Common signs of therapist abuse include inappropriate personal relationships and emotional, sexual, or financial exploitation. However, the signs can be challenging to recognize, especially for the individual in treatment. Read on to learn more about therapist abuse, how to spot its occurrence, and what you can do if you or someone your loved one is in an abusive relationship with a mental health care provider.
What Is Therapist Abuse?
An honest, trusting, and strong relationship with your therapist is critical to getting the mental health help you need. But, it is also essential that this relationship stay professional, which is why therapists receive extensive training about abusive dynamics and how to treat patients without blurring the lines. Simply, therapists have to respect professional boundaries. When therapists start to blur those boundaries, particularly with sexual overtones, that’s when trouble starts.
An uneven power dynamic is inherent in therapy, as the therapist is in a position of medical authority. When a therapist misuses his or her position to exploit a patient, it is abuse. Therapist abuse can take the following forms:
- Psychological. Psychological abuse occurs when a therapist belittles or gaslights a patient or does things to intentionally worsen a patient’s mental health. Abandonment is another example of psychological abuse.
- Verbal. Verbal abuse includes name-calling, humiliation, yelling, insults, or threats of violence.
- Sexual. Sexual abuse includes any unwanted touching or sexual contact. This abuse also includes verbal sexual harassment, sexual manipulation, or coercion.
- Financial. Financial abuse happens when a therapist uses their position of authority to exploit a patient for money, gifts, or other financial benefits.
Understanding Transference and Countertransference
According to Psychology Today, transference is a phenomenon that occurs when an individual directs their desires and feelings regarding an important figure onto another person. Because therapy involves a strong, trusting relationship, and patients often work through powerful emotions, it can be too easy for this to happen in a therapeutic relationship. Countertransference is a therapist’s inappropriate reaction to a patient’s emotions.
While transference can sometimes be beneficial in therapy, abuse occurs when it leads to an inappropriate relationship or dynamic. Transference can also lead to abuse when a therapist uses a patient’s feelings to groom, exploit, or manipulate them. If your therapist groomed you for an inappropriate relationship or abandoned you, we want to help you seek justice.
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Signs of an Abusive Therapeutic Relationship
Recognizing therapist abuse can be difficult, especially if you are in an abusive relationship. The following are common warning signs of therapist abuse:
- Meeting outside the therapist’s office
- Personal contact between you and your therapist outside of therapy sessions
- Sexual communication or contact, including inappropriate sexual jokes, suggestions, or questions
- Violation of psychological or physical boundaries
- Giving or asking for gifts
- Encouragement of a dependent relationship
The above is by no means an exhaustive list. If you or a loved one sees a therapist and something feels wrong or out of bounds, you may be in an abusive relationship with your mental health care provider. If you suspect this is the case, know that help is available.
You Can Seek Justice for Therapist Abuse
If you have an abusive therapist, you can contact your state or local psychology licensing board to learn how to make an official complaint. The Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards maintains a list of regulatory agencies.
You can also pursue financial justice against your therapist in civil court with a therapy abuse lawsuit. You might be able to recover compensation for the following:
- Medical costs. You can pursue the cost of medical treatment related to mental or physical harm resulting from therapist abuse. This may include doctor or hospital visits, medications, and mental health services from another provider.
- Mental and emotional anguish. You can seek monetary awards for depression, anxiety, mental and emotional distress, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other mental health side effects of abusive treatment.
- Pain and suffering. You may pursue compensation for physical pain, loss of enjoyment, and quality of life reductions.
- Punitive damages. Sometimes, the court will order punitive damages in cases involving gross negligence or misconduct. These damages punish wrongdoers and deter future bad behavior.
Laws Regarding Therapist Abuse Lawsuits Vary From State to State
Each state has regulations, a licensing board, and a code of ethics for mental health care providers. Therefore, the laws that affect a therapist abuse lawsuit will vary from state to state.
Your time to take legal action is also determined by where you live. Your state’s statute of limitations establishes how long you have to bring a medical malpractice lawsuit to recover personal injury damages. You could have anywhere from one to 10 years. In addition, other factors, such as the survivor’s age, can alter the deadline. If you do not pursue your case within the time limits, you may have no option for seeking economic justice.
State laws can also influence how much compensation you can recover. Some states set a cap on non-economic damages for malpractice. Other states allow survivors to pursue awards without restriction.
Taking Action Where You Live
We help survivors throughout the U.S., so our attorney team knows the laws in multiple states. If you have suffered therapist abuse, we can help you take action where you live. A lawyer with our firm can:
- Investigate your abuse claim
- Collect evidence to support your case
- Prepare and file your medical malpractice claim or lawsuit
- Navigate local and state laws
- Adhere to the statute of limitations and other deadlines
- Be your voice – we will handle all case-related communications and settlement negotiations
- Provide you with prompt and frequent updates about your case
- Offer personalized, professional, and compassionate service at no upfront cost
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Contact Jenner Law for Help With a Therapist Abuse Case Today
Jenner Law has nearly 50 years of collective experience fighting for those injured by negligence and wrongdoing. If you have experienced therapist abuse, we can be your advocate and ally. We will review the common signs of therapist abuse and advise you further after reviewing your situation.
Contact us today for a free consultation to learn more about how we can seek financial justice for you or your loved one. We work on contingency, so you don’t owe us a dime until we win your case.