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.

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  1. Hi, I see my therapist weekly & somehow he has arranged that I don’t have to pay a co-pay which saves me $40 per month. I have been seeing him for two years. We are close in age & we both are married. My marriage is not good, but i have been a faithful wife even tho’ my husband & I have not had sex in over 12 years in a 19 year relationship.
    My past is filled with sexual, physical & emotional abuse that I have been trying to treat on & off for 35 years with quite a few of those years being suicidal.
    I had never before seen a male therapist that was this close in age with me. We started off slow, but as I began to trust him I opened up to him in ways I had never before with any other therapist. He began to tell me about his life. He began to call me sweetheart, honey, sweetie. He would sometimes hold me if I was crying especially hard & he hugs me after every session. He also calls me once or twice during the wek just to talk. He says we are friends & he promised he will never leave me, I am sure he made this promise because of my separation anxiety, not to be cruel.
    Now I have found myself to be in love with him, of course, his feelings are not reciprocated. He tells me that he will be leaving me to return to his hometown. I am devastated. I am so scared & confused. I feel very suicidal right now.
    My family tells me to give therapy another chance – this was my another chance – I can’t do this again, trust someone, create a new relationship. I’m so tired, I don’t know what to do.

    • Sue, I’m so sorry to hear about this and for what you’re going through. Your therapist really violated the boundaries of the relationship, intentionally or not, and now you are paying the price for it. I understand being exhausted, scared, confused, and wanting the pain and suffering to be over with — and you’ve got to hang on. He is not worth your life. Your life is precious and it is YOURS.

      Please call a crisis support hotline. There are some listed on the right side of the website if you scroll down.
      And I know it’s tough, but if you can get a referral for a new, FEMALE therapist with a good reputation (maybe check Yelp for reviews?? or try an online directory like it would be really good to process this with a boundaried therapist who can help you understand what happened and heal. If you can’t do that, perhaps a religious or spiritual advisor?

      This guy really messed up. If he has any clue what he’s done, HE should give you a referral for someone new because holding the boundaries for a SAFE therapeutic relationship is absolutely his responsibility.

      Keep reading the posts and comments on this website — it may help you feel less alone. You can also visit TELL at for things to read.

      If you continue to feel desperate, PLEASE CALL CRISIS SUPPORT or 911. They’re there to help.

      Love to you!

    • Yikes!!! First of all I know exactly that feeling of “I can’t do this again”. But you can do this. Think of it as doing better not “doing it again”. I’m so sorry you had this experience. It is abuse. Trust yourself.

  2. Hi Kristi,

    I started seeing my new therapist (he’s a psychologist) since December. I was seeing seeing another therapist but then decided to end it because I got tired of talking about how I feel for so many years. I just got fed up and told myself I’m better now I don’t need therapy anymore. (I have social anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder). In December I began having panic attacks again and my depression got worse after an incident with someone on facebook. I deleted my account but I was still hurt and started cutting myself which I did a lot when I was a teen. I’ve been feeling suicidal also. I was diagnosed with having borderline when I was 18 but I never discussed it with any therapist because of how some therapists feel about people who have it. There seems to be a stigma with borderline and people think if you have it you’re a difficult patient and or violent. I’ve never been violent with anyone. If I’m angry I usually cut myself but never assaulted anyone. So I kept it to myself all these years. I never told my friends I have borderline either. I felt ashamed to have it, but they know about my other disorders. My mom knows but not anyone else in my family. I was sexually abused by my dad when I was a kid so I always had a hard time being intimate with men, extremely uncomfortable with sex to the point of denying that I have any sexual feelings. I felt it was wrong to feel that way. Again, no one I dated knew how I felt because I kept it hidden which was very frustrating. So then I decided I needed to talk to someone again and be honest about having borderline. I found another therapist who is a man. The one I was seeing before was a woman but I’ve had a few male therapists in the past so I wasn’t uncomfortable about it.

    When I called him, it was difficult but I had to be honest from the beginning. I was so relieved when he said he has experience with borderline patients and that his approach is different. He’s very friendly and more open to doing other things than what most therapists do because he wants patients to be very comfortable and trust him. The first session I was anxious but after a while he made me feel more and more relaxed. He has a great sense of humor which also helped. He doesn’t mind texting which I never did with my other therapists and when I need to, he often texts back the same day. He likes to take walks and explained to me that some patients feel more open to talk while walking instead of always having to talk inside the office. Also, at the same time, getting exercise because that’s part of therapy. He told me exercise helps patients feel better mentally. I felt, wow, this is different and I really like that. He also wants me to join a group because of my social anxiety but right now, he’s only introducing me to some people so I can be comfortable with them before I join. I often talk to one person in the waiting room every Tuesday after my session is over at 11 am. The group starts at that time and the sessions are two hours. While everyone is in his office, I’m usually talking to one of the members for two hours in the waiting room. At first I thought it was a great idea but this has been going on since January and I don’t understand why he feels I’m still not ready to actually talk with those I’ve met inside the office since I feel comfortable with them now and it’s only a small group. I’m thinking, why I have to keep talking to the same people in the waiting area? I can understand if it’s someone different he wants me to meet. Maybe it’s nothing but for some reason I’m confused about it.

    Other things have happened recently like one session he wanted me to drink water that will also help me feel better mentally and physically. When I drink something, I usually sip it unless I’m very thirsty and then I’ll drink a lot. He wondered why I was sipping it and showed me how he drinks water which is gulping it down. I felt, well, I’m not really thirsty and also that’s the way I drink. Is there a rule I have to drink it the way he does? I never discussed it with him because I’m not comfortable expressing how I feel about something that irritated me. I know I have a hard time being assertive and get so angry at myself when I just sit there and don’t say anything. Sometimes I still have difficulty with eye contact so he brings it up a lot. I told him the reason is because I have social anxiety and if I’m uncomfortable about something that’s difficult to say, I can’t look at him and find myself focusing on something else in the office. Again, I got irritated because he’ll keep saying it’s one of my weaknesses but doesn’t give any suggestions on how I can improve it. I feel I make eye contact better than I have in the past but he insists I still have poor eye contact. Yes, he actually said poor. I felt he was being too critical and he knows I don’t feel good about myself because of my mom who was very critical of me so I always felt I needed to be perfect. I know he wants me to get better but maybe he should have said it differently? Maybe I’m reacting this way because I’m very sensitive? Again, I don’t know.

    At first I felt really comfortable with him but now he seems different. He can be very controlling and sometimes I feel like he treats me like a child. Once, while waiting for my session to start he came out of his office and said come in young lady. Young lady? I’m in my 40’s and he’s in his 60’s. Why is he treating me like I’m his daughter? He wasn’t joking either. He said it very serious like a stern father. Then I thought maybe it had to do with me finally being assertive and confronted him about something he said in another session. It seemed like when he said come in young lady (which he never said before) I sensed that he may have been upset that I spoke up about how I felt. But isn’t that what you do in therapy? To discuss what you’re feeling? Even if you’re angry about something? Should a therapist take it personally? He also talks about himself a lot during some of my sessions. I don’t mind if a therapist disclose something about him or herself if it helps me feel better and more relaxed. I can open up more because they’re not so rigid. But many times I’ll say something and I notice the conversation goes back to him. Like lately he talked about going to the pool and he’s a member there. He loves to swim and it makes him feel better mentally. I was curious about it and told him I have a water phobia ever since I was 15 when a guy I knew threw me in the water at the beach despite me telling him I can’t swim. My therapist asked me if I want to see the pool and since he’s a member he can take me there as a guest. He also said he can help me get over my fear of water and teach me how to swim, but again, he added it’s good exercise and it’s part of therapy so I’ll need to buy a swim suit. He asked me if I would be comfortable with him seeing me in a swim suit and seeing him without his robe when he gets in the water. I said yeah, but now I’m feeling is this right? He said it will be my therapy session but should we be that close because there would have to be physical contact while he’s teaching me. Then he also said I was pretty and I have a nice body a few weeks ago because he knows I have a hard time accepting compliments from people and when someone looks at me, I’m always thinking I look weird. So I guess he wants me to feel better about myself but then last week he said I was beautiful and I have nice skin. I’m thinking, wait, at first I felt good about him complimenting me because he wants me to think more positive about the way I look and I thanked him. But after he said I’m beautiful, should he say that to a female patient? Is he really flirting and wanting me to think it’s part of therapy to help me feel better? I’m very confused and what’s worse, because he’s saying all these things, I’m starting to have strong feelings for him. I find myself very attracted to him and having sexual fantasies about him constantly. I feel so ashamed to be feeling this way. I try so hard to deny any sexual feelings but now I’m afraid of losing control and I’ve been obsessing about if he’s attracted to me. Maybe he’s not but why does he say things or want me to do things like going to the pool? Is what he’s doing wrong or is it just me feeling paranoid especially since I’m borderline? I don’t know what to do. I’m just so confused right now. Kristi, what do you think because I don’t know anyone else I can talk to about this.

    • Hi Vonnie,
      I agree with J. This sounds so much like my own grooming process — and that of so many other victims of abusive therapists. He is testing the boundaries, then pushing them to see how far he can get, while totally normalizing the process and making it seem as though all this is the most natural thing in the world. It’s not. This man has horrible boundaries and he will keep pushing yours. Your therapy has become about HIS needs, not yours. There’s nothing YOU can do to bring this back into balance. It’s not your fault, it’s not your responsibility. Follow your gut and instincts on this — they’re telling you that this is not right. I strongly encourage you to stop seeing this therapist and find someone new. He will want you to keep coming to see him and won’t want you to leave — that, too, is the mark of poor boundaries, because a good therapist would respect your need for something different. So yes, you will probably need to make some effort to leave. Call on whatever support you need. Perhaps you can start looking for a new therapist who can support you in getting away from this guy?

