Do You Need Help?

The following is excerpted from the booklet Professional Therapy Never Includes Sex published by the California Department of Consumer Affairs.

Warning Signs
In most sexual abuse or exploitation cases, other inappropriate behavior comes first. While it may be subtle or confusing, it usually feels uncomfortable to the patient. Some clues or warning signs are:

  • Telling sexual jokes or stories.
  • “Making eyes at” or giving seductive looks to the patient.
  • Discussing the therapist’s sex life or relationships excessively.
  • Sitting too close, initiating hugging, holding the patient or lying next to the patient.

Another warning sign is “special” treatment by a therapist, such as:

  • Inviting a patient to lunch, dinner or other social activities.
  • Dating.
  • Changing any of the office’s business practices (for example, scheduling late appointments so no one is around, having sessions away from the office, etc.).
  • Confiding in a patient (for example, about the therapist’s love life, work problems, etc.).
  • Telling a patient that he or she is special, or that the therapist loves him or her.
  • Relying on a patient for personal and emotional support.
  • Giving or receiving significant gifts.
  • Providing or using alcohol (or drugs) during sessions.

Signs of inappropriate behavior and misuse of power include:

  • Hiring a patient to do work for the therapist, or bartering goods or services to pay for therapy.
  • Suggesting or supporting the patient’s isolation from social support systems, increasing dependency on the therapist.
  • Any violation of the patient’s rights as a consumer (see “Patient Bill of Rights”).

Therapy is meant to be a guided learning experience, during which therapists help patients to find their own answers and feel better about themselves and their lives. A patient should never feel intimidated or threatened by a therapist’s behavior.

If you are experiencing any of these warning signs, trust your own feelings. Check on the therapist’s behavior with a different therapist, or with any of the agencies in “Where To Start” (below). Depending on what you find out, you may want to find another therapist.

What If It’s Me?
If you have been sexually abused or exploited by your therapist, you may be feeling confused. You may feel:

  • Guilty and responsible — even though it’s the therapist’s responsibility to keep sexual behavior out of therapy.
  • Mixed feelings about the therapist — protectiveness, anger, love, betrayal.
  • Isolated and empty.
  • Distrustful of others or your own feelings.
  • Fearful that no one will believe you or understand what happened, or that someone will find out.
  • Confused about dependency, control and power.

You may even have nightmares, obsessive thoughts, depression, or suicidal or homicidal thoughts. You may feel overwhelmed as you try to decide what to do or whom to tell.

It’s essential that you face what happened. This may be painful, but it is the first major step in healing and recovering from the experience. You may have positive and negative feelings at the same time, such as starting to feel personal control, being afraid of what may happen in the future, remembering the experience, and feeling relieved that the sexual relationship is over.

The second step in the healing process is to decide what YOU want to do next. Try to be open-minded about your options.

Remember: It doesn’t matter if you, the patient, started or wanted the sexual involvement with the therapist. Therapists are responsible for keeping sexual intimacy out of the therapy relationship and are trained to know how to handle a patient’s sexual attractions and desires.

Where To Start
You may need to (1) talk to someone who will understand what you’re going through, (2) get information on whether the therapist’s behavior was illegal and/or unethical, and (3) find out what you can do about it. Three places to get help are:

  • Licensing Boards — In the Department of Consumer Affairs, three different boards license therapists. They can give general information on appropriate behavior for therapists and your rights for reporting what happened, as well as how to file a complaint.
  • Sexual Assault/Crisis Centers — These centers have staff trained in all types of sexual abuse and exploitation. They can provide general information on appropriate behavior for therapists, crisis services, your rights for reporting what happened, and names of therapists and support groups that may be helpful. Look in your telephone book under “sexual assault center” or “crisis intervention service.”
  • Professional Associations — Each licensed therapy profession has at least one professional association. Associations can provide general information on appropriate behavior for therapists, your rights for reporting what happened, and how to file a complaint. They can provide names of therapists who may be helpful.

What You Can Do
You can deal with your situation in several different ways. Take time to explore all of your rights and options. It may help to decide what your goals are:

Reporting the Therapist — Perhaps you want to prevent the therapist from hurting other patients. You may want to make it known that sexual exploitation is always wrong. If this is your decision, you have several reporting options. It is important to note that reporting misconduct is time-sensitive. What can be done in response to the report of misconduct usually depends on:
— who the misconduct is reported to, and
— the length of time between the misconduct and when the report was filed.
Such a time limit is called a “statute of limitations.” As you consider your options, be aware of these time limits.

Your Recovery — You may also want to explore and process what happened between you and the therapist. If you decide to do this, you can look into therapy or support groups.

Moving On — You may wish simply to move on past this experience as quickly as possible and get on with your life. Remember — you have the right to decide what is best for you.

Your Reporting Options
If you decide to report a therapist’s behavior that you believe is unethical and illegal, there are four different ways to do so. All of these reporting options are affected by time limits, so you should consider reporting misconduct at the earliest appropriate opportunity. You may choose one or more of the options listed below.

  • Administrative Action — File a complaint with the therapist’s licensing board.
  • Professional Association Action — File a complaint with the ethics committee of the therapist’s professional association.
  • Civil Action — File a civil lawsuit.
  • Criminal Action — File a complaint with local law enforcement.

From Professional Therapy Never Includes Sex Copyright 2004, California Department of Consumer Affairs.



  1. Is there really anything to do about exploitation by an online therapist? They are unregulated and feed on each other. This one charged for therapist sessions where we only visited, borrowed a substantial amount of money for a down payment on a home, and had a sexual relationship with me from early on which went from non-physical to physical. I asked another online therapist about this abuse and received no help. Instead just the opposite as they only tried to justify the actions of the first. Is there really any help for us?

    • I had a similar experience. My advice is to only seek face to face counseling and then only after thoroughly checking out the professional. There are many professionals who practice this type of deceit who hold many degrees (some of them fake).

      Good luck and God bless you in your attempt to find justice in an unjust world.

      • I definitely agree that it is always a good idea to thoroughly check out the professional. First, check their license. If any licensing actions have been taken against them, that will be listed on the page with their license information. You can also Google them to see if anything comes up.

        I also think it’s important to shop around and not just automatically go with the first therapist you talk to, which is what I’ve often done in the past. It’s SO important to find someone who’s a good fit and feels right to you. When I was looking for a new therapist for my EMDR work, I got referrals from people I trusted, including other therapists. I called about ten people and had phone conversations with them of at least 5-10 minutes. I developed a list of questions—information that I wanted to know from them about how they worked and what kind of boundaries they had—and I asked those questions. Then, based on our conversations, how they answered my questions, and whether I liked talking to them, I decided whether I wanted to meet with them. Some people sounded good, but had limited availability, so I asked them for referrals. I had sessions with two or three different people before landing my current therapist, who I think is just great. It was a lot of work, but I’m really glad I did it. I also learned to pay attention to things that weren’t feeling quite right about the others and to notice how I was feeling/reacting after the session. If I felt uncomfortable or really reactive, then that was that. I needed someone I could trust and feel comfortable with. Again, it seems like a lot of work and can feel frustrating, but it is SO worth it in the end.

    • Wow, that’s a good question. Is this person licensed? I would check with their licensing board and with any professional organizations they’re affiliated with. But I suggest talking to a lawyer first. I have some names on my Legal page. You could try contacting one of them and see what they say. Good luck! Let me know what you find out.

  2. Pingback: Resources: Therapist Abuse « Kate1975's Blog

  3. How about a court-ordered therapist (single woman) having lunch with the patient while he tells her about the $1000 gift he is getting for her, which then requires weeks of emails and phone calls back and forth? This is happening to me with my husband and his single therapist, who is much older than I am. He has been secretive about the gift and didn’t tell me about the lunch right away. He had mentioned wanting to do something nice to his therapist, who he claims has praised his wisdom repeatedly. She is “learning” so much from him. Kind of makes me a little woozy to think about it. Is this behavior OK?

    • Ooh, no, I don’t think that’s okay…!
      Since I’m not an attorney, I can’t give you legal advice on this. But I think you should definitely bring it to someone’s attention. Gifts—either from the therapist to the patient or that the therapist accepts from the patient—are not appropriate. Those two are definitely missing some boundaries in their relationship. Can you talk to someone associated with the court about this?

      Feel free to keep me posted. I’d like to know what happens and how this gets resolved. I wish you all the best! ~Kristi

    • Hi Tom,
      You’ve kind of hit the nail on the head. That’s an issue for many people. It can be very hard to trust another therapist once you’ve been abused or exploited by a therapist, yet it’s often the path to healing. I want to acknowledge you for your courage in wanting to move forward in your healing process.

      I would highly recommend getting referrals from people you know whom you trust. You may be able to get referrals from local abuse/violence organizations, rape crisis centers, etc. There are also online therapist directories that you could search, though I think referrals are a better way to go.

      Develop a list of questions so that you can interview potential therapists on the phone. From there you can decide whether or not you want to meet them in person. For myself, the interviewing aspect was really important; there were a lot of things I wanted to know before I would consider meeting the person. And I paid close attention to red flags and triggers and honored what came up for me. I think it’s important to find someone who specializes in trauma and has experience with abuse, exploitation, and those kinds of power dynamics. For myself, I’ve found EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) invaluable in dealing with trauma, so you may want to consider an EMDR therapist. There are other good trauma-resolution methods too.

      Best of luck to you in your search! May you find someone who’s a great fit!
      If anyone else has good ideas for Tom, please leave a comment.

  4. My daughter went with her father for the week. While she was there, he filed an order for custody and also took my daughter to a counselor. The counselor wrote a letter for him to take to court saying it was in the best interest of the child to never have any contact with her mother. The counselor had never meet me, nor did she know anything about me. She had only met my daughter for that one hour. I am a professional woman that has never been in any kind of trouble and I have always had the best interest for my daughter. This letter could have had a huge impact on our life. Is this not misconduct on the counselors part? The court did give our daughter back to me.

    • Hi Leka,
      That sounds like a horrible situation. I don’t have experience with this type of custody/counseling proceeding so I’m not sure what to suggest. Perhaps you could discuss this with the counselor’s licensing board and/or an attorney. Good luck!

  5. Any specific suggestions for helping a survivor of therapist abuse who repressed her experience/feelings about it for many years before getting to the point where she can begin to process it? As a therapist I can certainly help her heal emotionally, but I need suggestions on how my client can deal with her need to advocate for herself, when the statutes of limitation have long ago run out, so she can no longer seek legal or ethics board redress.

    • While I’m not a therapist, I know from experience how difficult it is when those feelings and emotions have been repressed and are stuck in our bodies. Personally, I favor approaches that deal more directly with the body and the nervous system—EMDR, somatic therapy, and mind-body techniques for example. But it’s really individual to each person and depends on how they handle trauma, whether they’re a high somatizer, how much dissociation there is, etc. For some people, talk therapy and cognitive approaches are sufficient, but that’s not been the case for me. I also think that helping the person develop boundaries, become more grounded, and work through any co-dependency issues can be extremely valuable.

      You might find some good information on the TELL (Therapy Exploitation Link Line) website, since it was developed by therapists. Also, AdvocateWeb does have a forum, though I don’t know how active it is currently, if your client wants to communicate with other survivors. Of course, she’s welcome here, too!

  6. Hi,
    I’m Bipolar II and have an anxiety disorder/agoraphobia.

    My therapist did not have sex with me, but he made inappropriate comments (that I had “nice tits” etc), gave me gifts (including paying for me to have a haircut and my eyebrows plucked and clothing), told me a LOT about his personal problems – far more than was appropriate about his ex-wives, children, and girlfriends, pressured me to date another client of his (who had psychotic episodes), gave this client my personal information without my knowledge or permission, and encouraged me to sever ties with my family – I had a rocky relationship with my mother at the time.

    With a lot of pressure, I ended up dating the other client even though I had firmly expressed SEVERAL times that I wasn’t interested in persuing romance – I wanted to be more mentally healthy and focus on being stable – and he insisted repeatedly that I must have been sexually abused because I wasn’t interested. He spent several sessions of “therapy” telling me ALL about the other client and that if I ever REALLY wanted to get better I needed to have a relationship with this person and that I needed to have sex or something was “wrong” with me and framing it as though this was the only thing that could help me. He also discouraged me from trying new medications even though the ones I was taking did not help me. He claims he is Bipolar and didn’t need medication, so I didn’t either.

