the Hope of Survivors

Excerpts from AACC Christian Counseling Code of Ethics

Below are 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 Forbidden
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 Relationships
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 relations.

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 Relationships
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.

The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart...Psalms 34:18