Looking for a Good Term:

A student of mine is writing a very interesting article about restrictions on sex between medical and quasi-medical professionals (from psychotherapists and doctors to massage therapists and opticians) and patients. But he's looking for a good term to fill in the blank:

"One common argument for restricting sex between psychotherapists and their clients is that the clients often have a diminished ability to ___."

The term would mean something like "make wise decisions," but he'd like something shorter, preferably a single word (even if hyphenated). Of course, the claim isn't that all the rest of us are so good at making wise decisions about sex -- only that psychotherapists' clients tend to be even less able to make such decisions than the rest of us. Nor is the claim that the clients have a diminished ability to make wise decisions about sex with their psychotherapists; rather, it's that the emotional or mental problems that send them to the psychotherapist tend to cause a diminished ability to make wise decisions about sex more generally.

Note also that the question at this point isn't whether the argument is accurate, or whether, even if it's accurate, it justifies the regulations. My student is just looking for a clear yet concise term that can be used to fill in that blank (and can be reused many times later in the article, which is why my student is looking for something concise). If you have some tips for this, please post them in the comments. Thanks!

Kevin Murphy:
1.25.2008 6:00pm
1.25.2008 6:04pm
Actually, judgment works only if you omit "ability to."
1.25.2008 6:06pm
cboldt (mail):
Your author/friend will have more options if the word "ability" can be substituted.
diminished wisdom
diminished judgment
diminished self-control
1.25.2008 6:06pm
Phantom (mail):
Resist transference.

Transference related issues being one of the main reasons for the prohibition in general. A related term might be maintain self-identity.

1.25.2008 6:10pm
"realize they are being used."
1.25.2008 6:10pm
duglmac (mail):
distinguish between authoritative and non authoritative behavior in the person they have entrusted with their care.
1.25.2008 6:13pm
1.25.2008 6:17pm
'ratiocinate' ?

From Roget’s II: The New Thesaurus, Third Edition. 1995.


VERB: To use the powers of the mind, as in conceiving ideas, drawing inferences, and making judgments: cerebrate, cogitate, deliberate, reflect, speculate, think. Idioms: put on one's thinking cap, use one's head.
1.25.2008 6:18pm
Robert S. Porter (mail) (www):
"be rational", "discern", "discriminate", "cognize", "extricate", "prognosticate"

I think he's trying to hard. Better to rewrite the sentence than search for a word that may not exist.
1.25.2008 6:19pm
Main Entry: 2 consent
Function: noun
Date: 14th century

1: compliance in or approval of what is done or proposed by another : acquiescence "he shall have power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to make treaties — United States Constitution"
2: agreement as to action or opinion; specifically : voluntary agreement by a people to organize a civil society and give authority to the government
1.25.2008 6:20pm
duglmac (mail):
ok, just re-read and saw the requst for a shorter term.

How about ability to 'distinguish authority'.

I agree with R. Porter, though. He is trying to hard for a multi-tool. Better to use the right tool than to use a multi tool that doesnt do it very well.
1.25.2008 6:25pm
bkleinman (mail) (www):
differentiate between the other person's professional interest and personal interest. Which is wordy. But maybe I'm giving a different answer. A diminished ability to escape the role of client/patient. A diminished ability to "objectively assess". Yeah, if I'm going pithy maybe that's what I go for. They don't make the same decisions they'd make as if they were propositioned by their professional in a non-clinical environment (or they misinterpret the professional's behavior and proposition the professional) because they're in dependent client mode instead of in independent individual mode.
1.25.2008 6:27pm
Sarah (mail) (www):
I like "consent" but "resist transference" says what I think about the subject best. Therapists in particular have to create a professional relationship with the client that's very intimate, for the relationship to succeed -- we want to keep that distinct from other kinds of intimacy, and so tell therapists that they can't have both a personal and professional relationship, at the same time, with any given client.
1.25.2008 6:29pm
xyz321 (mail):
"really enjoy it"
1.25.2008 6:31pm
htom (mail):
"Confounding intimacies" might be the phrase, but I'm not sure it helps. "Consent" was my first guess, but that has a lot of baggage in this context.
1.25.2008 6:35pm
tristan (mail):
"resist the temptation to blackmail"
1.25.2008 6:40pm
LM (mail):
1.25.2008 6:41pm

"One common argument for restricting sex between psychotherapists and their clients is that the clients often have a diminished ability to ___."

Often, when you can't find the right word, it helps to recast the sentence.

As it stands, I might suggest "evaluate risk."
1.25.2008 6:46pm
pgepps (www):
sublimate [in Freudian lingo, I think this is exact]

partition, segment, proportion
deconflict (or de-conflict)?

