The Therapist Who Is Also a Sexual Predator
By: Beth McHugh 2007
As we discussed in When Your Therapist Does Harm (1) and (2), there are a small proportion of therapists and general counselors who use their position of power to manipulate their clients. The predominant scenario involves a male therapist entering into a sexual relationship with a female client, although the reverse is not unknown.
Fortunately these cases are rare, although it is not rare for a patient to become infatuated with their therapist. As previously discussed, therapists must be very cautious in dealing with clients who appear to be “in love” with them.
The problem for the patient begins when the therapist decides to overstep the mark and return feelings of love for their client. Let’s look at the case of Eve.
Eve had been sexually assaulted by her boss and subsequently developed depression. She discussed her trauma with her male psychiatrist in intimate detail in order to ascertain what was driving her feelings of depression. So far, so good.
Unfortunately what happened next was not so good. The psychiatrist found himself attracted to Eve, and then made the error of telling her about his feelings. She was a little confused by his announcement but continued on with therapy as he assured her that he had his feelings for her under control and that he would never let them interfere with therapy.
Due to Eve’s inexperience with therapists (not surprising, since none of us are born with an innate sense of how to deal with the process of therapy), she continued to see this doctor regularly. He then started to “groom” her. That is, he phoned her to tell her when her next therapy session was, even though he had a secretary to do so. Eve just thought he was particularly interested in her as a patient. Eve thought wrong.
The next thing that happened was that the psychiatrist called in at Eve’s home unannounced one day. He stated that he wanted to see what her home environment was like to that he could get a better feel for her lifestyle and personality. Again, Eve naively let him inside. When she later cancelled a session due to a cold, the psychiatrist turned up at her house, ostensibly on his way home from a conference at 9pm in the evening. He said he wanted to check on her wellbeing.
By now even Eve realized that she was dealing with someone who could not control his inner feelings, even as she struggled to cope with her daily depression. He rang once again to tell her the time of her next appointment and began singing a love song to her over the phone.
Eve terminated her therapy with this man. Even this did not go without a hitch as he told her that she had an intense anger problem. Obviously it was the psychiatrist that had the anger problem along with a few other issues. Thankfully, Eve is now happily seeing another therapist and making good progress.
These types of incidences are rare, but they do happen. Always listen to your own inner voice about how comfortable you feel with your therapist-to-be. Always give it more than one session, but if a feeling of discomfort persists, it’s time to move on.