      Stay strong and true to yourself!

  3. I know you were asking Kristi specifically, so I don’t mean to butt in, but I felt so unsettled reading what you wrote that I had to say something….. I know this road you seem to be on. I’ve been there, and it doesnt lead anywhere good. I dont know how exactly being a borderline would change the way you feel about a normal situation, but this doesnt sound normal, so dont let him or anyone else blame your discomfort on your being a borderline, or on you being sensitive, or on anything else. You’re feeling uncomfortable because what he’s doing is wrong. He’s testing the waters. He’s trying to see how far he can push the line before you freak out, and if I had to guess, I’d say that whenever you do freak out, he’ll probably just blame it on your disorder and claim that he meant no harm or that you’re over reacting. Guys like that are all the same. They seem to have a script they adhere to when they’re behaving unethically. I’ve read countless stories that sounded almost exactly like my own in some ways. It’s as if guys are offered some class on how to take advantage of female patients properly, so now they’re all doing the same things, in the same order, etc… They each put their own personal spin on it eventually, but the beginning of the path seems to always be the beginning of the path. I can’t say I’ve ever heard anyone say that they were on this path, but it led nowhere. Know what I mean?

    As far as your feelings for him, you have nothing to be ashamed of. Really, I’d bet that that is also his doing. He knows exactly what to say and what to do to spark those feelings in you, and it sounds like that is just what he has done. . .and even if your feelings are really your own, that’s ok too. There is no reason why you should have to be ashamed of that. Youre entitled to have any feelings that may come up. You should also be entitled to share those feelings in therapy without it pushing the relationship to a more inappropriate place. Therapy should be safe. It should never leave you with a need to seek out websites such as this one.

    I wouldn’t normally tell someone what to do when I dont know them or the whole story, so please forgive the presumptuousness, but in this case Ive heard enough to feel comfortable saying this – get yourself away from him. It’s not going to get better. He sounds like the kind of person who will keep pushing the line further and further as long as he can. If you wait too long to get out, you will find yourself in a lose-lose situation. Letting him get away with everything will feel intolerable, but the reporting process is equally intolerable. Im in the middle of it now, and It’s completely violating… Please get out before you end up having to choose between two equally horrible paths. Find someone who has good, traditional boundaries. You’re not paranoid. You’re smart enough to see through what he probably thinks is a good smokescreen.. Trust your gut and move on to someone else. I wish you the very best

  4. Vonnie
    J is right. Get yourself away from him as fast as you can! I am speaking from personal experience. I was married to a psychologist and it is my understanding that this is the same pattern that he used with people. He was forced to resign from one job due to sexual harassment and then lost his license to practice after having inappropriate relationships with several patients, one (or more) of whom he impregnated. He made them feel comfortable then guided them into a “relationship” with him. I believe he also used psychological testing perhaps to see who was susceptible to his advances. Whenever I questioned him about something I observed, he would say I imagined it and even told our own therapist that I was crazy because I was always “imagining” things and that it must be out of jealousy. Needless to say, the things I “imagined” were indeed real and it manifested after his patient turned up pregnant. From what I understand, he would provide marriage counseling and use his skills to basically alienate the wife from the husband while using what the wife complained about to make the husband look unreasonable and wrong and make himself seem like the better pick. To my knowledge, he destroyed several marriages this way. He would also woo children of single mothers with gifts and use that to form a “relationship” with the mother. I know of at least 7 “victims” so who knows how many there really are. Not one of his female patients have reported him or acknowledged that he crossed boundaries with them. He had a habit of bullying and manipulating people into keeping quiet or doing other things. Once I saw the magnitude of his illness, I divorced him. He is now married to one of the patients he impregnated. I also found out after we divorced, that he had propositioned or been inappropriate with, several friends and family members ( a couple of whom were teenagers at the time). Trust me when I say you would do well to cut all ties with your therapist!

    • Hi Kristi, J and M

      I’m so sorry I couldn’t reply last month. The computer broke down and I finally got a new one. Thank you all so much for your replies. You probably think I’m stupid but I’m still with my therapist and last Wednesday it was my first time I had gone to the indoor pool with him. I wasn’t really comfortable about it because I had to wear a one piece swimsuit and I had to see him with only wearing his swim trunks. He told me it’s okay because it’s part of therapy. He’s into exercise that will help me feel better mentally and physically. Also he wants to teach me how to swim because of my fear of the water. He told me don’t tell anyone he’s my therapist at the pool because he knows people there. Instead call him by his first name which is Joe, not Dr. LXXXX and we’re friends at the pool. He’s not my therapist when we’re there and I’m not his patient. He wanted to invite one of his other patients who is a woman I met so she can give me support because of my anxiety going into the water but she doesn’t swim and she didn’t come. I’m thinking maybe he’s not doing this because of any sexual advances since he invited her. He also told his other patients in his group that he’s taking me to the pool so it’s not a secret to anyone. I met them a few months ago so I already know them (one thing I find odd is that he said the members in his group are his children) I’m not a member in the group yet. He doesn’t think I’m ready to join right now. Last Friday, which is when I see him for my session he introduced me to a guy whose name is Alex. Dr. LXXXX wants him to join the group but only when he feels Alex is ready. He also told him he takes me to the pool and he asked him does he think what he’s doing is unethical. Alex said no. But one thing I found confusing, before I met Alex, he did not tell me or anyone else that he has taken five clients individually to the pool in the past and I’m not the only one because they had special needs like I do. Why didn’t he tell me this in January when he mentioned the pool and that it helps him feel better when he swims. I remember when he said I’ll take you there if you want to see what it looks like since he’s a member and I can come in as a guest. When you’re a guest you have to pay $11 but he said he’ll take of that I don’t need to pay when I decide I’m ready to learn how to swim. The way he acted was as if he never taken anyone else. Every now and then my therapist compliments me. He says it’s because he wants to help me feel better about myself. I know some therapists do that when a patient has a low self esteem like I do so I thought it’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with that. When I told Alex one of my goals, which is to be a part time model because my social anxiety has kept me from doing that years ago, my therapist again said isn’t she beautiful to him. I don’t know if I mentioned this before but Dr. LXXXX did say last month that I’m pretty because I felt like crap. Then he said I had a nice body and nice skin until he finally said I’m beautiful. I was stunned. So now I feel if he’s telling other patients he’s taking me to the pool and now complimented me again to Alex, is it possible he’s doing this because he wants everyone to know he’s not being secretive and he has boundaries, in other words he wants them to know he’s not making any sexual advances? It’s all part of therapy and that’s it. Again I’m really confused and it’s so hard to leave him because he acts really nice, caring and he giving me a lot of feedback which is helping me with my fears. And I think I mentioned that I also have feelings for him but I’m trying so much to deny that and also convince myself that he’s not exploiting me sexually. He can’t be because he hasn’t said anything sexual to me. Well, I still don’t know what to do and I would understand if no one replies to this because I’m afraid everyone here would think I’m an idiot for not ending therapy with him.

      • Hi Vonnie,
        Just want to let you know I altered the last name of the therapist, since I’m requesting that commenters not disclose full names of therapists unless the person has been formally charged or disciplined. Hope that’s okay with you.

      • Vonnie- I do not think you are stupid or an idiot. I do, however, believe you are vulnerable. As far as your therapist taking you to the pool to get over your fear of swimming, is he skilled in this type of therapy? Maybe Kristi can weigh in on that aspect. I just want to say that just because he has not mentioned anything sexual it does not mean that he is not crossing boundaries. One woman that was victimized by the therapist I spoke about said he asked for photos not as anything sexual but to prove to her there was nothing wrong with her or her body. She learned better when the pictures surfaced in other men’s email after being shared. Just be careful. I would actually suggest that you go to a different therapist, especially if you are developing feelings for this current one.

      • Vonnie,
        First of all, I don’t think you’re an idiot! It’s perfectly natural and normal to want to feel good, to want other people to like you and approve of you and think you’re beautiful. But many of us do get into trouble if we are looking for someone else to validate us, because we need to be able to validate ourselves and not rely on others for our self esteem. A good therapist will help you learn how to do it for yourself and become self-empowered. That is not what this therapist is doing.

        This therapist is violating the boundaries of the relationship in so many ways! He is your THERAPIST, he is not a swimming instructor. A therapist should only be a therapist. He should not be your swimming instructor, your friend, or someone who validates you. The kind of compliments he’s giving you — even though they don’t seem sexual, they are letting you know HE finds you attractive. He may be paving the way for a more intimate kind of relationship. With you and others, he is creating a variety of dual relationships that are extremely inappropriate and unethical. A therapist should only be a therapist with you, nothing more. However much either of you want it, it’s simply not appropriate — and it may be harmful to the client, whether or not the therapist believes that.

        One important warning sign of a boundary violation:
        Is the therapist asking you to keep secrets? Is the therapist asking you not to tell people what’s actually going on, either in the room or out of it? If your therapist is asking you to lie or be dishonest in ANY way, there is a violation going on.

        A good therapist RESPECTS AND HONORS the boundaries of the relationship and will say no to anything that could violate the boundaries. I think many of us get confused about this, because we want attention, approval, validation, to feel special — things we probably wanted and didn’t get from our parents or primary caregivers. So we think when a therapist gives us special attention, it’s a good thing. IT’S NOT. It can be incredibly harmful. I know this is hard to understand, because the attention feels so good and we yearn for that kind of favor from an authority figure. But a therapist is supposed to teach us how to honor ourselves and give to ourselves what we need, so we can be empowered. They’re not supposed to give us what we never got and in the process make us DEPENDENT on them for what we need.

