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We agreed that it is critical to determine how clients define what “family member” means to them.In a cultural context, “family” can be nonblood relationships such as godparents or neighbors.

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.

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).

Since informed consent is an ongoing process, there would be a need to readdress confidentiality if the client decides to stay with the counselor.

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.

It will be interesting to hear how that came up in the revision discussions and what the thinking was behind that.

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