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General News

Speak Out About Psychiatrist/Psychologist Sexual Abuse

With studies showing that an average of 6% to 10% of psychiatrists and psychologists sexually abuse their patients, including children young as 3 years old, Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) is encouraging victims of sexual abuse by mental health practitioners to contact us and speak out about it.

The observation of Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April would not be complete without a cautionary look at how common it is for psychiatric practitioners to have sexual contact with patients, often under the guise of therapy.

The sexual crimes committed by psychiatrists are estimated at 37 times greater than rapes occurring in the general community, one U.S. law firm stated. [1]

Psychiatrists themselves indicate that 65% of their new patients tell them that they have been sexually abused by previous psychiatrists. Sexual assault or rape is not just limited to females. Men are also victims of therapist sexual abuse or rape. And so are children. [2]

Data from national studies suggest one of every 20 sexual incidents between psychotherapists and their patients involved minors – the average age was 12 for boys, 7 for girls. [3]

Psychiatrists who sexually abuse patients are often serial abusers, with some surveys noting over 50% of male therapists reporting sexual involvement with more than one patient. [4]

Clinicians have compared psychotherapist-patient sexual involvement to rape, child molestation, and incest, putting victims at increased risk of suicide, according to the study, “Psychotherapists’ Sexual Relationships with Their Patients” in Annals of Health Law[5]

Sexual assault victims commonly struggle with emotional repercussions such as: Feelings of no self-worth, denial, crying spells, paranoia, helplessness, loneliness, shame, anxiety, nightmares, insomnia, flashbacks, numbness, withdrawal, depression, fear of relationships and intimacy, and more. [6]

The findings of a national study of 958 patients sexually abused by their therapist suggested that 90% were harmed and of those, only 17% recovered.  About 14% of those who had been sexually involved with a therapist attempted suicide. [7]

Women are the usual targets of sexual assault, but men and children of both sexes have been attacked in the name of therapy.

A person seeking help is already in a fragile state and may already feel victimized by their situation. To add a sexual attack is heartless, cruel, and blatantly wrong no matter how these activities are justified.

The prevalence of such behavior has prompted laws in some states prohibiting any sexual contact between practitioner and patient. CCHR has long pushed for uniform state laws prohibiting mental health practitioners from engaging in sexual relations of any sort with a patient, making it not only a gross violation of medical ethics, but also illegal.

Colorado is one of the several states that specifies that “consent” is not a valid defense. The state takes the position that the psychiatrist is in a position of overpowering influence and trust. Therefore, a patient cannot consent to sexual relations with a therapist and ANY sexual contact is considered a “boundary violation” and is illegal, even if initiated by the patient.[8]

A report in Annals of Health Law said that when sexual contact occurs in a psychotherapeutic setting, it is not unusual for the patient to have been persuaded that it was a necessary and integral part of the therapy itself. [9]

In a therapeutic setting, such relationships by and large involve male practitioners assuming domineering roles to bring usually much younger female patients under their sway. Done under the guise of therapy or love and never to the patient’s benefit, a complaining or protesting patient need no longer be blamed for the seduction, experience shame and regret or be coerced into silence.

With the #MeToo movement shining an unprecedented spotlight on this complex societal issue, it is time to uncover the perpetrators of sexual abuse and bring them to justice.

If you or anyone you know has been the victim of sexual contact by a mental health worker, we want to talk to you.  You can contact us by clicking here or by calling 303-789-5225.  All information will be kept in the strictest confidence.

 

[1] “Doctor Sexual Assault Cases: Capable Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Lawyers Fight for Justice,”
https://www.beasleyfirm.com/medical-malpractice/doctor-sexual-assault/

[2] Op. cit. “Doctor Sexual Assault Cases.”

[3] Kenneth Pope, “Sex Between Therapists and Clients,” Encyclopedia of Women and Gender, Academic Press, Oct. 2001

[4] Gary C. Hankins et al, “Patient-Therapist Sexual Involvement: A Review of Clinical and Research Data,” Bulletin of the American Academy of Psychiatry Law, Vol. 22, No.1,

[5] Clifton Perry, Joan Wallman Kuruc, “Psychotherapists’ Sexual Relationships with Their Patients,” Annals of Health Law, Vol. 2, Issue 1, 1993
https://lawecommons.luc.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.bing.com/&httpsredir=1&article=1356&context=annals

[6] Doctor Sexual Assault Cases: Capable Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Lawyers Fight for Justice,”
https://www.beasleyfirm.com/medical-malpractice/doctor-sexual-assault/; Kenneth S. Pope, “Therapist-Patient Sex as Sex Abuse: Six Scientific, Professional, and Practical Dilemmas in Addressing Victimization and Rehabilitation,”
https://kspope.com/sexiss/therapy1.php

