Client sues therapist for inappropriate texts, touching
A woman is suing her former therapist for allegedly exploiting and exacerbating the emotional problems she was paid to treat. The woman, known in court documents only as D.W., saw marriage and family therapist Dyan Lee Clarke to deal with depression, suicidal thoughts and cutting.
Both women are from Roseville.
The suit accused Clarke, 54, of “despicable conduct” that was “of such an outrageous character as to be beyond all bounds of decency and to shock the conscience of a reasonable person.”
She touched her client inappropriately and expressed desire for her, in person and through text messages, the suit said.
Clarke, who is married, treated D.W. from January 2006 to March 2007, charging roughly $15,000 altogether, said D.W.’s lawyer, Joseph George. D.W., who is 48, ended treatment after noticing her conditions were worsening.
But she didn’t file the lawsuit until last month, following news in May that the office of California attorney general Jerry Brown initiated a petition to revoke Clarke’s license.
“That’s when I realized, ‘Wow, this is a lot worse than I thought,’” D.W. told the Press Tribune. She did not want to use her real name because of the sensitivity of the case.
D.W., who is divorced, filed a complaint with the state Board of Behavioral Sciences in 2007, which prompted action from the attorney general.
“It’s sort of like with a kid,” said George, who is also a psychologist. “It takes a while to realize the person you thought was acting in your interest actually wasn’t.”
George said a jury would have to determine damages, but estimated any award would be in the five-figure range.
In the other case, the attorney general reported that Clarke:
- engaged in therapy with D.W. in which each would touch the other’s stomach and move toward the pubic area until being stopped;
- stroked D.W.’s cheek and let her suckle her pinky;
- held and hugged D.W.;
- lay D.W.’s head in her lap and
- told her God condoned everything that happened in their sessions.
The court filing also stated that Clarke told her patient:
- “I would trade everyone I am with right now to be with you;”
- “My body aches to hold you;”
- “I wish I could suckle you at my breast” and
- “I feel bad taking your money; I should be paying you.”
The acts amounted to severe emotional distress and long-term damage, according to D.W.’s lawsuit. Both filings – the lawsuit and the state’s administrative action – charge Clarke with professional negligence.
“It caused confusion, it made it difficult to work, to concentrate on my family, it led to more serious depression,” D.W. said.
While court papers state both women showed romantic interest in one another, D.W. said the truth was more about emotional dependence. They saw each other twice outside of therapy sessions.
Now D.W. considers herself “emotionally healthy.”
“I’ve come out of the other side of that fire,” she said.
It is unclear whether Clarke knows a former client is suing her.
Another therapist has taken over her office on Oak Street, and attempts to call Clarke go straight to voicemail. In the recording, Clarke says she vacated the office on Aug. 31.
But in her defense against the state, Clarke has shifted lawyers and is now represented by Bruce Ebert. The case is still so new that Ebert said he couldn’t comment on specific accusations except that Clarke “disputes” them.
“She’s a person, I can say, who feels terrible about the allegations against her,” Ebert said. “But they are mere allegations at this point.”
His client could possibly avoid trial, which is set for March, by surrendering her license or agreeing on a settlement. Clarke’s license, which remains unaffected, is valid March 2001 to January 2011.
If they go to trial, Ebert said, the onus is on the attorney general to convince a judge that Clarke’s actions merit her license be voided.
“I don’t believe they’re in a position to prove it,” Ebert said.
Ebert is not involved in D.W.’ s lawsuit.
George thinks his client has a case because she’s not liable for reciprocating Clarke’s advances. Because of the assymetrical nature of their relationships, patients are inclined to do as their therapists say and tell them their most intimate thoughts. As a patient, George said, D.W. was mentally and emotionally vulnerable, with a history of depression. She also engaged in transference, by which patients assign feelings for loved ones to their therapists.
“The client has no responsibility whatsoever,” George said.
D.W. said she went along with the questionable therapy that made her “incredibly uncomfortable” because “I trusted her.”
She worried Clarke might still be practicing regressive therapy with other patients. But Ebert said she is working at another, unrelated job.
Lien Hoang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.