    I ended up dating this other client, having my first sexual experiences, and living together all inside a very short space of time with my therapist encouraging me and the other client (now my ex) and breaking confidentiality on both ends – telling my ex things that I had said in session and vice versa.

    I mean I suppose I consented to the relationship, but I also sort of feel like I wasn’t properly able to give consent under the circumstances with that kind of pressure (“Emily, you just don’t want to get better!” and similar comments).

    I saw him from when I was 17 until I was 21. My last session was about a year ago – by that point I sort of realized that things were wrong and I spoke to my mother about it (she’s a mental health professional) and she told me I was right, it WAS completely wrong.

    I’m living with my mother in North Carolina and I’m trying to get stabilized but I was really unstable for at least six months after that and I’m still a bit of a mess. My current psychiatrist still thinks I’m having some kind of PTSD – I tried talking to another therapist (female this time, hoping it would help) to deal with it, but I had nightmares and panic attacks before every session or else I just wouldn’t sleep at all.

    Does anybody know what the statute of limitations on this sort of thing is in Michigan? Or somewhere that might be able to find a good attorney? I’ve been trying to file a complaint with the state, but they won’t send me my records.

    I don’t know if my ex would be willing to corroborate any of this, since he bought into a lot of it – and still does, I think. He’s sort of . . . easily led? He adopted the therapist’s viewpoints on most things. It was I broke up with him – the relationship was just so completely bizarrely enmeshed and unhealthy.

    I’m on SSI now and I’ve got to say money would be nice and everything, but my main priority if at all possible I want to make it so that he can never practice again or hurt anybody else.


    • Hi Emily,

      I am so sorry for what you’ve been through! I wouldn’t be at all surprised if you have Complex PTSD. I commend you on your willingness to take action. I recommend you contact an attorney as soon as possible, as the statute of limitations may be one year. You could contact any of those listed on my Legal page and they would be able to help you figure out your best course of action. (I can personally vouch for Joe George, as he was my own attorney.)

      Good luck! Let us know how it goes.

      • Thank you Kristi,
        I’ve been doing some reading and it says that a motion to ignore (I’m not sure of the correct terminology) the statute of limitations is sometimes successful. One paper I read said “Our basic theory is that the therapist’s abuse prevented discovery and in the cases in which there is actual discovery, the defendant should be estopped from raising the statute of limitations as a defense since it was his or her abusive conduct that prevented the patient from acting sooner.” Basically I was busy having a full-blown meltdown and blaming myself, so that prevented the discovery, so I’m cautiously hopeful. I’m making a few phone calls and have sent out a few e-mails (waiting to hear back) and once I find an attorney I’ll mention all of this. I’m frustrated that the group he worked out of is refusing to send me my records, though so that I CAN lodge a complaint, but I suppose that’s what lawyers are for.

        If nothing else, I don’t believe there’s any equivalent to a statute of limitations on unethical conduct with a licensing board, and if I can get his ability to practice taken away, that will be good enough for me.

        The therapist said to me that he had done that at least once before – set up two clients – and it just fills me with this huge amoung of rage that I can’t seem to get rid of. How DARE somebody with that kind of trust put in them abuse it so catastrophically? I know I’m preaching to the choir, I just needed to say that.

        Thank you for your help and I will continue to update if anything of note occurs,

        • Emily, you are welcome to vent as much as you want! It’s truly outrageous what these abusive therapists get away with.
          If you’re considering a combination of civil action AND a licensing complaint, talk to an attorney before doing anything. Timing can be very important and it’s possible for one action to impact the other.

  7. I am a 55 y.o. femail that had a 7+ years relationship with my therapist. Seven years of hiding how our relationship started (in therapy) has left me pretty messed up and confused. I am working through things with another therapist, but it has not been easy. The trust factor is all but gone. The former therapist has since relinquished her license to mitigate any problems caused by a possible filed complaint. There is a chance she may want to regain her license. Is there a way I can make sure that doesn’t happen? Are complaints left in the licensee’s file to be read when she applies for her license again?

    • Hi Jeannie,
      I am so sorry to hear about your situation. A lot depends on the laws in your state, the statute of limitations, and how the licensing board handles complaints. In California, where I live, once there is a judgment on a complaint it goes on the record. So when I look up my ex-therapist’s licensing information online, the complaint is there (and accessible via PDF file). You may also be able to file a criminal complaint against the therapist. Your best bet would be to consult with an attorney who specializes in these types of abuse cases and can advise you regarding your best course of action. I have a couple of attorneys listed on my Legal resources page.

      I’m glad to hear you’ve found someone to work with in your healing process. You’re right—it’s not easy, but things will get better over time.

      Good luck! Let us know what happens.

  8. I was emotionally, sexually involved recently with my therapist after my therapy ended. However, I told her of my attraction to her while in therapy (toward the end) and she indicated that the “chemistry was there – on both sides” We got involved 3 months after my therapy ended. I contacted her by phone and she agreed to doing something with me, but was the first to say that she was “interested in more than a freindship” with me. I was very attracted and wanted that though I also felt confused at the time since she had said it needed to be 1-2 years after therapy (if ever) before she could have an involvement with a client.
    Anyway, we went ahead with this and she ended up being an incredibly controlling, jealous and sometimes degrading “partner”. This started within 3-4 weeks of our involvement and I was totally surprised, confused and struggled with self-esteem and being able to stand up to her. I felt I loved her.

    I have been out of this for about 6 weeks and still feel confused about it at times – have a kind of PTSD response to remembering events within the relationship and a time that she confronted/sort of attacked me about somethign at the very end of therapy. I am really torn about possibly reporting her. I realized she is not psychologically or emotionally well – has sort of classis Narcissistic personality and/or borderline. I still care about her and don’t want her livelihood to be affected. I am seeing a new therapist who is helping, but I was so well at the end of therapy with the last one that I’m angry I have to continue with more therapy – I was really at a point of flying on my own.

    • Hi Beth,

      I’m not surprised you’re feeling angry and confused and having PTSD symptoms. Your ex-therapist completely violated her code of ethics and exploited you, whether it seems that way or not. She knew the appropriate boundaries, but she disregarded them and you are paying the price for that. I understand that you care about her and don’t want her livelihood to be affected, but I want to ask you this: How would you feel if she did this to someone else? I think it’s pretty common for therapists who commit these types of violations to be repeat offenders. Do you think, given what you know about her, that she is capable of having healthy, boundaried relationships with all of her patients?

      I generally recommend victims speak with an attorney who specializes in these types of cases, just to get the appropriate information. At least talk with someone at the licensing board. Find out what the statute of limitations is for filing a complaint, so that you know how long you have to consider whether or not you want to take action. You’re fresh out of it now. In a few weeks or a couple of months, you may be feeling differently. Don’t feel like you have to make a decision right away.

      And yes, it totally sucks that you were doing well before this and now you have to deal with the aftermath of this violation. It was her responsibility to act appropriately and she didn’t, and now you bear the burden. I’m really sorry that you have to go through this!

      I wish you all the best!

      • Hello Kristi, the same thing that happened to Beth happened to me but he is married. I started seeing him for couples therapy with my husband who had cheated on me . At the end, I’m going through a divorce and having a sexual relationship with my therapist for almost over a year now. He promised me he would leave his wife and all the things we all want hear when we are in that type of situation. Before meeting him I never would of consider having any type of relationship with a married man, never. But he took advantage of the intimacy of therapy, I trusted him and he took advantage of the situation, of all the information he had from me, my weaknesses to get me to have sex with him and ultimately to fall in love with him. Now his wife has threaten with divorce and he broke it off with me in a matter of hours. He was so cold, so harsh with me I could not believe I was talking to the same person. And even then, while talking in his office about the possible breakup and me crying, he had sex with me, even after he knew he was never going to see me again and he was going to break it off a couple of hours later.
        I am so hurt and in so much pain right know, I feel so used. I don’t know what to do. Report him, sue him or just get over it and that should teach me for getting involved with the married man.

        • Hi Maria,
          I’m so sorry for what you’re going through. Yes, this person used you to get his own needs met, and when he no longer needed you, he cut it off. I think you understand (at least on some level), that he abused you and is guilty of sexual misconduct.
          As you say in your comment:

          …he took advantage of the intimacy of therapy, I trusted him and he took advantage of the situation, of all the information he had from me, my weaknesses to get me to have sex with him and ultimately to fall in love with him.

          Given this, it’s not as simple as “falling in love with a married man.” Because of the therapist-patient dynamic, this wasn’t a relationship of equals where you could have said no without repercussions to your therapy. You didn’t really “consent,” you “complied.” There’s a difference. As for his being married, so many of these abusive therapists are. In some cases, the wives are former patients or students whom they’ve manipulated into the marriage.

          You have every right to (a) report him to the licensing board, (b) file a civil lawsuit and possibly even (c) file a criminal complaint, if you live in a state where a therapist having sex with a patient is against the law. I usually recommend that anyone who has been a victim of therapist abuse consult with an attorney regarding their options, even if they’re just thinking of filing a licensing complaint. There are statutes of limitations that need to be considered, so it’s best to get legal advice sooner rather than later. A consultation with an attorney should be free. (See my Legal Resources page for some names.)

          If you need additional information or support, feel free to send me a private email through the Contact page.

          All the best to you!

      • I took months and months, but I did end up reporting the therapist while working closely with an ethical therapist with very clear boundaries. After 3 months since reporting, I finally got a response from the state that the investigation is officilally open – now nearly a year afeter the end of therelationship. I still have what I would consider PTSD symptoms – fear of running into her somewher, fear of what she migth do when she finds out I’ve reported her, nightmares, etc. Now, having somethign finally moving forward, it all comes back up for me, I realize how awful this really was for my psychological well being. I have had thoughts of wanting to retract my report, but I know that I have to stand up for myself and for other clients who may be impacted – even if not in the same way as me.

        I also recently found out about another therapist who did something similar with a client. I know the therapist personally (friendly, but not close friends) and she works in the same office as the therapist I’m now seeing. I am very sure of the information I received being valid. I have felt sick to my stomach about this and am bracing myself to tell my therapist who I think I must tell. Take Care everyone.

        • I know how hard it can be to deal with what you’re going through, but good for you for taking a stand for yourself and for other potential victims. I, too, felt very afraid about what my therapist might do once he found out I’d filed suit, and I went through a phase of major PTSD. I do have some information on the site about PTSD (and I wrote a post about my own experience with it). I found EMDR to be very helpful in reducing symptoms, but other therapies can work well, too. I’m really glad to hear that you have someone you feel comfortable working with! Best to you in continuing to speak your truth and in your recovery!

  9. I just was wondering if what my old therapist did was inappropriate or if I am just over reacting. About 14 yrs ago, (I was 14) I started going to therapy after disclosing that I had been molested.I was set up with a male therapist. I had never been to therapy before, so I didnt know that I could ask for a female or that certain therapists have specialize in certain issues ect. My therapist had a reclining chair that he sat in and I would sit across from him in regular office type chair. During our session he would lean back in the chair and stick his had down the front of his pants, similar to someone sticking their hand in their pocket I guess only this was straight down the front or “crotch” of his pants. Sometimes I could see his hand moving around thru his pants.
    He never really said anything inappropriate, I just thought this behavior was kinda weird. It made me feel very uncomfortable, and I spent most of the sessions looking down at the floor. I dont know what he was doing, if he was rubbing himself/pleasuring himself or what, but I have always wondered if this was ok for him to do, or if my feelings about it are just me overreacting. I only saw him for about a year and a half, then I was transfered (THANK GOD) to a wonderful female therapist whom I still see today. This happened almost 14 years ago and it still bothers me and obviously makes me wonder what exactly was going on. I know due to statutes of limitations I probibly cannot do anything about it, but it might be nice to get some feed back on here, from another person’s perspective. Thanks.

    • Hi Autumn,

      As I can imagine you realize now, your ex-therapist’s behavior was COMPLETELY INAPPROPRIATE. The man was masturbating in front of a 14-year-old girl. That is a form of sexual abuse. Have you talked about this with your current therapist? I’d really recommend you discuss this with her. You’re still dealing with it emotionally, and I’m not surprised. I’m glad you’ve found a trustworthy person to work with.

      As far as taking action, check with your state’s licensing board. They should have a website where you can look him up and see if he’s still licensed and practicing. If he is, you could contact them regarding your situation and ask about the statute of limitations. It may still be possible to file a complaint.