The phrasing is awkward because most of the best descriptions will involve transitive verbs.
1.25.2008 6:55pm
pgepps (www):
You might also press very hard on the meaning of adjust, getting both the risk-assessment and the modification senses to serve you.
1.25.2008 6:57pm
David Schwartz (mail):
1.25.2008 6:58pm
Unfortunately it's jargon, but the concise and probably correct term is "self-actualize."
1.25.2008 7:04pm
CheckEnclosed (mail):
"Discernment" comes to mind, as does "manage boundaries".
1.25.2008 7:11pm
gregh (mail):
I got it, I got it!


Only problem--it might be a neologism I just created.

verb form of perspicuity:

keenness of mental perception and understanding;

Acuteness of perception, discernment, or understanding;

the capacity to assess situations or circumstances shrewdly and to draw sound conclusions
1.25.2008 7:14pm
Tell The Truth Please (mail):
Maybe you should stop helping him pick words, and start helping him be honest.

if it's a common argument, then he should just phrase it as it is most commonly given. If he can't do that, then it's not a common argument.
1.25.2008 7:15pm
ifoughtthelaw (mail) (www):
Without reading the body of the post, I'm going to suggest "ostrich-shaped," because that term probably hardly ever gets used.
1.25.2008 7:18pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
I like the joke ones. Can we hijack the thread and post some more funny ones?
1.25.2008 7:20pm
Houston Lawyer:
1.25.2008 7:24pm
jdh (mail) (www):
Why use one complicated and imprecise word when it's easily explained in smaller ones:

One common complaint is that clients will confuse the intimacy of therapy and the intimacy of sex.

("Sex between clients and patients" should already be the topic by the time you get to this sentence, so that phrase can be cut in order to make a cleaner sentence.)
1.25.2008 8:04pm
say "no".
1.25.2008 8:11pm
Thoughtful (mail):
Eugene says he's LOOKING FOR A GOOD TERM. Unfortunately, given the choice of Presidential candidates we have, I think a good term is highly unrealistic.
1.25.2008 8:25pm
1.25.2008 8:27pm

"consent" is O.K., but I think the more accurate term would be "for discerment". (Porter said it first).

Definitions of discernment:

understanding: the cognitive condition of someone who understands; "he has virtually no understanding of social cause and effect"
taste: delicate discrimination (especially of aesthetic values); "arrogance and lack of taste contributed to his rapid success"; "to ask at that particular time was the ultimate in bad taste"
perception of that which is obscure
sagacity: the mental ability to understand and discriminate between relations
discretion: the trait of judging wisely and objectively;
1.25.2008 8:40pm
James Ellis (mail):
1.25.2008 8:42pm
Dr. Weevil (mail) (www):
I think you're confusing perspicuity with perspicacity. The thing that is seen clearly is perspicuous and has perspicuity, while the person who sees it clearly is perspicacious and practices perspicacity. 'Perspicate' looks more like a verb formed from the latter than the former, but should still probably be avoided as ambiguous.

Not that I have any better ideas.
1.25.2008 8:56pm
The Cabbage (mail):
1.25.2008 9:12pm
ras (mail):


No one is saying that the patients should have their right to sex restricted, nor the same right of the therapists, either. And if the same two people weren't therapist and client it would not be an issue.

The prob is that the client would theoretically be harmed by the carryover of one relationship with the therapist into another. But I also agree with the commenters above who call for a rewrite.


1.25.2008 9:26pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
In my own case,

"resist the possibility of bedding a beautiful, intelligent, and witty redhead."

OK, so I dated her before she officially became a psychiatrist.

There are no victims here, only the lucky.
1.25.2008 9:53pm
snark (mail):
1.25.2008 10:07pm
Joe McDermott (mail):
1.25.2008 10:09pm
JF in delta (mail):
"diminished decision-making capacity"
1.25.2008 10:20pm
give informed consent
1.25.2008 10:32pm
arbitraryaardvark (mail) (www):
Is there a latin or greek or even german word for ostrich-shaped, that could be repurposed for the intended use?
Google wasn't much help.
1.25.2008 10:33pm
tckurd (mail):
"open up."
1.25.2008 10:48pm
As written:


The sentence, however, is awkward, and should be restructured. Try:

" The client’s inability to ________ is an common justification for prohibiting sex between psychotherapists and their clients."
1.25.2008 11:04pm
Larry K (mail):
1.25.2008 11:09pm
DRJ (mail):
"One common argument for restricting sex between psychotherapists and their clients is that the clients often have diminished judgment."
1.25.2008 11:22pm
ras (mail):
Perhaps it is less the sentence's grammatical structure and more its implication that makes it so truculent. As written, it will assign a pervasive characteristic to the client, such as being unable to make informed decisions.