        If you have questions about this, I would call his licensing board or the American Psychological Association (and you could call anonymously) and tell someone what he has been doing and see what they say. But I also think that because you’re on this site and telling us what’s going on and asking us about it, you know that what he is doing isn’t right. Some part of you KNOWS. And you need to trust that. If you really deep down believed everything was okay, you wouldn’t be asking these questions. TRUST THAT. And stop seeing him. If you need help with that, enlist support from friends/family, get a referral for another therapist, whatever it takes. But please do not continue to interact with this guy. He’s trouble.

        • Thank you M and Kristi for your help. I’m very grateful for it.

          I finally decided to quit therapy with him and find another one. What made me make that decision is what you and M said. When I saw him on Friday, this time he went too far and said I was wearing a sexy outfit. It was a hot day so all I had on was a T-shirt and shorts. I didn’t feel comfortable with that at all because now he finally made a sexual comment. I should have known eventually it would escalate to something sexual after the other comments and him telling me it’s okay to teach me how to swim, also sit out on the sun deck with him at the pool when it’s a hot day. You’re right he’s not supposed to be my swimming instructor or a friend outside therapy. He knows I have a low self esteem, been abused by my dad when I was a kid and now I feel he’s taking advantage of that because I’ve always been lonely and getting validation does feel good. But yeah, he has no boundaries at all and there have been a lot of violations. I just didn’t want to think he would be that kind of therapist and thinking it was me having paranoid thoughts because of my disorders. I also discussed it with my mom and she said he sounds like he has issues himself and may be dangerous, meaning he could hurt me emotionally. One thing I don’t want is to get hurt and have a bad relapse mentally.

          It’s going to be tough because I trusted him so much. I should look for a female instead which I had before and there was no problem. I was with her for five years and got tired of therapy but then I realized I quit too soon after finding out I had borderline personality disorder. That’s why I called him because he told me he has a lot of experience with BPD. Now I feel like he probably lied. I’m not surprised if he lies to other clients about his skills. Again, thank you for your advice and maybe I can go back to the female therapist. I wish I didn’t quit therapy with her so I’ll call her and hopefully she’ll see me again.

          • Vonnie, I’m so glad you’re able to make that decision to quit with this guy! That takes courage and strength — and you’ve got it. Congratulations! Yes, you’ll need to heal from the broken trust, and that will get easier over time. I agree with you that you may be better off with a female therapist and hopefully your previous one can see you again. Please let us know how it goes.

            Wishing you all the best!

  5. I’ve been on this site before, but not in some time. I like the way it’s grown! I’m hoping for some advice. I’m not going to share alot of my story but I was emotionally and sexually abused by a therapist around 2003-05. He moved away. Some time after he left, I began to understand what had happened, so I looked online at his professional licensure. He had been sanctioned for a similar event while grooming me as his next victim! I was devastated because I really bought the idea that it was “an affair” and I consented. I requested copies of the complaint and sanctions, and promply asked my current therapist to hold onto them for me because I did not want my spouse to find them. My spouse still does not know about all of this. Fast forward to today, I have worked hard in therapy to slowly get those papers out of the drawer, so to speak. I am on the fence on what to do with them. The statute of limitations is up in my case for both legal and civil action and he’s no longer licensed, because he’s retired. I really want to mail them to him. I think it might bring me some closure, or symbolically end my complicit silence, and I want to him to know that I KNOW, if that makes any sense. But, I’m terrified for some reason that I cannot fathom. I actually drove to the post office today, but I began to shake and had to leave without mailing the envelope. Still after all this time. I think I am concerned about retaliation, but that seems very irrational. I don’t even know what kind of advice I am looking for, but thought if anyone could understand this, it would be people on this site.

    • Hi Libby,
      Thanks for sharing your situation. I just want to offer a few thoughts.
      I can’t really advise you on whether or not to mail the papers. I don’t know this guy or what he’s like — or likely to do, and it really needs to be your decision, since only you can know what’s best for you. But I do totally understand feeling triggered by the prospect of sending the the papers and “making contact.” You likely have a trauma bond with this person that may not be resolved. So any possibility of contact (and especially of retaliation, however remote the possibility) may trigger a kind of PTSD reaction. It may not seem “rational” to your logical brain, but to your emotional brain it makes perfect sense. This man violated you and is still a threat, as far as your psyche is concerned. It sounds like you have some therapeutic support — ? — so you may want to discuss this and see if you can work through it, or see if you can have the fear and still do what you need to do and then address the emotional reactions to it. And if you think he really could retaliate, perhaps you could develop a plan that addresses possible consequences, and that might alleviate some of the anxiety. Whatever you do, enlist some support so you know you have people on your side who have your back.
      Hopefully, you’ll get some additional responses from readers, too!

    • Hi Libby. Thank you for sharing your story. I too was sexually and emotionally abused by a therapist. It has been many years, and I still don’t know all the ways he hurt me emotionally & mentally because it still effects me to this day.
      I also understand about the fear of retaliation. I can’t tell you either what to do with the papers, but I can say to not be in a hurry to do anything, especially with your fear and the reaction you had when you were going to mail them. I encourage you to keep working with your current therapist on this issue…..I believe you said you felt comfortable with your current one. Know that it was not your fault, I know it can take a long time to not feel guilty because you consented. For years I felt responsible because I told him I couldn’t discuss certain things because I was attracted to him, and that led to a sexual relationship. I did not know he had been grooming me, I was emotionally a child & niave. The therapist is the one responsible, they are the ones to set the boundaries, not us. Take care and be kind to yourself while you are going through this. Know that you are not alone. Mags

  6. Hi, I self harm and my therapist told him everytime i feel like I want to do it to text him and tell him, no matter what time of day it is and he may not text back right away or text back at all but to just text him. I’m confused about why or if this is ok too do? What do you guys think about this?

    • Hi Holly

      I suppose its really his intentions that would make it either ok or not, and I don’t know what those are, so I cant swear to anything, but I believe that having patients call/text/email anytime they feel like hurting themselves can be a relatively common practice. Not with every therapist, of course, but in reading about different types of therapy and different approaches to treating different issues, Im almost sure that Ive come across at least one treatment modality that uses that approach of having self-injurious patients reach out every time they feel unsafe. The fact that he’s telling you outright that he may or may not text back right away, or at all, gives the impression that he’s not trying to turn this into anything particularly inappropriate. He seems to just want you to have to stop and think before you do anything rash, and in this way, he’ll also be aware of your level of safety at any given time…….

      That said, I dont know him, and I could certainly be wrong, so if this request of his makes you feel uneasy, you could try just asking him where he’s coming from on this. Maybe his answer will put your mind at ease, or if it doesnt, then you could always tell him that you’d rather not go that route. And of course, if the whole thing just makes you too uncomfortable (or if you dont get an answer that eases your discomfort), you always have the option to move on to a new therapist who does not make that request of you.

      Maybe other people here will have more definitive answers and insights about this. This is just my 2 cents.

      Take care of you 🙂

  7. J
    Thank you for your reply this deffently makes since now! He has also asked me to breakfast for our session last week, which I thought was odd then he said that and i thought I would get opinions from others but now I see where your coming from.

  8. That is what I had thought. It was right before we were going to start our session and he asked me if I wanted to go to breakfast and have our session and I told him I already ate and he said that was fine.

  9. Holly,
    Therapy should take place in the therapist’s office. Often, taking a person out of that environment to a restaurant or other place is meant to make you feel comfortable with the therapist in other environments. In other words, it is often meant to loosen you up and see if you would be susceptible to later advances. You should be aware of anything that makes you uncomfortable, to include compliments and gifts from the therapist. It is okay to ask questions.

  10. Dear Kristi

    Thank you so much for your website/blog, I admire the bravery of all those who have commented and who have shared their experiences. I think anyone who happens upon this page knows deep down that all is not right with their therapy and is looking for answers.

    I was in therapy for 4 years. The first 2 years seemed good and I still like to believe I achieved something during this time; my issues were fairly minor ones, compared to others who comment here, and it was good to talk through them. However, red flags started to emerge in the 3rd year and went downhill from thereon. Thankfully there was no sexual abuse, but there were many of the warning signs including “special” treatment, arranged meetings outside of sessions, misuse of power (emotional and financial boundaries were violated), inappropriate physical contact (long hugs and massaging my back), and sexually suggestive comments. By the 4th year I realised we were going around in circles not achieving anything, and I couldn’t understand why I was still in therapy. I started cancelling sessions, and then approached the subject of taking a break. This was met with A LOT of hostility.

    Long story short I finally confronted him with a list of my concerns. I was scared, and I hoped for a good resolution, but it ended as I knew deep down it would. There was much annoyance, rolling of the eyes, told me I was resistant, in denial, and suggested that I was frigid. He then shrugged his shoulders and announced I could “leave today” when I clutched at straws and suggested we might implement a plan to taper off therapy amicably and discuss what had been achieved. As uncomfortable as this situation was, and in my still vulnerable state wishing the ground would swallow me up, I had my answer.

    There are two outcomes to confronting the situation. Either your therapist will listen and you can ultimately resolve matters between you, and continue with some good therapy/work toward an end point if desired (good therapist). Or, you get belittled, and you are brutally confronted with the realisation that the person you have trusted for the best part of 4 years, not to mention handing over your life savings on a platter, is an arrogant prick riddled with unresolved issues far exceeding anything you went with (bad therapist).

