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What's the Harm? Looking at the Effects of Psychology Doctoral Student-Educator Sexual Relationships

21 July 2010


In 1979 Pope, Levenson, and Schover drew attention to student-educator sexual relationships. Since that time, there have been concerns raised by research and authors regarding the consequences of sexual contact. In the most recent version of the APA ethical code of conduct (American Psychologist, 2002) two sections address the issue of sexual conduct between psychologists and students: section 3.08 Exploitive Relationships and 7.07 Sexual Relationships with students and supervisees (American Psychologist, 2002) stating that psychologists do not engage in sexual relationships with students or supervisees. The purpose of this review was to first identify what, if any, harm occurs as a result of sexual contact between a doctorate level psychology student and a psychology educator? Secondly, to investigate what is the nature of the harm? Thirdly, to investigate who is harmed? And lastly, does the research suggest appropriated interventions once harm has occurred? The results of the review suggest that there can be harm, however, the nature of the harm and who is harmed are still inconclusive. Research investigating appropriate interventions once harm has occurred has not been conducted. Directions for further research are discussed.


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