State College psychologist denies inappropriate sexual relationships with abuse victims

mcarroll@centredaily.comMarch 2, 2013 

A State College psychologist accused of “re-traumatizing” sex abuse survivors has denied having inappropriate sexual relationships with two women.

Richard Scott Lenhart disputed most of the women’s claims in a written response to the allegations, but he admitted to performing sexual acts with one patient as part of her treatment at his South Pugh Street office. An attorney for Lenhart filed the document Feb. 18 in response to formal disciplinary action taken by the state Board of Psychology.

Lenhart wants a hearing in front of the board to dispute the allegations.

He faces 111 counts of professional misconduct stemming from a Pennsylvania Department of State investigation that began after the two patients came forward with accusations.

Lenhart allegedly engaged in a pattern of grooming and repeated sexual misconduct with the women over a number of years, according to State Department documents. According to the accusations, the psychologist incorporated “hugging and touching” as part of regular therapy then progressed to more direct sexual contact.

In his response, Lenhart admitted that he and one of the female patients performed sex acts on each other one time. But he denied sexual contact happened before or after that session.

Lenhart claims the woman repeatedly asked to engage in the acts with him to help recover from past sexual abuse. He said the acts were “solely intended to be therapeutic.”

The patient “postulated that a positive sexual experience in a safe environment without fear of a damaging long-term relationship would enable her to become comfortable and confident in a sexually intimate situation, which she believed would be therapeutic and allow her to be successful in a future relationship,” Lenhart’s attorney, Wayne Bradburn Jr., wrote in the documents.

Bradburn said in the documents that his client warned the woman that such intimacy with a therapist can be harmful but eventually granted the request “after much consideration, deliberation and thought.”

Lenhart admitted to holding and touching the other patient, including placing his hand between her legs on one occasion after clarifying that “the context was not intended to be sexual and was solely intended to help her feel safe.”

He claimed that any contact was initiated by the patient and done only for therapeutic reasons. It was not sexual behavior, he contends.

Lenhart “is of the professional opinion that trauma patients such as (the woman) understand what methodologies and processes work best for them in their attempted recovery and thus allows patients to assist in structuring their own treatment plans to a certain degree,” Bradburn said in the documents.

The Department of State has said both patients were survivors of prior sexual trauma and were seeking treatment, in part, because of that past abuse. According to the order, Lenhart exploited the patients, “re-traumatizing them in his role as psychologist.”

His “malevolent pattern of sexual grooming and repeated sexual misconduct with female patients over years of treatment makes him a threat to current and future patients,” state investigators wrote in the order.

A number listed for Lenhart’s downtown office has been disconnected. He did not return messages left on his home phone. Bradburn did not return calls to his office.

Matt Carroll can be reached at 231-4631. Follow him on Twitter @Carrollreporter.

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