Psychologists in the community are reacting with great sadness at news of Richard Scott Lenhart’s alleged abuse of power and position to manipulate vulnerable adult survivors of childhood trauma into harm’s way (“State College psychologist denies inappropriate sexual relationships with abuse victims,” CDT, March 3).
Lenhart’s admitted and self-documented behavior is so egregiously in violation of professional psychology’s ethical requirements and standards of care as to be self-condemning.
Strangely, Lenhart continued to put his alleged victims through an additional day of testimony, enduring attorney attacks, before the state licensing board. He attempted to justify what psychology trainees and most of the public can recognize as horribly wrong.
Certainly, Lenhart had to take courses and pass exams that sought to clarify for him, in no uncertain terms, that such behavior with patients violates the ethics in the field. Liability insurance policies for psychologists make abundantly clear: If you do this, there is no defense for you; you are on your own. Twenty-three states have criminalized such behavior.
The overwhelming majority of psychologists and therapists are trustworthy and sincere, and those seeking help should be careful to trust their own instincts and talk with others if something feels wrong about how therapy is proceeding.
Sexual behavior is always prohibited in therapeutic relationships. Lenhart’s twisted rationale that “the context was not intended to be sexual” is nothing short of bizarre.
Patients should trust no professional who requires secrets to be kept or who claims to have the sole pathway to cure.