What is Sexual Abuse in the Context of Therapy?
Sexual abuse includes physical sexual touching/contact between a psychotherapist and a client. It also includes behaviour such as sexually suggestive comments and jokes made by a psychotherapist in the presence of a client. It doesn’t include touching, behaviour or remarks of a clinical nature that are appropriate to the psychotherapy being provided.
Sexual abuse is defined in a piece of legislation called the Regulated Health Professions Act. This Act sets strict penalties for a psychotherapist (or other health care provider) who sexually abuses a client or patient. CRPO also has a position statement on what sexual abuse means, as well as sexual boundary crossing and boundary violations.
It’s important to understand that, even after you stop seeing your psychotherapist, that person cannot have sexual contact with you for a minimum of five years. This is because CRPO has a policy that psychotherapy clients remain a client for five years after therapy has ended. If your psychotherapist has sexual contact with you within five years of your therapy ending, that person could face serious consequences, including no longer being permitted to practise as a psychotherapist.
The reason for this is because there is a power imbalance between you and your psychotherapist. In a healthy and appropriate psychotherapy situation, you know little about your psychotherapist; they, on the other hand, may know things about you that you haven’t shared with your closest friends and family members. It’s this power imbalance that doesn’t allow for meaningful consent to sexual contact. And the psychotherapist’s job is always to look out for the needs and concerns of their clients, not their own interests. Sexual abuse is never a client’s fault. It is the responsibility of the psychotherapist.
To create an environment of safety, a competent psychotherapist will maintain good boundaries. A psychotherapist with good boundaries will not ask to meet with you socially, ask you to perform work for them, or discuss their personal problems with you. They won’t offer you gifts or give you therapy sessions that are longer than the norm. These are just some examples of good professional boundaries.
Harassment, abuse and boundary violations, on the other hand, can include remarks that attack your sexuality, sexual identity or sense of safety; sexual touching or any physical force; emotional abuse like threats, insults, humiliation; and cyber abuse, like sending images of a sexual nature.
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If You Have Been Sexually Abused by a Psychotherapist
If you think you may have been sexually abused by a psychotherapist, please visit the Filing a Complaint About a Psychotherapist page.
The process of making a complaint can be uncomfortable but it is important that CRPO be made aware of any instances of abuse so that the psychotherapist can be held accountable for their actions and the impact they might have on clients. Please do not assume that someone else will report the psychotherapist or worry if you are mistaken. It is important that CRPO investigates these situations and is committed to doing it in a way that is fair and respectful.
CRPO will make every effort to support individuals who come forward with information about sexual abuse by a registrant. In particular:
- Your confidentiality will be respected – only relevant staff, investigator(s) and committee members will have access to your information;
- wherever possible, CRPO will accommodate a request to speak with a staff member of either gender;
- you can withdraw from the complaints process at any time;
- you can bring a support person with you to an interview with CRPO staff or an investigator, or to a hearing;
- CRPO staff are trained in sensitive, non-judgmental ways of collecting information;
- staff will explain the complaints/discipline process; and
- if a matter is referred to a discipline hearing, such hearings are generally held in public; however, the identity of witnesses (such as the complainant) can be protected by a publication ban in cases involving sexual abuse. A publication ban would mean that CRPO, the public or the media could not publish certain details that would normally be shared.
Please note that it can be difficult for CRPO to investigate complaints of sexual abuse if the subject of the abuse is not willing to share their story with us.
To speak with someone at CRPO about your concern, please use the Contact Us page.
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Funding for Therapy or Counselling for Clients Alleging Sexual Abuse by an RP
CRPO can provide therapy or counselling funding to clients who allege sexual abuse by a Registered Psychotherapist. A client is able to apply for funding when an allegation of sexual abuse about a psychotherapist has been made in a formal complaint or report. The maximum funding available to each applicant amounts to approximately $16,000 over a five-year period. Applicants are required to use other available sources of funding, such as private insurance, first.
CRPO also has funding available to cover a limited number of therapy or counselling sessions for the primary partner of someone alleging sexual abuse committed by a Registered Psychotherapist. CRPO will consider requests for funding in these instances where a formal complaint or report has been made. The maximum funding available to the primary partner is $600 or four one-hour sessions (whichever is the lesser amount).
Applicants (both the client and the primary partner of the client) are free to choose any therapist or counsellor to provide treatment, as long as the therapist or counsellor is not a relative and has not been found guilty of sexual abuse.
Note: If the therapist or counsellor is not a member of a regulated profession, they are not subject to professional discipline by CRPO or by any other regulatory body should you have a complaint or concern about their conduct or the care they provided.
Applicants can use the funding to see more than one therapist or counsellor if they so choose. Funds are paid directly to the chosen therapist(s) or counsellor(s) for treatment provided. The Client Relations Committee determines eligibility and administers the fund.
Clients and primary partners must submit an application form and will be asked to keep any information about their application confidential.
See the right hand sidebar at the top of this page for application forms. Completed applications can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or sent to our mailing address.
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