Reporting sexual misconduct by a counselling therapist
Watch the Video Tutorial Sexual Misconduct by a Counselling Therapist
We recognize that coming forward with a complaint about sexual misconduct can be very difficult. You may not be ready to disclose your identity or make a decision about whether to file a complaint. If you have concerns about a sexually inappropriate encounter with a counselling therapist, the College encourages you to speak with our Sexual Misconduct Complaint Navigator. It is important for you to remember that there is no time-limit on filing a complaint involving sexual misconduct.
Call or text our confidential line at 902-579-8119, leave your number, and the Sexual Misconduct Complaint Navigator will respond within 48 hours. If you prefer, you can contact her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Sexual Misconduct Complaint Navigator is specially trained to guide you through the complaints process in a safe, sensitive and trauma-informed manner. She will listen to your concerns and answer any questions you have. They will explain the College’s complaint process so that you know what to expect. You can then decide if you would like to file a complaint. Once you file a formal written complaint, the complaint navigator will continue to be available to you as required throughout the process.
The College investigates all complaints of alleged sexual misconduct against counselling therapists. There is no cost to you for filing a complaint with the College or for any of the services provided by the Sexual Misconduct Complaint Navigator.
Sexual Misconduct Complaint Navigator
The Sexual Misconduct Complaint Navigator
- will be your first contact with the College;
- is a contracted representative of the College and is neutral with respect to any complaint;
- is not a counsellor or advocate for a person filing a complaint, and does not act on their behalf;
- takes notes of discussions which are kept on the complaint file and available to the Complaints Committee. As well, notes may be disclosed to the counselling therapist in the normal course of the investigation;
- will share your information only with authorized College personnel involved in handling your complaint or as required by law;
- may be called to testify to speak to any complainant-related discussions should the matter be referred to a disciplinary hearing;
- will assist you in accessing the Sexual Misconduct Complaints Process Support Fund as required;
- and will,
Always believe you / Never judge or blame you / Let you make your own decisions / Treat you with compassion and respect / Be honest, open and reliable
What happens after you contact the sexual misconduct reporting line?
When you feel ready you will be guided through the process of filing a formal complaint against the counselling therapist
The counselling therapist is notified of the complaint against them
You may be asked to provide more information in an interview
Why report a concern about sexual misconduct?
Coming forward about a sexually inappropriate encounter with a counselling therapist is difficult. There may be many reasons why you might worry about doing so. This is one reason that there is no time-limit for filing a sexual misconduct complaint. We know that you need to move at your own pace and to feel ready to proceed before filing a complaint.
In addition to your personal reasons for filing a complaint, reporting sexual misconduct may also help:
Protect the Public. Incidents of sexual abuse or misconduct are often not isolated. Coming forward could mean preventing an incident from occurring again or help to uncover past patterns of behaviour.
Increase Awareness. The College relies on clients and the public to make us aware when something is not right. We can only learn about sexual abuse or misconduct from persons who make complaints.
What is sexual misconduct?
All counselling therapists licensed to practice in Nova Scotia are registered with the Nova Scotia College of Counselling Therapists and must adhere to the ethical and professional practice standards of the College.
These standards define sexual misconduct as any sexual, sexually demeaning, or seductive behaviour that is physical, verbal or non-verbal, made in-person or through written or electronic means, by a counselling therapist toward a current client, former client, vulnerable former client or toward a colleague or other person who does not consent.
Sexual misconduct includes, but is not limited to the following forms of behaviour:
- Failing to provide privacy to a current client to dress or undress, except as may be necessary in emergency situations
- Failing to provide a current client with a gown or draping, except as may be necessary in emergency situations
- Removing the current client’s clothing, gown or draping without consent or emergent medical necessity
- Rubbing against a current or vulnerable former client for sexual gratification
- Hugging, touching, fondling or caressing a current or vulnerable former client in a sexual manner
- Dressing or undressing in the presence of a current client
- Suggesting or discussing the possibility of a dating, a romantic or sexual relationship with a current or vulnerable former client
- Terminating the therapeutic relationship for the purpose of dating or pursuing a romantic or sexual relationship
- Soliciting a date with a current or vulnerable former client either in person or through written or electronic means
- Discussing the counselling therapist’s sexual history, preferences or fantasies with a current or vulnerable former client
- Any behaviour, communication, gestures or expressions that may reasonably be interpreted by a current or vulnerable former client as seductive or sexual
- Making statements regarding a current client’s body, appearance, sexual history or sexual orientation other than for legitimate therapeutic purposes
- Sexually demeaning behaviour, including but not limited to any verbal or physical contact which may reasonably be interpreted as demeaning, humiliating, embarrassing, threatening or harmful to a current or vulnerable former client
- Posing, photographing or filming the body or anybody part of a current or vulnerable former client for the purposes of sexual gratification or distribution
- Showing a current or vulnerable former client sexually-explicit materials other than for legitimate clinical purposes
- Sexual abuse is a subset of sexual misconduct which includes, but is not limited to:
- Sexual intercourse between the counselling therapist and a current or vulnerable former client
- Genital to genital, genital to anal, oral to genital, or oral to anal contact between the counselling therapist and a current or vulnerable former client
- Masturbation of a current or vulnerable former client
- Masturbation of the counselling therapist by, or in the presence of, a current or vulnerable former client
- Encouraging a current or vulnerable former client to masturbate in the presence of the counselling therapist
- Touching of the current or vulnerable former client’s genitals, anus, breasts, or buttocks in a sexual manner
- Any conduct or behavior with a sexual connotation, character or quality with any person, which the counselling therapist knows or ought reasonably to know would be objectionable, unwelcome, cause offence or humiliation to the person, or adversely affect the person’s health and well-being.