    I won’t lie to you, ending therapy in this way is hard. I was crushed. I remember thinking oh god I’m going to need therapy to get over therapy, how the hell did this happen, I only initially went for 10 sessions! For me though my recovery in the short term seemed quick. This was really surprising to me. Yes I was completely alone and had no one to talk to, but within weeks I felt happiness, peace, contentment, and above all relief. In 4 years I hadn’t done anything without talking things through with my therapist first; suddenly I was left with nothing but my own instincts. Within 1 year remarkable changes started to happen. Fast forward another few years and I have no more toxic friendships, I’m in a job I love, I met my husband (the love of my life), and we now have a beautiful child. I couldn’t have imagined this would happen in a million years.

    It’s been 5 years since I terminated therapy. This is the first time I have spoken about it to anyone. I’ve thought about it on and off over the years, but recently I became interested in the personal accounts of people who have survived cults. I have never been in a cult, but to my horror could relate to a certain degree of brain washing and manipulation. Somehow I found myself on this website. Ha, I’m guessing my longterm recovery might still need some sorting out, or maybe it’s just taken me this long to process what happened.

    In the UK there is no minimum qualification to call yourself a “therapist”, and accreditation/affiliation to a professional body is voluntary. I subsequently found out that my therapist is not registered, and there is no one to complain to. So unless he commits an actual crime (such as that you would report to the police) he is unaccountable. If you are in the UK and you are reading this, here are some useful links:

    Of course, the system that’s in place in the UK (e.g. BACP and UKCP) is by no means perfect, but at least if your therapist is registered they are adhering to a minimum standard, and there is someone to talk to if it all goes horribly wrong. Once you have the fundamentals sorted you can then go about asking whether this person is the right therapist for me. It’s a bit like choosing a GP; there are some in your practice you prefer to see over others for whatever reason (experience, personality, skill-set etc.), but underlying that they’ve all had the same basic level of training and are answerable should they make a misdiagnosis or treat you badly. How would you feel if you were admitted to hospital and told that the person performing your investigation or operation is neither qualified nor accredited, and that there is no recourse should an error occur.

    We wouldn’t put our physical health in the hands of someone unqualified or unmonitored, so why would we do the same with our mental health? In the UK I think it’s because we, as the clients, are not aware of the situation. When I first booked an appointment to see my therapist it never occurred to me that he could call himself a “therapist” without any kind of formal training or affiliation with a professional body. Granted, he was very well-read, intelligent, had a fancy website, and talked a good talk, but when it really mattered he didn’t have the substance or integrity to back it up. Unfortunately it took me years to realise it. Of course it’s possible that accreditation may not have made any difference to his poor treatment of me, but at least I would have had the choice to report my concerns, and in turn he would have been able to reflect and adjust his practices instead of carrying on unchecked.

    It seems currently the only answer in the UK is passing out this message as far and wide as possible, educating future and existing clients as to what their choices are, and speaking out about our experiences, good and bad. If you are reading this and can relate to anything I have said, I hope this helps, and please know that you are not alone, there is hope, and all is definitely not lost. Getting yourself out of toxic therapy is an achievement in itself!

    Feel free to repost/share my comments. Thank you so much for reading and for listening. After all, at the end of the day we just want to be heard 🙂 Bx

    • Beatrix,
      Thank you so much for sharing your experience and the information and links! If you have any interest in guest-writing a post providing this information for our UK readers, I’d be happy to share it.

      So glad to hear your life has turned around for the better!

  11. Hi! Can I do anything about a therapist who treated me unethically and downright cruel if it doesn’t involve sexual misconduct? (My mom witnessed what happened)
    Thank you!

    • Yes, there is! I reported my therapist of the state licensing board for an ethical boundary crossings even though there was no sexual misconduct. I have spent the last year recovering from his emotional abuse. I am happy to say that even though I have not received the final verdict from the state licensing committee, they have confirmed that there were ethical violations and sanctions Will be put in place. They have not decided the sanctions and needs to go to the supervisory licensing board and the legal department of the state, but I have been Clearly vindicated in my feelings of emotional abuse and boundary crossings. If you feel strongly about it, report it. The worst that happens is the licensing board does not feel there’s a violation. I realized as I was deciding to make the report it’s not my job to decide whether it was right or wrong. I can report and they can decide. I feel very satisfied that my feelings and my research were vindicated. It does not erase the damage that was done but it least it provides somewhat of a prevention for others.

  12. I am a recovering alcoholic and have schizophrenia and social anxiety. I was remanded to a center after several psych ward visits. I’m 28 and i was assigned a CBGT? therapist a girl, also 28. I’m a pretty funny guy in 1-1 settings I just can’t go out in public. She seemed nice and cared and my parents liked her. but after a year she started telling me how she also had bouts of depression and took medication. I was like why are you a therapist then? then she kept asking about my ex gfs. and then she offered to have sexual relations in her office. I felt trapped. I don’tknow how to say no. A 58 yr old woman did the same kind of thing at a previous job (inviting me to her house to help her lift something heavy, next thing you know she wants to know if i can stay over). I’ve never had a sexual or romantic relationship with a woman where i initiated it. I know everyone thinks males can’t be raped/taken advantaged of but my new therapist is telling me its not my fault. Anyway, one of this girl’s coworkers ratted her out and now i have a voice mail from the NYS protection of mental health services. I told the girl and she is sorry and then talks about suicide. I can’t handle the guilt, i feel like people will assume that i seduced her. so now im having panic attacks. i dont want to lie, but i also dont want to throw her under the bus and ruin her life and have her license taken away. i dont know what to do.

    • Hi Cooper,
      I am so sorry to hear about what you’ve gone through. Males can definitely be taken advantage of sexually and victimized, and I can only imagine how hard it is when you encounter people who don’t believe that.

      I think many who have been victimized/abused by their therapist end up feeling responsible for the therapist’s livelihood and well-being — but this is a result of the boundary violation! If the therapist had respected the boundaries in the first place, the patient might not feel quite so responsible (depending on the degree of co-dependency the patient already experiences). I cannot stress enough how important it is to let people be responsible for their own actions and deal with the consequences of those actions. This applies to EVERYONE in your life. You are not responsible for her, her livelihood, or her life. You are not her caretaker. If she is talking to you about suicide, then she is trying to make you responsible for her life — and that is really not okay. She is not respecting the boundaries. How will she learn right from wrong if you prevent or protect her from having to deal with the consequences of her actions? This isn’t being heartless or insensitive. In fact, the best way to take care of her is to allow her to be responsible for her choices. That is how people grow and learn and become empowered to make better choices. She made mistakes. Now, however hard it is, let her be responsible for them. If she has mental health issues, those are her issues to deal with, not yours.

      Please absolve yourself of responsibility for this girl and give her the respect and authority to deal with her own life. You have a big enough job taking care of yourself and doing your own healing work. Honor and respect yourself by valuing yourself and taking care of your life. Bring the focus back on yourself. Love yourself. Take care of yourself.

      All the best,

      • had been to this site a number of times over the past few years but, have never posted. cooper’s post prompted me to. I have been a life long depressive. its related to physical, emotional and sexual abuse from my mother, physical and emotional abuse from my father. life came apart in my mid forties when I had a job termination. I initially treated with a male therapist for depression. after 4 years, I stopped because I felt he was not helping. I did some research and approached a female therapist specifically for EMDR therapy. initially, we made significant progress, albeit painful. I was able to acknowledge the childhood abuse.
        during this time, I shared all of my “secrets” and came to totally trust her. she was very interested in a 12 year intense sexual relationship I had with a married woman who was 5 older than me. she insisted I share the intimacies I had with this woman which I did. it seemed to further deepen the therapeutic relationship but not to my benefit or so I felt.
        finally one day she told me that she could no longer treat me and that she wanted to be “friends” and continue to see me socially and that I could continue utilizing her as a “therapist”. at the time, I felt very panicked, scared, and anxious with this change. we discussed my apprehension on a number of occasions, the first while meeting for some food and drink.
        after that first social meeting, we went out again and she invited me over to her home. I spent the night. I move out from my house and wife three months later. she had always told me that I needed to move out and get a divorce. the relationship continued for the next three years before I broke it off. Her daughters, friends, family all welcomed me in although they were not aware I had been her patient. she continued to contact me until I simply stopped responding last may 2014.
        I had not divorced my wife of 40 yrs., had maintained contact while separated, and move back home last November.
        I just want to put this out there. I have been very angry with what has happened. I have communicated this to her(therapist). she finally stopped communicating. now that a number of months have passed, I see that she crossed the line with me and that I am in a worse place than I had been prior to seeing her.
        I don’t want to formally file a complaint, file a law suit etc but, she has never really apologized and acknowledged the transgression. i’m beginning to feel that I have no other choice than to disclose and be proactive. I too feel guilt. the therapist is a single divorced mom. her two girls are now adults.
        the clandestine relationship I had with the other married woman previous to re-entering therapy was also controlling, manipulative and ultimately extremely destructive to me and my wife and family. Unfortunately, my wife is also emotionally strong, dominant and at times very manipulative.
        I just wanted to say to cooper that you now have an opportunity to heal yourself. now is the time, just as now, finally, is my time. any feedback would be appreciated. I plan on making a call to my EAP this coming week. it seems like I have been living a b movie rerun for the past 20 years. I’ve made progress and am much more self aware of who I am but, I do not believe I will ever truly change how I am hard wired.

        • Hi Jim,
          You have every right to be extremely angry. This therapist didn’t just cross a line, she violated trust and the boundaries of the relationship. Unfortunately, if she is like so many other therapists who are guilty of this kind of misconduct, she may never acknowledge the violation, accept responsibility for her actions or apologize. Then, sadly, it is up to the victim to heal and find their way forward without receiving that kind of validation for their experience. But you never know… I hope for your sake she is able to be accountable for her actions. As I said to Cooper, her transgressions are her responsibility. Please do not feel guilty about allowing her to learn from the choices she made.

