For Religious Leaders and Those Who Supervise Them:
Strategies for Preventing CSM
- Religious leaders should not offer professional services beyond their qualifications. If they have not been educated as mental health professionals, they should not attempt to offer counseling or psychotherapy.
- Religious leaders who have been prepared as mental health professionals should not offer mental health services (counseling or psychotherapy) to persons whom they also serve in the role of pastor, priest, rabbi, religious teacher, or supervisor.
- Religious leaders should have accountability structures such as supervisors, peer groups, or congregational committees to whom they report on a regular basis. They should share with this group the nature of the relationships they are developing in the congregation, particularly the development of close friendships and family-like ties. The accountability structure should also have direct access to congregants' assessments of the religious leader's functioning.
- Religious leaders should never use private information given them by congregants for leaders' own purposes.
- Educate members on the role of sexuality and power in relationships, studying religious texts and principles that relate to our sexuality and handling the power we have (whether as parents, teachers, employers, supervisors, and leaders) and how a community is responsible for its members who are vulnerable to the misuse of power.
- Educate members about the "normalcy bias" and the "norm of niceness," and the kinds of situations in which we have experienced these disincentives to act, and appropriate responses.
- Adopt written codes of ethics and clear role expectations for leaders. Those expectations should include proscribing congregational leaders from serving in the dual role of professional counselor or therapist.
- Conduct thorough reference checks on potential leaders, including persons in previous congregations not selected as references by the leader.
- Provide accountability structures with regular reporting expectations.
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