Therapy is the backbone of mental health services. However, it can be plagued with predatory individuals who can inflict great harm. The therapist-client relationship is built on trust, and when boundaries are crossed, it may leave you feeling defenseless or unsure of who to turn to.
If your therapist is acting in an unethical, inappropriate, or abusive way, you have the right to report their actions to the licensing board.
What Constitutes Unethical Behavior?
As a therapy patient, you may assume that your therapist has good intentions, causing you to question whether their behavior is truly unethical. But like other healthcare providers, therapists are held to a standard of care, and when they deviate from the standard, they can be guilty of therapy abuse.
Some types of unethical behavior seen in the therapy space are:
- Violating confidentiality
- Abandoning you as a client
- Contacting you outside of office hours
- Sexual misconduct
- Verbal, physical, or emotional abuse
- Crossing personal and professional boundaries
Of course, this list is not definitive, so if you ever feel that your therapist is being manipulative, abusive, or otherwise makes you feel unsafe, you should consider reporting this behavior to the licensing board.
The Transference Phenomena
There is no excuse for unethical behavior by a therapist. Therapists are aware of their influence and power when counseling their clients. Transference in therapy is when an individual attaches feelings for someone to a completely different person.
For example, a patient can attach feelings of adoration that they feel for their father to their therapist because of similarities they see between them. This can also happen vice versa (from therapist to the patient), called countertransference. Therapists are fully aware of this and monitor it regularly.
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How Do You Report a Therapist for Unethical Behavior?
You must contact your state’s licensing board to report a therapist for unethical behavior. Some states allow you to submit a complaint via their website, while others require it to be submitted by mail. Official complaints must be submitted in writing (i.e., online or by mail) rather than by phone. However, you can still contact the board by phone for any questions.
The board will investigate your complaint and may request evidence or conduct interviews. Suppose the board finds that your complaint is valid. In that case, the therapist will be subject to disciplinary action, including but not limited to paying a fine, getting more training, or losing their license.
However, for some people, filing a complaint may not be enough. For example, if you believe your therapist committed malpractice, you may be able to file a lawsuit against them.
Filing a Complaint vs. Suing Your Therapist
You can choose to file a complaint, sue your therapist, or both. As stated previously, disciplinary action, if any, is handed down by the licensing board when filing a complaint. When filing a lawsuit, the presiding judge will rule on the case, and if the case ends in your favor, you may receive a settlement.
When reporting unethical behavior, you will submit the details of your complaint along with any evidence you have. For a lawsuit, you must prove that the therapist committed malpractice. Generally, you will have to prove the following:
- The therapist owed you a duty of care.
- The therapist breached their duty of care.
- Their breach of duty of care caused you harm.
- You sustained considerable damages or losses due to the harm.
You must prove these points individually, and doing so alone can prove challenging. In addition, the therapist, their attorneys, and insurers may use their resources to attempt to discredit you, intimidate you, or minimize your claim. When filing a lawsuit, you should consider hiring a therapist abuse attorney to represent you and handle the details of your claim.
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Do I Need a Therapy Abuse Lawyer?
Hiring a therapy abuse lawyer can be beneficial regardless of what stage of the process you’re in. Whether you’re ready to file a lawsuit or just considering it, an attorney can review the facts of your case to determine the best course of action. In addition, they can assist you by:
- Investigating your case
- Providing a confidential space to discuss your experience
- Identifying and calculating potential damages
- Preparing a legal argument against the defense
- Representing you in and out of court
- Fighting for fair compensation
Navigating the aftermath of therapy abuse is burdensome. An attorney can lend their knowledge, skills, and resources to help you find a path forward.
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Getting Help with a Therapy Abuse Case
You don’t have to suffer in silence. Our attorneys at Jenner Law are here to help you recover and take the next steps to reclaim your power. We represent victims of therapist abuse across the US . Contact our office today for your free consultation.