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).The client may decide to maintain the counselor-client relationship, but the counselor is obligated to explore the potential risks and benefits to the change in relationship (i.e., seeing each other at family gatherings).DK: So the reason that the 2005 ACA Code of Ethics continues to give no leeway and to ban all sexual or romantic interactions with clients is because we know that harm always occurs when that happens? Even if it appears on the surface that a client is open to a sexual/romantic relationship, there are always things that happen, and the client could later turn around and say that he or she wasn’t able to make a decision that was in their best interest at the time and therefore felt coerced.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.It is also important to recognize that counselors can decide to make the personal choice to never engage in romantic or sexual relationships with former clients even though the ACA Code of Ethics allows one to do so after a five-year waiting period.DK: For the first time in its history, the ACA Code of Ethics (in Standard A.5.b.) now explicitly prohibits sexual or romantic relationships with the family members or romantic partners of clients.MK: I talked to Rocco Cottone, Harriet Glosoff and Judy Miranti, three members of the Ethical Code Revision Task Force, about this scenario.
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.
Counselors cannot know each and every relationship or relative of clients, but counselors should not knowingly engage in such relationships. Suppose a counselor is engaged to be married and finds out from looking at the wedding invitations that one of her long-term clients is a very close cousin of her fiancé.
Does that mean that the counselor needs to call off her engagement?
In a cultural context, “family” can be nonblood relationships such as godparents or neighbors.
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.