What are the Consequences When a Mental Health Provider Takes Advantage of a Patient in a Sexual Manner?

Mental health providers in New York State have an absolute duty to avoid any type of sexual advances or experiences with their patients. The word “providers” includes psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers. When there is sexual contact, it is usually begun with subtle grooming of the patient by the provider. Words with double meanings are used along with a slowly advancing intimacy that seems to be normal and “ok” to the patient, but which is, in reality, being used to create a false sense that somehow what is going on is legitimate. The provider often tries to become essential to the patient to the point where the patient stops exercising his or her own judgment and simply does what the provider suggests.

There is a well-known pattern where the provider increasingly sends text messages, emails, and voicemails to the patient, and the patient is required to respond. The relationship gradually becomes one of complete dependency, and the line between therapy and unpermitted sexual contact is blurred.

From the physical point of view, the handshakes become longer, the touching on the shoulder is more frequent and the hugs are closer. There are often meetings outside of the office setting, and hand holding on long walks or over coffee becomes commonplace, and all of this is set up to appear to be simply a therapist who truly cares about the patient. The situation then progresses to sexual contact which is not permitted legally or ethically and is being done solely for the sexual gratification of the therapist, to the detriment of the patient.

Any therapist who does this with a patient is not fit to treat patients and his or her license is in jeopardy. Also, the patient, once the issue is recognized, can bring litigation against the therapist in court for monetary compensation, as there is an enormous amount of damage that most often impacts the patient in the form of a resultant loss of trust of therapists in general in the future. Also, the patient often tends to blame himself or herself, and that can lead to permanent psychological damage.

So, if you are a patient who realizes that there is sexual exploitation taking place, rid yourself of this “therapist” and get to someone who will truly put your mental health in the first place. Also, talk to a lawyer who is experienced in this not well-known field as it is mandatory that you know your rights in a situation such as this. Once you understand how the law views this type of matter, you can decide what path you want to take for the benefit of your mental health and for possible financial compensation.