      Good luck!

  10. Thanks. I’m glad to know that someone else feel that what he did was wrong. I know for a fact that he is still licensed and working. In fact he is working at multiple different agencies. (Contracted employee I believe). I just don’t know if I want all the stress and drama that goes along with telling. (Been there, done that.) Plus it just comes down to “he said-she said.” No way to prove it. And I’m the “mental patient” with a “mental history” so I lose credibility there, and I will prolly get shunned for not telling sooner.
    Also, if I do decide to disclose, I need to know if this is something, by law; that my therapist is obligated to report.
    Telling isnt easy at all. I know from past experience. And telling usually means having to tell over…and over…and over…to many different people in different positions.
    I’m so confused…I don’t know what to do. :'(

    • I understand. Could you ask your therapist if she’s required to report and what would happen if she did, without actually telling her anything? You could also still check his licensing information online to see if anyone else has filed a complaint. I know that my state board’s website shows any complaints filed against the therapist and the resolution. If anyone else has filed a complaint, you are more likely to be believed. You may also be able to file an anonymous complaint, though I’m not sure what happens in terms of an investigation.

      Whether or not you decide to take action, I really want to encourage you to tell someone you trust who can help you deal with the emotional issues. What he did was a violation, absolutely. And if you had a mental health history at the time, then the violation is even greater. You could always contact an attorney for a free consultation. Check out my Legal page for names of attorneys who specialize in this area.


  11. I just want to say thanks for the support. I somehow got the courage to tell my therapist about what had happened to me during sessions with my previous therapist. It was very hard, emotional, and scary. I was also worried because my old therapist (the one who was inappropriate) was a co-worker with my current therapist. (They are no longer co-workers). So I was afraid that that could complicate matters, but it didn’t. I am still reeling all the emotions from telling this terrible “secret” I’ve been holding on to for all these years and my thoughts and feelings are all over the place. I have discussed what my options are should I chose to pursue taking actions against the offending therapist. I am taking time to think about and evaluate what I should do and where things should go from here. I do feel some great sense of relief for finally being able to share this with someone and to be able to take some of this weight off my shoulders.
    Thank you.

    • Congratulations on taking such a big step! Telling requires a lot of courage and also the faith/trust that it will be received in an appropriate way. It sounds like your new therapist was understanding and supportive. Wonderful!

      Yes, I’m sure a lot of emotions are coming up for you. Secrets bind energy, so once you start telling, that emotional energy starts to release. That’s a good thing, but not always comfortable! This is a good time to practice self-care. Nurture yourself, give yourself what you need, and make sure you have good support in the people you talk to and spend time with.

    • Hi Kelly,
      Are you asking whether it’s appropriate for you to text your therapist about sexual situations? I guess I’m wondering how that’s come about. If your therapist has asked you to do something like that, that seems highly inappropriate. And it would definitely not be appropriate for your therapist to be texting you about their own sexual situations.

      • Well we often text about my sexuality. Like she texts me to remind me of my appointment but usually end up having six hour texting conversations where she seems to say suggestive things such as lesbians will molest me if I go into an area where I don’t know anyone and seems like she’s trying to mold me into not liking men anymore. She tells me not to molest women jokingly but it kind of seems like she’s working her own fantasies in with my life to see what my reaction would be to them.

        • Okay, what she’s doing is HIGHLY INAPPROPRIATE and sounds like a grooming process. She is way way out of bounds. Her needs, fantasies and suggestions have no place in your therapy. I highly recommend you stop seeing this woman immediately and find another therapist right away. Get a referral from someone you trust. (Personally, I wouldn’t involve your current therapist any more than is necessary, and I doubt she’d give you an appropriate referral.) Then you can think about whether or not you want to report her to her licensing board and file a formal complaint. But first and foremost: Get out and tell people you trust what’s been going on. Then find another professional you can talk to about this.

          Good luck! You have my support!

          • Thanks she just says things that are goofy like I told her I was upset because I saw a man that assulted me and she was like oh don’t mind him if he’s horny. Men don’t care if you don’t kiss them or want a relationship. Go out and screw around and have fun it’s what u should be doing. Like this one thinks I have no problems and that everything I’m doing is natural but if my parents read the texts, idk if they’d let me go back. This person knows where I work too and the one day we texted I said I was at work and twenty minutes later guess who showed up? Was it a coincidence? Married and has kids too?

          • That’s pretty disturbing. First of all, she’s dismissing your feelings and concerns, so you’re not being heard. Then, she’s telling you what she thinks you should do. That’s not exactly empowering the client. And she’s showing up at your work?? Most therapists try to avoid contact with clients outside of sessions. This is starting to sound more like stalking…
            She’s really blurring the boundaries. I definitely recommend discussing this with a different therapist.

          • Yeah she told me like I was pretty and when I said I got a haircut she goes I was hoping you didn’t cut it all off! But I actually looked up grooming process and it makes sense. Allowing me to talk to her outside of work, making inappropriate jokes. Encouraging the use of pornography and premarital sex. Ignoring the issues that I feel that I have and replacing them with the ones she pretends I have. I have issues with relationships and basically she told me I did not give off the serious relationship vibe hence metiforically calling me loose to say it nicely. Gaydar apparently is big with her too. Saying she has it and can always tell who is. My parents are unemployed and our insurance doesn’t take many places so it’s hard for me to find another therpist and she knows this. I’ve only met with her for a month now and this is what has been going on. What should I expect in six months?

          • Especially since she knows my abuse backround, don’t you think shed watch what she says? I wonder if she talks to all her clients or am I getting special treatment? I tried to tell her things i wanted her to know and I told her to write down her comments, well that lasted 5 mins she can’t stop talking! Then I lose my train of thought and the problem goes unresovled. Unless that’s what she trying to do? I’m a mess, there’s so much more I could say about the situation even though we’ve only had three appts!!!

          • Am I overreacting? Is this her way of being friendly? This how she thinks she can get through to me, befriend me, get me to trust her and then move in? My teacher did this with me and she knows about it and did mention oh you know you can ruin them but you didn’t. Does that make me more vulnerable to her?

          • Okay. You’re going to be fine. You don’t say how old you are, but if you’re living at home, you need to tell your parents what’s going on. If not them, then some other trusted adult. Your therapist cannot be trusted. If she is already doing these things after only a month, it’s likely to get worse. This woman is being incredibly manipulative and pulling a power play on you. She knows you have boundary issues and she’s using that to take advantage of you. The longer you stay in this relationship, the more power she’ll have, and the harder it will be to get out—so you need to get out NOW. Even if that means doing without therapy for a little while.

            I want to be clear: This is not going to get better. She’s an abusive therapist. You need to get away from her.

          • I am nineteen, my parents would go through the roof if they read the texts. That’s how I kinda knew something could be wrong. Do you think that she thinks I know what she’s trying to do? Because when my teacher abused me he would text me at first like her and eventually he worked his way into the picture and used himself in the texts and that’s what I feel she could be doing? Does she has the potential of being sexually abusive with me or is this a power thing with me? She told me there was no way I was 19 at least 30 to her so she thinks I’m at her level

          • Yes, this could become sexual. That would be another way for her to gain power over you and make you dependent on her. She likes having this kind of control. If it becomes sexual it won’t be about love, it will be about power. In her mind, they may mean the same thing.

            Tell your parents and let them go through the roof. They need to know so that they can take action before anything worse happens. They can contact her licensing board and file a complaint. If this becomes sexual, it may also be against the laws in your state. (Every state is different.)

          • I thought this type of relationship wa supposed to take months to years? I know virtually nothing about her except she has a husband and a kid and she knows I like to date older women. Half of this was my fault for opening up to her and telling her everything, even sexual things. When I told her about the teacher she thought that was horrible and that they should know better and so I trusted her thinking she really just cared about me and wanted to know it all and wouldn’t cross the line. I mean therapists and clients texting is if it pertains to mental health but lesbians in the ocean and sex don’t really . Tried to nicely tell her we’d be better friends and she told me it wasn’t sad about her being my therpist bc she’s a good friend to me in the ecessence bc she is a good listener. She seems to be trying to add extra things in her texts such as lesbians molesting me and trying to justify the fact that we aren’t friends but in one way sorta are? This is such a mind maze. : (

          • None of this is your fault. You believed you were telling your story to someone who was worthy of trust. And as a therapist she should be worthy of trust. But she’s not. She’s not respecting your boundaries. In fact, she’s violating them. Therapists aren’t supposed to be your “friend.” Therapists don’t treat their friends, and they don’t form friendships with people they’re currently treating. That’s simply not good boundaries. They’re supposed to create a safe space for you to work through your stuff without fear or judgment.

          • Yeah I mean I know I don’t start the sexual talk at all. Usually she states something that pertains to somethig sexual. She told me for someone who hates men so much that I talk like a dude!

          • If you haven’t already, check out the Treatment Abuse Checklist.You can show it to your parents, too. Talk to them, and you or they can cancel any upcoming appointments you have with your therapist. Then get a referral for another therapist. Going back to this woman just puts you further at risk. There’s no point in seeing her anymore. Her behavior is harmful to you and your mental health.

            I have faith that you have the strength, power and courage to walk away. You didn’t start the abuse but you can stop it.

            If you’d like to converse more, you (and your parents, if they want) can contact me through the Contact page to send me a private email.
            Take good care of yourself!

          • A trustworthy therapist will have GOOD boundaries. This woman doesn’t.

            If a teacher of yours violated teacher-student boundaries with you, then you may be more vulnerable right now to people who exploit their positions of power. So it’s absolutely imperative that you find therapists—and other helping practitioners—who have excellent, clear boundaries and RESPECT yours. That’s the only way you’re going to be able to repair/develop your own boundaries. This may actually make them seem less friendly. They won’t be taking over your space, trying to influence your thinking, telling you what to do, etc. They won’t try to be your “friend.” Instead, they will respect you—and you will notice the difference. Listen to your intuition and pay attention to those little red flags in your head. Don’t try to rationalize away or excuse someone’s bad behavior. You have a right to say no and to have that respected.

          • We never even talked about boundaries. There weren’t any. I have her my number in case she needed something, she texted we started texting but now I’m wondering what she wants to gain from these texts? Ignore me being upset and make an excuse for him becuase he’s horny!!! Whatttttt? She tells me to use people for sex and not think about long term things anymore and just have fun. Her advice basically states live life without boundaries! :(

  12. I was the “client” for 11 years- up until a short time ago. In retrospect, I feel as though I was “groomed” to be his mid-life crisis relief. I’m not young, but younger. For the first couple of years, I was very uncomfortable with his suggestive manner and comments. I usually pretended that it was going over my head. Friends & other people who I knew were also in therapy were increasingly surprised and shocked at what I would describe. But by his point I was hooked and hid and/or lied about our relationship to everybody. It was sexual, but we did not have sexual relations- if that makes any sense. Eventually, we disclosed our feelings and the atmosphere was much more relaxed- extreme intensity without the sex,.. lots of fantasizing. Often, I would try to initiate a discussion about some real-life issue and her would re-direct it back to “us”! This period lasted a few years. We would have our blow-ups, usually me feeling a lack of attention…I tried to leave him but became physically ill every time i did. Fast forward a couple of years- he became increasingly indifferent and unresponsive. I felt as though he was making a pointed effort to show me my “place”… this continued and got worse to the extent where he was rude, he lied, he insulted, he targeted wounds he knew I had, etc. Finally, there was an incident where I was very ill and scared- and he know it. I promise I do not exagerrate that the pet fish of another client would have elicited more empathy….never a follow up (I was hospitalized) until I missed an appointment, at which point he claimed ignorance….(I’d spoken with him at the very height of my fears- go figure) that was the catalyst for me. And I know that he is so narcissistic and self-righteousness that he has no sense of complicity or ownership in anything after all of these years. It makes me so angry and so sick. I wasted so much of my life and energy, not to mention money- on this selfish and manipulative relationship. I need help, I do NOT want to be ruined for life, and he repeated many abandonment issues that he helped me identify!

    Just to head off questions-
    PhD & LCSW. Well respected, successful, in a busy urban area.

    • Hi Dominique,
      Thanks so much for sharing your story. Sadly, what you describe is far too common in these cases of therapist abuse. And it’s true that these therapists are often well-educated and well-regarded. I am deeply sorry for what you’ve gone through, and that it went on for so long. It sounds like you’re out now, so congratulations for extricating yourself from this abusive situation. You say that you need help. Are you concerned mainly about your own recovery or are you also considering taking legal action? In what area do you need the most support? I have quite a few resources on this site and I may also be able to offer some suggestions.

