Journal of Sexual & Reproductive Medicine

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Management of professional sexual misconduct: Evaluation and recommendations

Author(s): Pierre Assalian*

Despite condemnation by ethical codes, published guidelines and policies for all the helping professions, sexual exploitation by health and mental health professionals remains a prevalent but poorly understood problem. It is estimated that half of all mental health clinicians will evaluate and/or treat at least one person who was sexually exploited by a previous psychotherapist, physician, psychiatrist or other health or helping professional. Because these sex offenders are professionals, they are more frequently subject to moral indignation, societal disgust, shame and negativity than other sex offenders. Following their arrest and the interruption, or termination, of their practice, these offenders are particularly at risk for major depressions, emotional breakdowns and suicide. Given the hope to maintain or the expectation to return to their professional practice, the evaluation process may be complicated by the offender’s use of deception and denial, and avoidance of self-revelation and self-examination. Considering the nature of the offense, the degree of psychopathology and overall occupational functioning, reintegration in the offender’s professional practice may or may not be recommended. For others, modification of their professional roles may be indicated.

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