Going Public

I am one of those people who gets very excited about beginnings…until it’s actually time to begin. The anticipation turns into anxiety, and I find myself completely terrified! Kind of like now…

So, yeah, I’ve been stalling a bit. The decision to be public about my experience has not been made lightly. On the one hand, it feels absolutely necessary to be open and talk about what happened to me and bring this issue more into the light. On the other hand, I am exposing the most vulnerable, tender parts of myself to the world. I am fairly certain that there are people in my life who would caution me not to do this. (God forbid I should display anything embarrassing or shameful about myself to anyone else! No, no! Keep silent! Hide it away for safe keeping!…)

But here we are. So. (Deep breath.)

I was exploited and sexually abused by my psychotherapist for about five years, ending in October 2005. Once I got out and began to realize exactly what had happened to me, I filed a civil lawsuit, which settled out of court in early 2007 (with a payment from his insurance company), then filed a licensing complaint with the Board of Psychology, which was finally resolved this year. (He surrendered his license to practice, admitting to the charges and giving up his right to a hearing.) What happened with him wove its ugly little tentacles through pretty much every aspect of my existence during those five years and continues to heavily impact my life for the nearly four years since. I am happy to say that I am healing and recovering, but that has required a lot of work and a lot of time. (And, yea! Let’s hear it for EMDR! ‘Cuz really, nothing much else was working for me… More on EMDR later.) The healing ain’t over yet, and may reach quite some way into the future, which is a real drag. Such is life.

Some people may find it incomprehensible that an adult patient could be “sexually abused” by her therapist — and really, that’s a big part of the problem I face in speaking publicly. Although many other types of abuse, such as clergy abuse, have been exposed and validated within the public eye, therapist abuse and exploitation remains hidden away behind the locked, relatively soundproof doors of the psychotherapy office. I hope to crack that door open a little.

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  1. Kristi.
    Congratulations on your coming out! As I said over at my site “The most freeing thing I did was come forward with my name, went on TV and told. This was also the hardest and most terrifying thing I ever did. I found out in the end it wasn’t that bad or that big of a deal (to go public) It is, however, the place where I took control. (It only took me 30 years)” I hope your experience is every bit as good as mine has been!


  2. I have been working with a therapist on my therapy abuse issues for 4 months now. I have seen her for one year and it took time for me to find out the reason I was in therapy,plus I figure I needed time to check her out, so to speak–the whole trust issue. I’m still unsure what it is I need from my therapist. One thing I realized today after a horrible therapy session that left me feeling even more lost and alone is–are therapists supposed to show compassion? Are they crossing the line if they show some sort of compassion, like saying “I am sorry this happened to you”. I would like to know other people’s thoughts. Diana

    • Hi Diana,
      All therapists are different in how they respond. Some training programs really emphasize the therapist providing a “blank slate” for the client to project their stuff onto. Which often means that they maintain very neutral emotional responses, which can be upsetting for trauma victims who are looking for someone to mirror the awfulness of their experience. On the other hand, some training programs (perhaps more holistic ones or somatic psychotherapy programs in particular) de-emphasize the separateness of therapist and client; so a therapist might show more emotion and empathy, but the boundaries might feel more mushy. For example, the therapist might do more sharing about their life. For someone who’s been a victim of boundary violations, that could also be triggering.

      I have seen several subsequent therapists, and they all had their pros and cons. It wasn’t like there was one perfect therapist out there who could provide everything I needed. It’s a bit of a dance in that respect. You have to decide what’s important to you, what you really need in place, and the what you’re willing to work with. That’s where a lot of the growth and recovery take place: when you start doing the relational work with the therapist and learn to ask for what you need, say when something’s bothering you, and stand up for yourself. But first you need to deal with the trauma. And you need someone you trust and feel comfortable with to be able to do that work together. And even then, you’re going to have some horrible therapy sessions. The key is to tell the therapist what’s going on and why you’re upset and not just let it go or assume that they know what you need. You do need to start standing up for yourself, your needs and your boundaries. And if the therapist is not a good fit, you need to be willing to find someone else, even if it’s a pain. You do have a choice about who you see.

      That’s my initial two cents.


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