          I hope you have the support you need to to heal and move forward in your life.

          All the best to you,

  13. Boundary crossing is a major problem with therapy. ideally you should feel comfortable and safe with your therapist and sessions should meet your needs and make you feel better. Unfortunately, therapists are only people and many come from abusive backgrounds and lack the social skills and knowledge to help some clients. Others can take advantage of the relationship and abuse their knowledge and skills to exploit or control and hurt the client. Ideally your therapist should increase your good coping strategies and encourage you to have safe and healthy relationships. You enter a room with someone you do not know and then tell them personal information without them disclosing much about themselves. This does not really foster intimacy as little sharing occurs. A good therapist displays listening skills, validation, understanding, helpful insight and is able to offer ways to improve the way you act and feel. A bad therapist will pry into your problems and intensify the pain you feel without offering ways to find relief. This merely intensifies your sense of helplessness and renders you more dependent. Maybe the best solution to those who are complaining is to gain information about skills to improve your mood and social skills and to target sessions to work on concrete problems and goals for personal development. Therapy is a one way relationship where you pay someone to help you feel better. If your life erodes as a result of entering therapy there is a serious problem. For those with valid complaints, in hindsight many people fail to trust their gut and place too much faith in strangers instead of learning to help and trust themselves. Therapists try to develop positive relationships with their clients to keep them coming back. If you are not improving then it is best to find someone who can foster your independence and better coping skills. I feel sorry that therapy has become an industry with many people entering an office in distress and becoming worse and not better as a result of meeting an unethical, immature or self-serving person.

  14. I appreciate reading all of the postings and applaud the courage of the writers. I too was groomed, manipulated, and left to pick up the pieces. As soon as I felt extremely unfortable during my last therapy session, I started to put the pieces together, and knew it was time to end the relationship. I spent time rehashing all of our previous conversations, his inappropriate behaviour (touching and staring) and sexual comments that were directed my way. I began to organize my memories to see his grooming techniques, boundary crossings, and ‘mind control’. I am extremely upset I was taken advantage of. In retrospect, the sessions seemed more about fulfulling his needs, desires, and fantasies. I am now left, post ‘therapy’, feeling more anxiety than when I started. I have a kind woman therapist that is helping me now. I am on the fence regarding my next steps (reporting, etc) so I need to hold off from including more details. My physical health is declining, which is upsetting me further. I think there needs to be laws enacted that monitor what is really going on ‘behind closed doors’.

    • Sunshine,
      I’m sorry to hear you’ve been the victim of an abusive therapist. It’s very common for this kind of trauma to affect the body and your physical health, and for anxiety to increase AFTER the abuse has ended. You may be experiencing some PTSD. Make sure your healing plan includes taking care of your physical health, in addition to what you’re working on with your new therapist. You may want to consider practitioners who take a holistic approach and consider the body and mind together. And therapies such as EMDR, EFT and Somatic Experiencing can help on both levels.

      Wishing you all the best on your journey!

  15. Hi Kristi,

    I am so inspired how you found a way to turn a negative experience into positive one by creating a website community that informs and nurtures other survivors. I hope, in time, I can take my experience and use the knowledge to find ways to minimize the risk for future therapist abuse. Just something as small as requiring a handout (detailing what therapist abuse is, how the ‘grooming’ process works, the warning signs to look for, who to talk to if you are having doubts, what to do if it happens, and how to report it) be distributed to ALL patients (like we do for HIPAA) and that patients must sign a sheet of paper acknowleging they received the handout. After reading the postings, this is obviously a huge issue that is not being addressed correctly, since the abuse is still happening regardless of what the law are. The only way to stop it is to teach and monitor patients (since obviously the training that therapists are required to take is not working, and the potential of loosing a licence is not enough of a barrier to stop the behaviour ). Until the ‘therapy’ industry can figure out a way to resolve the issue, I would never recommend to a woman friend to visit a male therapist, and vice versa. I think this message needs to heard ‘loud and clear’ to anyone that is currently in therapy (leave the therapist) or anyone that is considering seeing a therapist. It also doesn’t matter how qualified the therapist is, or how highly recommended he/she is, or if they are highly respected in the community, OR how long you have been seeing your current therapist, OR how well you trust your current therapist. Therapist abuse CAN happen at ANYTIME to ANYONE.

    • Hi Sunshine,
      Thank you so much for your comment!
      I completely agree that one of the best ways to eradicate the problem is through patient/consumer education. People need to understand what therapist abuse is, what it looks like, how it can happen, and why it can be so devastating. I think too many people don’t take it seriously, don’t understand the serious consequences it can have.

      I do think that seeing a therapist of the opposite gender can be a positive experience IF the therapist is well-boundaried. (And let’s not forget that same-sex therapists can be just as abusive!) I also think that some people are more likely to be vulnerable to abuse and the grooming process, and that many of the abusive therapists take advantage of this vulnerability to specifically target them, since they’re more likely to succeed. So the very issues the patient comes in with are those that are used manipulatively by the therapist. There’s not much we can do about that, unless there is some kind of monitoring — and that, potentially, would allow “Big Brother” into the therapy process, which opens up a big can of worms.

      Patient/consumer education is definitely the place to start!

  16. Hi Kristi,

    Yes I agree, same sex therapists could be just as abusive. The postings on this web site, and others reflect the majority of the sexual abuse is coming from opposite sex therapists (and majority of those being male therapists). I agree that seeing an opposite sex therapist, with strong boundaries, can have benefits. My own personal past experience reflects a great journey of healing from an opposite sex therapist. But even that positive experience started to feel awkward over a period of time. I trusted my gut and left, and found a same sex therapist to continue my journey. It was the right decision. Over time I healed, I excelled in life, and often amazed myself with my accomplishments.

    But even with all of my life experience, wisdom, ability to check in with my gut, ability to ‘spot’ an addict and knew the risks of associating with an addict … I threw it ALL out of the window within my first few sessions of seeing my abusive therapist. After having superior health my entire life, I became disabled (dehabilitating physical illness) and everything in my life was turned upside down. I was exhausted and in constant pain. It was very hard to focus and concentrate. My anxiety level was through the roof. I could not work, and had no idea how I was going to support myself financially. I was at such a low point in my life and vulnerable. …In reflection, I was the perfect ‘object’ to control, manipulate and coerce.

    I am sharing my story only so that others can better understand that an abusive therapist WILL take advantage of ANYONE (physical disabilities and mental disabilities) given the opportunity. Your age and weight are meaningless. A sex addict doesn’t care about you.

    I only wished I had trusted my gut and moved on sooner. I wished I had checked in with my feelings at the beginning and end of each session. In the beginning, when a comment, stare, inference, story, or touch made me feel uncomfortable in a sexual way….I wished I had left. Over time, I was manipulated. I felt responsible to take care and protect my therapist. I was brainwashed.

    Now, I grow stronger each day. I am recovering. I love and value myself. I am starting to own my body and my sexuality. Life is getting better.

  17. I had been seeing my therpisy for a long time and at first he was great but about a year and a half ago things changes. He became very possive . He would call me at all hour of the day and night and if I didnt answer he would start texting me. He would tell me I didnt care about him and I didnt appreciate him and if I didnt start answering when he called that he would make sure that my life as I am now enjoying would end. He constantly. Told me that he was the only one that cared about me and that my family wouldnt give a shit if I died. Then other days he would tell me I was an angel and he loved me. He would give me money to pay bills and get things I wanted and when I would try to tell him I didnt want his money he would tell me not to worry about it that he was rich, that he didnt need it. I would tell him I couldnt pay it back but he would tell me not to worry about it. Then at night and on weekends he would get drunk and call me and say he was tired of supporting me and my kids were all worthless and crazy. He has texted me at 1:30 am telling me I was going to lose everything if I didnt start respecting him and caring about him. My kids hated him and tried to get me to stop seeing him and then he would bitch me out for letting them talk about him and not taking up for him. I got to where I cried all the time. I came so close to killing myself. I couldnt eat, I couldnt sleep, I couldnt do anything but cry. Sometimes I wouldnt sleep for 3 or 4 days at a time and I didnt have anyone I could talk to. Finally it got so bad I had To stop seeing him. Its be 9 months since my last appointment and I still feel guilty for leave therapy. I still have crying spells and nightmares where sometimes he will be good and compassion and then he will start laughing and telling me Im a no good worthless failure. I cant talk to anyone about him cause I dont want him to get hurt or get in trouble but I dont want him to hurt anyone else either. I dont know what to do. I fight suicidal thought everyday. I dont think I will hurt myself but your therpist shouldnt make you feel this way. I need someone to talk to but I cant trust another therpist.

    • Hi Darla,

      I am very sorry you had to experience the pain and confusion of dealing with an abusive therapist. If any comfort, your story helps me to move forward and heal, thank you. I slept for many days too. It’s hard to understand how someone that can be helpful can also be so hurtful. I am glad you are no longer in contact with him. I understand why you would not want to see another therapist. As a suggestion, I am seeing a woman acupuncturist which has been very beneficial. Please take care of yourself.

    • Hi Darla,
      I am so sorry to hear what you’ve been through. NO, your therapist should not make you feel that way! It is wrong and harmful.

