Changing my state’s therapist exploitation law

Hello.  I just thought I would share a little bit about the process of changing or trying to get a state to have a criminal law for therapist sexual exploitation.  I hope this information is helpful if you decide to try to advocate for changes to your state law that might be inadequate to address therapist sexual exploitation or if you have ideas on how to strengthen a law.

The first thing I did was contact a state legislator.  Thankfully she had a listening ear.  I explained to her the loopholes in the current law and how those loopholes are preventing people from having the perpetrators held accountable and receiving justice.

Secondly, I informed her there has been some useful court decisions in the past decade that support my position.  I then explained the importance of a language change in the current law that would be helpful to victims by not allowing unscrupulous therapists to exploit the loophole.

Thirdly, when the legislator asked me for more information, I sought that information ought and provided it to her.  It’s important when the legislator asks for more information to try to get that information to them.  If you are not able to find that information, let the legislator know.  They have aides what can research the information too.  Just make sure you keep calling and ask for updates on what the legislator is doing regarding your issue.  They are busy people and it is easy for your issue to be lost in all the things that demand their attention.

Fourthly, she asked me if I knew what others states have done.  I did!  So, I provided some laws from other states that had some helpful language in their laws that might be useful to include in law in my state.

Lastly, these kinds of changes take time, usually years. Be prepared to follow through on your issue over time. She is now reviewing the information and will be in contact with me shortly.  In the meantime, I have identified a few organizations that might be willing to send letters of support once a bill to change this law would be introduced to the legislative body.  I also have a few other survivors of therapist exploitation who are willing to share their stories and how closing this loophole would be helpful in holding perpetrators accountable.  I will keep you updated on the process.

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I survived therapist sexual abuse too.

Hello everyone. My name is Maria. I thought I would introduce myself as a new contributor to Surviving Therapist Abuse.  Its been almost two years since I ended the sexually exploitive “therapy”/relationship with a psychiatrist.  It has been the hardest part of my journey in life thus far.  I have written my story and will be posting it here soon.  I want to thank everyone who has shared their stories and made comments.  You helped me in my journey of recovery and in figuring out if I should report or not report.  I chose to report. I will be posting what I can about my legal processes as I chose to report my abuse to law enforcement, licensing, and to pursue a civil case.

What I will be sharing will be eclectic, but mostly what I am learning about my healing journey.  I am looking forward to contributing my experience in hopes you all will find something supportive and helpful in your journeys.

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General and Emergency Information for Victims of Therapist Abuse

First and foremost, if you are feeling suicidal, call 911 or a crisis hotline.
There are some crisis hotline numbers listed in the right sidebar under Need Help Now? if you scroll down the page. These include:

National Suicide Hotlines
1-800-SUICIDE / 1-800-784-2433 or 1-800-273-TALK / 1-800-273-8255
24 hours a day/7 days a week

National Sexual Assault Hotline
24 hours a day/7 days a week

Therapist Referrals
Unfortunately, we don’t have therapist referrals on the website. If you can get a recommendation from someone you know, that can be helpful. There are also therapist directories you can search on, such as and If you can’t find someone locally, more and more therapists are working via Skype, so that may be an option.

Also, here is a post I wrote about looking for a new therapist, which may be helpful:

You can check out someone’s license information online through their state licensing agency. This will tell you whether there have been any complaints or administrative actions taken against them.

For example, in California, Marriage and Family Therapists (MFTs), Social Workers and Clinical Counselors are licensed through the Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS). Psychologists (including PsyDs) are licensed through the California Board of Psychology. You can look up licenses and file complaints for any of the above through the California Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) BreEZe Online Services.

Taking Action
Depending on the nature of the abuse, you may have three different options:
1. File a licensing/administrative complaint
2. File a civil complaint
3. File a criminal complaint

Please note: If you want to take more than one of these actions (for example, you want to file both a civil complaint and a licensing complaint), the order in which you file the complaints can be VERY IMPORTANT. Before you take any action, it would be wise to consult with an attorney.

Here is a post I wrote about taking legal action:

Legal Referrals
For names of attorneys, check the Legal Resources page. If you don’t see an attorney for your area, call one of those listed, as they may know someone who works in your region.

