To avoid harming or exploiting a client, sexual and non-sexual dual relationship is generally considered as unacceptable in the psychotherapeutic relationship. However, little is known about what therapists themselves constitute as (un)acceptable intimate and informal behaviour (IIB).
A survey among psychotherapists in Flanders (Belgium) was conducted. Opinions about the acceptability of IIB were asked. Based on these opinions attitude groups could be determined.
In total, 786 therapists completed and returned the questionnaire (response rate: 39.8%). Therapists could be divided into three attitude groups. Almost half of the therapists belonged to the ‘rather restrictive group’, a third to the ‘rather socially permissive group’ and a fifth to the ‘rather sexually permissive group’. Being categorised as ‘rather sexually permissive’ is predominantly related to being male and non-heterosexual, whereas being ‘rather restrictive’ or ‘rather socially permissive’ is mainly due to the type of psychotherapy training. The ‘rather sexually permissive’ therapists more often found a client sexually attractive during the last year and fantasised more often about a romantic relationship with a client, but they did not more often started a sexual relationship.
Most therapists in Flanders are rather restrictive in their attitude to IIB, pointing to a high sense of morality. Having a rather sexually permissive attitude is predominantly related to more personal characteristics of the therapists, but these therapists did not start a sexual relationship more often.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPsychological Medicine
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 Mar 2020

ID: 50086462