      I know you don’t want him to get hurt or get in trouble, but can you see that he needs to take responsibility for his actions? As a mother, what would you do if your child did something wrong that seriously hurt someone? Would you ask that child to take responsibility for what they’d done? Doing that wouldn’t mean you didn’t love your child — in fact, you would be doing it BECAUSE you love the child and want the child to learn and to grow. Well, you can also care about the therapist and still have him take responsibility for what he’s done wrong. That’s HIS opportunity to learn and grow. Does that make sense? It’s because of his boundary violations that you feel like you need to take care of him. If he had never violated the boundaries, you wouldn’t feel that way.

      The healing process begins with talking about what happened to those you trust, whether it’s family member, friend, spiritual/religious counselor, a support group, a crisis hotline — anyone. You could also visit TELL at where there are email responders you could write to.

      And please, if you’re feeling suicidal, call 911 or a crisis hotline! They’re there to help!

      Much love to you!

  18. Dear Kristi,

    Eight years ago I left an abusive (emotional) psychologist because I finally realized how mean and cruel she was in actions and in words. The way I realized the above was my attendance at a meditation group and observing how kind people were to each other. Then I put 2 and 2 together. It took me six months to end it because I was trying to get her to acknowledge her behavior. Overtly saying I wasn’t satisfied only made her more hostile. I wasn’t strong enough to viscerally, or even cognitively, acknowledge what was happening. You wouldn’t believe it, nor can I, but I saw her for 33 years! It sickens me.

    She constantly crossed boundaries, spoke about other patients I knew to me (and am sure she did the same about me), lied, taunted me about my vulnerabilities, such as insisting I wait for her me in her office, as opposed to the waiting room, when she knew I couldn’t bear it. She even showed me a paper she wrote in which she quoted the sexual abuse of someone I knew (even though his name wasn’t mentioned I could recognize his writing style). I told her and, of course, she denied it.

    More often than not, she’d keep me waiting over a half hour. One time she even told me that she did it on purpose because I got so upset. She was so confident that I wouldn’t say anything; and, I didn’t because I didn’t believe in myself at all and was so battered by her insults and criticism. She manipulated me into thinking that she owned my subconscious, as she would show off her observations in a way that was very humiliating. As a matter of fact, I actually thought that if I wasn’t humiliated, I couldn’t learn anything about myself. Twice she actually threw me out of her office (for what, I have no idea), and then called me to come back. Unfortunately, I did go back, like a dog with his tail between his legs. Whenever I see a film or story about sexual, or any kind of abuse, or cults, I get flashbacks that last for days. I do feel like I was sexually molested because I was mindf—ed.

    There are a myriad of things I can go into, but that would take all night. I am nowgratefully with a wonderful therapist and feel strong enough to face this therapist. No one can take advantage of me now. However, the statute of limitations is over. I don’t even know if I can report her behavior to the licensing board and psychological association of which she is a member in New York.

    I’d love to hear your suggestions and comments as well as those of anyone else who reads this. My stomach is in knots.

    Thank you so much for reading this.


    • Hi Paloma,
      Thanks for sharing your story. My heart goes out to you for what you’ve been through!

      Have you contacted the licensing board or her association? That would be my first suggestion. I’m not sure whether an attorney experienced in therapy abuse would be able to advise you, but you could certainly try contacting one (see the Legal Resources page) and see what they say.

      My other suggestion would be to find a way to tell your story, for your own healing. That could be something you do on your own for yourself or in a writing for healing kind of group (or other support or healing-oriented group) or even by contacting a journalist to see if they’d be interested in your story. You could also write it out for our Survivor Stories page on the website. Most people do feel better when they’ve found a way to tell their story and get it out, so they’re not just holding it inside, reliving it all the time. You can write it, you can speak it, you can act it out, you can dance it — any of those things can be helpful. (Note, that if any of those are super triggering, you may want to do them with a therapist or other practitioner’s support.)

      Wishing you the best!

  19. I am horrified to read these stories. I went through it for over 15 years, it’s a textbook case so all I will add is that I had had an experience when I was quite young of a male therapist essentially stalked me gut after I quit due to his inappropriate (and frankly gross) behavior with me. I told this guy at our first or second meeting- he responded that he understood that I was warning him not to fuck with me. I was grandly relieved, I hadn’t wanted to resume therapy at all but I was in crisis. Anyway….the grooming began within weeks and lasted for more than 15 years. I finally (hopefully) cut off all contact just a few weeks ago.
    There is no lonelier place than the one I find myself in. I can’t share this without feeling embarrassed and ashamed. I had referred a close friend to him, she’s stopped seeking me out altogether. I am sure that nothing was said or discussed on either side, but he is a master of of subconscious manipulation.
    I saw another therapist last week. Before our meeting, I sent her an outline of what i was feeling and all of the circumstances I consider related to my current crisis (unfortunately there are many). I included a synopsis about him, the purpose was to give her a bit of background and springboard before our meeting.
    She never brought is up. Despite my obvious distress, all she could ask is where I felt my current crisis began…..
    Maybe it’s me, but I felt horribly invalidated and am wondering if I will ever be taken seriously. Is this normal?

    • Hi Cipollanera,

      Thank you for sharing your situation and feelings!
      Regarding the new therapist, my suggestion would be to deal with it very directly. Ask her why she didn’t bring it up and tell her how you felt about her not saying anything. Some therapists won’t bring something up themselves and instead will wait until the client brings it up. That CAN be seen as more empowering to the client — but it can also be interpreted negatively by a client who needs the validation. Best to ask her about it and not make assumptions either way. Keep in mind that some therapists approach things with a lot of detachment and without reaction, so if you’re needing more attention and validation, you’ll need to be clear with them about that. I think sometimes we expect therapists to be kind of psychic (or perfect) and know what we need, but they’re just as human as the rest of us and need us to tell them what works and what doesn’t. And of course, if the person can’t give you something you need, then you need to find someone who will.

      Good luck!

      • Thanks Kristi,
        Obviously I am feeling pretty battered and experiencing severe trust issues. I really wish for someone to take some control, the burden has been on me for far too long. Anyway, we will see. A question for you, have you, or are you aware of any confessions or even observations from therapists who acknowledge the harm they have inflicted? I would love to see that, it’s not on the scale of priest abuse, don’t get me wrong, but it seems to be another unspoken/unexplored phenomenon.

        • Yes, I understand the burden and wanting some relief!

          I think the acknowledgement/confession issue takes place on a case-by-case basis. The thing is, if the abuser is a narcissist and/or sociopath, you’re not going to get a true acknowledgement, since severe narcissists and sociopaths are incapable of empathy, and you need empathy in order to understand, on an emotional level, how you’ve hurt someone else. I imagine many of us have had to let go of the need to get that from the perpetrator, since it simply isn’t possible. And it’s a challenge to let go of that. We’re like children who desperately want the parent to acknowledge that they’ve hurt us and apologize with genuine remorse. That may be possible with someone less narcissistic, someone who is capable of empathy., but I wouldn’t count on it from the kind of person most of us have dealt with. (Unless they have some kind of spiritual awakening…!) The best you’re likely to get is a not-quite-remorseful acknowledgement of the things they did, the specific actions, without any kind of feeling behind it.

          It’s definitely an interesting topic and I also would be interested in any cases where that happened. However, for most of us, for our healing, I think we need to let go of needing it, of needing anything from the abuser. Instead, we need to focus on ourselves, on taking care of ourselves the best we can, release all attachment to the abuser and move forward in our lives.

