Friday, August 14, 2009

An Ethical Code for Spiritual Teachers

Why does this not exist? Here are some preliminary thoughts on the matter.

[An aside: I can hear the pseudo-integral folks complaining that doing so would be a manifestation of the Mean Green Meme, but I call bullshit on any such claims. The Green Meme has brought us ecological reform, feminism, racial equality laws, and so on - this is a long overdue and necessary development.]

The should be an international board of ethics for spiritual teachers. There are ethics groups for therapists, social workers, life coaches, psychiatrists, nurses, doctors, and so on. Yet spiritual teachers, who commit all variety of ethical violations on a regular basis without sanction, are not governed by any ethics codes.

I would propose an initial statement similar to the American Counseling Association's Code of Ethics:

Counselors encourage client growth and development in ways that foster the interest and welfare of clients and promote formation of healthy relationships. Counselors actively attempt to understand the diverse cultural backgrounds of the clients they serve. Counselors also explore their own cultural identities and howthese affect their values and beliefs about the counseling process. Counselors are encouraged to contribute to society by devoting a portion of their professional activity to services for which there is little or no financial return (pro bono publico).

A.1. Welfare of Those Served by Counselors

A.1.a. Primary Responsibility

The primary responsibility of counselors is to respect the dignity and to promote the welfare of clients.
More to the point, or at least my point, is this:
A.4. Avoiding Harm and Imposing Values

A.4.a. Avoiding Harm

Counselors act to avoid harming their clients, trainees, and research participants and to minimize or to remedy unavoidable or unanticipated harm.

A.4.b. Personal Values

Counselors are aware of their own values, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors and avoid imposing values that goals. Counselors respect the diversity of clients, trainees, and research participants.

A.5. Roles and Relationships With Clients
(See F.3., F.10., G.3.)

A.5.a. Current Clients

Sexual or romantic counselor–client interactions or relationships with current clients, their romantic partners, or their family members are prohibited.

A.5.b. Former Clients

Sexual or romantic counselor–client interactions or relationships with former clients, their romantic partners, or their family members are prohibited for a period of 5 years following the last professional contact. Counselors, before engaging in sexual or romantic interactions or relationships with clients, their romantic partners, or client family members after 5 years following the last professional contact, demonstrate forethought and document (in written form) whether the interactions or relationship can be viewed as exploitive in some way and/or whether there is still potential to harm the former client; in cases of potential exploitation and/or harm, the counselor avoids entering such an interaction or relationship.

A.5.c. Nonprofessional Interactions or Relationships (Other Than Sexual or RomanticInteractions or Relationships)

Counselor–client nonprofessional relationships with clients, former clients, their romantic partners, or their family members should be avoided, except when the interaction is potentially beneficial to the client. (See A.5.d.)
All of these are areas that apply equally well to spiritual teachers as well as therapists. And in many ways, the relationship between a teacher and student might even be more prone to violations than a therapist-client relationship.

When someone gives themselves over to to a teacher or guru, one expects to be held in a spirit of growth, not taken advantage of sexually or financially. Yet many teachers use this relationship to have sexual relations with students, or get financial assistance from students. I am not going to name names here, but two very prominent members of the integral inner circle are guilty of these violations and have not been sanctioned in any way.

A teacher should NEVER, under any circumstances, be in a sexual or romantic relationship with students. It is not illegal (although it is for therapists), but it is incredibly unethical and irresponsible.

Someone who violates the ethical code would be fined and suspended from teaching - and a database would be kept of those who commit violations so that future students will be able to check on the ethical record of prospective teachers.

This blind eye needs to be made to see - for the benefit of all spiritual teachers and the safety and best interest of students.

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