The possibility of post-termination sexual involvements raises a number of empirical questions directly relevant to our ethical analysis, as the following six examples show: Note three things about Ethical Standard 10.08.

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As a profession, we have learned all too well the harms that occur when psychologists become sexually involved with their clients.

The harms are so clear that our code, like the codes of all major mental health organizations, absolutely prohibits such involvements.

In post-termination relationships, however, given the passage of time, the harm becomes less certain and the likelihood that a client's autonomy will be compromised less clear.

Here we see the important relationship between the ethical and the empirical: To clarify and deepen the ethical analysis, we must examine these relationships in light of data.

Psychologists who engage in such activity after the two years following cessation or termination of therapy and of having no sexual contact with the former client/patient bear the burden of demonstrating that there has been no exploitation, in light of all relevant factors, including (1) the amount of time that has passed since therapy terminated; (2) the nature, duration, and intensity of the therapy; (3) the circumstances of termination; (4) the client's/ patient's personal history; (5) the client's/patient's current mental status; (6) the likelihood of adverse impact on the client/patient; and (7) any statements or actions made by the therapist during the course of therapy suggesting or inviting the possibility of a post-termination sexual or romantic relationship with the client/patient.

Before online dating, before her two kids, before the Big Conversation with her skeptical husband, Jessie already had an inkling that maybe she wasn’t quite like the ladies she saw at church, that maybe the sexual strictures of life in D. Her first marriage, in her early 20s, had ended after an affair.

By setting forth clinically based criteria relevant to assessing whether harm is likely to occur, paragraph (b) confirms this balance of values, emphasizes the importance of avoiding harm in these relationships, and provides concrete direction in how to assess the likelihood of exploitation.

Second, evidence available at the time standard 10.08 was written suggests that the significant majority of these involvements take place within two years of termination.

The two-year absolute prohibition immediately following termination is when a client's ability to exercise a fully autonomous choice with regard to a former treater seems most likely to be compromised, and when sexual involvement that had been suggested explicitly or by innuendo during treatment would most likely come to fruition.