Additional Resources

TELL – Therapy Exploitation Link Line at has articles and email responders who may be able to offer some support for victims.

For additional resources, websites and articles, scroll down the page and check out the right sidebar. There are many websites, blogs and articles listed there that may be helpful.

If you have additional resources you would like to add, please leave a comment below.

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Resource: Melanie Tonia Evans, Narcissistic Abuse Recovery

Happy New Year!

I want to share with you a new resource I have been exploring: Melanie Tonia Evans and her website dedicated to Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Melanie was a victim of serious narcissistic abuse that devastated her emotionally and physically. She then learned everything she could about this type of abuse and learned healing practices that took her from being a victim to a survivor to a thriver (as she puts it). There is no shortage of information on this website! She has written numerous articles, created videos, and even has a radio show. Plus there are stories from people who have gone through their own recovery.

If you sign up for the free New Life email list, you will receive a couple of eBooks  and 16 days of  articles with some video links. (When I signed up, I was also able to register for a free webinar, which was over 2 ½ hours long!) I have been reading through the emailed articles and many more on her website and have found them incredibly valuable. They are written primarily for those who have been (or currently are) victims of narcissistic abuse, whether by a partner, a family member, etc. (And by therapists, too!) The articles are reader-friendly, focused on helping you to understand, grow and heal. There is information about narcissists and how to deal with them, co-dependency, personal growth and much more.

Since she does healing work herself, which is energetic in nature—and yes, she does have healing programs for sale (which I have not tried)—some of the articles have more of a spiritual/New Age angle. However, even if that’s not your thing, there is a lot of value to be found on her site and through the emailed articles, so I encourage you to explore.

Here are links to some articles I found personally valuable:

Stop Being the Scapegoat

Trying to Make the Narcissist Accountable is Keeping You Hooked

Personal Boundaries in Relationships

You can also watch her videos on narcissistic abuse on YouTube:


I hope you find this helpful!

And if any of you decide to do her Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Program, please let me know how it goes.


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Article: 30 Signs Of Emotional Abuse In A Relationship

I came across an article by Barrie Davenport on called 30 Signs Of Emotional Abuse In A RelationshipI highly recommend reading it. The article includes some excellent and helpful information, including the following list of signs of emotional abuse:

1. They humiliate you, put you down, or make fun of you in front of other people.

2. They regularly demean or disregard your opinions, ideas, suggestions, or needs.

3. They use sarcasm or “teasing” to put you down or make you feel bad about yourself.

4. They accuse you of being “too sensitive” in order to deflect their abusive remarks.

5. They try to control you and treat you like a child.

6. They correct or chastise you for your behavior.

7. You feel like you need permission to make decisions or go out somewhere.

8. They try to control the finances and how you spend money.

9. They belittle and trivialize you, your accomplishments, or your hopes and dreams.

10. They try to make you feel as though they are always right, and you are wrong.

11. They give you disapproving or contemptuous looks or body language.

12. They regularly point out your flaws, mistakes, or shortcomings.

13. They accuse or blame you of things you know aren’t true.

14. They have an inability to laugh at themselves and can’t tolerate others laughing at them.

15. They are intolerant of any seeming lack of respect.

16. They make excuses for their behavior, try to blame others, and have difficulty apologizing.

17. The repeatedly cross your boundaries and ignore your requests.

18. They blame you for their problems, life difficulties, or unhappiness.

19. They call you names, give you unpleasant labels, or make cutting remarks under their breath.

20. They are emotionally distant or emotionally unavailable most of the time.

21. They resort to pouting or withdrawal to get attention or attain what they want.

22. They don’t show you empathy or compassion.

23. They play the victim and try to deflect blame to you rather than taking personal responsibility.

24. They disengage or use neglect or abandonment to punish or frighten you.

25. They don’t seem to notice or care about your feelings.

26. They view you as an extension of themselves rather than as an individual.

27. They withhold sex as a way to manipulate and control.

28. They share personal information about you with others.

29. They invalidate or deny their emotionally abusive behavior when confronted.

30. They make subtle threats or negative remarks with the intent to frighten or control you.

The article also includes what an abuser needs to do in order to begin recovery and strategies for how the victim/survivor can reclaim their power and self-esteem.

