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Principle 6(a) of the Ethical Principles of Psychologists, in effect at the time of petitioner's alleged misconduct, provided as follows: Psychologists are continually cognizant of their own needs and of their potentially influential position vis-à-vis persons such as clients, students, and subordinates. In any case, “an administrative agency's interpretation of its own regulation should be accorded due deference unless it is plainly erroneous or inconsistent with the regulation.” Id.Sexual or romantic relationships with former patients are unethical if the physician uses or exploits trust, knowledge, emotions, or influence derived from the previous professional relationship." Note that this last statement leaves open the possibility that such relations might not be unethical if the physician doesn't exploit aspects of the former relationship.Also, the AMA is silent here about former lovers becoming current patients. Colorado's Medical Practice Act specifies a six-month "waiting period" after a professional relationship has ceased before a sexual one may begin.Our contemporary attitude toward such encounters is to label them, categorically, as "unprofessional conduct." Given that there is no surveillance of this behavior, physician-patient sex comes to the attention of regulatory agencies only when the patient complains. The nominal standard establishes a rule of "no overlap": a physician-patient relationship must not coexist with a romantic-sexual relationship.

Mental health professionals set even stricter standards.The subject of physician-patient boundaries illustrates how well-intentioned policy can be written in a way that is simply too shallow to serve the goals of ethics.If you've sat on a credentials committee, disciplinary panel, or medical-licensing board, you surely reviewed cases of physician-patient sexual involvement. The scope of review on appeal from a lower court's consideration of a final agency decision under the Administrative Procedure Act, N. The code specifically states that “sexual intimacies with a former therapy patient or client are ․ frequently harmful to the patient or client, and because such intimacies undermine public confidence in the psychology profession and thereby deter the public's use of needed services, psychologists do not engage in sexual intimacies with former therapy patients and clients even after a two-year interval except in the most unusual circumstances.” Id., § 4.07(b) at 1605. Patients often conduct internal dialogues with former therapists which involve imaginary conversations about feelings, decisions and self-evaluation. For these reasons, many psychologists adopt the position “ ‘[o]nce a client, always a client.’ ” Slaughter, supra, at 615 (quoting Leonard J. Malouf, Keeping Up the Good Work: A Practitioner's Guide to Mental Health Ethics 53-65 (1992)). In the case sub judice, the Psychology Board determined that petitioner was in violation of the ethical principle regarding dual relationships. The purpose of the Ethical Principles of Psychologists is to “protect the public from ․ unprofessional conduct by persons licensed to practice psychology.” N. Contrary to petitioner's permissive approach to dating former clients, the 1992 Ethical Code strongly discourages involvement between therapist and patient, even after the expiration of a two year waiting period. It never suggests that dual relationships of a sexual or social nature are permissible after therapy is terminated. Psychologists make every effort to avoid dual relationships that could impair their professional judgment or increase the risk of exploitation. Petitioner asserts that he did not violate the above provision because it did not explicitly prohibit romantic involvement with former clients.


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