  13. Abuse is a strong word, and I’m increasingly wary of using it, especially given our culture’s propensity to coin the term nowadays.

    However, I felt led to this website today, perhaps at the subtle nudge of “Providence”, if you will. I’d been praying for help and healing as I review my experience with depression, along with my concurrent dismal experiences with the mental health profession.

    In the course of treating my depression, there’s been one therapist who has stood out among all the clinicians with whom I’ve consulted. The reason for this is that I believe I was abused by her.

    Long story short, I began therapy sessions with her during a difficult employment experience that resulted in a severe bout of depression. Though this therapist sounded angry and aggressive on the phone, I was desperate for help, and weakened by my condition. I was also young (early twenties). These factors, I believe, left me vulnerable to her influence.

    We met in a semi-dark room , which belonged to another therapist (she stated she was being permitted to use it), once a week for several months. She gave me her business card, which was rather rudimentary: her name, followed by “Mental Health Counselor”, and her telephone number. Later, I found out she was only one or two years older than I.

    This therapist did not follow any formal protocols in treating me. They did not perform an intake of any kind, give me surveys to fill out, take notes, or otherwise engage me in regular or periodic assessment. She also did not interview me to obtain a sense of my personality type, to see if her theory and style would be helpful to me.

    Though I presented with severe depression, which had incapacitated me emotionally, this therapist launched into an “Adult-Child” theory that was all the rage at the time. She said little or nothing about the events (abusive employer) that led me to seek her services in the first place.

    Likewise, future sessions would revolve around interpreting my personal events solely in those terms, to the exclusion of other possibilities or solutions. Anything and everything I did, according to her, was the sole consequence of my childhood upbringing. She also employed a spiritual dimension to her interpretation of my personal life, that it was ordained that it should happen, and that anything which followed would be consistent with what the supernatural intended for me. Being Christian, I found myself susceptible to this viewpoint, however vague and potentially flawed.

    After several months of consultation, this therapist, after succeeding in opening up childhood wounds, and failing to appropriately address a bad employment situation, terminated the relationship, stating they had an opportunity to be “supervised” and would be leaving as a result.

    In the ensuing weeks, my therapist permitted me to phone her for brief telephone consultation, which I did. However, she received me with an edge of anger, and began accusing me of “setting myself up” in various situations, though she offered no concrete evidence of this. There were also instances of sarcasm and similar accusations during the course of our in-person relationship, but for the sake of brevity, I will not mention them.

    After our relationship was completely terminated, I embarked on a course of “recovery” from depression/childhood wounds based upon the feedback I’d received from her during our sessions. I was vulnerable and believed that she spoke the truth about my personal troubles. Though clearly in retrospect, there were many red flags connected with my association with her.

    I endured a very protracted depression lasting decades. During this time, not only was I attempting to heal from the events that led me to seek therapy in the first place, but later, I determined that, much to my horror, the therapy itself. I have not spoken of this extensively with anyone, so compromised in my depressive state that I was afraid they would validate my therapist, or something.

    Likewise, I endured a kind of private hell. I felt guilty over the course my life took, feeling I was nothing more than the sum total of my childhood experiences, that my parents had ruined me, and that I was acting out this dynamic in everything I touched. My confidence and self-esteem had almost completely eroded over this implication, and that I was likewise setting myself up for more bad experiences. In other words, it was all my fault. I felt terribly infantilized by my therapeutic experience. How ironic that someone who was willing to attribute my negative experiences to what seemed to be a cogent psychological theory, would then turn around and communicate it in a way that impugned me so viciously. A kind of bait-and-switch tactic.

    It wasn’t until the emotional distress from the ruminations about this therapist and my experiences became so terribly pronounced that I began to realize that I’d been had. I could no longer live with such tremendous guilt. I then began a “fight” for my mind to reinstate my own good perceptions and reality again, and with that, my confidence. For despite taking her advice over and over, by applying her theory to my life, I was still seriously depressed.

    I am better now, but oh, the price I paid to get there! I look back at that decade and a half of depression and have sadly come to classify it as my “lost years”. I languished in a state of bad therapy, undertreated depression, and lack of personal accomplishment and fulfillment from all of this.

    There is much more to the story. However, at this point, I would like to know
    what, if anything, I can do to get some kind of redress for what I’ve been through. This hogwash took up so much of my life. The whole thing could have been executed much better, resulting in less time and emotion wasted.

    I have “followed” this therapist on the Internet, observing movement from place to place. They are now in the state of Kentucky (previously, Virginia). I have sent a couple of anonymous letters to her expressing my frustration over her therapy style, but I don’t feel this is enough.

    Any and all support and feedback would be appreciated.


    • Linda,

      Thank you so much for sharing your story. I’m so sorry for what you’ve been through. Your experience with this therapist sounds incredibly painful. You’ve clearly done a lot of healing and processing around this and I admire your courage and perseverance in getting to where you are now.

      While the statutes of limitations may have run out on a civil case, I would still suggest that you contact an attorney who specializes in this type of abuse to get a professional opinion regarding your options. A good attorney should consult with you for free. (Check my legal page for a few resources.) If this person was licensed or a member of any professional organization at the time of abuse, you may still be able to file some kind of complaint.

      I wish you the best of luck in finding some method of recourse and in your continued healing. I hope you are able to find what you need!


  14. Dear Kristi,

    As you know, emotional distress can be just as devastating as actual physical contact at the hands of an abusive individual. Likewise, that is why I decided to share my story.

    Have you had any experience with looking up a mental health professional in a state database to see if their true credentials? Perhaps there is something fishy here with my former therapist, as she seemed to have a bare bones background, and terminated our relationship due to needing “supervision”. Also, I don’t believe she was qualified to see someone with moderate to severe depression.


    • Yes, I really recommend that people check out a therapist’s licensing information, because that should show whether their license is in good standing and whether there have been any complaints filed against them or administrative actions taken. Usually there is a state website where you can look them up by name/location/license number. And there may be more than one state licensing board. For example, in California, PhDs and PsyDs are licensed through the State Board of Psychology/Medical Board, while MFTs and LCSWs are licensed by the Board of Behavioral Sciences. Each has their own site and license database. It sounds like your therapist may have been an intern if she needed supervision, so she may not have been licensed; but if she was an intern, she should have been supervised by someone who did have a license.

  15. Thank you, Kristi, for your unqualified dedication to helping other “survivors” of therapist abuse.

    I will most certainly look into contacting the state where the therapy took place. I will also research the legal angle of it. The problem is, in my case, so much time has passed, with virtually no record of our meetings, save the emotional distress in their wake. At the very least, I should be able to file a formal complaint.

    It’s quite possible that filing a complaint may not permit any delays resulting from the inability of the complainant to discover the damage until much later (say, after a statute of limitations has expired), but I will try nonetheless. There has to be SOME accountability.

    Thanks again,

  16. Kristi,

    I don’t want to bombard you with every detail of my case, but I just thought I’d mention something.

    I was able to find my former therapist in the respective state database, and discovered that the year of her initial certification was 1994. I consulted with her several years BEFORE. This does not bode well, as it suggests she was practicing without a license, or as you suggested, supervision.

    Also (to my disadvantage, unfortunately), she was affiliated with two separate mental health clinics during her time in that state, both of which are now defunct.


    • I’d suggest contacting the state licensing board and asking them about this. There should be a department that handles complaints and you can ask them for information about whether there is any administrative action you can take. You can also look into your state’s business codes to see if she was in violation. (A lawyer may be helpful with that.)

      Good luck!

  17. Dear Kristi,

    I wrote to the state about filing an administrative complaint, and not only did I get a speedy reply, but I was told there is no statute of limitations on filing. I was so happy to have that news greet me when I returned home from work today! I feel joyful inside, and have shed tears over this.

    So at the very least, I will have some redemption. I may still pursue a civil case, depending on the findings of the respective Board. By the way, do any of your legal resources include pro bono attorneys? I have never been well-endowed financially, and couldn’t realistically afford an attorney.


    • That is great news! I’m really happy that you found that out, and so quickly.
      I don’t know of any pro bono attorneys, but I do think it’s a common practice for them to simply take a percentage of a civil settlement (so no up-front fees). That’s how it was for me with my suit. But that may also depend on whether they think they they can win or negotiate a settlement. They should still provide you with a consultation for free and let you know their opinion.

  18. Dear Kristi,

    Thanks again for writing back.

    My reaction to this has been interesting. In just a few hours, I feel like a huge burden has been lifted from me, the proverbial “monkey on my back”, only in my case, it was a daggone ape! On some level, it had been weighing me down so heavily. I didn’t realize it until now…sad.

    I also feel more empowered than I’ve had in years. When we fall prey to people like my former therapist, we not only temporarily lose our own perceptions and way, we are in a kind of bondage until the spell is broken. And when we seek redress, we take back some or all of the power lost.

    I don’t want to get too ahead of myself, as the review board could find my claims to be only mildly offensive, and not worthy of disciplinary action. They may rationalize the therapist’s actions, or use the lack of specific information against me, as so much time has passed. But of several things I am sure: that no one can stop me from filing, that there’s a strong chance she was practicing without a license (and/or proper supervision), and that they may place them on notice that a complaint has been filed, regardless of their final determination on the merits.


    • Already you sound so much more empowered! Regardless of what comes of this step, by choosing to take action you are choosing to honor and value yourself and do what is right and best for you. And that’s huge! Congratulations on getting the ape (gorilla, perhaps??) off your back!

  19. What is an alternative therapy to get over psychotherapy where I was sexually molested?
    Somehow I simply can not allow my self to stoop low enough to seek assistance from anyone in an industry that employees therapeutic sexual surrogates,

    and then has the lack of integrity to request reimbursement from insurance carriers in the form of :
    ” Therapy, individual; non specified ”

    Anyone know anywhere to pursue another person safe to talk to?

    • Hi Tom,
      I’m not sure what to suggest, because I’ve mostly worked with other therapists since my abuse. To start, you could consider what you’d most like to address and how you’d like to work. Do you want someone to talk to? Do you want to address the body and the physical aspect of the abuse? Do you want to alleviate PTSD triggers? Address the biochemical effects of trauma and stress? There are a number of different ways of working and methods you could try, including various talk and cognitive processes, hands-on physical modalities, more subtle energetic techniques or even spiritual counseling. I think that only therapists can use modalities like EMDR (for addressing trauma), but you could try EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique), which more non-therapists are using or even hypnotherapy. There are a lot of different ways of dealing with trauma, it’s a matter of finding (a) what you like and feel comfortable with and (b) what works and gives you the results you want.

      • ” I’m not sure what to suggest, because I’ve mostly worked with other therapists since my abuse. ”
        How in the world are you even comfortable knowing this industry exists, let alone be able to trust being a client again?
        You are correct on the first part, and I simply want another person capable and safe to talk to and instruct me how they function in public and how to cope with sexual assault.
        At the other end of the scale, EMDR or hypnotherapy are completely out of the question. I’ve seen social workers use this at staff parties and had it done when I was young.
        Simple talk with a capable safe individual.

        • Tom,
          I was abused by a person, not an industry. I’ve seen a number of therapists over the course of my life and Dr. T was the only one who abused me. I also have several friends and acquaintances who are therapists, and I know they are caring, respectful and well-boundaried in their work. Similarly, I had really good results with EMDR, working with a good therapist. EMDR worked for me. But it’s not going to work for everyone. I am entitled to have my own experience and feelings just as you are entitled to have yours. I’m not going to tell you what you should do, and I would hope you would have the same respect for me.

          So unfortunately my area of knowledge is mostly about types of therapy that are practiced by therapists and counselors. Aside from spiritual counseling, I’m not sure who might offer that kind of talk support without also being a licensed therapist. There may be some groups for victims that are run by people with other kinds of training, but that’s not something I have experience with.

          Maybe someone else has some ideas?

          • How did you find the trust to sit with one of these people behind a closed door again? Let alone consume even more $$.
            Being an older male, I don’t receive much validation from the predominant female psych industry either.
            I suppose after all these years, I must face the fact this is a dead end. There will be no resolution from abuse from professional counselors or therapist, and especially so for a male.
            Tom S. in Tn.

