after several years, we mean the same to them as when they came to us for help. The discipline of ethics and the prohibition against becoming sexually involved with patients.

APA Monitor, 37 6. Retrieved online at http: It started by raising some very interesting hypothetical scenarios involving former clients, but then devolved into the standard "don't have sex, I'm so serious" type warning. It would have been really interesting to explore some of those non-romantic scenarios. I can think of some interesting ones: Suppose a former client decides to run for political office in the jurisdiction in which the social worker lives.


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Must the social worker refrain from voting if they were otherwise eligible? Must the social worker vote for the former client in order to assist, or at least not interfere with, his goal of achieving political office? If the former client is elected, and, via their office, gains some sort of regulatory or personnel authority over the social worker, must the social worker resign or quit practicing?

Suppose a social worker adopts an abandoned child. The court got it right and thank God for the British legal system.

But I am not a happy bunny because this has destroyed my life. People say I should sue her Miss Dungey but I cannot afford to. Dr Pates, who lives near Ebbw Vale, South Wales, said that after being forced out of his post, he was now in retirement. He said he understood Miss Dungey, who is in her late 50s, had incurred considerable legal costs. Dr Pates said he was now divorced from his wife and has re-married. He added that the divorce had nothing to do with his involvement with Miss Dungey.

This week the Appeal Court in London refused her permission to appeal. Miss Dungey claimed Dr Pates took advantage of her vulnerability when he began an affair with her in She had previously been a patient of the doctor. The court heard that the relationship ended in Miss Dungey told Dr Pates she loved him, and he replied that her feelings were not reciprocated, and that he was not prepared to leave his wife for her.

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