Please check out the full article by Barrie Davenport on

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Resource: Sandra Lee Dennis on Narcissism

A while back I wrote a couple of posts mentioning Sandra Lee Dennis, who has some great resources on her website Finding Heart in the Dark at She has a new, free ebooklet available called Notes on Narcissism, that I bet a lot of you are going to like. If you go to her website and sign up for the mailing list you’ll get a free, downloadable copy of that, as well as two other ebooklets: 13 Signposts of Betrayalfrom Trauma to Transformation and 16 Tips for Healing After Heartbreak & Abandonment. (Please note that the ebooklets are written from the perspective of a woman and therefore show some gender bias in the writing, which could potentially be triggering to a male reader.)

While you’re there, check out her blog posts, many of which are about her experience healing after being betrayed by a narcissist (sound familiar?), and other articles and resources.

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Article by Shahida Arabi: “What Abuse Survivors Don’t Know: 10 Life-Changing Truths”

I came across a terrific article called “What Abuse Survivors Don’t Know: 10 Life-Changing Truths” by Shahida Arabi on the website Mogul. There are some great insights in it that I hope you’ll appreciate. For other great articles by Arabi, visit her blog Self-Care Haven.

What Abuse Survivors Don’t Know: 10 Life-Changing Truths
Shahida Arabi

The journey to healing from emotional or physical abuse requires us to revolutionize our thinking about relationships, self-love, self-respect and self-compassion. Abusive relationships often serve as the catalyst for incredible change and have the potential to motivate us towards empowerment and strength, should we take advantage of our new agency.

Here are ten life-changing truths abuse survivors should embrace in their journey to healing, though it may appear challenging to do so.

1. It was not your fault. Victim-blaming is rampant both in society and even within the mental landscapes of abuse survivors themselves. Recently, the victim-blaming and the mythical “ease” of leaving an abusive relationship has been challenged in the public discourse. Accepting that the pathology of another person and the abuse he or she inflicted upon you is not under your control can be quite challenging when you’ve been told otherwise,  by the abuser, the public and even by those close to you who don’t know any better.

Abuse survivors are used to being blamed for not being good enough and the mistreatment they’ve suffered convinces them they are not enough. The truth is, the abuser is the person who is not enough. Only a dysfunctional person would deliberately harm another. You, on the other hand, are enough. Unlike your abuser, you don’t have to abuse anyone else to feel superior or complete. You are already whole, and perfect, in your own imperfect ways.

2. Your love cannot inspire the abuser to change. There was nothing you could have done differently to change the abuser. Repeat this to yourself. Nothing. Abusers have a distorted perspective of the world and their interactions with people are intrinsically disordered. Pathological narcissists and sociopaths are disordered individuals who have specific manipulation tactics as well as behavioral traits that make them unhealthy relationship partners. Part of their disorder is that they feel superior and entitled; they are usually unwilling to get help and they benefit from exploiting others. A lack of empathy enables them to reap these benefits without much remorse. Giving your abuser more love and subjugating yourself to the abuser out of fear and out of the hope that he or she would change would’ve only enabled the abuser’s power. You did the right thing (or you will) by stepping away and no longer allowing someone to treat you in such an inhumane manner.

3. Healthy relationships are your birthright and you can achieve them. It is your right to have a healthy, safe, and respectful relationship. It is your right to be free from bodily harm and psychological abuse. It is your right to be able to express your emotions without ridicule, stonewalling or the threat of violence. It is your right not to walk on eggshells. It is your right to pursue people who are worthy of your time and energy. Never settle for less than someone who respects you and is considerate towards you. Every human being has this right and you do too. If you are someone who has the ability to respect others and are capable of empathy, you are not any less deserving than anyone else of a relationship that makes you happy.

4. You are not forever damaged by this. Healing and recovery is a challenging process, but it is not an impossible one. You may suffer for a long time from intrusive thoughts, flashbacks and other symptoms as a result of the abuse. You may even enter other unhealthy relationships or reenter the same one; this is not uncommon, as a large part of our behavior is driven by our subconscious. Still, you are not “damaged goods.” You are not forever scarred, although there are scars that may still remain. You are a healer, a warrior, a survivor. You do have choices and agency. You can cut all contact with your ex-partner, seek counseling and a support group for survivors, create a stronger support network, read literature on abusive tactics, engage in better self-care, and you can have better relationships in the future. If you suspect you were the victim of emotional abuse, you can read about the manipulation tactics of emotionally abusive people and understand how pathological individuals operate so that you can protect yourself in the future. All hope is not lost. You can use this experience to gain new knowledge, resources and networks. You can channel your crisis into transformation.