          • Actually, because I knew I needed help ASAP, I basically went right back into therapy. I had to get some support and I didn’t have anyone else. But I would only see a female therapist. There was no way I was going to see a man. I live in an area where there are, like, a million therapists, and I got a referral that worked out. That being said, I’ve had several subsequent therapists and did eventually work with a man for a short while, which turned out to be okay. I learned I had to get really clear about what I was looking for, and spend significant time speaking with prospects on the phone, asking questions and listening to their responses, before I would go have a paid session with them. I had to start paying close attention to how I felt when I spoke to them and honor any red flags that came up for me. That interview process was really, really important. Doing all that helped me learn how to take care of myself and ask others to respect my boundaries, and that was a very important lesson for my recovery.

            I’ve heard other men say how hard it can be for them to find someone they can work with. There are definitely more female therapists than male, but a lot of men only want to work with another man. It’s possible there are some respectable people who do therapy by phone, if that would be of any help. There are also various healing arts practices that help resolve trauma and incorporate some talking/counseling, but they can be a bit esoteric… I’ll definitely keep my eyes and ears open for any possibilities.

  20. I’m almost too nervous even to bring this up, but it has gotten to the point where I have to do something.

    My former therapist turned the relationship into something else. It wasn’t sexual, but it was a relationship so close that I thought at times she wanted to be more close to each other than we were to our significant others. Then this person proceeded to exploit all my weaknesses (known all too well through therapy) to steal quite a tidy sum of money from me. I was willing to let it go just to have my peace of mind again, because this has been just unbelievably hard on me. I allowed myself to be manipulated and used because I trusted this person so much. Eventually, despite how humiliating it is for me to admit I allowed this to happen, I was forced to conclude that this person is insane, just has no grasp on reality.

    Every time I think it’s over, it’s not. I don’t know when it’s going to end, and it’s become a nightmare for me. I keep letting her take more and more from me just to get her out of my life, but she won’t leave me alone. I am missing entire nights of sleep at this point. This person is also heavily armed (I was there when the guns, including an assault rifle, were purchased, so I know this for a fact). This person is constantly trying to scare me (and other people — she has lost multiple friends over this kind of bizarro behavior) with these doomsday prophets who think we are all going to die in a tidal wave or asteroid or something else (it’s something different every day) and is stockpiling food, medical supplies, ammunition, etc.

    This is getting a bit long, and it is a very long story, so I’ll get to the point. On a handful of occasions, she pressured me to do something for her that I knew damn well was illegal. To be specific, there was something I was using that was not a criminal act for me to possess, but which was definitely a crime to pass along to her. Hypothetically, if I had submitted to her pressure and done the illegal thing, she would have this power to get me into trouble if I ever tried to challenge anything she is doing, or report her unethical behavior.

    I’m not committing crimes, but I don’t know what the legal implications are when a patient reports a therapist but (again, hypothetically) must admit (because it’s so relevant to other aspects of the ongoing abuse) having committed crimes. I am afraid to come forward and need some advice about what my rights are and whether it is safe to come forward. I am afraid I might have to get a restraining order. I have no doubt it would be granted, but don’t want to go from the frying pan into the fire. There wasn’t literally a gun to my head, so I’m responsible for whatever actions I committed, and even though from an ethical perspective I feel like I was basically coerced, I have little hope of proving that, and I doubt the legal system would even take that seriously.

    There wasn’t some one big obvious thing I can point to. It was a gradual pattern of increasing manipulation and theft that I have no paper trail or proof of, because I just kept trusting her at her word. So the trail is very convoluted and muddied, and I never got anything in writing. It’s too convoluted and long to get into here, but basically she just kept coming up with more and more creative ways to get me in deeper, with promises about how “when the apocalypse happens, we’ll be on the same team and will share everything, so it doesn’t matter now whose house anything is stored at” and instead of paying me money she owed me, would buy supplies “for all of us” that (as I am sure will not surprise you) she already took to her house a long time ago and is now trying to claim that (a) she never owed me and (b) all that stuff was hers and (c) that I still have stuff of hers that she is demanding I return.

    It is like some weird movie where the gullible idiot keeps getting in deeper and deeper to the bad situation and every step empowers the psycho even more, so the idiot is left with nothing but to submit to the demands one at a time, each of which just fuels the next one although each time the gullible idiot thinks this is the last time and now it will finally be over. It seems it will never be over. I know it sounds paranoid, but I think there’s a genuine risk that she could show up at my home and try to threaten me with a gun and steal more stuff. I guess I would try to call the police like you would if any other crazy thief showed up at your house with a gun, but I’m concerned about what could happen to me. I’d rather live in fear than live in jail, even though this anxiety does feel like a prison.

    Other friends who know more about professional ethics have been horrified and want me to report her to the licensing board and the ethics committee of NASW (she is a social worker, not a doctor, although she doesn’t admit that — I found that out online recently, although on some sites she is erroneously listed as Dr.). But as I said, I am afraid to come forward. I just want her to leave me alone, though, and I don’t know how to accomplish that without speaking up, because she shows no signs of backing off despite my telling her repeatedly that I want no contact with her ever again, even on email, because it causes anxiety attacks (which I have never had before this).

    The irony is that I didn’t even start therapy for myself. I was fine. It was for my grieving ex in the aftermath of our breakup. That lasted 2 sessions, then she refused to work with him anymore and just wanted to see me for individual therapy. So I kept going, because I enjoyed having a professional to discuss things with. But I wasn’t suffering from anything. Now in the aftermath of all this, I actually have started having anxiety attacks. Ironic and very embarrassing for me, as I feel like the biggest fool on the block at this point. I don’t really want this all coming out, because even though I get it that I was manipulated and used, I am a strong and assertive person. My big flaw is that I take people’s word for things. And she knew that, and got me to take her word for many things that now she just pretends never happened and/or twists into the opposite.

    I am thinking of moving to another state. Any advice much appreciated. You have to keep this in the proper context: this woman thinks the economy is crashing any day now, and that there will be terrible disasters due to a ‘rogue planet’ or dwarf star going through the solar system in 2012, and so she feels like she has nothing to lose. So it’s not like dealing with a normal person who cares about their career or reputation. It’s like dealing with someone who thinks it’s the day before the Apocalypse and nothing is more important than hoarding food and weapons. I am informed enough about current events to realize that the dollar does look shaky, but I am not panicking and I have perspective (such as, that the Russians are ok after their collapse, and we would get through it here, too, if it happens, so I don’t run my life around this!!). If you have ever seen a squirrel trapped in a cage (they TOTALLY flip out in a cage) that is about the mentality she is displaying. I am genuinely frightened, and I don’t have good home security.

    Sorry to write so much. It is really just the “in a nutshell” version, it’s a crazy tale…. I just want it to be over, but I am afraid there is no limit to what she can imagine she owns. Things that I bought and paid for before I ever met her, and that she had zero to do with, she now fancies are hers, and says she wants to come by to get them. That’s why I’m afraid that even if I give her more things, she’ll just keep coming up with some new way she thinks she can get away with it. And I really think it all goes back to the fact that she has this thing she can hold over my head, where she could bring problems upon me so easily, that I am too scared to stop her or report her.

    • Hi Wendy,

      Thanks for your sharing your story. What you describe is a crazy-making, reality-bending kind of manipulation. I’m not surprised you’re scared of her, and so I think it’s important to proceed with caution. I highly recommend you consult with an attorney before doing anything. I have a few listed on my Legal resources page, so maybe you’ll find one in your state. If not, I’ve referred several people to Joe George, who was my attorney, and he may have some suggestions and/or referrals for you. (FYI: A consultation with an attorney should be free.) Ask about your options in terms of filing a licensing complaint, a civil complaint and a criminal complaint. Because you’re legitimately afraid of her, you may need to get local law enforcement involved, and that should be part of your discussion. You can also contact her licensing board and ask them questions. (You should be able to do this anonymously.)

      Clearly, she’s not just going to stop. So it’s likely you’ll have to do something. An attorney should be able to help you figure out what that is. It would be good to talk to a couple of different attorneys if you can, just to get some different opinions. Do try to find someone who specializes in abuse issues, like clergy abuse. (It’s harder to find an attorney who specializes in therapist abuse, but clergy abuse is very similar in context.)

      Keep anything that could be used as evidence, including voicemail messages, emails, texts, etc. and put them in a safe place. If you keep a journal and have written about her, that may be considered evidence as well.

      Since I’m not an attorney myself, I can’t really advise you on what specifically you should do, but you’ll definitely want to consult with someone before making a decision about what actions to take.

      Feel free to email me privately through my comment page with questions.
      Good luck!!

      • Hi Kristi,

        I’m so grateful to you. I have spent quite some time today since I wrote the above letter, exploring on this site and on other resources you recommended and that I also found, like BASTA and TELL. I have read so much and learned so much. I am weeping as I write this, and have been for the past several minutes, and I felt I have to write to thank you.

        I didn’t even really grasp what therapist abuse could be like, the forms it could take. I know of course about the type of abuse that involves sex, but to identify what is happening to me as abuse is something of a revelation. No, that’s not really it. I know what abuse looks like in general (I am a survivor of long term abuse, which is why I ended my marriage) and recognized her actions as abusive, it had not occurred to me that it’s so similar to the sexual type of abuse. Reading through not only the red flags and warning signs, but also the symptoms, I am overwhelmed to realize that I’m not alone, even as I am simultaneously horrified to realize how damaging this type of abuse is.

        It is really horrifying to me to realize that after being an abuse survivor and thinking I knew what to look for, I would allow myself to be victimized again by the very person I trusted and confided in during the process of stopping, and healing from, the abuse I was experiencing in my marriage.

        But it means so much to me to suddenly realize that I’m not alone, that there are resources and there are others who feel this way and are going through some of the same things I am, even if my particular circumstance is bizarre and not a textbook case by any means.

        It is a lot to absorb for one day. I will take your advice about consulting with an attorney. I have a good friend who is an attorney and former assistant AG and so I will probably start by crying on his shoulder and then we can get some more case-specific advice from specialists in this field. I admit that reading about the experience of filing any sort of complaint makes me very reluctant to embark on anything like that. But that brings on a lot of guilt and pressure, because it’s because people like me don’t stand up and say something, that this stuff keeps happening. How would anyone guess this about her? It seems beyond the realm of possibility. Is it my ethical duty to warn others? It is just too much to consider for one day, given how hard it is to absorb that I’m an abuse victim yet again, aiming to be a survivor though. I just have to get through it. But at least, I have survived thus far. So I guess I am already a survivor. If my mom were still alive, this would break her heart, and yet I don’t know how I would have even thought to get through this without her, except for finding this supportive and informative site, and your caring and insightful remarks. It has indeed been mind-bending.

        Thanks so much

        • P.S. On top of all that, by the way, I’ve also come to the (should obviously have realized this sooner, but…) conclusion that it is more than just simple therapist abuse. Reading info about doomsday/apocalyptic cults, I see also that (it’s a long story, but in a nutshell) she was trying to found a cult, and I was the first member. She would tell me that she and I were the leaders of this group (she really was trying–and still is–to put together a survival group for the apocalypse, because she has no skills and thinks having other skilled, strong people around her is her only hope of survival, so that’s why the mad rush to put a group together and get everyone to buy in financially in various ways. i am lucky i am not one of the ones she was trying to get to buy land “with” her — which I know would end up meaning “for” her in the end). But I can’t argue with what I’ve encountered. The correlations between “signs you’re in a cult!” (there are many articles about this on various sites) and what I’ve gone through are just sickeningly on target.

          So now I’m a cult survivor as well? It is just a lot to absorb in one day. Although the one good thing on top of anything else is, today I have hardly had any anxiety about it. Usually if thinking about it this much, well, I wouldn’t even be able to think about it this much, I would have an anxiety attack immediately when starting to think about it, and then it would just get worse the more I thought about it. But for whatever reason, I’ve been able to read about it today without the anxiety. There’s been a lot of anger and grief and a ton of other emotions, but that’s clearly a natural response to realizing this kind of stuff. So I am hoping this is a turning point for me in my recovery, and again just want to thank you for putting this together, you and everyone else who’s worked on this site. I am sure you have heard the same from many other abuse survivors. My deepest gratitude.

