Therapist Boundary Violations — Warning Signs of Potential Therapist Abuse

The following article is from When Therapy Harms with permission from the author.

Boundary violations are violations of the law or of the licensing board’s Code of Ethics. They are generally believed to cause harm or the potential for harm. Some boundary violations are crimes, others are against ethical standards.

As a client, the terms ‘therapist abuse’, ‘therapist misconduct’, and ‘boundary violations’ are foreign concepts unless you’ve researched the topic. Most clients only know that their therapist helps them feel better or causes them to feel worse. They know if they feel uncomfortable, but they don’t have the language, nor have they usually read through their location’s laborious Code of Ethics to understand when a therapist is behaving poorly.

When people begin to feel uncomfortable, they may search for terms like “my therapist kissed me” or “sex with my therapist” or “my therapist told me he wants me to sleep with him”. By then, they have often been groomed by their therapist to believe the therapist is looking out for their best interests, when in fact, the client has disappeared in the eyes of the therapist, and the therapist is only concerned about himself.

Psychological Rape

Many clients blame themselves for the abuse because therapists may say things like, “this is to help you heal”, “this is part of your treatment”, “you’re so beautiful, I can’t help myself”, “I want to love you into wellness”, “if you weren’t _____, this wouldn’t have happened”. Therapists may also put a lot of guilt on the client about what will happen to the therapist, his life, and his family if the client tells anyone what is happening. In addition to the actual abuse taking place, this, in my opinion, is psychological rape.

Warning Signs Your Therapist May Be On the ‘Slippery Slope’

These are warning signs that your therapist is on the ‘slippery slope’ towards more serious and harmful boundary violations. Not every one of these is necessarily a red flag if it is a single, solitary situation taken in the context of appropriate therapy. When they begin to add up, get out. Your therapist is no longer behaving professionally or ethically.

The challenge is that many of these warning signs will initially make a client feel good and special, and no one wants to give that up. It’s part of the grooming process and makes leaving very difficult to do.

If you have any questions about the appropriateness of your therapist’s actions, please call your licensing board and ask.

You have reason for concern if your therapist:

~ begins scheduling your appointments for the end of the day

~ reduces your rate or stops charging you

~ starts giving you hugs when that has never been part of your session

~ changes the way hugs are given (elongates them, hugs you in a more private location, places hands in an awkward position, etc.

~ begins complimenting you more than usual on your appearance (Please note, this takes discernment. Sometimes a compliment is simply a compliment. Other times, it is a warning sign.)

~ tells you personal information about him or herself, especially if it has no relevance to your reasons for being in therapy

~ requests or agrees to any type of dual relationship (a dual relationship is when there is a relationship of any kind outside the therapeutic context. Dual relationships can be a separate business relationship, meeting for coffee or lunch as if you are friends, your therapist asking you to do a favor for them, etc. In the U.S., the idea of dual relationships is a fairly firm Code of Ethics violation. In other countries, there may be more leeway because cultural mores are different. Also in small towns, there may be dual relationships due to population size. If there is one doctor and one therapist, and they need each other’s services, a dual relationship is going to exist. If managed with care and respect for boundaries and ethics, this can be fine. (Please use discernment.)

~ asks you to do something for them that is outside the therapeutic context

~ asks you professional advice (If you are an accountant and your therapist asks you for tax advice during your session or calls you separately, this is a boundary violation.)

~ hires you to do small tasks

~ calls you, texts you, or emails you outside the context of therapy

I’ll add more as I learn about or think of them. If these have already happened to you, it’s not your fault. All of these make a client feel special, valued, and important. It’s part of the grooming process so the therapist can more easily move into more serious violations.

If your therapist has transgressed past these boundary violations into more serious ones, please read the reporting page and the resources page to learn more about your options.

To read the full article online:
http://www.terryganaway.com/therapist-boundary-violations/

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16 thoughts on “Therapist Boundary Violations — Warning Signs of Potential Therapist Abuse

      1. Every time I have talked to somebody about it (my RBS and my youngest daughter) they have a reason for me to not be worried. My daughter says “he’s just trying to make you feel special.” I told her that I thought prefacing every meeting with “I just want to sit here and look at you for a minute” was a little bizarre. Then, after telling me that I was killing myself by starving myself to death, last week he told me that “every inch of my body was perfect.” He’s an old man (78) and I don’t think he’d be capable of doing anything but I do think he has some sort of obsession with me. He actually just texted me. He sends me pictures of himself out in the snow and “tests” the recording devices on his cell phone by sending me voice messages. He wanted to read my blog and I hesitantly gave him the address. He asked me what WTC stood for. I told him nobody knew but me and he asked me if it was a sexual position that Loser and the tramp used. I told him I had no idea and then it transferred to “was it a sexual position that Loser and I used.” I don’t know. I did tell him last week that he was NEVER going to break through. He just smiled.

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        1. All the warning signs are there and sociopaths don’t have a designated age. No matter what age a therapist is, they don’t need to over power you physically. They over power you mentally and emotionally. That is why he just smiled, because he knows he can and will.

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        2. Oh shit. I may just tell him that the drive and cost is just too much. He already reduced his fee….and actually, I’m not sure he would win. Loser thought he would win and in the end, I turned the tables on him and being such a narcissist, he didn’t see the sting coming.
          I’m just as capable of smiling at Sam.
          Oh, and if I start making noise about stopping seeing Sam, my friend and my RBS start yelling at me.

          Liked by 1 person

        3. Since when do you listen to other people? You are capable of being strong with them too! Your ex-husband did win with you, in that you married him. You might have won in the end in that you got away, but at what cost? The same can happen here. The more you think you can’t be taken, the more you put yourself at risk. There are trained professionals who know they are in the presence of a sociopath and still get taken by them.

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        4. I guess I listen to them because I have been told repeatedly that I am “clearly insane.” Even my children say that. It makes me question my judgment…it really does. I often wonder if I’m insane…being frozen for ten years…closing myself off in my house…so, that’s why I listen to other people.
          Maybe it’s because I’m so desperate for help but at the same time, I know I will never let anybody really get into my head. Hell…maybe I am insane.

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        5. Probably. I have talked to more than a dozen “therapists” and counselors over the last ten years and none of them were able to help me. I don’t want to make “burnt offerings to God” and I don’t want to discuss how horrible Southern women treated their maids. I just wanted help….and I have wasted countless hours and thousands of dollars….for nothing.
          Hell…Loser went to a psychiatrist ONCE and was cured, when the psychiatrist gave him permission to start ******* another woman while he was still playing husband to me. Yay for Loser.

          Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, we have become aware of Priests abusing their power. Pastors and therapists are also in a position of power and unquestionable trust that can cause harm to others who are not aware of the potential dangers.

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