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Abusive Therapist

Question:

I probably shouldn’t ask…this is an old issue, but I can’t get past it. Two years ago…started seeing a therapist. He seemed very kind and helpful. In early spring, 99, I started having “those feelings.” At 44 then, I was old enough to know better, but I did it. He’s divorced. I initiated things by asking if I could ever see him socially. Yes, I know that’s not allowed. But he changed. He started calling me at home and work. He had me join a psychological Bible study he was forming. Through the summer and fall, he was VERY friendly and attentive, calling often several times a day. Because of this, all traces of my ongoing depression disappeared, and I floated through the summer and fall being very happy. Just before Christmas last year, he took me out for a very informal supper after a session with him. Then he came to my house. He came several times…and sex was involved. He gave me $100 for Christmas. He said things like he wished I wouldn’t see any other men…that he hoped to stay all night sometimes, that he felt he could come by any time. Then in January…it stopped. After a couple of weeks, I confronted him. He replied then, “Nothing has changed.” Obviously, it had. He dropped by once in February on a Saturday…but that was the last time. His calls continued through the winter but tapered off…to none by early summer. My problem is that no matter how much I KNOW I have to get past this, I can’t. I shouldn’t go to him any more but do…feel a need to hold on even though I have accepted that nothing will ever be between us. It’s as if he won’t get out of my mind. He charges very little..and I have limited insurance. I can’t afford to see anybody else until the first of the year…and don’t really want to. A couple of weeks ago…I’d been drinking…I called and told him how this is making me crazy. I had to. He said very curtly that January was a LONG time ago…and then went on to imply…I think…that I am delusional and implied that maybe I imagined the whole thing. I know I have depression, but I am not delusional. I work full time, own my own house, and run my own life as capably as most people I know. I know what I’m doing and what does and doesn’t happen. The implication was infuriating. I just don’t have the guts to say so. I know I shouldn’t go back. Lately, he gets me out of there in about 20 minutes. Yet…he insists on having my medication changed…says I need it. I went in last week with every intention of saying I wouldn’t be back, but I couldn’t do it. I’ve been told I should turn him in, but I have no desire to do that. I suppose he’s done this before…he just doesn’t look the type. I don’t feel vindictive. I know other people who think very highly of them, people he helps. I just want him not to matter at all.

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Answer:

Sadly, you’ve become the victim of a therapist who has abused his ethical duty to you and to his profession. What he has done by forming a relationship with you outside of therapy definitely falls under the heading of “abusive practices”. In some cases he has even broken the law by sleeping with you. His actions are grounds for an ethical investigation by his state board (if he is licensed at all) which could result in his losing his license.

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p>I’ll encourage you to report this guy to the appropriate state board. You do this by figuring out what sort of therapist he is (e.g., a Psychiatrist, Psychologist, a Social Worker, a Licensed Professional Counselor, etc.) and then writing a letter to the state board responsible for handling the licensure of the type of professional he is. For instance, For Psychologists in Ohio – the appropriate body is the “state board of psychology” and the address is in the yellow pages in the government section. Alternatively, you can probably look up the licensure body you need on the web at www.tarleton.edu/~counseling/coresour/lllpc.htm.

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p>It may seem harsh to report this guy (as you say you care for him). It may even hurt you to do so. Nevertheless, I hope you will report him. If he has taken advantage of you, he has almost certainly taken advantage of other vulnerable women. If you choose not to report him, you are implicitly agreeing that it is okay for him to harm other vulnerable people. If he is not identified and brought to the attention of the proper authorities, he will very likely take advantage of other women in the future. People like this give the profession of psychotherapy a bad name and end up doing more harm than good.

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