          • For anyone else who might be in a similar situation someday, I will also add this link that had a half dozen signs. Every one of these was at least partially, and usually very, true in my case. If you think you might be in a cult, check it out. I think it’s important to note that all cults start SOMEWHERE. They don’t start out with 300 people. They start with someone. And I bet that people in vulnerable positions (such as clients of an abusive therapist) are more likely to be that cult member #1 than the average person. Maybe I wasn’t the first one. Maybe there were others before me who wised up before I ever met them. I don’t know. But for a time, I was the only one. And so it didn’t occur to me that I was being recruited into a cult, because there was no GROUP. But every cult starts with a leader. So be aware of the red flags for cults; they can be present in the cult leader before the cult ever forms, or if the cult never successfully forms, it doesn’t change the manipulative and abusive behavior of the cult leader.


        • One of the first questions that subsequent therapists asked me after getting out of the situation with my therapist was whether I had a history of abuse. It is very, very common for therapist abuse victims to have been abused previously, in childhood or as an adult. So please don’t be hard on yourself for what happened. That’s what you knew, it’s what on some level was familiar to you. We gravitate toward what we know, whether it’s good for us or not. We can’t recognize something as unhealthy unless we also have had the experience of something healthy.

          You ask whether it’s your ethical duty to warn others, to take legal action. It’s not. It’s your duty to do what’s right for you. I think that a lot of us do feel some sort of moral obligation and use that to push ourselves into legal action—and I’m not saying that’s bad. But it’s more likely that we already have that impulse to do something—and we just use morals/ethics to back up that impulse and find some support for an action that we really do want to take. It provides some sense of security if we believe we’re doing something right or appropriate. But this is a decision that we each have to make for ourselves. It’s more important to do the right thing for you and your life than to do it (or not do it) for someone else. (And since so many of us with co-dependent tendencies have lived our lives trying to take care of other people, this is a really important factor to consider.) Whatever you decide to do, do it for you. That’s what will get you through it. No one else can make it right or wrong. You have to listen to your gut on this.

  21. Hello,
    Amost 30 years ago now, I saw a mental health counselor. I had been in a 10 year abusive relationship with my husband. On a couple of times, the counselor would flirt with me. One time he put his hand over the door while I was trying to leave and bent over in my face. I ran away from him, but when I confronted him, he made me to believe it was all in my head, which confused me and frightened me since I was hanging on by a thread at the time from all the abuse.

    A couple of years ago, my 2nd husband was unemployed. I ran into the old counselor and asked my husband if he would like to get some counseling from my old counselor. I belived that all the flirting and etc that the counselor did to me was just my imagination. He had help me in ways. I would have never gone back to school if not for him. Well, I called the counselor, I had not seen him in 28 years prior to running into him just a few days earlier. He wasn’t at the church that he now worked, as a youth minister, counselor, and music director. So, I left a message with the pastor asking him to call my husband for counseling. When he called a few days later, I answered the phone. My husband was in the den, I was in my office. He began by saying that he had something to tell me. I was married, and so was he. He said that he had been in love with me for all those years and that he wanted to meet me to talk about it. I was curious since I had been made to feel that I was crazy all those years ago. I confronted him with the truth all those years ago and was angry with him. I finally, even though I was the client and he the counselor, had to end the counseling sessions back then.
    Now, here he was saying all those things after all those years. So, I was curious. I wanted to see the face of the man whom was saying those things on the phone. I met him in a public restaruant. I teased him, playing detective to try and prove to myself that I was sane all those years ago. If one has ever gone through abuse, one knows how people try to make you feel that you caused them to hurt you and etc . I was strong enough to fight for my sanity, but someone not as strong as me, he might would have caused them to flip over to the other side. I would leave his office with headaches – trying to figure him out. He would flirt one minute and be serious the next.
    We ended up having sex, he called me sometimes 10 times a day, like he was trying to consume me, posses me. I tried to run away and he would lay quilt trips on me and tell me that he needed me sexually just once more and then that he would let me go. I cared for him, felt sorry for him, and felt ashame. I would not let my husband touch me. I felt dirty – like I was not good enough for my husband. My husband left me, divorced me. The wife finally discovered the telephone records where he had called me so much. I was so releaved when it ended. Now though, I am 55 years old. This happened two years ago. My income came from my husband and the little that I make. I am financially ruined and too old to pick up the pieces. I am still mixed up since his wife blamed me, my husband blamed me and I blamed me. This all sounds crazy, but I wanted to write it to let you all see how a counselor can destroy anothers life.

    • Hi, AlabaamaLady331,

      Therapists who choose to abuse are usually most effective in their abuse when folks give greater belief to what the therapists say than to what they themselves grow to believe. A lot of us were raised in a time and/or a culture and/or a family that encouraged us NOT to believe our own senses; NOT to trust our own feelings; NOT to heed what a friend of mine calls our “spidey sense.” We were cautioned to pay attention first and foremost to the ones with the titles, the people with the authority. Surely they would never do us harm! Uh-huh.

      I don’t mean to imply that there are no ethical professionals out there who can, and do, deliver meaningful help. There are. After many years with no assistance at all, I finally was in a position to benefit from the work of several good ones over the years. But often they’re hard to find and hard to afford. Or we may simply choose to go it on our own. We can benefit very powerfully, I believe, as we develop our own authority, our own expertise, on the most important subject — our own lives. One of my abuser’s favorite expressions (he used to intone it to the folks assembled during group therapy) was this: “You can’t con a con man.” If only I had recognized then that he was referring to himself. But I couldn’t see it, not at the time. Put it to transference, naiveté, lack of cognitive clarity, lack of experience — they’re all parts of why therapist abuse works!

      But you finally got away, and that counts for a lot. You fought for your freedom, and ultimately won it, although I understand that it may not always feel that way in terms of what you also lost in the process. All the folks you mention blamed you, rather than placing any blame at all where it belonged — on him. As SNL’s Church Lady used to say, “How convenient!”

      But, AL331, you are not dead at 55. Financial ruin can be, if not “fixed,” lessened. Lots of folks are taking courses for new lines of work at ages greater than that. A friend I’ve had as long as you have been alive did just that, a few years back. She has now finished her course, done her externship, and is building a brand new career for herself. She’s not a millionaire and likely never will be (me, neither). But she’s engaged in an entirely new line of work; she’s bringing income into her home; and she’s enjoying herself. She is useful and productive in a whole new way and is making new friends, as well. And all this occurred well after her 60th birthday.

      I have to disagree with you when you write, “This all sounds crazy.” It doesn’t. It sounds like the consequences of abuse implemented upon a person who was taught from very early on not to believe herself. I do agree that abusive counselors can do horrific damage to the lives of people they target. Do I think things are going to snap back to the way they used to be? The way you dreamed it might have been? Probably not. But those “ways” are not the sole route to some contentment, some satisfaction, in life. Some training programs offer financial aid for occupations that are needed, and understaffed, in society. Your local library and/or city and/or state labor department or jobs office might be able to refer you to pertinent information. I hope you will reach out and try to give yourself some new possibilities. We ain’t dead yet!

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  23. Hi Kristi,
    I was emotionally and sexually abused by my therapist for 5 years. Six months ago, I finally had enough. It destroyed my marriage, as he wanted. It destroyed my life. I had no one, just as he wanted. Not to trust anyone and become emotionally dependent on him. I was so confused and distraught, I had attempted sucicide twice. One incident, I over dosed on RX, he actually came to the hospital and told the staff that he was my treating psychotherapist and they gave him my chart. Do you believe he later told me that I had NO pills in me, I was just drunk, and not to be so dramatic!? I have been away from him for six months, filed a PFA against him to stop stalking me. Everytime I see him, I feel like I’m being victimized all over again. He is a vicious manipulator! I am struggling to move forward with my life, and I am now, what I believe, suffering with post traumatic stress. Depressed, anxiety, mood swings. I want to forgive him, just to let go of these emotions. But I can’t. So, today I contacted an attorney. I want to forgive, but first I need to take back my power, my control of ME! He took my family away, my power, my personality and my peace. I’m not the same person anymore. The depression is overwhelming. Don’t sleep, or sleep all day. And I cant even eat, I get so nauseous. He became friendly with my teen age children, and they love him! He meets with them in secret, lunch dates, doctor apts, shopping. And my own children thing he’s great and I’m being unreasonable for wanting him out of my life. He is doing everything to stay in my life and make me miserable. Recently, he sent me a text asking if me, him and my new boyfriend could all be friends! He is sick! He has invaded my life and now I’m taking the power back!
    After finding your website, I realize I’m not alone. I am not alone!! Thank you for your support and all the helpful information you provide! I have created a wonderful support system to get through this, and will continue to follow your site for strength..Thank you!!

    • Hi Amy,
      I am so, so sorry for what you’ve been through and what you’re still having to deal with. This guy sounds like a real piece of work! I want to acknowledge you for standing strong and contacting an attorney. (There will be plenty of time for forgiveness later — first you need to take care of yourself! Also, before you can forgive, you need to actually process the feelings and experience — unfortunately, there’s no shortcut through that!) If you move forward with this attorney, make sure to let him or her know all that’s going on. There may be ways to keep this guy from harassing you. I’m really glad to hear you have a good support system! That is so important. Even though not everyone can completely understand, having someone there to care for you and listen to you really helps.

      Continued strength to you and many blessings for your healing process!

  24. I could really do with some advice from someone, anyone. It’s kind of a messed up situation but I actually live with my therapist (not for much longer.) From the very begining when I first met him the lines were blurred between therapy and friendship I think… He would take me out for coffe and I’d end up talking for 3 hours. He never charged me but wanted to. After a period of time, I ended up in a really rough situation where I was about to be made homeless and so he offered me to move in with him for a short while… I should state now that we have never and will never be romantically linked as I am also gay and not interested in him at all. So I moved in with him because I was confused and I sort of thought we were friends and I wasn’t really thinking right. All was fine for a while and he did some therapy sessions with me and I worked through a lot of things but then he started making comments about my physical appearance and having nice legs tits etc. It makes me feel uncomfortable and I really hate living here (hence why I’m moving out) but I just feel like something has gone horribly wrong. I have lived with him for a year and I’m kind of better(ish) than I was before and he did me a huge favour by letting me move in but in the pit of my stomache I just feel like something isn’t right and now, I hate being around him because I know he will make a comment or stare at me and so I hide away in my room quite a lot. I feel like I have allowed the lines between therapy and friendship to become blurred and I just can’t cope anymore. It may sound daft but it’s stuff like he walks around in his boxers a lot and has said that I can accept the fact that he has man bits just as he can accept that I have lady parts…. I don’t really like hugging him but he hugs me quite a lot… I don’t know maybe I’m being unreasonable but I can’t help feeling like I’m being ungrateful for all that he has done for me and maybe I’m over reacting. I don’t know, is this some kind of therapist abuse? It’s making my life hell and I move out of here in 3 weeks time thank god but I’ve got a horrible feeling that all this will only really hit me then… anyway, any thoughts would be much appreciated

    • Hi Sammy,
      Thanks for sharing your story. In my opinion, this guy has very poor boundaries and has been taking advantage of his position of authority from the get-go. He’s been on his own power trip, doing things to push the boundaries and see what he can get away with. He’s entangled you in a situation where it’s very hard for you to say no (because of the possible consequences) and he knows it and uses that to his advantage. And then he convinces you that you share power and consent for the relationship, even though as your therapist, he’s in a position of authority. The fact that you’re worried about being unreasonable or feeling ungrateful is actually a good indication that you’re being emotionally manipulated. When therapists do “favors” like this for their patients, they’re actually violating therapist-patient boundaries that are there for very good reasons! As your therapist, HE was and is responsible for the relationship boundaries, not you. Remember that!

      If he was your therapist at the time that you met, then yes, he violated the boundaries of the relationship, and it’s possible he can be held legally accountable for it. However, if he never took payment from you, he could dispute that he was ever your therapist. If you are considering any kind of legal action or a licensing complaint, then you should definitely speak with an attorney. (See the Legal resources page for some names.)

      The most important thing you can do now is get the heck out of there and set some strong boundaries so that he does not contact you any more. If it’s at all possible, DO NOT BE IN TOUCH WITH HIM. Yes, it’s possible that once you get out, you may have a reaction to what’s been happening. That’s very common. Find someone you trust who you can talk to about this. You may want to consider getting a recommendation or referral for a new, well-boundaried therapist, too, if this hits you hard after you get out.

      I hope this helps! Feel free to comment or contact us if you need more support!

