Fighting against therapist abuse!

What is Therapist Abuse?

Therapist Abuse

Therapist abuse is using the imbalance of power in the therapeutic relationship to…

Control, manipulate and exploit clients.
Therapist abuse comes in many forms.
Therapists encouraging their clients to do certain things
That are not within the clients best interests
Therapists encouraging the clients dependency.
Therapists using the clients vulnerability to the therapists advantage.
Abandoning clients.
Engaging in an unethical dual relationship with client.

How it happens

People seek therapy for a variety of reasons. Therapy is supposed to provide a healthy relationship where the client feels safe and secure. The building of trust in the therapeutic relationship is essential to providing a healthy, stable environment where the client can express their emotions and feelings that are troublesome for them.

In the therapeutic relationship there is an imbalance of power. The therapist has a significant amount of power and influence over the client.

As a client we grow to respect their opinions and appreciate their guidance.

For clients who experienced childhood abuse and neglect, the therapist may take on the role of a parent.

In this case we seek validation, approval and acceptance from the therapist to replace what we didn’t receive as a child.

Adults who experienced childhood abuse are at a higher risk of being abused in the therapeutic relationship.

If clients were abused as children or abandoned, they most likely never developed self-esteem, self-worth and appropriate boundaries. Never developing these things can make clients a target for abuse as adults.

Clients who have suffered abuse in the past may not be able to distinguish between what is a violation and what is theraputetic .

The power and influence the therapist has, has a lot of potential to do a lot of good and by the same token it also has the power to cause severe damage that could have long lasting effects on the client.

How often does it happen?

Statistics about therapy patient abuse only tell part of the story.

  • Approximately 4.4% of therapists report having engaged in sex with at least one client,
  • The offenders are about four times more likely to be male than female,
  • The vast majority of sexually exploited clients are women (88-92%), and
  • One out of 20 victims is a minor.
  • The aftermath is incalculable. 11% of victims of therapist patient abuse end up in the hospital, 14% attempt suicide, and 1% actually commit suicide

Check list for therapy abuse

    1. Go with your gut feelings, if something seems off, trust your instinct and seek another therapist.

    2. Does your therapist seem unprofessional? ( Do they talk about other clients, their personal life or things that make you feel uncomfortable?)

    3. If you can’t tell if therapy is helping or hurting.

    4. If the therapist is degrading, humiliating, intimidating, shaming you or you feel manipulated.

    5. Making suggestive comments, sexual comments erotic comments.

    6. Pressuring you to make decisions or engage in activities that you feel uncomfortable with.

    7. Calling you on the phone, email, text messages, meeting with you outside the office.

    8. Giving constant attention to your looks or complimenting your physical appearance ( you are beautiful, sexy) rather than personality or things you’ve accomplished.

    9. Pay close attention to their compliments about your achievements. Does it seem like over kill?

    10. Does the therapist make you feel like you “need” them? Do you feel anxious if you miss a session? Has your therapist made you feel like they are the only one who can “fix” you?

    11. Have they made promises to never abandon you and always be there for you? Have they made you feel like they will never let you down?

    12. Have they engaged in touching, kissing, hugging, winks, sexually suggestive body language and or sexual activity?

Where to get help??

  1. Talk to a friend, spouse or parent.
  2. Seek out information. There are many websites on the internet with a vast amount of information and people who can help. I recommend TELL ( therapy exploitation link line. The website is www.therapyabuse.org I also recommend www.survivingtherapistabuse.com. The information on these websites can help you through the process of getting help and making the decisions that are best for you.
  3. Seek another therapist.
  4. Contact legal counsel, file a board complaint and talk with police.

6 Responses

  1. Pingback: » ‘What is Therapist Abuse?’ Page Added Lynette's Law for Maryland

  2. Pingback: Therapist Abuse Awareness: The Cause I Fight For | Mike Ricksecker, Author and Ghostorian

  3. Pingback: Therapist Abuse Awareness: The Cause I Fight For | Mike Ricksecker « Kimberly McPherson's Blog

  4. Thank you for supporting this important cause. The issue goes deeper than “a few bad apples.” To look at ways we can help prevent the abuse from continuing, it’s worth exploring the foundational structure of the therapy relationship that makes it such an incubator for exploitation and emotional abuse. http://trytherapyfree.wordpress.com/

    March 26, 2014 at 9:50 am

  5. LP

    I agree 100%. The idea that professional therapy could consist of one male counselor + one female client — alone in a room for one hour a week for weeks on end — is ludicrous. And I mean in the same category of “Anita Hill vs Clarence Thomas” kind of ludicrous. Too much can go wrong behind that closed, “in session” therapy door.

    Transparency in the digital age? Not in this profession.

    Protocols are in place for adults who work with children in scouts, schools, sunday schools, and youth groups. Any one adult may not be alone with a child at any point in time — two adults must be present. I submit that this protocol needs to apply to adult therapy as well, especially during intake sessions. It would also be appropriate, IMO, if a therapist’s supervisor met with the client every 4-6 weeks and asked, “how’s therapy going?” If not only for the fact that the counselor can be mislead by a client, or he could misdiagnose a client, or arrogantly “put down” a client without recourse.

    I’m sorry to report I’ve had some really (really, like alarmingly) inappropriate things said to me by male counselors in recent years. One in particular made me unbelievably uncomfortable. At the time I was exhausted from a bad marriage; he offered to help us as a couple. Thing is, he wasted very little time before telling me I was beautiful and I could “completely depend” on him, “Day or night, just call and I’ll be there for you.”

    If you were a sponge in the desert looking up the barrel of a water hose, you would not pass on the proposition. No. Your response would be “bring it on” — you agree to almost anything for a drop of that water. There’s always more where that came from. And that’s the problem. They know what they are doing.

    So instead of being truly supported in the therapeutic sense, and finding your ground and your strength to decide what you need to do, you find yourself feeling needy and broken, doubtful and demeaned, fearful and unsure, incredibly shaky when you once were energetic and confident and outgoing, You are a shell of your former self wondering what the hell happened.

    Yes, it’s time for Lynette’s Law. Before any more women are hurt by outrageous behavior behind closed doors in the name of “therapy.”

    June 3, 2014 at 4:48 am

  6. Heather, your hard work is appreciated more than you will probably ever know. Holding abusive therapists accountable starts with holding licensing boards accountable and that is a very, very complex problem. Perhaps some day, victims of therapy abuse might be able to report abusive behavior to licensing boards without be re-traumatized. And perhaps, when therapy abuse is taken seriously and abusive therapists are not protected, innocent, vulnerable people will be able to seek help for themselves and those they love without significant risk of being further harmed.

    June 27, 2014 at 12:01 am

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