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.
Let's focus more now on the case of Mary. Mary shared with me that her therapist stated feeling "trapped in his marriage due to having two children he felt 'talked into' by his wife."
3-Step Progression in the Case Study of Mary
#1. Meeting His Own Needs - Instead of the Client's
with Mary, the balance of power shifted to unprofessional conduct when the therapist's
responsibility to act only in the client's best interests, gradually began to
reframe or reshape the relationship in a way that allowed him to meet his own
(rather than Mary's) needs.
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 exploitive or abusive client-therapist
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
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
may be wondering, how Mary's abusive therapy relationship ended. When she arrived
early for an appointment one day and observed a long embrace between her therapist
and another female client, she began to see the true picture and realized the
relationship was damaging her and that she must leave.
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.
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
you might guess Mary was left with major difficulties regarding trust, and was
at first unable immediately to seek further therapy after the incident. When
Mary began trying to understand and heal from the damage done to her, she had
yet another hurdle to face which was that of finding a therapist she could trust.
Mary had received my name via a word-of-mouth recommendation.
years after seeing the abusive therapists, 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
- Penford, Susan, PhD. Sexual Abuse by Health Professionals. University of Toronto, Buffalo, 2000.
What are two hurdles that remain after a client leaves the abusive relationship?
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