But the client's problem is not pervasive, but contextual.

[Otherwise, are we to infer that, for ex, all people who seek therapy are generally incapable of choosing their own sexual partners? Or that they have diminished judgment in every choice they make?]

One cannot generalize the problem onto all of the client's other relationships and yet the sentence as written - esp w/the request for a single word, no more, to complete it - does just that. That's why no one word can fix it and why we're all having such a problem finding one.
1.25.2008 11:55pm
michael (mail) (www):
"Now, in that existential state, I the physician come to you and I say, "Can I help you?" "What can I do for you?" What are the expectations you have when I do that? You have at least two, I feel, and I think you wouldn't disagree with me on that. One, that I'm competent, or the whole darn thing is a lie, my offering to help you, to heal you.

And the second one is that I'll use it in your interest and not my own, and I won't exploit you. Now, you will say, "Well, this is terribly, terribly fundamental. It's obvious." It's so obvious that it's painfully the thing that's most frequently missed," Said Edmund Pellegrino, MD in a dscussion of the Presidential Commission on Bioethics on Sept 6, 2007 from which I have copied.
1.26.2008 12:34am
JunkYardLawDog (mail):
Consent. willful and voluntary consent.

Says the "Dog"
1.26.2008 1:10am
Justin (mail):
"Consent" is clearly the wrong word. It is surely wrong as a practical term - clearly, they CAN consent, and it's not accurate as a legal term, either - a therapist having sex with a patient may not be ethical, but most of the time it isn't rape, either.
1.26.2008 1:24am
One word? There should be on word for each patient multiplied by each therapist. But the word you want in this instance isn't really "make wise decisions" it is determine what the motivations of the therapist are and synthesize them to the patients own. After all what is "wise" about sex. It may be unwise at times, but its a biological urge that doesn't translate well to an intellectual grading system.

I live in a state (as Eugene posted a while ago) that santions sex with your dental hygenist. Anybody ever consider the absurdity of a standards board making judgements about the propriety of people having sex? Some of the research that has been publicized lately about the secret life of our sexual senses should put us on notice that our concious mind is not in control, therapist or no.
1.26.2008 3:28am
As a psychotherapist, my first thought was "judgment," but it's not quite right. It's really the therapists' judgment that is in question in these cases - the client isn't expected to have professional judgment in regards to client-therapist boundaries in any case, so how is such judgment diminished?

The American Psychological Association's code of ethics points out that sex with a client is a matter of exploitation, so "diminished ability to avoid exploitation" is probably more accurate, overall.

If you want a single word, "self-protect" would be accurate, albeit wretchedly written. I'd recommend rewriting the sentence altogether:

"One common argument for restricting sex between psychotherapists and their clients is that these types of relationships are often exploitative. Thus, forbidding such relationships serves to protect vulnerable clients."
1.26.2008 4:01am
Mike G in Corvallis (mail):
1.26.2008 4:47am
Dell Adams:

Is there a latin or greek or even german word for ostrich-shaped, that could be repurposed for the intended use?
Google wasn't much help.

According to Wikipedia, ostriches are genus Struthio and belong to the order Struthioniformes. So it looks like "struthioniform" is your best bet.
1.26.2008 5:11am
Steven Lubet (mail):
"exercise autonomy." or if you want one word, "autonomate."
1.26.2008 6:29am
I would substitute the whole part "diminished ability to.." by "lack serendipity" (but I am not a native speaker of English...)
1.26.2008 7:22am
I'll second reason.
1.26.2008 9:07am
MJG (mail):
"partner discriminate"
1.26.2008 9:20am
REL (mail):
I think the word you are looking for is "boink," but if you are looking for a phrase, I might try "give sexual pleasure without wanting to talk about their deep-seated mental problems both before and after the act of intercourse."

Hope this helps.
1.26.2008 9:51am
glangston (mail):
negotiate the contract....or is it contact?
1.26.2008 11:09am
". . . realize that the camera is rolling."
1.26.2008 11:28am
Peter Wimsey:
"not cause trouble later."

Realistically, there is no one word that fits because the situations being discussed are too different. If the student were only discussing sleeping with, say, a psychiatrist or a physician, you might be able to find a word that applied.

