some excerpts from the American Association of Christian Counseling Code
of Ethics. We have included these excerpts as they pertain to a proper
counseling/pastoral relationship and provide a definition of the types
of abuse and misconduct frequently encountered in clergy abuse.
1-112 Action Regarding
Clients Harmed by Other Helpers
Christian counselors take proper action against the harmful behavior of
other counselors and pastors. We will act assertively to challenge or
expose abusers and protect clients against harm wherever it is found,
taking care to honor and support client decision-making regarding curative
action against violators.
1-130 Sexual Misconduct
All forms of sexual misconduct, and every kind of sexual exploitation,
deception, abuse, or harassment in pastoral, professional or lay relationships
are unethical. This includes relations where the sexual involvement is
invited or informed consent presumably exists—such apparent consent
is illusory and illegitimate.
Forbidden sexual activities and deceptions include, but
are not limited to, direct sexual touch or contact; seductive sexual speech
or non-verbal behavior; solicitation of sexual or romantic relations; erotic
contact or behavior as a response to the sexual invitation or seductive behavior
of clients; unnecessary questioning and/or excessive probing into the client’s
sexual history and practices; advocacy of the healing value of counselor-client
sexual relations; secretive sexual communications and anonymous virtual interaction
via the Internet or other electronic means; sexual harassment by comments,
touch, or promises/threats of special action; and sexual misconduct as defined
by all applicable laws, ethics, and church, organizational, or practice policies.
1-131 Sexual Relations
with Former Clients Forbidden
All sexual relations as defined in 1-130 above with former clients are unethical.
Furthermore, we do not terminate and refer clients or parishioners, even at
first contact, in order to pursue sexual or romantic relations.
1-140 Dual and Multiple
Dual relationships involve the breakdown of proper professional or ministerial
boundaries. A dual relationship is where two or more roles are mixed in
a manner that can harm the counseling relationship. Examples include counseling
plus personal, fraternal, business, financial, or sexual and romantic
Some dual relationships are not unethical—it
is client exploitation that is wrong, not the dual relationship itself.
Based on an absolute application that harms membership bonds in the Body
of Christ, we oppose the ethical-legal view that all dual relationships
are per se harmful and therefore invalid on their face. Many dual relations
are wrong and indefensible, but some dual relationships are worthwhile
and defensible (per section 1-142 below).
1-141 The Rule of Dual
While in therapy, or when counseling relations are imminent, or for an
appropriate time after termination of counseling, Christian counselors
do not engage in dual relations with counselees. Some dual relationships
are always avoided—sexual or romantic relations, and counseling
close friends, family members, employees, or supervisees. Other dual relationships
should be presumed troublesome and avoided wherever possible.
1-142 Proving an Exception
to the Rule
The Christian counselor has the burden of proving a justified dual relationship
by showing (1) informed consent, including discussion of how the counseling
relationship might be harmed as other relations proceed, and (2) lack
of harm or exploitation to the client.
1-143 Counseling with
Family, Friends, and Acquaintances
Christian counselors do not provide counseling to close family or friends.
We presume that dual relations with other family members, acquaintances,
and fraternal, club, association, or group members are potentially troublesome
and best avoided, otherwise requiring justification.
1-145 Counseling with
Fellow Church Members
Christian counselors do not provide counseling to fellow church members
with whom they have close personal, business, or shared ministry relations.
We presume that dual relations with any other church members who are clients
are potentially troublesome and best avoided, otherwise requiring justification.
Pastors and church staff helpers will take all reasonable precautions
to limit the adverse impact of any dual relationships.
1-146 Termination to Engage
in Dual Relations Prohibited
Christian counselors do not terminate counseling to engage in dual relationships
of any kind. Some counselors and their former clients will agree that
any future counseling will be done by someone else if, after legitimate
termination, they decide to pursue another form of relationship.