Lawsuit Against Marriage and Family Therapist

Anonymous v. Meier Clinics of Maryland, LLC

Psychologist counselingThis is a certainly a one-off medical malpractice case. The claim is against a licensed clinical professional counsel filed by a woman in Montgomery County. It was filed in Health Claims Arbitration on August 22, 2016, and is the 419th medical malpractice case filed in 2016 in Maryland. The court case number is 424358V.

Summary of Plaintiff's Allegations

Plaintiff is a pastoral psychotherapist, licensed clinical professional counselor, and doctor of ministry. She seeks care from defendant, an ordained Deacon in a Catholic Church where plaintiff attends services, which lasts about five months. She again becomes a patient of defendant about six months later. During this time, she is also receiving acupuncture treatment from defendant's wife.

About a year into being under defendant's care, plaintiff is invited to defendant's home to have lunch with him and his wife. Additionally, while treating plaintiff, defendant enrolls in the same therapy classes that plaintiff was enrolled in which requires them to participate in therapy together, practice therapy on each other, and reveal intimate details of their lives to each other. Defendant knew plaintiff was enrolled in these classes prior to enrolling in them himself.

Plaintiff and defendant develop a common group of friends as a result of being in these classes together. They participate in a Spiritual Direction program together. There are also instances when defendant was the subject of a therapeutic technique, and revealed personal facts about himself and private life. Defendant continues to take classes that he knows plaintiff is taking, and they develop a "dual relationship."

They enroll in a class to teach techniques for patients with severe trauma, which causes plaintiff anxiety and discomfort. In one of these classes, defendant works with plaintiff practicing a technique requiring him to touch her lower body. This causes plaintiff to flash back to prior traumas.

During plaintiff's therapy sessions with defendant, defendant often takes on a role of colleague instead of therapist, and would talk about matters not related to the plaintiff's treatment. He makes comments to her regarding her physical appearance, causing her to feel uncomfortable. During one therapy session, defendant comments on her appearance, after speaking about her marriage, and then allegedly blocks the doorway with his body, making plaintiff feel uncomfortable. His comments cause plaintiff to experience confusion and intense emotions. She alleges he inappropriately discusses aspects of his marriage with her during her therapy time, which consists of dual relationship and improper self-disclosure.

They participate in more classes and workshops. She tells defendant that they were involved in a dual relationship and expresses to him her discomfort about their dual relationship outside of therapy. Plaintiff alleges he crossed boundary lines and reverses roles with her during her course of therapy by inappropriately self-disclosing facts about himself and his marriage. He also encourages her to have inappropriate feelings towards him.

The plaintiff and defendant attend a therapy session together to discuss how their therapist-patient relationship failed. Plaintiff claims that defendant knew she was a trauma victim but allowed their relationship to go beyond a traditional therapist/patient relationship, and that he allowed his inappropriate behavior to affect her therapeutic progress. After discussing discontinuing treatment, defendant requires her to write down ways his therapy has assisted her. Instead of insuring she receives proper care, defendant makes plaintiff produce documents that could assist him in defending a claim against him in the future.

Finally, plaintiff is compelled to withdraw from her classes due to the breakdown of her relationship with defendant. During therapy sessions, defendant fails to respond to comments from her, and he further fails to respond to important communications from her.

Plaintiff alleges that as a result of defendant's professional negligence, she has suffered and will continue to suffer emotional pain and suffering, an exacerbation of mental health conditions, negative feelings and depression, a worsening of her trauma-related symptoms, physical manifestations of her injury, injury to her marriage, spiritual and religious injuries including damage to her faith, and has been negatively affected in mood and spirit.

Additional Comments
  • This particular licensed social worker if well known for "conversion therapy" of trying to convert gay men into becoming hetrosexuals. Do with this information what you will.
  • I'm not sure how the Catholic Church is involved in this. He is a deacon at this church. But he works for Meier Clinics Foundation which is a nonprofit that is not associated with any particular church. The fact that the met at church should not put the Catholic Church on the hook.
  • If you are not sure, there is no harm in filing a claim under the malpractice statute. But this social worker may not be an actual mental health professional. (We have never handled this type of case so we have never had occasion to read the statute on this point.)
  • The value of this case does not appear to be particularly high. It sounds like the allegations are that he talked about his own experiences and touched her lower body during a group session as a part of an exercise and she did not like it. It sounds like more of an issue for the licensing board for social workers than it does a malpractice lawsuit.
Jurisdiction
  • Montgomery County
Defendants
  • Meier Clinics of Maryland LLC - Christian counseling group
  • A licensed certified social worker
  • Roman Catholic Archbishop of Washington - religious institute providing mental health services and spiritual/religious counseling
Hospitals Where Patient was Treated Negligence
  • Failure to provide competent therapy; failure to obey COMAR regulations; failure to obey the professional rules, ethics, and guidelines for LCSW; failure to abstain from dual relationships with patients
  • Failure to avoid professional associations with patients; failure to avoid personal associations with patients
  • Failure to abstain from improperly sharing personal information with patients; failure to maintain proper boundaries with patients
  • Failure to take particular caution regarding duties owed to patients with trauma histories
  • Failure to abstain from abusing religious or spiritual rule with the church to the detriment of patients; Failure to abstain from overly casual, intimate, or personal comments or communications
  • Failure to only self-disclosure when such would have been beneficial to patients
  • Failure to obey the Catholic Church's guidelines for Deacons and therapists; Failure to obey Maryland standard for religious figures providing therapy or religious or spiritual guidance
Specific Counts Pled
  • Professional Negligence
  • Spiritual Therapy Negligence
  • Vicarious Negligence/Professional Malpractice
  • Loss of Consortium - Husband
Case End Result
  • Pre-trial hearing scheduled for June 30, 2017
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