Client refers to current, former and former vulnerable clients and also includes a parent, guardian, spouse, partner, child or any substitute decision-maker of the individual receiving counselling therapy.
Our Commitment to Responding to Complaints Alleging Sexual Misconduct
The College investigates all complaints of alleged sexual misconduct against counselling therapists.
- There is no time-limit for filing a sexual misconduct complaint.
- There are no fees or costs to you involved in filing a complaint.
In 2022, as part of its strategic plan, the College committed to redoubling efforts to prevent, collect and investigate sexual misconduct complaints and to impose appropriate discipline as warranted.
The College recognizes the authority of the Complaints Committee and the Professional Conduct Committee under the Counselling Therapists Act and Regulations to make findings and to determine the disposition of matters brought before them.
As a party in a proceeding under the Counselling Therapists Act, the College takes the following positions:
- Sexual misconduct involving a current client or a vulnerable former client constitutes professional misconduct as defined by the Counselling Therapists Act;
- Sexualized conduct by a counselling therapist with a former client that runs contrary to the stipulations of the Code of Ethics, Standards of Practice and Regulatory Practice Notice: 01.0 also constitutes professional misconduct within the meaning of the Counselling Therapists Act;
- Sexualized conduct by a counselling therapist that is entirely unconnected to the counselling therapist’s practice, or their status as a counselling therapist, or the profession may constitute “conduct unbecoming” as defined in the Act if the sexualized conduct tends to bring discredit upon the counselling therapy profession;
- Where there is a finding of either professional misconduct or conduct unbecoming that constitutes sexual abuse, the College will seek the revocation of the counselling therapist’s licence.
- Where there is a finding of professional misconduct or conduct unbecoming arising from a finding of sexual misconduct that does not constitute sexual abuse, the College will seek a licensing sanction against the counselling therapist. The licensing sanction will be commensurate with the relevant circumstances. A licensing sanction creates a disciplinary record for the counselling therapist, and can include one or more of a reprimand, conditions or restrictions, periods of suspension from practice, or a revocation of the counselling therapist’s licence;
- Where touch is used as a clinically indicated therapeutic procedure but is performed contrary to acceptable standards in a manner that does not constitute sexual misconduct, the College will consider whether to address the actions of the counselling therapist as “incompetence” as defined in the Counselling Therapists Act or as a matter that should lead to a non-sanction outcome such as advice, remedial education or a caution;
- Where there is any other finding of a breach of these standards, the College will seek a disposition that is commensurate with the relevant circumstances.
Privacy and Confidentiality
We understand that concerns about privacy may be a worry for you. You can contact us anonymously to make general inquiries about a sexual misconduct concern. The Sexual Misconduct Complaint Navigator is here to listen to you without the disclosure of your identity or the identity of the counselling therapist.
Before asking you any questions about your concerns, the complaint navigator will advise you of her legal obligations to:
- report information about harm to a minor
- report your stated intention to do harm to yourself or to someone else
If you choose to proceed, you will need to file a formal written complaint with the College. The complaint process is not anonymous. This means that your name will be disclosed to the counselling therapist who is being investigated. The College may also need to access your therapy files as a part of the investigation and will require the counselling therapist to provide a specific
Who will know that you have filed a sexual misconduct complaint?
Who will know that you have filed a sexual misconduct complaint?
- the counselling therapist named in the sexual misconduct complaint;
- the counselling therapist’s lawyer, should they seek legal advice and assistance;
- the Registrar of the College;
- professional conduct staff who handle the complaint;
- Complaints Committee members who investigate and hear the complaint; and
- our Sexual Misconduct Complaint Navigator.
What information remains confidential?
The College has a statutory obligation to maintain the confidentiality of all information gathered during the investigation and resolution of complaints.
You are also required to keep information provided to you by the College confidential. This includes the information contained in the counselling therapist’s response to your complaint. This is not intended to prevent you from seeking appropriate support from friends, family or a therapist. Confidentiality is expected to be maintained when discussing the complaint with others.
The Counselling Therapists Act directs the College to publish all Professional Conduct hearing decisions unless a publication ban is in place. Decisions disclose the name of the registered counselling therapist only and do not reveal the identity of the person who filed the complaint or the names of others involved.
Sexual Misconduct Complaints Process Support Fund
A fund has been established by the College to help persons alleging sexual misconduct against a counselling therapist to obtain counselling or psychological services from a licensed professional for emotional or mental health issues arising from participation in the complaints process. For more information on the Support Fund, please contact the Sexual Misconduct Complaint Navigator at 902-579-8119 or by email at email@example.com.