Mental health practitioners have the ability to help people struggling with life’s extraordinary challenges. This is especially true now—during the COVID pandemic—when stressors are magnified by the inability to find healthy outlets with family and friends.
But along with the power to heal, so too do therapists have the ability to inflict great harm if they abuse the trust placed in them. Their position of authority, combined with the vulnerability of their patients, creates the potential for countless forms of abuse, exploitation, and misconduct. The damage inflicted on patients through such misconduct can be lasting and irreversible.
Our team at Jenner Law fights for the rights of victims of therapist abuse. We understand the significant harm that stems from therapist abuse, and we know firsthand the doubts and difficulties that victims of such abuse face. We understand the transference phenomena and the power imbalance that transference creates. While other attorneys may want to blame the patient for what might look to the outside world as a consensual relationship, we understand that a romantic relationship between a therapist and patient cannot be consensual and is inherently exploitive.
How do I Know If I Have a Case Against My Therapist?
Therapists have a responsibility for patients’ emotional and psychological well-being. Patients transfer perceptions and feelings, without realizing it, toward therapists in a manner similar to how a child interacts with a parent. Defined as the transference phenomena, it puts the therapist in a powerful position and leaves the patient vulnerable.
Abuse of transference may involve the improper prescription of drugs, a sexual relationship, psychological abuse, or physical abuse. This is why maintaining boundaries between patient and therapist at all times is critical. Psychotherapy boundaries include:
- Sitting at a reasonable distance from the patient
- No physical contact other than a handshake or nonsexual hug
- Sessions lasting for set periods of time in the office
- No intentional contact outside of the office
- Focus on the patient and the patient’s problems at all times
- No revelation of intimate information from the therapist to the patient
- No business, sexual, social, or personal relationship with the patient other than psychotherapy
If a therapist violates these general parameters, they may have breached their patient’s boundaries. This can indicate the possibility of abuse.
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Types of Therapy Abuse
Therapy abuse takes many forms. For example, it can be related to emotional abuse or sexual assault. Any type of abuse or malpractice can be devastating for the victim.
Therapist malpractice can be characterized by the following:
- Emotional manipulation
- Verbal abuse
- Criticizing or disrespecting the client
- A violation of personal boundaries
- Confidentiality breaches
- A dependency encouraged by the therapist so that treatment becomes prolonged without notable progress
- Sexual assault
- Failure to adequately assess self-harm or potential suicide
When boundaries have deteriorated, and the practitioner has fostered a dependency-based culture, the therapist can take advantage of a client’s vulnerability and develop a physical relationship. This is among the most well-known forms of boundary transgression. For example, a personal relationship may begin with a parting embrace, which can progress to flirting and then evolve into something sexual in nature.
Eventually, this behavior can result in the client developing intense feelings, perhaps romantically, which may not be mutual. It is not unheard of that the client can be convinced into thinking that sexual intimacy is simply part of their therapy.
Taking Legal Action
If you or a loved one is experiencing abuse at the hands of a therapist, there are two steps you can take: reporting the crime and/or seeking civil damages. In either case, the sooner you act, the quicker you can receive justice for the harm you or your loved one suffered.
1. Report to Law Enforcement
If a criminal offense has been perpetrated against you, immediately contact the police. Sexual assault and other forms of physical abuse or threats of such abuse are violations of Maryland law, and your therapist can face serious consequences. This includes fines, jail time, and suspension of their licenses.
Note that the outcome of a criminal case against the perpetrator will not prevent you from seeking or receiving compensation in a civil lawsuit. In fact, evidence from the criminal case could further support your right to financial recovery.
2. Seek Civil Compensation
A civil action, in this case, serves to reimburse a victim who has suffered harm due to therapy abuse. Therapy abuse falls under malpractice law.
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A Therapy Abuse Attorney Can Support Your Case in Baltimore
After experiencing abuse at the hands of a therapist you trusted, you should not have to shoulder the burden of seeking justice alone. When you hire our team to represent you, we’ll handle the bulk of your case so you can focus on taking care of yourself. Some of our services include:
- Giving you a safe, confidential space to discuss your experience
- Conducting a discrete investigation to collect evidence for your case
- Identifying all your potentially recoverable damages and their values
- Preparing a claim against the liable party
- Advocating for your best interests in and out of court
- Fighting for compensation to address your damages
You deserve a legal team you can rely on in this difficult time. Jenner Law can provide that for you.
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Contact Jenner Law for a Free Case Review
No matter the type of injuries you have suffered at the hands of a therapist, we can help you. Our attorneys at Jenner Law are ready to fight for your financial recovery. Call (888) 585-2188 today for a complimentary consultation regarding your case.