Therapist abuse takes many different forms. The types of actions that can be considered therapist abuse include:
- Norm violations
Defining the Types of Therapist Abuse
The seven types of therapist abuse that appear above can each cause serious harm in their own ways. Below are brief descriptions of each, but keep in mind that the following summaries are not all-inclusive. If your therapist has made you feel uncomfortable or unsafe, you might still have a therapist abuse case, even if their behavior is not described here:
Verbal Therapist Abuse
Your therapist speaks to you in a way that is inappropriate or actively hurtful and unhelpful. For example, they might raise their voice or say something insulting or threatening.
Physical Therapist Abuse
In most situations, your therapist should not have to make any physical contact with you. If touch is a part of your treatment, it should never involve hitting, punching, physical intimidation, or any other violent behavior.
Sexual Therapist Abuse
Under no circumstances should a therapist ever have a sexual or romantic relationship with a patient. They should not even hint at such a possibility. Doing so is a serious breach of regulations and of the patient’s rights and safety.
Even if a patient “consents” to being in such a relationship, the power imbalance between the patient and their therapist means there can be no true consent in this situation. Romance and sex have no place in the therapist-patient dynamic.
Financial Therapist Abuse
While your therapist has the right to expect prompt payment for their services, they should never charge excessive amounts or demand money for other purposes.
Medical Therapist Abuse
Therapists are medical professionals. They have a duty to provide competent care and avoid recommending unnecessary treatment or withholding treatment without good reason.
Psychological Therapist Abuse
While therapy can be a painful and difficult process, your therapist should not try to make things harder on you. If they say you are “hopeless,” not making enough progress, or making up your problems, they are being psychologically abusive.
Norm Violations as Therapist Abuse
As mentioned earlier, therapists must follow various rules to maintain client safety and confidentiality. These rules include:
- Not deliberately visiting the patient outside of therapy sessions
- Keeping the patient’s name and details confidential, including the reason they sought therapy
- Not cutting off contact with the patient without warning
These types of actions can be considered therapist abuse because of the risk they pose to the patient’s well-being.
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How Does Therapist Abuse Happen?
Therapists have a serious responsibility to their patients. For the patient’s safety, it is vital that they always follow their state’s regulations and code of ethics. If a therapist instead exploits their patient, the patient can sue them.
Patients may be especially vulnerable to abuse if they experience transference or overly friendly feelings toward their therapist. The patient may feel like they are friends or even in love with the therapist. An abusive therapist may take advantage of the transference process by grooming and:
- Encouraging the patient to see them as a friend or romantic partner
- Asking for additional money or gifts from the patient
- Persuading the patient to take action or allowing the therapist to take action that could harm the patient’s treatment
Transference is not the patient’s fault. It can even be a normal part of the therapeutic process that may, if handled properly, lead to greater healing in the long run.
However, there are healthy and unhealthy ways for a therapist to deal with transference. It is your therapist’s duty to use these methods rather than manipulate or exploit the patient’s trust. Unfortunately, this is how many instances of therapist abuse occur: the therapist fails to handle transference correctly.
What You Can Do About Therapist Abuse
If you believe you have suffered therapist abuse, you have the right to take action. You could report the abusive therapist to the appropriate authority in your state. In Maryland, for instance, therapist abuse complaints would go to the Board of Professional Counselors and Therapists (BOPC).
You also have the right to get legal guidance from a therapist abuse lawyer. An attorney could:
- Collect evidence against the abusive therapist.
- Calculate how much your injuries—physical and emotional harm and financial losses—are worth.
- Demand fair compensation from the therapist’s insurance company.
- Negotiate a settlement that covers your injuries.
- Go to court and fight for a jury award if recovering a settlement is impossible.
Most of all, a law firm with experience in therapist abuse cases can be a welcome source of support as you deal with the aftermath of the mistreatment you endured. An attorney can reassure you that:
- The abuse happened: It is easy to feel as if you are exaggerating what occurred, especially if your therapist acted like they did nothing wrong. A lawyer could find hard evidence to prove the abuse happened.
- The abuse was not your fault: No one deserves abuse from their therapist. This can be difficult for abuse survivors to accept, but reviewing the evidence of what happened with your attorney can help drive the message home.
- You can hold the abuser accountable: By making your therapist pay for their mistreatment, you can recover monetary compensation and protect other patients from an abusive therapist.
Therapist abuse comes in many forms, but all are inappropriate, and you deserve compensation if it happened to you. An attorney with experience in these cases can help you determine the kind of abuse you suffered, what you could recover, and how to demand a fair settlement from the therapist’s insurance company.
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Have You Suffered From Therapist Abuse?
It is not always easy to distinguish the types of actions that can be considered therapist abuse versus those that cannot. Call Jenner Law today for a free and private consultation. We will tell you if your situation involves therapist abuse and, if so, what legal steps you can take to acquire compensation and justice.