What is 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.
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
Go with your gut feelings, if something seems off, trust your instinct and seek another therapist.
Does your therapist seem unprofessional? ( Do they talk about other clients, their personal life or things that make you feel uncomfortable?)
If you can’t tell if therapy is helping or hurting.
If the therapist is degrading, humiliating, intimidating, shaming you or you feel manipulated.
Making suggestive comments, sexual comments erotic comments.
Pressuring you to make decisions or engage in activities that you feel uncomfortable with.
Calling you on the phone, email, text messages, meeting with you outside the office.
Giving constant attention to your looks or complimenting your physical appearance ( you are beautiful, sexy) rather than personality or things you’ve accomplished.
Pay close attention to their compliments about your achievements. Does it seem like over kill?
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?
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?
Have they engaged in touching, kissing, hugging, winks, sexually suggestive body language and or sexual activity?
Where to get help??
- Talk to a friend, spouse or parent.
- 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.
- Seek another therapist.
- Contact legal counsel, file a board complaint and talk with police.