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The current study was designed to focus exclusively upon patients who are reported by psychologists to have actually engaged in or falsely alleged sexual involvement with a prior therapist.

Thirteen hundred and twenty psychologists who met three criteria were randomly selected from the membership directory of the American Psychological Association.

Vetter ABSTRACT: A national survey of 1,320 psychologists found that half the respondents reported assessing or treating at least one patient who had been sexually intimate with a prior therapist; a total of 958 sexual intimacy cases were reported.

Harm occurred in at least 80% of the instances in which therapists engaged in sex with a patient after termination.

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The current research study was designed to collect representative data from a national sample of psychologists regarding their patients who had engaged (or made false allegations of engaging) in sexual involvement with a prior therapist.

In light of the very small return rate of the 1983 California study [and also of a somewhat similar study on the reporting practices of psychiatrists (Gartrell et al., 1987) which achieved only a 26% return rate], the survey form was kept brief (i.e., one page asking relatively few questions).


As the phenomenon of therapist-patient sexual involvement receives increasing acknowledgement as a problem for the mental health professions and the harm that may occur for patients becomes a focus of clinical inquiry (see, e.g., Bates & Brodsky, 1989; Brodsky, 1989; Brown, 1988; Feldman-Summers, 1989; Gabbard, 1989; Gilbert & Scher, 1989; Kluft, 1989; Lapierre & Valiquette, 1989; Pope, 1990a, Pope 1990b.The questionnaire did not enumerate the various possible forms of sexual intimacy and harm; whether either had occurred was to be based solely upon each respondent's professional assessment and opinion.Participants were asked to indicate how many of all of these patients, if any: (a) were minors at the time of the intimacies, (b) married the therapist, (c) were victims of incest or other child sex abuse, (d) had experienced rape prior to intimacies with the therapist, (e) required hospitalization that, in the opinion of the survey respondent, was at least partially a result of the intimacies, (f) attempted suicide, (g) committed suicide, (h) achieved complete recovery from any negative effects of the intimacies, (i) were seen by the survey respondents pro bono or for a reduced fee, and (j) filed formal (e.g., licensing, malpractice, criminal) complaints.The three criteria were that the member: (1) had earned a doctoral degree in the clinical or counseling area, (2) was currently licensed, and (3) appeared, according to the listing, to be currently providing clinical or counseling services to patients (e.g., was not retired).

Participants were asked to indicate: (1) how many female patients they had seen professionally, over the course of their career, who had been sexually intimate with a therapist prior to termination, and (2) how many if any, suffered harm as a result.Pope, 1990c, Pope, 1994, Pope, 2000; Pope & Bouhoutsos, 1986; Pope, Sonne, & Holroyd, 1993; Pope & Vasquez, 1998; Shopland & Vande Creek, 1991; Sonne, 1989; Sonne & Pope, 1991; Vasquez, 1991), it is important to know the extent to which psychologists are likely to encounter such patients in their practice.


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