5.  You don’t have to justify to anyone the reasons you didn’t leave right away. The fear, isolation and manipulation that the abuser imposed upon us is legitimate and valid. Studies have proven that trauma can produce changes the brain. If we experienced or witnessed abuse or bullying in our childhood, we can be subconsciously programmed to reenact our early childhood wounding.

The trauma of an abusive relationship can also manifest in PTSD or acute stress disorder regardless of whether or not we witnessed domestic violence as a child. Stockholm syndrome is a syndrome that tethers survivors of trauma and abuse to their abusers in order to survive. This syndrome is created from what Patrick J. Carnes, Ph.D calls “trauma bonds,” which are bonds that are formed with another person during traumatic emotional experiences. These bonds can leave us paradoxically seeking support from the source of the abuse. Biochemical bonds can also form with our abuser through changing levels of oxytocin, dopamine, cortisol and adrenaline which can spike during the highs and lows of the abuse cycle.

The connection we have to the abuser is like an addiction to the vicious cycle of hot and cold, of sweet talk and apologies, of wounds and harsh words. Our sense of learned helplessness, an overwhelming feeling that develops as we are unable to escape a dangerous situation, is potent in an abusive relationship. So is our cognitive dissonance, the conflicting ideas and beliefs we may hold about who the abuser truly is versus who the abuser has shown himself or herself to be. Due to the shame we feel about the abuse, we may withdraw from our support network altogether or be forced by our abuser to not interact with others.

These reasons and more can all interfere with our motivation and means to leave the relationship. You may have been financially dependent on your abuser or feared physical or psychological retaliation in the form of slander. Therefore, you never have to justify to anyone why you did not leave right away or blame yourself for not doing so. Someone else’s invalidation should not take away your experience of fear, powerlessness, confusion, shame, numbing, cognitive dissonance and feelings of helplessness that occurred when and after the abuse took place.

6. Forgiveness of the abuser is a personal choice, not a necessity. Some may tell you that you have to forgive the abuser to move on. Truly, that is a personal choice and not a necessity. You might feel forgiveness of the abuser is necessary in order to move forward, but that does not mean you have to. Survivors may have also experienced physical and sexual abuse in addition to the psychological manipulation. You may have gone through so much trauma that it feels impossible to forgive, and that’s okay.

It is not our job to cater to the abuser’s needs or wants. It’s not our duty to reconcile with or forgive someone who has deliberately and maliciously harmed us. Our duty lies in taking care of ourselves on the road to healing.

7. Forgiveness towards yourself is necessary to move forward. Self-forgiveness is a different matter. You do have to demonstrate compassion towards yourself and forgive yourself for not leaving the relationship sooner, for not taking care of yourself better, and for not looking out for your safety and best interests. These are all things survivors tend to struggle with in the aftermath of an abusive relationship and it can take a while to get to this point.

Remember: You didn’t know what you know now about how the abuser would never change. Even if you had, you were in a situation where many psychological factors made it difficult to leave.

8. You are not the crazy one. During the abusive relationship, you were gaslighted into thinking that your perception of reality was false and told that you were the pathological one, that your version of events was untrue, that your feelings were invalid, that you were too sensitive when you reacted to his or her mistreatment of you. You may have even endured a vicious smear campaign in which the charming abuser told everyone else you were “losing it.”

Losing it actually meant that you were tired of being kicked around, tired of being cursed at and debased. Losing it actually meant that you were finally starting to stand up for yourself. The abuser saw that you were recognizing the abuse and wanted to keep you in your place by treating you to cold silence, harsh words, and condescending rumor mongering.

It’s time to get back to reality: you were not the unstable one. The unstable one was the person who was constantly belittling you, controlling your every move, subjecting you to angry outbursts, and using you as an emotional (and even physical) punching bag.

