When Mental Health Professionals Violate Sexual Boundaries
The relationship between patient and therapist is characterized by extraordinary vulnerability and trust. Patients share their most private feelings, fears and behaviors with their treating clinicians, disclosing things they may have never shared with another person.
The state of Arizona, like every state in the U.S., holds therapists to a clear standard of care in recognition of this special relationship. Behavioral health professionals, psychiatrists and psychologists may not engage in sexual misconduct with a patient they are treating or supervising. In Arizona, this is not only a class 6 felony, but it is also subject to civil litigation. It doesn’t matter if you, as the patient, desired or initiated a physical relationship with your therapist - you are not responsible. Therapists are in charge of preventing sexual intimacy between themselves and their patients. They are trained in how to diffuse a patient’s romantic interests.
Transference describes the phenomenon of a patient transferring feelings for another individual onto a counselor, therapist, psychologist or psychiatrist. It’s a well-known occurrence, often purposefully invoked, to help the patient work through unresolved issues with someone the patient is having difficulty with like a parent. When used appropriately it’s a healing tool. When a clinician exploits a patient experiencing transference this may be termed "transference abuse".
- Hugging, touching or holding
- Gift Giving
- Inviting patient to dine out or other social activities
- Hiring a patient to do outside work
- Therapist sharing details of their sex life or relationship
- Sexualized “jokes”
- Making house-calls
- Providing alcohol or non-prescribed drugs to patient
How McNamara Goldsmith can Help
We understand what you're going through. We have substantial experience handling cases of sexual abuse by therapists in Arizona. These are complex cases that require in depth understanding, not only of the law, but also of sexual trauma and its aftermath. We can help you determine whether your therapist's actions were illegal and what recourse you have for criminal and civil action. Call us today at (520) 624-0126 or fill out our online contact form.