These are complex cases. Nothing should be assumed. There are boundaries inherent to the therapist-client relationship that cannot be breached under California law. Speaking with an attorney who has handled therapist and psychotherapist abuse cases before is critical to the success of your case.
At Winer, McKenna & Burritt, LLP, our lawyers fully understand the delicate nature and complications of therapist abuse cases. We will take the time to thoughtfully approach the unique situation affecting you. Partner attorney John D. Winer is one of the most accomplished and knowledgeable therapist abuse attorneys in California. He has achieved record verdicts for compensatory damages and psychological injuries by employing strategies and tactics unknown to most attorneys. He also has a deep understanding of the transference phenomena and very well understands the power imbalance that transference creates. While other attorneys may want to blame the patient for what might look to the outside world as a consensual relationship, John Winer understands that a romantic relationship between a therapist and patient cannot be consensual and is inherently exploitive.
Our attorneys confidently pursue favorable outcomes in these cases, which often involve sexual abuse, malpractice, and negligent diagnosis and treatment.
We represent people in Northern and Southern California from offices in Oakland, San Francisco and Los Angeles. All discussions about your case are confidential. Call us today at (510) 433-1000 to speak with an attorney. We offer free initial consultations and pursue all cases on a contingency fee basis.
Therapist Misconduct: Exploitation And Abuse
Society depends on therapists to monitor their own behavior and act ethically. Therapists assume a position of authority and trust with their clients, who are encouraged to enter an extremely vulnerable mental and emotional state and often come to depend on their therapist for their physical, mental and emotional needs as a consequence.
Under circumstances like these, sexual misconduct, drug abuse, financial abuse and physical violence may easily be perpetrated by a therapist.
How Do I Know If I Have A Case Against My Therapist?
Therapists, including psychotherapists, psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, other mental health professionals and health care providers, are held to strict standards of care in the U.S. and California. Sex with a current patient or patient within the past two years is strictly prohibited, whether consensual or not. Even in cases where a therapist waits more than two years to have sex with a patient, the standard of care (if not the letter of the law) is usually violated and a case can usually be pursued.
Therapists have a responsibility for patients’ emotional and psychological care and advancement. Patients transfer perceptions and feelings, without realizing it, toward therapists in a manner similar to how a child interacts with a parent. Defined as the transference phenomena, it puts the therapist in a powerful position and leaves the patient vulnerable. Abuse of transference may involve improper prescription of drugs, a sexual relationship, psychological abuse or physical abuse.
Psychotherapy boundaries often also include:
- Sitting at a reasonable distance from the patient
- No physical contact other than a handshake or nonsexual hug
- Sessions lasting for set periods of time in the office
- No intentional contact outside of the office
- Focus on the patient and the patient’s problems at all times
- No revelation of intimate information from the therapist to the patient
- No business, sexual, social or personal relationship with the patient other than psychotherapy
If these general parameters are violated, the therapist may have breached his or her boundaries, known as a therapeutic container.
No matter the type of injuries you have suffered at the hands of your therapist, we can help you. With more than 60 years of combined experienced, we have built a record of settlement and trial results. Please see our Therapist Abuse and Malpractice FAQ for more information.
What Damages Are Recoverable In A Therapist Abuse Case?
Pursuing a claim against a therapist may involve a civil, criminal or licensing board case, which means you need a lawyer who is very familiar with all three settings. Abuse can develop over time and cause devastating and painful losses, including depression, physiological disturbances and intense psychological symptoms. It is important to speak with an informed lawyer as soon as possible because statutes of limitations do apply.
The statute of limitations continues to run while a patient pursues a licensing board claim; thus, a patient may lose his or her right to sue while waiting for the licensing board to make a decision. Although there may be ways around the statute of limitations, in California, cases against therapists are best pursued within a year of the end of the exploitive relationship. In cases in which public entities are involved — such as a case in which a therapist works for a county clinic — the statute of limitations may be as short as six months.
We can help you seek damages that may include:
- Past and future pain, suffering and emotional distress
- Past and future medical expenses
- Past and future wage loss
- Punitive damages
Effectively Litigating Therapist Abuse Cases
Effective litigation and client protection in a therapist abuse case require the skills of an attorney who is prepared to take on significant legal challenges. A fine legal balancing act must be planned and executed with precision.
In most cases, we must incorporate expert witness testimony to demonstrate intentional misconduct and negligence on the part of the defendant (therapist) while also proving the obvious causal connection to the plaintiff’s injuries
The process is complicated, and it often depends on credibility, an understanding of the transference phenomena, the statute of limitations, insurance coverage and a litany of other technical intricacies.
At Winer, McKenna & Burritt, LLP, we are familiar with the complex methods psychotherapists employ. Our psychotherapist abuse lawyers in San Francisco, Oakland and Los Angeles have more than 60 years of combined experience litigating cases of professional negligence and misconduct.
Significant Therapist Abuse Cases
- $7,130,000 – Prescription Drug Led to Brain Damage and Abuse Case Against Doctor
- $2,000,000 – 30-Year-Old Woman Sexually Abused by Psychologist at Southern California Outpatient Treatment Facility
- $1,423,000 – Female Patient Wins $1,423,000 in a Physical and Sexual Abuse Case Against Her Psychotherapist
- $900,000 – Young Woman Wins Sex Abuse Case Against Her Psychotherapist and Assault Case Against Her Psychotherapist’s Husband
- $750,000 – Case in Which a Male-to-Female Transsexual Sued Ex-Therapist for Negligence and Abuse
- $700,000 – Woman in Her 40s Sexually Abused by Her Psychotherapist
Holding Therapists Accountable | Contact Us Today
Contact Winer, McKenna & Burritt, LLP, today at (510) 433-1000 for a free consultation with an L.A.-, San Francisco- or Oakland-based therapist abuse lawyer.