Hi, my name is A. Craig, and I’m the person joining Kristi as author and administrator for www.SurvivingTherapistAbuse.com. Born and raised in the northeast, I currently live in the mid-Atlantic region of the country. Like Kristi’s, my background is eclectic and includes university study in psychology, biology and chemistry, and literature. I am a woman “of a certain age [very certain],” who used to be a champion sidewalk roller skater (over tree roots, even); and, yes, my skates had a key. I have worked for many years as a professional writer and editor and as an assistant in a large international law firm.
A reader of Kristi’s blog since she began it in 2009, I have marveled at what she went through and especially at how she survived, and even thrived, in her recovery. And, although our experiences of therapist abuse occurred far apart in time (mine was in the early seventies), their similarities are sometimes striking. (It seemed kind of comic to me, all these years later, to recall that I, too, had a shocking supermarket encounter.)
Kristi’s goals for the Surviving Therapist Abuse website were solid from the start: “First, to bring awareness and attention to the issue of therapist abuse, exploitation, and professional sexual misconduct by providing a survivor’s perspective; second, to offer resources for those who may need help or support.” These goals are extraordinarily important; it is vital to continue meeting them. So when I learned that I might have an opportunity to contribute to Kristi’s blog and, ultimately, to help write and administer SurvivingTherapistAbuse.com, I jumped at the chance.
In the years immediately after I got away from my abusive therapist (who found a way to become my therapist, my college instructor, and my abuser — all at the same time), I had a relatively brief period of therapy with an ethical practitioner. But then I ran out of money and had to go it alone. I fought against suicidal ideation, anxiety by the truckload (probably undiagnosed PTSD), and isolation — and lots of consequences of all those. For more than a year, I came down with an autoimmune disorder. Work life and social life were difficult and unreliable. There were only two people I could talk to about the experience. One was another victim of the same psychologist, and the other could sometimes listen but rarely, I feared, understand. The topic of therapy in itself frightened my family, and therapist abuse was regarded as “my fault”; I was called “a tramp.” Talking about mental illness was forbidden. A few years in, I told a boyfriend I was starting to trust about what had happened; he “forgave” me. I stopped telling anyone.
It was a long, hard time. I lived alone and primarily worked alone. I talked to my houseplants, not for their sake, but for my own. It wasn’t until years later that I finally initiated some real contact with the larger world. I started a “real” job and finally obtained some functional health insurance. Then the revelations about abusive priests and the Roman Catholic hierarchy that protected them started appearing in the Boston Globe. All the old neurochemical wounds from the abuse were “triggered.” For a while, I stopped sleeping. Finally, my health insurance allowed me to find a therapist — an experienced, ethical professional who had, as the referring doctor remarked, “excellent boundaries.” Now, years later, I can safely claim that I have learned a lot. I hope that what I have to contribute will be of help to the readers of this blog.
I look forward to reading about your experiences and your viewpoints, and to replying to your comments. And I’ll share some of my own experiences as a survivor as well. Like Kristi, I am neither a therapist nor an attorney; however, I am not a stranger to this territory.
As I’ve thought about how therapist abuse is handled (and mishandled) in our various environments, a number of related issues have emerged that I think might be discussed to help broaden the blog’s reach while maintaining its foundations.
- Is any organization or entity (state or national) keeping track of how many patients are abused by their therapists in a given year? Has the total decreased in those states that have criminalized therapist abuse?
- How do the licensing boards of mental health professionals (psychology, medicine, social work, etc.) function? What are their various goals? How are they supported? How are they governed?
- How many attorneys around the country serve victims of therapist abuse? How many of them work on a contingency basis (that is, require payment only if the suit succeeds)?
- What relationships (economic and otherwise) exist between licensing boards and state legislatures?
- Do licensing boards support legislative efforts to categorize therapist abuse as a criminal violation?
- What do members of the ethical therapeutic community believe motivates abusive therapists to make the decisions they do? As Dr. Phil might put it, “What do they tell themselves that makes it OK for them to use their patients?”
- How do members of the ethical therapeutic community respond, on a professional level, to reports of therapist abuse? On a personal level?
- Does it seem to good therapists, as it does to me, that the reputation of mental health care practitioners could only be improved by the passage of laws that would make sexual contact between therapists and their patients a criminal offense?
- Have the legislatures that have passed laws criminalizing therapist abuse had support from professional organizations that represent practitioners of the professions most often involved in abuse?
- Professional organizations (e.g., American Psychological Association, American Psychiatric Association, National Association of Social Workers) all have ethics policies barring sexual contact and other boundary violations between mental health care practitioners and their patients. But do they put any “muscle” behind those proscriptions?
Please feel encouraged to write to Kristi and me with your “take” on these topics and others of interest to you. Together, I think we can continue to make a difference.