  20. Im really confused with my therapist. She’s the only one I’ve ever been to and I don’t know if the stuff that happens is normal or if I should find someone else. I have been seeing my therapist for the past 5years. I started seeing her in a clinic every week for 2hr sessions at a time. After about a month, she cancelled a session with me because she had back issues. She rang me the next day from her personal mobile number and said that because she cancelled my session at the clinic, she could see me at her home if I was happy to do that. I didn’t think it was a problem so I made a time with her and she gave me her address. Upon the arrival at her home, she greeted me politely and gave me a mini tour of her house. We sat in a room which looked setup for sessions. She had cake, biscuits and tea/coffee setup as well, so it was a comfy and inviting place. The session lasted 2hrs as normal and she said I could see her at the clinic for our next session or at her home if I was happy with that. I said I didn’t mind and she said we would have more flexibility of time at her home so we made my next session there. I have since gone there every week. Our sessions went from 2hrs to 3hrs. Then 3 1/2 hrs. They have slowly gone longer and longer. I’m now having sessions that go for 5hrs. We just talk and talk and talk. Throughout the years we have gotten very close. She constantly tells me that I remind her of herself. Early on she would hug me after each session and I told her I didn’t want to hug as it made me feel uncomfortable but she just gets carried away I think. She even says ‘I know you don’t want a hug but just a little one’ and she just wraps herself around me and I stand there awkwardly! She now hugs and kisses me on the cheek when I arrive and when I leave. For the last 6 months or so she will hug and kiss me and just smother her face against mine as she’s hugging me and just make a noise like she doesn’t want to let go and she doesn’t !! It’s getting worse and worse but I don’t say anything to her. She rings or texts me atleast once a week. She has told me about her family growing up and about her husband. She calls me her friend to her friends on the phone when I’m in the room with her. She came to visit me in hospital when I had my baby. She buys me little presents from time to time and the reason is because she thought I might like them. She always says I’m welcome anytime and I don’t need to make an appointment, I can just come over. She has invited me to go out to coffee with her but I’ve declined. She has asked to go to Uni with me to help me choose subjects etc and I’ve just said ok but never told her when I’ve gone there. She wants to be helpful and I get that but it just seems too much. I’m starting to feel like she’s making a more sexual approach because she asked me to follow her the other week and we went into her bedroom. She showed me photographs on her dressing table and we stayed in her room for about 10mins. Then the next time I was there I had to take my baby with me because my husband was working and my therapist said I could change my baby’s nappy on her bed, which just was too far I think. I said no it’s ok and just changed the nappy in the car when I left. The other week I was talking about my marriage problems and she said that sometimes people just don’t work anymore and you will move on to find another person that could be male or female. This was a red flag to me because I’ve never mentioned anything about being interested in women and she knows I’m married to a man. So I just thought it was a odd thing to say. In that same session she was wearing a dress and the way her chair is positioned to the couch I sit on is lower than my position. She kept talking about my marriage problems and the sexual issues I’m having with my husband and she started literally spreading her legs apart. I was so uncomfortable, I thought maybe she just didn’t realize what she was doing but she was staring right at my eyes and I kept looking around at everything but her. I actually stared completely away from her because it was so awkward. She just held her legs like that and I looked at her eyes and she just gave me this smile. She put her legs back down and closer together but it was just more uncomfortable from then on. That was last week and I saw her yesterday. She was waiting outside for me to arrive, I was about 5mins late. She did the usual hug/ kiss greet. She opened her front door and told me to walk through the house all the way to the backyard garden. So I did and she walked behind me with her hand on my arm. We stood in her garden and she was telling me to relax and forgot everything outside of her garden/ house. Just to be in the moment with her and forget everything else. Ok well that went on for 10mins and we went back inside to the usual room. Except this time there were candles lit up in the room. She said I hope you’re not allergic to the candle flavour etc and I said no it’s fine. She said she wanted to see me in the candlelight so I just said ok. Umm awkward right? So our session went for 5 and 1/2 hours and I’m the one that actually stopped it from continuing. I told her I had to get to an appointment which was a lie but I just thought it’s getting a bit ridiculous and creepy. I know I’ve been seeing her for a while now and she knows so much about me. I feel very comfortable with her. I’ve even had the transference thing and gotten past that. I go through stages where I really get excited to see her and stages where I really don’t want to see her. My husband also sees her and we’ve gone in as ‘couple sessions’ as well. When my husband goes in for sessions they finish exactly on the 2hr mark not a minute over which he gets frustrated with because of the double standards. He has even asked me if I’m having an affair with her because I’m there so long and she always tells him how good I am etc. About 6months ago she told me she’s retiring from her therapist job at the clinic and that she could now focus on me full time. Any time- any day. Which I just thought I already see her so much, how much more time could I spend with her! I’m so confused about everything. I think I have proper feelings for her now, it’s different to the transference stuff I’ve had in the past. I actually think I love her but I’m not a lesbian and I’ve never had feelings for a woman like this before. I don’t even know what to think anymore. So much happens with her and I’m so connected to her that I’m just overwhelmed I think. I really don’t know what to think or do. I must sound crazy with the random stuff I’ve written, I couldn’t possibly write it all but there is so much more that has happened and I’m just not sure if I should seek another therapist. She does still help me so much which is why I’m finding it difficult to work out what to do.

    • Hi Belle,
      Thank you for sharing your story. Your therapist has committed severe violations of the therapeutic relationship. You need to stop seeing her immediately and do NO CONTACT. What she is doing with you is harmful, not helpful, and will only get worse. Please do not think it’s going to get better — it’s not. She has been grooming you and, regardless of how you might feel, she is not capable of giving you anything positive. As I said, you need to stop seeing her NOW. This is not a healthy situation at all and you need to separate yourself from her. I highly recommend that you find a new therapist right away who can help you deal with the aftermath of this and support you in setting boundaries with this person.

      Please take care of yourself by ending the relationship now. Therapy is supposed to be for your benefit, not the therapist’s, and she has taken serious advantage of you. Her actions are completely unprofessional and harmful to you.

      – Kristi

      • Hi Kristi,
        Thank you so much for your reply. I have been so confused and upset about this for a while. I kept thinking she was just being extra caring and supportive but what you’ve said sounds quiet solid. I have no idea how to stop contact with her. My biggest fear is the confidentiality that we’re suppose to have might leak to my husband. I think she knows this as well as she has made hints in the past about what she keeps out of our couple sessions that my husband comes to. I am so so scared of this, it would have to be why I’m still seeing her even though all this stuff happens. We do so much work together about boundaries etc and my husband has said the same thing that she is crossing so many boundaries with me. I feel a massive pressure of power from her and it’s hard to know how to deal with leaving her sessions. To be honest I’ve tried a few times by saying I would like a break from therapy for a while and she continues to call or txt. If I don’t answer her, she contacts my husband to ‘check in’ with us. I don’t know what to do. Should I see someone new before leaving her..? Is that what you mean by saying to see someone new to deal with the aftermath and setting boundaries with her..? Thanks, Belle.

        • Hi Belle,
          If you can find someone new before you leave her, then ideally the new therapist will support you in leaving the old one.
          You may also want to talk to a lawyer or the police about this, if she’s really not leaving you alone. I don’t know what it takes to get a restraining order, but you may want to look into it. You could talk to her licensing board (and to a lawyer) about filing a complaint against her.

          The important thing is to get away from her. Be upfront with your husband about this (assuming you feel comfortable being honest with him) and enlist his support. It’s true she may not leave you alone, so the more support (personal, legal, etc.) you have, the better off you’ll be.

          Honestly, you can just call and leave a voicemail telling her that you need some space and to not contact you. You don’t need to explain anything, just tell her not to contact you. That way you declare a boundary. You could have your husband there to witness the call, in case you end up going the legal route. You could also text or email, so that it’s in writing. And then you can use settings on your cell phone and email to block her. You can probably also block her through the phone company.

          Bottom line: Draw a firm boundary and stick to it.

          – Kristi

          • Hi Kristi,
            Thanks for your reply and advice. I will look for another therapist straight away and hopefully get help in getting away from this current therapist. I know I’m feeling so attached to her at the moment and she probably knows this and has just continuously pushed the boundaries. I’m going through a very difficult time with my husband at the moment so I don’t feel I can be honest with him about all this. (That’s why I’ve come online to get advice). I’ll try find another therapist and go down that path. If I went through the police/legal system I would be up for way too much info which she knows I wouldn’t be comfortable to be exposed etc. I know my vulnerabilities and so does she very well so it’s a delicate situation, I don’t think I can just cut ties instantly and easily. I’m very scared of getting away from her and I don’t even know if I could open up to another therapist at this point. I’m very confused and quiet honestly petrified. In your opinion, is there no going back to a professional relationship with this current therapist? I think she could be capable as she’s very professional with my husband.. I don’t know why I’m treated so differently by her. I’m so lost about this, I will still look for another therapist, I guess even if I don’t open up with a new therapist, they could atleast get me safely away from this one and then maybe therapy is over for me for now. I don’t know..

          • I’m sorry, but there is no going back. She is not capable of it — and why would she want to, when she’s got you exactly where she wants you, dependent and giving her what she wants? There’s no payoff for her to do anything other than what she’s currently doing. It’s irrelevant how she’s treating other people — this is about how she’s treating YOU.

            Yes, even if you don’t feel safe opening up to a new therapist, just having that support could be helpful in getting away from this one. Try to get a referral from someone you know. You may want to check out a couple of people before committing to anyone.

  21. Thank you Kristi. I really appreciate your honesty and advice. You’ve been very helpful, I’m glad I came across this site. I’ll start this journey as soon as I find a new therapist and go forward. (With difficulty I suspect) but better in the long run!! Thanks again, Belle.

  22. advice please:
    therapist for 14yrs on and off, he allowed emails, texts, me coming to his office without an appointment during a crisis, accepted a very nice gift even.
    He didn’t address concerns of co dependency instead cut me to half time, there me in day hospital and when I didn’t do well there told me to leave that setting.
    my last appointment everything was great and then I was assaulted by my ex I came to tell him I was in crisis and he walked away from him after 7hrs of waiting to talk to him. He sent a dear john email with one name and wished me well. then he added two when I stated you know after 14yrs I don’t do well with female therapists
    I pushed back and emailed regardless, calls begging for help keep in mind I was sick he watched 8 months of emails me being even more sick never stepping up he knew I could not find services, I left in his mail slot pills I planned to od with and called begging for help he answered and cussed at me repeatedly and now has blocked all contact and I’m still going through hell he has taken almost a yr of life in my downward tail spin. any advice he’s almost killed and still might without me being able to get help boarderlines take rejection hard and self injury, suicide attempts due to his behavior with me seems unethical

    • Hi Lely,

      I’m so sorry that you’re going through such a hard time. I hear you’re in a really difficult place. If you are in crisis, then please contact a crisis center or helpline right away.

      I encourage you to get in touch with a new therapist or counselor who can help you with both your current situation and with what happened with your therapist. It’s really important that you get some good support right now and then you can get some clarity on what happened with this person. Right now your health and well-being is the most important thing. If you then determine that your ex-therapist clearly violated boundaries in a way that would allow you to take legal or administrative action against him, then you can look into filing a complaint.

      If you need email support, you can visit TELL – They offer email responders who may be able to support you.

      All the best,

  23. how do I get all the transference feelings out of my head. In my dreams I still feel love for the people who emotionally abused me, even though, rationally, I feel nothing for them. i have been diagnosed with complex ptsd and I still don’t take in new information and don’t feel as emotionally alive as i did before this all happened.

  24. Hello, I have tried to report an awful, verbally abusive, compulsive lying, gas lighting therapist I had. He lied about colleagues, destroyed relationships, even caught himself lying, put myself and my ex back in court by being bias, and being called out for it. I reported him to the state, they dismissed, but I heard they even do this for sexual harassment cases. My friends, family, even colleagues, want to write reviews about this horrible therapists to at least save one single mother from going through what I did. You can’t find anything on him to write a review. He’s horrific, and I’ve heard he’s destroyed other families. Can you help.