  25. Thank you so much for this site. It’s so hard to get help when you’ve been exploited by a therapist. My therapist did not have sex with me, but she made me dependent on her and used me for her own needs. I’ve been struggling with this for almost a year, I couldn’t find any support groups in San Diego. When I read your article on why we stay I felt so much relief. For the first time I feel like someone understands. I’m seeing another therapist who is better, she uses evidence based practices – Cognitive behavioral therapy and motivational interviewing and it is much better, but I still have a hard time talking to her about my previous therapist. Anyways, keep up the good work. What you are doing is life saving!

  26. It’s hard to think that this all of this can help in an enlightened world.
    I’m trying to think I’m lucky it’s not worse. I had therapy in the past, nothing like this. Compliments on my looks all the time. Therapist smirking about sex.
    Therapist asked about my sexuality not waiting for me to bring it u.. Therapist had to hold back his thoughts again becuase the’s the strangest person. Last 2 times he sat close. so close I coudn’t beleive it was real. Too much ifo about his life. All the time. It felt as if he planned it out. Was I sucked into a web? Beware of the red flags. They are so real!!

    • Thanks for your comment. In my opinion, your therapist definitely violated the boundaries of the relationship. If it felt like he planned it out, it’s quite possible that he’d done it before and was very practiced, whether or not he was consciously aware of what he was perpetrating. I hope you were able to extricate yourself from the situation without significant trauma!

  27. Unfortunately, my therapist didn’t really show any warning signs at first. In fact for about a year and a half he seemed very good. Then he seemed to suddenly change. It was only later that I learned that some therapists are true predators and will take a lot of time to really groom their victims. It was the most devastating experience of my life. And the Ohio Board of Psychology, despite mountains of evidence, totally dropped the case. And they refuse to let me see my medical records he sent. I don’t even know what my diagnosis was or what the treatment plan was. I didn’t have a therapist prior to this man. I took my two young children to see him. He told me I needed to see him, sucked me in and used the kids as pawns.

  28. Our daughter therapist asked our daughter to Cut us off. She had met us once for few minutes & we discussed plants & not our daughter. This therapist is on our daughter’s FB friend & goes out for dinners & young clubs etc ( this woman is old enough to be my daughters mother ) Our daughter is an adult & we feel helpless & can’t do any thing. Her Therapist has more say than we do.

  29. I’m going to start at the end of my story by saying the apology I got over the phone when confronting the behavior from my therapist was OK, barely. I called him to tell him I was very uncomfortable with the situation, the second time I called he could have cared more about what I had to say and about my feelings. The story is long & even what’s most impt isn’t a quick story. The second problem I had, I heard this is all too common, is when I told a therapist what happened & some of it she just couldn’t understand. We are all Unique and different. I was honest with her and apparently how I felt was something she couldn’t deal with.

  30. Is this inappropriate

    I dropped my phone it slide under the chair I bent over to get it and he asked if I knew what I was doing to him and I was confused by this and he said that if I wanted him to notice me then he noticed and I was very attractive and cute but he was going to keep his hands in his lap because he had more respect for me than that. And he liked me as a person. Should I get a new therapist? Do you guys think he will try something with me??

    • Emma,
      It is extremely inappropriate and there is absolutely nothing good that is going to come out of that “therapeutic” relationship. Please do not ever speak with or meet with that therapist ever again.

    • Emma,
      Yes, this is very inappropriate behavior, a type of sexual harassment. He has already crossed a line and he is trying to verbally manipulate you, so please don’t wait around to see if he tries anything else. Stop seeing him and get a referral for a new therapist as soon as you can.

  31. My therapist never crossed the line into anything that was physical, but that does not mean that even the most subtle thing did not effect me. I am deeply wounded by her actions and behavior and I cannot exactly pursue legal action because she never went too far, just far enough. I can see how easily she moved on and how disconnected she was as I would cry myself to sleep unable to understand why she ever let me know that she liked me. It was mostly in the very bold flirtation and subtle things she would say. Then I ask myself if I really am nuts? Was it all really in my head? The answer is NO, it was not. So she goes on with life, ignoring my emails after she has already damaged me. Why do these kinds of people work in the field of mental health when they only make the pain worse?

  32. Pingback: New Treatments For Depression » Blog Archive Does Therapy Help Depression

  33. Hi,
    I wanted to do some healing work on some past issues so I attended group therapy and while there I opened up and shared that I was a single mum of 5, had come out of a long term marriage that was violent and had a sexual abuse history, not the sort of thing I would share with the average person. I usually crept in after work a bit late to make it to these sessions One day I came in and took my usual place at the end of the room and the therapist said why don,t you come and sit up here where you can hear better? So I went up and sat in the seat beside him. That same day after the group finished he did the rounds talking to people and he asked me if I liked art and I said I did and he asked if I could meet him at the art gallery later on, he wanted to show me some of his paintings. So I did and his paintings were excellent.While we were there he told me that he was finishing up his counselling job, he’d been doing it for 18 months and he’d spent the rest of his life in the art industry. He also told me he had been seperated from his wife for 8months.I could see he was flirting with me and I didn’t mind! I had assumed he was married so had not looked at him that way and he was 13 years older than me and I had never dated a man who wasn,’t in my age group before. He asked for my phone number that day but I didn’t give it out but eventually I did and we had our first date the day he left his job. I was at this point beginning to get excited about dating someone I thought was truly a great match for me. Fast forward to the day I found out I was not the only client he was doing this to and that he’d had numerous affairs on his wife when he was with her , with clients,one who had committed suicide.He also had photo albums full of nude women and girls who he had convinced to sit for nude portraits,He had painted his teenage sons girlfriend nude too.She had a vulnerable history. I have no problem with nude artwork but some of it was not tasteful and he was extraordinarily manipulative when it came to all things sexual. He too was spiritual and using spiritual and psychological words and twisting them he would get me to do things I was not ready to do and yes the roles were very much reversed in terms of who was looking after who. I spent 18 months amongst this mans manipulations and guess what he was never a qualified counsellor and there was nothing I could do. I did talk with his previous employers and in the end I moved towns. I”m sad to say I had another poor experience with a counsellor after that but got out once the signs were too much to’s was a female counselled,an older woman and she started asking to have sessions at her place because there was more room there and I said no, she started asking to see me 3 times a week, I went twice a week for a while but reduced it back, she made the sessions ,ate when the lther staff had gone home and she sulked or got annoyed whenever she perceived me as being judgemental or moral. She used the Rumi quote on me! At the time I just thought she might be lonely and looking for friendship and that maybe I was being too jjudgemental or moral or whatever but one day she called me up saying she was worried about me and I went in for a session,In that session she asked me to stand up and bend over. I did that and was taken by surprise when she came up behind me and started rubbing my back. I froze. When I got my wits about me I said I have to go now and walked out,She said goodbye lovely and I looked back at her and she had the creepiest look on her face and I never went back, cancelled all appointments and answered one text message(no phone calls) saying I was no ,longer in need of ner services. I desperately wanted to report her but didn’t ha e much on her and didn’t think I’d be believed.I haven’been to a counseller since even though I know most counsellers are ethical.

    • Hi Kathy,
      Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us. You have my heartfelt empathy for the pain and struggle you’ve been through. It’s definitely a challenge to witness unethical and abusive counselors continuing their practices and abusive behaviors without consequences. If you’re curious about your options regarding reporting a counselor, I suggest you contact the licensing board for more information. You can also consider contacting a lawyer with some experience in this area. It’s possible that one of those listed on the Legal resources page might have a referral for you or other suggestions.

      All the best to you!

  34. I’m also concerned about a youth trauma therapist who is attracted to teenage girls. He is 49 and has daughters in their 20’s and he he made a pass at my 18 year old daughter. He dates women younger than his daughters and once his female clients are off his books he regularly meets up for coffees etc to support them. He is also spiritual and twists things to get what he wants, he also tries to get rid of peoples thinking and judging . It just haunts me that he has deliberately gone into a field where he has access to the most vulnerable group of kids. He has everyone fooled and is well respected.He was a federal police officer before he went into the trauma field. I wish I was wrong about him but I fear I am right.He actually had me believing we were soul mates at one point all so he could get to my daughter….

  35. Pingback: Choosing a Therapist for Anxiety - Natural Anxiety Meds

  36. I just recently found out that my therapist of 14 years is not a real therapist/doctor. I’m so messed up right now. I went to her 14 years ago for marriage counseling and from there she befriended be and on top of that her and her husband are pastors of a church. My therapist and I became really close like mother and daughter and our sessions became for formal. I trusted her with everything. Every move I made I consulted her first on and whatever she told me to do I did it. Then our relationship stated to become toxic about 3 years ago and I stopped talking to her but I kept running back to her and still today she constantly wants to know I don’t miss her or want to spend time with her. This prompted me to look more into her back ground and I found out she has no phd and she is not a dr at all. She has been lying to me and others for years. She doesn’t know that I found this out and i don’t know what to do. I’m hurting and devastated by this. Can someone please help me?

    • Hi Mac,
      I’m so sorry to hear about this situation you’re going through. I can imagine that you feel betrayed by this person you trusted for so long. Who knows why she did what she did? Right now you have a number of different options, but ultimately, what you choose is up to you. No one can tell you what to do about this, since it’s completely dependent on how you feel and what you want. That’s something you need to decide for yourself. Do you want to confront her? Report her? File a complaint? Ignore her and get on with your life? You may need to sit with the feelings and situation until you get some clarity about how you want to proceed. What feels right to you?

      If she continues to try to engage you when you run into her, you could certainly claim your boundary by telling her that you’re not comfortable speaking with her and ask her to please respect that. If she asks you why, you could tell her the truth or simply say you’re not comfortable speaking about it and walk away. (Remember that “No” is a complete sentence. You don’t have to explain or justify anything to anyone.)

      If you need some email support, you can go to the TELL website ( — they have responders who can correspond via email with those needing support.

      Take good care of yourself and make sure you’ve got the support you need to go through this!

    • Well, normally you would report someone to their state licensing board, but if she’s not licensed you can’t do that. Is she calling herself a psychotherapist? You could still call the licensing board (you can Google to find the website), tell them what happened and see what they suggest. However, calling herself a therapist and practicing therapy without a license is something you can report to the local police department. If there’s any chance you want to file a suit against her, the best thing to do would be to consult with an attorney about your options BEFORE you do anything else. There are several attorneys listed on the Legal page, and any one of them should offer you a free consultation. If there’s no one in your state, call a couple of them anyway, as they might offer you information or a referral.

  37. My ex was a therapist. I divorced him after finding out that he had been having sex with patients and impregnated one (maybe more, but one confirmed). He is now married to that (former) patient. From what I gathered, he would use the information he gained in couples counseling to pursue the female of the couple and also pursued the mothers of troubled kids that he counseled. From information I gathered, it looks like he had sex with at least 7 patients and inappropriate communications with more, however, he only lost his license for the one patient. Although there is a specific statute here making it a felony to sexually abuse a patient, there were no criminal charges because none of the women complained. It horrifies me to know that he can regain his license if he can manipulate someone enough to have them say that he can practice safely. He has also expressed interest in becoming a doctor and that scares me even more.

    • That is horrific! This guy is a real piece of work.

      I can’t speak to the legal or administrative processes, because each state is different (and I’m not an attorney). In some states he would not be able to be reinstated after sexual misconduct charges. If you’re concerned, you might want to check with the licensing board regarding their policies.

      Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do to police these offenders after the fact. Many of them do go on to practice in other areas and that just is what it is. These guys are always going to land on their feet (unless they go to jail). And it’s important that at some point survivors shift their focus away from the offender and move on with their lives. The good news is that because of the internet, most information about misconduct and loss or suspension of a license to practice is available online, so anyone who looks into him can discover the issues in his background — but they have to be looking. I wish there were something more reassuring I could say, but this is part of the aftermath that many of us have to deal with. We do what we can, and then we let go and move on.

      All the best to you!

  38. the assumption is that therapists are healthy people who will help you with their problems. Unfortunately therapy seems to attract many people who had bad upbringings or suffer from mental health issues, and the fraternity tends to protect its own much like a mother denies that her husband or favoured child is abusive. I had a string of ugly experiences with psychiatrists when I was younger and naive. Now if I enter therapy I leave the instant someone makes me feel uncomfortable or behaves in an unacceptable, incompetent or uncaring manner. Many therapists are not qualified or competent. Treat them like hairdressers and other service providers and if they charge too much or do a poor job feel free to find another provider before you end up exploited, hurt and worse off. find someone you like who listens, shares your values and makes you feel safe to open up. Don’t bother trying to work out any problems – these people should be trained in boundaries and behaviour, and if they behave inappropriately or seem to be using you, trust your gut and get out – without paying for the abuse. By using compliments and attention they can seduce you into thinking that they care when they are merely providing a service to attract clients back. If you knew some of them personally you’d run.

