Friday, June 22, 2018

Civil Society and Doctor-Patient Sex

On June 4 the Boston Globe reported that for two years the Massachusetts Board of Registration of Psychologists had taken no action on Ms. Lisa Grover's complaint of abuse by her therapist, Dr. Mel Rabin. In a subsequent article the Boston Globe told readers that the next day Dr. Rabin surrendered his license, "acknowledging that he put the patient 'at risk of harm' and failed to maintain professional boundaries." In response to Dr. Rabin's letter the Board revoked his license, information that can be found on its website.

In cases with allegations as serious and believable as those brought forward by Ms. Grover, a professional board must act, as by suspending the practitioner's license while the case is investigated, by requiring monitoring of the practice, or some other way of protecting the public. Failing to act invites public distrust of the regulatory process and of the profession itself, and exposes the public to avoidable risks. In Dr. Rabin's case the media report accomplished what the Board of Registration should have done two years earlier.
 After I published my initial post on the situation I spoke with Ms. Grover. Our conversation highlighted two additional issues - the mysterious sources of resilience and the power of peer support.

When Ms. Grover came to see her relationship with Dr. Rabin as exploitative, she determined to land on her feet and to do all she could to protect others from comparable abuse. She's not clear where her strength came from. Her family was supportive, but there was also an internal resolve to speak out. It's not uncommon for legal settlements to include a gag order, under which the complainant agrees not to speak in public about the situation in return for the financial agreement. Ms. Grover refused to accept any such requirement.

She made her way to the TELL (Therapy Exploitation Link Line) website where she "met" others struggling with their own experiences of abuse. Meeting peers strengthened her resolve and sharpened her sense of how to take effective action on behalf of others and for her own healing. She is working with other volunteers to respond to the 40,000 hits TELL receives each year.

 In Ms. Grover's situation, government regulation (the psychology licensing board) failed, but civil society - in the form of the press (the two  Boston Globe articles) and peer support (TELL) - came though. Dr. Rabin did not govern himself by the ethics of his profession, and the licensing board was dilatory in its response, but resilience, the press and peer support helped Ms. Grover move from victimization to effective advocacy.

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