Our Ethical Guidelines
These Ethical Guidelines are basic principles of ethical behavior to which we, facilitators, team members and those directly involved in hosting events under the name of Exploring Deeper (including producers, venue owners, and volunteers), hereafter called ‘service provider’, voluntarily commit ourselves to offer our work in the safest way possible during our events, play parties, dance events, workshops, retreats, individual sessions – hereafter called ‘session’.
We recognize that in any situation where there is a client and service provider, there is an inherent power dynamic where most of this power rests with the service provider. To prevent this power from being abused, consciously or unconsciously, there is this ground ethics.
Professional agreements regarding ethical behavior and boundaries provide transparency to both service provider and client. These agreements make it possible to create a culture of mutual consent where both service provider and client can be held accountable for their behavior and, where necessary, follow-up actions can be taken in a clear and transparent manner.
Safety to explore is central to us. We are accountable for that safety when we invite people to areas where safety is necessary (such as workshops, individual session work, etc.).
Our core values
- At the beginning of each session, workshop, coaching/counselling, support group, party, etc. (hereinafter referred to as: session) we remind our clients of the confidential setting, and what that means and means for the specific setting. This includes, for example, agreements regarding the anonymity of other attendees.
- Anything shared within a session will be treated with professional confidentiality and not shared with others.
- When we, service providers, encounter clients outside of our professional activities, we will not disclose where we met them. We also will not disclose information about their sexuality, relationship preferences, identity, activities, status, or other potentially sensitive topics.
Freedom of choice in the workshop/session room
- We encourage freedom of choice in participation, both at the start of a session and during. Pushing or coercing to participate is avoided under all circumstances.
- A client does not have to leave the room in which the session is given if they do not want to participate (anymore).
- A client has the freedom at any time and under any circumstance to terminate an interaction without reason, and/or to leave the workshop, whereby they are being asked to notify the facilitator, or a team member, for information (no explanation is demanded).
- The service provider can also interrupt or end a session at any time if the well-being of the client or service provider requires so.
- Exercises are sufficiently explained in advance by the service provider to give the client the opportunity to estimate whether they want to participate.
- Clients are encouraged to modify exercises if their physical (or other) capabilities require it. As service providers, we encourage this.
- Clients are not forced to work with a particular person, not by a service provider and not through peer pressure. There will always be a possibility not to participate in the exercise in such a case.
- With exercises in pairs, it is never assumed that when exercises are done in one direction, it automatically happens in the other direction as well.
- The service provider uses inviting terms (no affirmative or imperative form).
Inclusiveness and diversity
We are aware of social inequalities at the societal level. These include:
- Gender (male/female ratios, transgender and nonbinary experiences)
- Sexual orientation (being LGBTQIA+, (internalized) homophobia and biphobia, asexuality)
- Ethnicity and skin color (including institutional and everyday racism)
- Body acceptance (the position of certain forms of bodies in society),
- Age (the glorification and simultaneous infantilization of youthfulness, the glorification and simultaneous desexualization of seniority)
- Ability (diversity of physical capabilities)
- Neurodiversity (such as assumptions about “normal” and “desirable” social behavior and varying degrees of sensitivity to group dynamics)
- Social class (such as awareness about education and access to education, employment, rural/urban background, social mobility)
In order to guarantee the security from which exploration is possible, we explicitly strive for a space that is inclusive towards minorities. For this we do the following:
- We believe in everyone’s self-identification and make no assumptions about how someone identifies with regard to the above axes of identification (i.e. no assumptions about who someone is attracted to, for example).
- When a session is not accessible to everyone (for example a session for neurodiverse people or for self-identifying women), we are specific and clear about who the space is and is not suitable for. We also clearly indicate the reason and added value of this exclusivity.
- We refrain from generalising, stereotyping, or deterministic statements about identity traits (avoiding statements about “men are like this, women are like that” or imitating “types” with racialized or class-destroying accents, for example).
- In exercises we do not divide groups on the basis of identity characteristics. If this is desired for a practical reason (for example when an exercise is easier with people of similar height), we motivate our train of thought.
- The spaces in which we work are as accessible as possible for people with (a) handicap(s) (such as people in a wheelchair or with limited vision). If this is unexpectedly not the case, we explicitly offer the possibility to arrange an alternative if someone asks for it. We also actively make room for helpers (humans or service animals), who obviously do not have to pay extra access.
- When we overlook something or do not adhere to our own standards and values, we like to be held accountable. We thank those who take the trouble to give us feedback and take their signal seriously.