Who are you? You were the person who wanted a good relationship. The one who strove to please your abuser, even at the cost of your mental and physical health. You were the one whose boundaries were broken, whose values were ridiculed, whose strengths were made to look like weaknesses. You attempted to teach a grown person how to behave with respect – often fruitlessly. You were the one who deserved so much better.

9. You do deserve better. No matter what the abuser told you about yourself, there are people out there in healthy relationships. These people are cherished, respected and appreciated on a consistent basis. There is trust in the relationship, not the toxic manufacturing of love triangles. There are genuine apologies for mistakes, not provocation for attention or quick reconciliation.

Consider this: aside from the experience of trauma, these people in healthier relationships are not drastically different from you. In many ways, they are just like you – flawed, imperfect, but worthy of love and respect. There are billions of people in this world, and yes, you can bet there are plenty out there who will treat you better than the way you’ve been treated before. There are people out there who will see your wonderful strengths, talents, and who will love your quirks. These people wouldn’t dream of intentionally hurting you or provoking you. You will find these people – in friendships and in future relationships. Perhaps you already have.

10. It may have seemed this relationship was like a “waste of time” but in changing your perspective, it can also be an incredible learning experience. You now have the agency to create stronger boundaries and learn more about your values as a result of this experience. As a survivor, you’ve seen the dark side of humanity and what people are capable of. You’ve recognized the value of using your time wisely after you’ve exhausted it with someone unworthy. With this newfound knowledge, you are no longer naive to the fact that there are emotional predators out there. Most importantly, you can share your story to help and empower other survivors. I know I did, and you can too.


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Support Naomi Heitz’s forthcoming book!

A reader wrote to me with the following information, and I wanted to pass it on in case you’d like to support a worthy cause.

Naomi Heitz, the massage therapist and victim of therapist abuse who has the website (which I wrote about a few months ago), is in the process of finishing her book called The Art of Healing from Sexual Trauma.  She is self-publishing through Wise Ink Publishing and trying to fundraise through the site.

You can check out her project at

2017 Update

You can find out about Naomi’s book, now in print, on her website:

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The Powerful Voices Project

I want to let people know about The Powerful Voices Project, an organization run by Becky Fein, whom I met locally several months ago. The mission of the Powerful Voices Project is “to educate, empower, and enhance the conversation around sexual assault and its survivors.” For the past few years, Becky has been filming short video profiles of victims of rape, abuse, molestation, intimate-partner violence, and other types of sexual assault, in a way that shows these survivors’ spirit, strength, and resiliency.

These videos are profound and moving, and I encourage you to visit the website and check them out. You’ll see women of various ages talking about their experiences, often focusing on their healing journeys and what supported them in their process.

Finding a voice and a way to communicate about one’s experience—whether through writing, creative arts, or by actually speaking out—and be witnessed, is incredibly empowering and, I believe, vital to the healing process. I think what Becky has created is remarkable and I applaud her efforts.

To find out more about The Powerful Voices Project, check out this video and visit the website at

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Ethics Survey –

Thank you to one of our readers for letting me know about website was started by Naomi Heitz, LMBT, who is researching ethics in the healing professions. On the website there is a survey for clients who have experienced breaches of ethics by their healing practitioners and also a survey for practitioners themselves. Naomi is gathering stories and first-person accounts for the website and for a book she is writing.

In Naomi’s words:

Ethics lies at the core of healing professions. Clients put their trust in healers and open to places of great vulnerability. Healers hold the responsibility to respect this trust and provide a safe place for the client to heal. For the benefit of both healers and clients, this project aims to provide a comprehensive look at the personal stories of ethics dilemmas within healing professions, including both traditional health care (medicine, nursing, psychology, etc) and complementary & alternative health care (massage, yoga, meditation, acupuncture, etc).

The scope of the project is broad, covering ethics breaches ranging from sexualized touch by a massage therapist or physician to psycho-emotional manipulation by a spiritual teacher or psychologist. Abuses can occur when a practitioner crosses social, emotional, financial, or sexual boundaries with a client. Abuses also can occur when a practitioner uses techniques outside of the scope of practice for their profession. The effects on the client can range from confusion to feeling uncomfortable to deep violation.

I think we can all agree with that!

You can read more about the project and participate in the survey by going to



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