"Racial and Ethnic Differences in Homicides of Adult Women and the Role of Intimate Partner Violnece - United States 2003-2014." MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2017; 1-746.
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.Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a serious, preventable public health problem that affects millions of Americans.The term “intimate partner violence” describes physical, sexual, or psychological harm by a current or former partner or spouse. We do know that strategies that promote healthy behaviors in relationships are important.However, if the counselor is found guilty, the insurance company will not pay any monetary damages that are awarded and will also expect to be reimbursed by the counselor for all legal fees incurred in their defense.The fact that sexual contact is the only exclusion contained in a malpractice policy indicates how harmful sexual contact is to 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.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.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.As a service to members, Counseling Today is publishing a monthly column focused on new or updated aspects of the ACA Code of Ethics (the ethics code is also available online at