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Am J Psychother. 1992 Oct;46(4):544-55.

The prevention of psychotherapist sexual misconduct: avoiding the slippery slope.

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Harvard Medical School, MA.


Therapist sexual misconduct has its genesis in the therapeutic relationship. The mental health professions have long recognized the delicacy with which the therapist must handle the therapeutic relationship, with its power imbalance, inherent vulnerability of the patient, and transference and countertransference reactions. The prevention of sexual contact starts with the careful attention to boundary violations, which, though themselves perhaps not harmful, may escalate into sexualized behavior. Methods of preventing this behavior include the establishment of clear guidelines for practitioners and the expansion of the educational process for therapists, therapists' employers, patients, and other professionals. Last resorts lie in the legal and quasi-legal proceedings available to victims, such as civil suits for damages, criminal complaints, board of licensing complaints, and actions before professional associations. The best method of preventing sexual contact with patients involves respecting the boundaries of the professional relationship and avoidance of the slippery slope.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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