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Ask the Experts


I was severely abused sexually, emotionally, and physically by my first husband. Later, as a graduate student in counseling field, I had sex with my therapist when the physical attraction between us became overwhelming. I divorced my third husband while in therapy but now the therapist has told me I need to "move on" with my life and he is not interested in a relationship with me. My old feelings of being used and violated are resurfacing and I am having trouble sleeping, eating, or functioning. I also fantasize that my therapist is really in love with me and has moved people into my neighborhood and my job to watch over me and help me. I know I need help but there is only one psychiatrist in my town and there is a four-month waiting list to get an appointment. How can I feel normal again? Also, I don't know how many other women this therapist has done this to. How can I prevent him from hurting someone else?

Answered by: Paul Appelbaum

Sexual contact between a therapist--of whatever background--and a patient is inappropriate and unethical. It is the responsibility of the therapist, not the patient, to maintain appropriate boundaries and avoid sexual involvement. Your therapist's misbehavior can be reported to his professional organization or the licensure board that oversees his discipline. In addition, if you have been harmed by his behavior, you may have legal remedies available to you and may want to consult an attorney who deals with these kinds of cases. Finally, even if the wait is long or you need to go outside your area for treatment, having an opportunity to work through with a competent therapist what happened with your previous therapist can be invaluable to a healing process.