    • Hi Jodi,

      I’m so sorry to hear about what you’ve been through and that the state (his licensing board?) dismissed your case. Most therapists are members of organizations, have directory listings, etc., so I’m surprised when you say you can’t find anything on him. If he’s licensed, then there should be something somewhere. Even basic listings such as on,, and Google have places for reviews. (If you do a Google search these ought to come up.) So I recommend that you keep looking. Also check to see if he’s a member of an organization, such as the APA, as you may be able to file a complaint with them.

      One other route you can try, although not many are successful with this, is to get a local journalist interested in your story. Try someone who writes about crime and legal issues or about psychological issues and approach them with your story. It may be a longshot, but it’s a possibility.

      I’m glad to hear you have support on this! That is so crucial. Keep asking for suggestions and maybe someone will come up with a creative idea that helps you.

      All the best to you!

  25. People have no idea what someone who is experiencing this goes through. It is the worst experience in the world. I am going through it right now and it is wrecking my world. Everything about me has changed, and not in a good way. People reach a breaking point because you can only take so much and the one person in the world you should be able to trust, you can’t. You don’t have anyone to talk to. It is a lonely and dark place.

    • I feel how Ann does above. I have been going through one of the worst times of my life because I got involved with a bad therapist. He breached confidentiality and told countless people my life story. He was the only one I trusted and he disgraced, embarrassed and humiliated me. Even though I reported him, the man continues to practice because he has a silver tongue. He lies and manipulates people to “his” way of thinking. He has ruined my reputation and my life. No one has helped me. Like Ann, I feel totally alone. Even other therapists are no help. They must be covering up for him too. He is well known in the community and used me to gain even more connections for himself. I don’t know where else to report the abuse to. The man has to be stopped.

  26. Hi Ann,

    Thank you for sharing. Yes, I agree that unless one has been through this horrific abuse, many people do not understand it or have any idea of what it is like to recover from this abuse. I am glad you found us. I hope by finding this site you won’t feel as alone. One of the worst parts of the abuse was having been isolated from the communities we had before the abuse and then feeling so different from others that post abuse it is hard to trust new people and to reach out.

    Yes, we should have been able to have trusted our therapist to have our best interest at heart. And it would be nice to have them be humane to us and offer a genuine apology and try to give us closure and help us like they claimed they were going to do in the beginning. But you are right we cannot trust them for that.

    I am glad you found your way here. Just knowing you are not the only one experiencing this can make the darkness a little less.

  27. I have dealt with therapist abusing me. Because the next one was connected via government services, the following one would not discuss the former. A culture of abuse exists in state and local facilities and the client loses out. currently I am without a decent one who was helping me with the effects of sanctuary trauma. There needs to be a survivors group, across the country for these experiences.

  28. Hi everyone,
    I am forever grateful to your honest stories and pained by them at the same time. I wish this on no one.

    I wrote this quote awhile ago-
    “When a person’s trust is broken everyone afterwards is affected”

    I used this site and the TELL site for the six years I was sexually exploited by my therapist of 10 years. It has now been 2 years since I left( he had his liscence taken away). I am seeing a wonderful
    Psychologist but still feel misunderstood( not intentionally) and lonely. This is I think the loneliest journey I have ever taken. I am doing better than 2 years ago, but he will never leave me. The mark is forever there as is the way my life in general has forever been changed from the experience.
    I see his name literally everywhere. In books, on the internet, on TV, on signs, on pictures.
    Just when I start feeling a little relaxed his name pops up out of no where like when reading the credits in a movie. I still feel like I am holding onto a secret even though my new psychologist knows. My interactions with my friends have been forever changed. If I am anxious after seeing his name or having to go past a store I know he frequents I can’t tell this even to my closest friend. Yet before I could tell her anything. I feel very isolated. You can tell someone you are having a bad week of depression but you can’t say I’ve been anxious lately thinking about how my therapist sexually abused me.
    How do I let my therapist continue to help me without feeling what’s the point since she will never truly understand?
    Are there any support groups other than on-line.?
    And is it normal 2 years later to still be confused, hurt, and angry? Should I just accept this as my new reality? And how can I miss him at times? He was my first ever therapist and I have a background of childhood abuse and verbal abuse from my husband, so I know he filled a need but I was an emotional wreak every time I left his office. I called myself stupid and berated myself for not leaving each time. He initiated the advances but I never said no. He threatened to kill himself once so I could be rid of the secret. I am still holding onto the secret. It follows me. I wanted to print out an article about sexual abuse for my therapist but decided I couldn’t take the chance. What if the printer jammed? So, I am still looking behind my back. Is this normal?

    Thanks in advance.

    • Hi Faith,

      What you are experiencing is totally normal. After my abusive situation ended, I had significant PTSD symptoms for the next couple of years. I would fall apart with any close calls, like seeing his car or his name. And I also felt very alone, since I only really had my new therapist(s) and healing arts practitioners for support.

      You may want to check into some practices/techniques that address those triggers that you are reacting to. I was helped a lot by doing EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) with a therapist and have also had some results from using Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT – tapping). Some people also do well with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Those are a few things that can directly address memories and specific triggers. Also, there are acupuncture protocols that can address PTSD and help you feel more grounded. Do some research, try some things out, and see what works for you.

      It does get better with time. Even though two years feels like a lot, it’s really not, given what you’ve been through. Two years is still pretty “fresh” — so don’t beat yourself up over what you’re experiencing. It’s all totally normal. And yes, it may be hard for people to understand what you went through, but many can still have empathy and compassion. My relationships also suffered at first, but over time that got easier, too. Let yourself go through the healing process and trust that it will get better. It takes time, so give that to yourself.

      All the best,

  29. She has got me gifts in the past.
    She has told me about her work problems.
    She asks me for hugs and has also asked me out for dinner in the past as well as out for coffee.

    Although these behaviors may be deemed warning signs, i really must ask if it is always guaranteed to end in abuse?

    • Hi Johny,
      This is a really good question. It’s clear that your therapist does not practice good boundaries and this could have (and likely has had) an impact on you and your therapy, whether you realize it or not. But it’s true that you can’t know for sure if she is grooming you for abuse. HOWEVER, the fact that she is ASKING YOU for hugs, talking about her problems with you, and taking you to dinner means that she is using you to fulfill her own needs and has created a dual relationship with you. None of this is about your therapy — it is all about her own needs, and that does violate the ethical boundaries of the relationship. It’s really common and understandable to want a therapist to be a friend — but that’s not their appropriate role. And if a therapist and patient do want to become friends, then the fiduciary relationship (where you are paying them for their services) needs to end. Period. This is MY opinion. Some therapists do have more casual relationships with their clients, but in my opinion, this can be really problematic. It’s not supposed to be a two-way relationship. Your therapist is providing their services for YOU and you are paying for this. So they have a responsibility to keep the boundaries clear and not introduce their own needs into it. And once a therapist starts going down that slippery slope, you just don’t know where it’s going to end.

      Stay aware and take care of yourself!

  30. I made a mistake and attended an online campus that had phone counselor for their student. They referred to me therapist who I didn’t meet the criteria, one of them had called me and the reception refused to allowed to me to set up an appointment with the therapist. The cancel a therapist appointment with someone else who had became hostile toward me because she didn’t understand there was something wrong with the phone counselor until I had informed her information at a later date. They threaten to seek confidential school records, they sent me a state hospital before becoming verbally abusive toward me on the phone. They would call me from different number and severely verbally abuse me, insult me, threaten me. They had threaten to contacted the police or social services on me because I called them from a different number unaware that it is the same counselor center. When I tried to reached out for some help. One of them sent me to a manager who had called me and became verbally abusive toward me, or had insult me and threaten me. Sometime I would just cry from the hurt I had received from the online campus counselor.

  31. You can report this to the Attorney General’s Office in your state. Also report to better business bureau and if the counseling is connected to a school, you should report the incident to the school board. If you don’t report these people they will continue to be abusive to others.

  32. Hi, I had a sexual relationship with my therapist; I went to see him because I was under domestic violance and was in the process of getting divorce. Not sure what it happened but I ended falling in love, saw him as a God. We confessed our mutual attraction to each other and scalated to the poont that we ended romantically involved. Then he was feeling shame and brocked up with me but decided to stay in my life and in my daugthers life, we all adored him. I never stopped loving him, after 6 tears in our lives he told me he met someone else, and the feeling was terribly, I ended in a deep depression with constant suicidal thoughts. I feel like I got list in my pain, I’m afraid. I know the act is wrong and I knew it but I believed in his words so very much. Now not only me is hurt, my daugthers has been horribly affected. Why I feel that I acted wrong? Worthless, side of me feels angry and would like to speak up but the other still believe in him so much. I don’t know what to do

    • Lili,
      I’m so sorry to hear about what happened with your therapist. You were in a very vulnerable situation and he took advantage of that. It’s very common to fall in love with the therapist and idealize him. But it’s his responsibility to uphold the boundaries — not yours. You did nothing wrong. You may be feeling bad because you believed him and believed IN him, and in some way you may feel responsible for his well-being. It takes some time and healing to get over that.

      Do you have some support now? It’s really important that you find someone to talk to whom you can trust and who will be respectful of you and your boundaries. A female therapist with experience in abuse and domestic violence could be helpful for you. Or even a support group for victims of abuse/domestic violence. This can be a very emotionally difficult time, so it’s important that you have good support.

      Keep reading the articles on the website. You may find comfort in realizing you’re not alone!


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