Statement prepared for SNAP-sponsored news event on June 11, 2009
For five years, Dr. _____ manipulated and exploited me. His conduct as my therapist was unethical, unconscionable and inexcusable. He violated me physically, emotionally, and spiritually, and completely betrayed my trust. His actions caused me tremendous harm and incredible pain and suffering. In my opinion, Dr. _____ should not be allowed to practice therapy or counseling in any capacity whatsoever, ever again.
Because it is so easy to blame the victim for a therapist’s sexual advances or violations — or for victims to blame themselves — I would like people to understand that patients are not responsible for their therapist’s actions. It is the therapist’s responsibility to uphold and maintain all boundaries. It is never the patient’s responsibility. And when misconduct occurs, it is not the patient’s fault. The therapist must take responsibility for their own behavior and misconduct.
Sex between a therapist and a patient is not “a relationship” — it is a form of exploitation and abuse. There is no such thing as informed consent for sex between a psychotherapist and a patient. It is illegal in the state of California, and any therapist who has sex with a patient is committing a crime and should be reported to their licensing board.
I urge anyone seeking help from a psychotherapist or counselor to educate themselves about what is and is not appropriate behavior from a therapist. Both the California Board of Psychology and the Board of Behavioral Sciences have information for consumers.
Laws, ethical standards, and professional boundaries are there to protect the patient. When a violation occurs, the effects on the patient can be devastating. If you suspect that something is wrong or unusual about your therapy, tell someone and get help right away. Don’t be afraid to speak up or to ask uncomfortable questions. And if the therapist has committed a violation, stand up for yourself and for your rights, take action, and hold the therapist accountable for their actions.
* * *
The California Board of Psychology has two publications that may be helpful to consumers: For Your Peace of Mind – A Consumer Guide to Psychological Services and Professional Therapy Never Includes Sex. For more information about therapist-patient sexual abuse and exploitation, visit the websites of the California Board of Psychology (www.psychboard.ca.gov), the California Board of Behavioral Sciences (www.bbs.ca.gov), and AdvocateWeb (www.advocateweb.org).