[7] https://kspope.com/sexiss/sexencyc.php

[8] “Psychiatrist/patient boundaries: When it’s OK to stretch the line,” Current Psychiatry, 2008 August;7(8):53-62
http://www.mdedge.com/currentpsychiatry/article/63241/psychiatrist/patient-boundaries-when-its-ok-stretch-line

[9] Clifton Perry, Joan Wallman Kuruc, “Psychotherapists’ Sexual Relationships with Their Patients,” Annals of Health Law, Vol. 2, Issue 1, 1993, https://lawecommons.luc.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.bing.com/&httpsredir=1&article=1356&context=annals

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News for Colorado You be the Judge...

Erie Psychiatrist Disciplined For Improper Prescribing And Romantic Relationship With Patient

An Erie psychiatrist specializing in addiction psychiatry has been put on indefinite probation by the Colorado Medical Board after admitting he wrongly prescribed controlled substances to a female patient, failed to maintain proper records of his prescribing and treatment of her, and engaged in a romantic relationship with her.

Halbert B. Miller was publicly disciplined by the Medical Board with indefinite probation effective March 16, a letter of admonition, and orders to complete a professional boundaries course and a prescribing course in response to his actions, which are unprofessional conduct under Colorado law.

Boundary violations occur when doctors use their position of trust and authority for their own pleasure or benefit (or the benefit of others).  Psychiatrists account for the largest percentage of doctors with boundary violations.  One in three physicians who were disciplined for inappropriate personal contact with patients were psychiatrists.

Miller, who is also licensed in North Dakota, had been disciplined by that state’s medical board for the same misconduct, which it termed “unprofessional, unethical and/or dishonorable conduct that is likely to deceive, defraud or harm the public.”

Miller was previously disciplined by the Colorado and Massachusetts Medical Boards.

After failing to renew his Massachusetts license in 2013, Miller continued to practice psychiatry without a license.  He also fraudulently claimed in his license renewal application that he was Board-certified in addiction psychiatry, but the certification had expired in 2008.  In 2014, the Massachusetts Medical Board publicly reprimanded Miller and fined him $2,500 for this misconduct.

Following the actions taken by the Massachusetts Board, the Colorado Medical Board sent a letter of admonition to Miller in 2015, stating that his actions were also unprofessional conduct under Colorado law and warning him that any similar conduct in the future could lead to formal disciplinary action against his Colorado license.

Miller currently lists addiction psychiatry as his specialty in his online profile.

The Colorado Medical Board monthly disciplinary action summary lists Miller’s address as Erie, while the Department of Regulatory Agencies license lookup lists it as Lafayette.  Online search results indicate he practiced in Boulder.

If you or someone you know is the victim of inappropriate behavior by a psychiatrist, psychologist, or other mental health worker, we want to talk with you.  You can contact us by clicking here or by calling 303-789-5225.  All information will be kept strictly confidential.

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General News News for Colorado You be the Judge...

Denver Psychiatrist Disciplined For Misconduct with Sexually Obsessed Patient

A Denver psychiatrist has been disciplined by the state licensing board for unprofessional conduct with a patient who became sexually fixated on him during treatment.

Steve Sarche failed to terminate his doctor-patient relationship with a patient who developed erotomania during treatment that lasted from approximately November 2008 through July 2012, according to a Colorado Medical Board public document posted online.

Erotomania is defined as excessive sexual desire, or the delusional belief that one is the object of another person’s love or sexual desire.

The Medical Board also found that Sarche crossed professional boundaries by seeing the patient outside of his office, and by continuing to communicate with the patient after the professional relationship was finally terminated.

The Board found that the behavior was unprofessional conduct under state law and issued an order, effective February 27, under which Sarche agreed to a disciplinary letter from the Board, indefinite probation, and completing an ethics program and professional boundaries course.

Psychiatrists account for the largest percentage of doctors with boundary violations, according to a 2012 study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law.  Boundary violations occur when doctors use their position of trust and authority for their own pleasure or benefit (or the benefit of others).

Similarly, a 2001 study  published in the American Journal of Psychiatry found that one in three physicians (34%) who were disciplined at least partly because of their inappropriate personal contact with patients were psychiatrists.

If a psychiatrist, psychologist, or other mental health worker has acted improperly with you or someone you know, we want to talk with you.  You can contact us by clicking here or by calling 303-789-5225.  All information will be kept strictly confidential.