  39. Chris60, This information is useful. Unfortunately, it appears he preyed on women who were seeing him with their partners for relationship counseling. Thus, they were emotionally needy and he was able to play on that and portray himself to be the opposite of all that they complained of in their mates. Also, he would buy gifts for child patients in an effort to win over their mothers. Simply put, he preyed on weaknesses and took advantage of vulnerabilities. I am sure most of these women did not see themselves as victims and definitely not crime victims. As I said, one of them is married to him. As you pointed out, I definitely don’t think he has dealt with his own childhood issues, which I am sure contributes to his behavior. While we were married, I sent him to counseling several times and I don’t see where it had helped.
    Kristi- Thank you for your response. Because he did not go to trial, there is nothing online regarding the situation except that he turned in his license. I have had to sever all ties to him because of his actions and continued bad behavior.

  40. I first met my therapist in a church. When I met her, I was badly in need of help and she referred me to another therapist, bjt it didnt work out. So she told me she would meet with me instead. I went to her office for the first visit, where we never filled ojt anh paper work or anything official, but yet we did therapy. Because I knew her at church, I ended up having a very comfused and mixed relstionship. It wasnt till later I learned it was a dual relationship.

    during the cpurse of our meeting, she was very critical of me. She told me I was im,ature and demanding. She told me I was hard to work with. Every sessiom became a sort of argument and struggle. She began to tell people in church how combative I was. She often reminded me that I was broken and in need of help.

    after a little time, she began rescheduling every appointment. I never knew when we were meeting or what to expect. If I complained she would shame me till I cried. She found out about my abusive background and began to hit her dog in front of her. She then asked me to start donating momey and volunteering at her non profit organization.

    She told me at one point I needed to start being accountable to her for how I spent my money.

    After some time, I found another counselpr, she said she still wanted to meet once a week. So I did and I didnt tell my cou selor about her because they knew eachother. She would ask me what gm was happening in therapy and try to comvince me to stop seeing my new counselor. She would use volitile interventioms without informing me of what she was doing or asking my consent.

    my current cou selor finally comvinced me this was a dual relationship and therapy abuse. This woman still goes to my church and is still abusive toward me. I dont knkw how to get the courage to be free of her because Im afraid no one will believe me and I will lose my church which is the only support system I have. Im confused and want to be free from her.

    • Hi Megan,
      I’m sorry to hear about your situation. This counselor was very abusive toward you. I’m glad you were able to start with someone new. Can you strategize with her about what to do when encountering this person at church? I understand how difficult that would be for you. It can be hard to ignore someone and not engage with them or respond to them, but that may be your safest bet. Sometimes simply not engaging is the best way to deal with abusive people. Or perhaps you and your counselor can come up with something simple to say (if she tries to engage you) that will set a boundary and stop the conversation without your having to go into an explanation — and without involving anyone else in the church community.

      I understand it’s tough, so getting some help in figuring out solutions is a good idea.
      Good luck!


  41. Ive decided to make a report to her state board. This means I will be finding a new church as she is one of the leaders in ,y current church. Its so hard, but I see her doing similar things to others and I need to do the right thing.

  42. Thanks so much for this site. Sometimes I feel like Im going crazy, or like Im the only one who could be blinded and manipulated the way I was…..but really, it’s not on us at all. Its just too easy for these therapists to do what they do. They know our weaknesses. They’re trained to be able to manipulate us if they so choose, and they’re really good at it. It appears as though it happens way more often then I will ever be comfortable realizing. Very scary……..

    I was seeing my therapist for a little over two years. Our relationship was split into 3 parts: first was 6 months of therapy – bad, completely unhelpful, somewhat unethical therapy, but therapy nonetheless, without anything sexual. Then came 6 months of a pseudo-sexual relationship, during which he used me to explore his sexual fetish because, as he told me, he was “intrigued by the fact that I was a submissive” (I had been an s&m submissive for a long time, but it was something I had told him I was trying to get away from. I didnt enjoy it anymore. I guess he didnt care about that. He only heard what he wanted to hear). We never had sex. We talked about it. He told me very plainly that he was grooming me for “after therapy”, while pointing out all the time how frustrated he was that I wasnt better yet (I guess he was confused as to his role in my getting better??? If he didn’t provide me with therapy, how was I supposed to be magically better all of a sudden??). He would tell me that he’s never going to leave his wife, and that we couldnt have sex, but at the same time, he told me that we could have sex (just not while Im still in treatment), and that we have a “better relationship” than most marriages, and that he wishes he met me at a different time, etc……He always had his hands on me. We spent all our time together cuddled up on the couch, and our whole relationship was all touching, rubbing, massaging, talking about our sexual fantasies, he would tickle me (that was his sexual fetish), he would try to get me to orgasm and become upset and offended when I didnt, and would go on and on about how I “owe him an orgasm”. I saw him twice a week for what should have been sessions – I did pay him, but there was no therapy, and then in between sessions, he would invite me to come hang out there during every free session he had, and we would call those our “non-sessions”, when he could act however he wanted since he was off duty….except our paid sessions were identical to our non-sessions. When I would try to use therapy for therapy, and I would try to talk to him about the things that brought me there, he would get upset and frustrated, and would insult me for being “a downer”. Afterward, he admitted that it confused him that I was ever talking about “therapy issues”. He said he couldnt understand why I would do that….????……He made it his mission to make me orgasm, even though I was not in therapy for sex therapy. It was true that I couldnt do that anymore, but that was due to a trauma, and it was that trauma that I was there to treat. He didnt want to hear about it though, because he said it was “hard to hear” and so, since it wasnt fun for him to listen to, he wouldnt let me talk about it……..

    Im gonna backtrack for a second. I should add that he has MAJOR control issues. His lifelong dream was to have mind control. That would be the superpower he would choose if he could, and I have no doubt that his desire to control people’s minds is the one and only reason that he even became a therapist. He has absolutely zero interest in helping anyone. All he wants is to exert control over people. Even his therapeutic style is not conducive to healing. As I mentioned, he will not listen to anything that is not fun for him to hear, and if you try to talk about something less than fun for him, he will actually try to change the subject to something light – like tv shows. If that doesnt work, he insults you for being a downer, and he advocates – pushes, actually – denial as a legitimate form of therapy, because he says its better than reality (in truth, it simply provides him with a means to not have to listen to the things he doesnt want to hear). In our very first session, he told me that the way he conducts therapy is that he needs my absolute and unwavering faith and trust. I was to be blindly obedient, and do exactly what he says, when he says, and exactly how he says to do it, and that’s the only way that therapy could work. He actually said the words “I am your god now”……I should have walked away right then………..

    So anyway, the third part of our relationship was a year of lies and blatant manipulations. He got scared, ended the sexual stuff, and then decided the best thing to do was to pretend none of it ever happened. Only he couldnt actually deny it, so he claimed it was all “friendship”. When I pointed out that friends dont try to make each other orgasm, he began claiming that THAT part was professional, and he was only doing it for therapeutic reasons (even though it WAS NOT why I was there, and any therapist worth a damn would have heard me that I wasn’t ready for it…). For an entire year, he lied right to my face about things in my own life – I dont know who he was trying to kid there – and begged me not to report him, begged me not to take away his carreer and his family, told me he didnt deserve to lose those things cause it was only a mistake, and that it would be therapeutically better for me if I would just forgive him, suck it up and move on. He claimed that neither one of us would be helped by my reporting him – that no good could come from it at all, that I should be the bigger person, that two wrongs dont make a right……He swore he was “only trying to help”, and he did his very best (which, in itself, tells me that he shouldnt be practicing anymore. If that’s his very best, then…..) He would go back and forth, in manic fashion, between apologizing/begging and yelling/threatening/blaming me. I felt like my head was spinning. I couldnt get myself away from him. Every time I was ready to go, he would say something to draw me back in. There were times he would be ready to terminate (though I dont think he would have actually done it. he was too terrified to let me see another therapst. I think the termination threats were really just a manipulation to scare me into staying close), and Id get freaked out about losing him. He was my only connection to the outside world. He was my only source of human contact. I was afraid to lose him…..

    Then, after the 2 year mark, I had heard one to many lies, been manipulated one too many times, listened to him spin everything to his advantage one too many times, and I had given him one too many checks for something that was definitely not therapy, and i decided I had enough. So I found a new therapist. I was still with him, but the first thing i told my new therapist was the situation with him, and that I needed help getting away from him. She was wonderful. She is a real therapist, and once I felt comfortable with her, I was able to walk away from him. Yes, I lost the only physical contact I had, but I also lost the lies, the bullshit, the manipulations, and the abusive control freak that came along with it. Id say I came out ahead. Plus I ended up with a therapist who I believe might actually be able to help me, which unfortunately, is sort of a brand new concept for me, so that is a bright side too….

    Im just now starting to look into reporting him. I haven’t actually filled out the forms, but Im putting together my evidence, and getting ready. Im not worried about win or lose – I have waaay more evidence then I could ever need to give them – but I’m worried about the process itself. I was agoraphobic, and I still have trouble leaving my house. When I do leave, I cant go too far away without breaking down and needing to go home. I live on long island, NY and I read that the hearings are held in Albany. I cannot go to albany!! I cant go that far from home. I’m hoping there’s a way to work around that. Id hate for him to get away with it all just cause he failed to help me with one of the problems I came to him with. Im worried about the process as a whole, though. I havent really been able to find much specific info about it. Can anyone shed some light on what going through it is actually like? What do you do, what do they do, do you have to face the therapist you are reporting, does the board tend to favor the accused since theyre colleagues, or will they punish accordingly when there’s indisputable evidence? ……… Im feeling very overwhelmed at the moment, but I will not let him get away with it all. He’s a predator, he a narcissist, he’s a plain old bad therapist, and he’s dangerous to every patient he treats (even without any touching, he has no business treating patients. He talks about himself non-stop, he believes denial is a form of therapy, he wont listen to anything of a depressing nature, he told me once that he “was taught” that it’s ok to yell at patients, and it’s ok to discuss/display/act on any type of countertransferrence with his patients. Basically, he uses his patients as therapists even when he sees how he is harming them – and that’s in the best of circumstances, when he’s not being sexual with them….). Im sure Im not the only one of his patients who has had a reason to report him, and I wont be the last, but I may be the only one who has the type of evidence that can really get his license revoked for good, and I dont want to turn my back on the responsibility i feel I have to use it appropriately to keep him from ever pulling this crap again, so I’m looking for as much info as I can find about the reporting process, to maybe ease my mind and make it easier to go through it all without getting overwhelmed and backing down. . . Anyone have any insight into the process?

    • Hi J,

      I am so sorry for what you’ve been through! This guy is a real piece of work!
      I don’t know what the reporting process is like in your state, but I strongly encourage you to consult with an attorney about it, especially if you’re even remotely considering a civil lawsuit. If an attorney is representing you, then he or she can advocate for your needs and help make sure you get what you need during the process. Contact one of the ones listed on the Legal page or find someone who works with sexual abuse or clergy abuse. If that doesn’t feel right to you, then try contacting the psych licensing board itself to ask about the process (if you haven’t already). They should have information they can send you or direct you to before you file a complaint, and you can be totally anonymous about it.

      Hopefully there’s someone reading this who’s been through the process in your state and can give you some feedback.

      By the way, you’ll be amazed at what you can do, that you never thought you’d be able to do, when you’re focused on what you want. Focus on small steps, one at a time, and not on the big, scary picture. Just one small step at a time, whatever’s next in front of you. Don’t jump too far ahead and get lost in fears about things that may never happen. Try to stay in the present. Use your new therapist to work with this stuff. Techniques like EMDR and EFT can help you move through some pretty big fears and find more inner resiliency.

      I can tell you are really strong! You are doing a great job!

      All the best,

  43. Thanks for the support Kristi! You’re right, I am jumping ahead of myself here. I do that sometimes…..
    So, slowing down a little…. I got the name of an attorney who is supposed to be wonderful. Ill be contacting him within a few days, once I get all my ducks in a row, and I’ll see what he says and go from there.

    Thanks again!! :-)

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