But when you add opticians and massage therapists to the mix (and why not hairdressers and personal trainers, too), you don't have anything like the same dynamic, and so there won't be a one-word-fits all term.
1.26.2008 11:54am
pete (mail) (www):
1.26.2008 12:56pm

I assume that "wise decisions about sex..." refers exclusively to the general idea of "having sex when one shouldn't" (as opposed to the idea that patients can unwisely not have sex when they should).
1.26.2008 12:57pm
Anonymasshole (mail):

Oh. No, wait. That supports the contrary argument.

(Couldn't resist!)
1.26.2008 1:52pm
stanneus :
1.26.2008 3:06pm
theobromophile (www):
"resist exploitation"

"use reason"

"act rationally"

"understand that pillow talk will be limited to 45-minute intervals while the other person takes notes"

"not talk about Freudian envy in bed"

"be flexible enough to do it on the couch"
1.26.2008 4:06pm
Dr. Weevil (mail) (www):
I'm not sure what 'ostrich-shaped' has to do with this post, but the Elder Pliny's Latinized Greek name for the ostrich is 'struthiocamelus' (= 'camel-bird', because of its long skinny neck), so a good classically-formed word would be 'struthiocameloid'.
1.26.2008 4:24pm
jd (mail):
"say no."
1.26.2008 4:46pm
Henri Le Compte (mail):


"not use weapon-of-mass-destruction"?
1.26.2008 6:16pm
"One common argument for restricting sex between psychotherapists and their clients is that the clients often have a diminished ability totergiversate"

Function: intransitive verb
Inflected Form(s): ter·gi·ver·sat·ed; ter·gi·ver·sat·ing
Etymology: Latin tergiversatus, past participle of tergiversari to show reluctance, from tergum back + versare to turn, frequentative of vertere to turn — more at worth
Date: 1590


#607. Tergiversation
-- N. change of mind, change of intention, change of purpose; afterthought. tergiversation, recantation; palinode, palinody; renunciation; abjuration,abjurement; defection &c. (relinquishment) 624; going over &c. v.; apostasy; retraction, retractation; withdrawal; disavowal &c. (negation) 536; revocation, revokement; reversal; repentance &c. 950- redintegratio'amoris. coquetry; vacillation &c. 605; backsliding; volte-face. turn coat, turn tippet|; rat, apostate, renegade; convert, pervert; proselyte, deserter; backslider; blackleg, crawfish [U. S.], scab*, mugwump [U. S.], recidivist. time server, time pleaser; timist|, Vicar of Bray, trimmer, ambidexter; weathercock &c. (changeable) 149; Janus.
V. change one's mind, change one's intention, change one's purpose, change one's note; abjure, renounce; withdraw from &c. (relinquish) 624; waver, vacillate; wheel round, turn round, veer round; turn a pirouette; go over from one side to another, pass from one side to another, change from one side to another, skip from one side to another; go to the rightabout; box the compass, shift one's ground, go upon another tack. apostatize, change sides, go over, rat; recant, retract; revoke; rescind &c. (abrogate) 756; recall; forswear, unsay; come over, come round to an opinion; crawfish *[U. S.], crawl* [U. S.]. draw in one's borns, eat one's words; eat the leek, swallow the leek; swerve, flinch, back out of, retrace one's steps, think better of it; come back return to one's first love; turn over a new leaf &c. (repent) 950. trim, shuffle, play fast and loose, blow hot and cold, coquet, be on the fence, straddle, bold with the hare but run with the hounds; nager entre deux eaux; wait to see how the cat jumps, wait to see how the wind blows.
Adj. changeful &c. 149; irresolute &c. 605; ductile, slippery as an eel, trimming, ambidextrous, timeserving;. coquetting &c. v. revocatory, reactionary.
Phr. "a change came o'er the spirit of my dream" [Byron].
1.26.2008 6:32pm
speedwell (mail):
1.26.2008 7:20pm
Richard A:
... the clients often have a diminished ability to EXAMINE.



1.27.2008 4:20am
Mike G in Corvallis (mail):
... or THINK.
1.27.2008 4:24am
I have to agree with 7:15. If the argument is common you shouldn't have any trouble figuring out how it's phrased. If you think the common phrasing is dishonest or ignores something important make that argument, but this sounds like you're trying very hard to construct a straw-man because you don't think you can knock the real one over....
1.27.2008 11:55am
Charlie (Colorado) (mail):
How about if the student rewrites that dreadful sentence to avoid being painted into that corner?
1.27.2008 12:36pm
ras (mail):
Out of honest curiosity, might not the student phrase it thusly?:

"One common argument for restricting sex between psychotherapists and their clients is that the psychotherapists often have insufficient ability to ___."
1.27.2008 2:33pm