Sexual and romantic connections between service provider and client
The relationship between client and service provider is not an equal connection. We recognize that there is a power difference between service providers (including their team of assistants, organisers, etc) and clients. For this reason, we use guidelines regarding the possible establishment of a sexual or romantic connection with clients. We make a distinction between potential clients, existing clients, former clients, and people we knew before the service was provided.
Potential clients are people with whom we have not yet entered into a service provision, but with whom the potential client has indicated that they are interested in this and we as a service provider are considering the client.
When individuals with whom we have connections (family, friends, partners, partners of partners) consider entering into a professional service with us, and that seems appropriate within the context of the service (where an individual session with a partner may be inappropriate, participation in a workshop could potentially be appropriate), an open discussion is started in which the shift in power dynamics, impact on the existing connection and possibility of impact on shared connections are discussed, as well as possible agreements on both a professional and personal level.
Clients are people with whom we have entered into a service provision (paid or unpaid).
As a service provider, we do not enter into romantic or sexual connections with clients. Sexuality can be a theme within a session/workshop. In that case, sexuality in no form will take place outside this context of session/workshop.
If the client and service provider will be present at the same event, workshop, play party or otherwise, this will be discussed in advance, if possible, and agreements will be made about this.
No romantic or sexual connection is aspired within 12 months of cessation of professional activities. If a situation arises within twelve months in which it is desired to deviate from this rule, the service provider is obliged to contact other team members for reflection. We also ask the client, whether or not in the presence of the service provider, to speak with at least one team member.
People we already have a connection with
Sometimes people with whom we already have a personal connection participate in a session. This connection originates in a situation without power dynamics and therefore differs from connections that arise within the power dynamics of the client/service provider dynamic and can therefore be seen as appropriate. Such a connection can give a client special status in workshops, or create a feeling of insecurity for people who are not familiar with this relationship. When appropriate and contributing to the security of the setting, these connections will be disclosed at the start of a workshop.
When there is a personal romantic or sexual connection between team members (service provider and/or assistants), this will be disclosed, if appropriate and contributing to the safety of the setting.
Because situations between client and service provider do not always fit in the context of basic ethical principles, it is possible to deviate from the above. In such a case, the service provider will always request intervision and possibly supervision.
Being Trauma Informed
We strive to continuously learn about trauma, have sought education about trauma, the causes of trauma, and how to deal with trauma when it comes up in our clients.
We only work with clients with traumas (as far as we can reasonably know) that we believe we can handle safely when the trauma is touched. If we estimate that we cannot handle this safely, we will refer the client to trusted colleagues.
We are able to direct our team on how to deal with surfacing trauma where needed; we are of course ultimately responsible for the well-being of our clients.
The above guidelines basically apply to anyone who is in a professional power dynamic during the session. These are, for example, assistants, those who own or rent out the venue in which the service takes place, producers or hired (co-)service providers.
During sessions (including Play Parties), team members are never participating in the same way as clients. Team members may step in an exercise when that is requested by the client (e.g. when there is an exercise in pairs and there is an odd number, and the amount of assistants allows for one to step into an exercise). Team members may dance during a dance event or a play party, and they may briefly step in to show a skill or help a client set up. This will not result in team members playing at the play party – the exception would be for team members to have a moment with each other to support each other, or support the general benefit of the group. Service providers and team members will never see themselves outside of the service provider/client power dynamic and they will never step in because of their own benefit.
We carefully choose the people we work with, inform them of what we expect from them, offer appropriate compensation (financial or otherwise), and educate them about our ethical principles. Team members are invited to address each other and the service provider about their behavior.
We value clarity, honesty and transparency. We refrain from spreading baseless misinformation, factual inaccuracies and lies. We do what we say, walk our talk, and if that doesn’t align (or seems not to align), we want to be held accountable.
If an incident occurs, we prefer to be addressed personally. This can be done during our work or afterwards, in person or by e-mail. If approaching Wilrieke personally feels impossible, you can contact one of the team members present through Facebook (this is a temporary solution – a full accountability system is being prepared and released in the autumn of 2021). We take both the reporter and their complaint extremely seriously. If we do not have the opportunity to respond substantively and/or constructively at that time, we will agree on a specific moment at which we will do so.
Workshops and exercises are part of intellectual property of a business. As team member you may become inspired by what you learn in the workshops.
It is not okay for team members or participants to copy exercises or full workshops and facilitate them as your own. To create your own Cuddle Workshops under the name of Cuddle Workshops International, you can get certified by following the practitioner training (see www.cuddleworkshops.org). When in doubt about using your inspiration, check-in with Wilrieke.
These guidelines are based upon open sourced Consent Guidelines created by Pink Therapy, The Summer House Weekend, Kinky Salon London and others.