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In the case of the power-abusing therapist, a second key to the pattern is that the therapist is usually also going through a life crisis and emotional difficulty that seriously impairs his or her judgment.
3-Step Progression in the Case Study of Mary
♦ #1. Meeting His Own Needs - Instead of the Client's
Some clients or patients, as you might guess, quickly perceive that they are being treated inappropriately and terminate the therapy relationship. However, others, like Mary, get trapped and may stay in exploitative or abusive client-therapist relationships. For a time, Mary felt wonderful, viewing herself as special and feeling very nurtured, cared for, and cared about, but obviously what was really happening was quite different.
The professional's manipulation of the situation, combined with his mystique so to speak, and the power imbalance of the professional relationship made the situation more complicated. Combine this with Mary's vulnerability and you can see what kept her in an emotionally detrimental situation. This situation clearly undermined her mental health and stifled her emotional growth. In addition, needless to say, Mary was not working on her problems or difficulties regarding adjustment to her divorce that took her to the professional in the first place.
♦ #2. How the Abusive Therapy Relationship Ended
However, terminating the relationship did not end Mary's problems. She was left with even more difficulties and stress than when she started. Now she had the after-effects of a sexual post-traumatic stress disorder.
Many other obstacles also remained, not the least of which was the lack of support from others in her life. Mary's mother felt that she should have known better and viewed her as merely having had an affair with a married man. Because of her mother's comments, Mary, a 35 year-old, was unable to gather the courage to seek out added help from friends and relatives who may have been supportive. Mary blamed herself and felt ashamed
♦ #3. Finding a Therapist She Could Trust
Five years after seeing the abusive therapist, Mary had moved twice and came to me blaming herself and feeling deeply ashamed. Her presenting problem was an inability to get along with co-workers, as well as to sustain a long term relationship following her divorce.
Wu, K. S., & Sonne, J. L. (2021). Therapist boundary crossings in the digital age: Psychologists’ practice frequencies and perceptions of ethicality. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice.
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