OTC Ep. 33 – Therapeutic Abuse With Amy Lynne Johnson
In This Episode
In this episode, John sits down to talk with therapist and responder for TELL – the Therapeutic Exploitation Link Line (www.therapyabuse.org) about the important topic of therapeutic abuse. Therapy is often crucial and can be so beneficial for so many people. Sadly, there are times when it goes horribly wrong and clients are the victims of abuse by their therapist.
How did you become involved with TELL?
After finding out that a colleague had been sexually abusing a patient, Amy was shocked, hurt, and horrified—went looking for resources and found TELL (the Therapeutic Exploitation Link Line). As she found out more about what they do, she was nominated to be a responder to assist victims. Many therapists are unprepared and/or don’t know what to do if they find out that a colleague has been abusing a client. Many therapists have a hard time accepting that it could happen, so it’s something that isn’t talked about very much.
What is TELL? What is their role?
If anyone reaches out to TELL, they send an email to all responders. The website also has a ton of resources and information – see the recent eBook TELL published
We offer support and resources for victims to find healing—local resources in their area, etc. We DON’T provide therapy or legal advice, we strictly provide confidential support. We also DON’T connect victims to each other; however, we do encourage them to start their own support group if they are interested and connect to other survivors of abuse for support.
What type of abuse do you see the most?
Emotional and physical sexual exploitation is the most common, and it’s most commonly a male therapist with a female patient, although we are now seeing more female therapists as the abuser, so perhaps it was under-reported in the past. The abuse can be emotional, financial, manipulation, or sexual. But the most common is sexual abuse. Also fostering dependency, where the client feels like they can’t get away from the therapist and/or they feel isolated from family and friends—similar to “The Shrink Next Door” podcast with Joe Nocera. It can be a very gradual, subtle grooming process where the client doesn’t even realize it’s happening until it’s too late. Many times, the therapists are extremely successful, well-known, and well-regarded, which makes it all the more difficult for their victims to come forward.
How do clients finally take the step to come forward?
There has been a lot more awareness with “Me Too”
Sometimes clients don’t realize they have been abused until years later—they think it was consensual or even that it was their idea.
Eventually the relationship that seemed so wonderful, something goes wrong and the relationship ends, and they are left feeling abandoned and in despair like they have never felt before, so they reach out for help. They often don’t even realize it’s abusive.
Victims often blame themselves, and others often blame the victims—ie: they’re mentally ill, so we can’t believe them. Even abusers can be in denial that they are doing anything wrong. It’s always a pattern for the abusers and how they respond. At first, they usually deny it –ie: it was consensual, it’s not abuse. Then they might go through a period of false contrition—“I never meant to harm them, I thought I was helping, I’m only human.” Then they start to paint themselves as the victim, “nobody understands our love”, etc.
What should you do? How does a client or therapist report another therapist if they find out about abuse?
- Reach out to TELL–Therapy Exploitation Link-line www.therapyabuse.org
- Reach out to your supervisor or mentor
- Don’t destroy texts, emails, or other evidence
- Don’t sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) until you’ve consulted an attorney
- Don’t speak to the offender without a 3rd party present
- Consult with an attorney—resources on TELL website
- Report to the licensing board
- Report to a membership association—ie: APA, ACA, etc.
- Report to someone who has authority to do something about it—ie: police, licensing board, etc.
Preventing Abuse: Search therapist’s licensure status online—surrendered license is a “red flag”
Signs of Abuse/Grooming by Your Therapist
Your therapist should not be touching you inappropriately, crossing boundaries (unprofessional comments or texting), asking about your personal life in a way that is unrelated to the reason you are in counseling; if they self-disclose things about themselves that do not relate to therapy; you should not be meeting with your therapist outside of the office; the therapist should not be sharing confidential information with you about other clients or asking you to help them with babysitting or with running their practice—billing, notes, etc. You should not be having a glass of wine together in the office. The relationship should be strictly “client-therapist” dynamic and must not cross over into a social relationship. This is a sign of grooming.
Meet Amy Lynne Johnson
Amy holds a Master’s Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, completed advanced training in mind/body medicine through the Benson-Henry Institute, as well as post-graduate study at the New England Institute for Existential-Psychoanalytic Therapy. She has completed the Hoffman Institute’s Quadrinity Process and Q2 Leadership Trainings. For many years, she has enjoyed a private practice as a licensed professional psychotherapist, and recently retired from clinical practice in order to work with clients in a non-clinical context, online and from all over the world. She also helps people understand and heal from abusive therapy relationships, and is a responder with TELL (Therapy Exploitation Link Line.) www.therapyabuse.org
OTC Ep. 32 – Maybe You Should Talk To Someone With Lori Gottlieb
OTC Ep. 34 – Child & Adolescent Therapy With Carrie Nicklas
Meet John Dennis
John is a licensed professional counselor with over 14 years of experience who specializes in counseling for individuals, couples, children, and adolescents. He focuses on working with anxious teens and adults, couples who are struggling to connect with one another, and those dealing with grief and loss.