A psychiatrist has been treating a female patient for depression. During the course of psychotherapy, the patient reveals that she had sexual relations with a previous therapist.
Which of the following is the therapist's most appropriate immediate response to this revelation?
As a member of a profession charged with self-regulation, the psychiatrist has a duty to help identify colleagues who behave unethically. However, in this case, that duty does not outweigh the responsibility to be clinically helpful to this patient. At some point, it may be therapeutic for this patient to take action, such as reporting her previous therapist to the state licensing board or professional ethics committee. However, the psychiatrist should not push the patient to do anything before the patient is prepared to do so. In addition, taking matters into the psychiatrist own hands may also have detrimental effects on the patient. When and if the patient is ready to proceed, options for reporting should be explained. Some states have criminalized therapists' sexual relationships with patients and have codified the response subsequent treating therapists should follow (3, 4).