State College psychologist accused of inappropriate sexual conduct with two patients

Accusations that a State College psychologist had inappropriate sexual relationships with two patients could cost the local doctor his license and subject him to more than $1 million in civil penalties.

The state Board of Psychology has filed a formal disciplinary action against Richard Scott Lenhart, accusing him of 111 counts of professional misconduct relating to two long-time patients.

The charges stem from an investigation by the Pennsylvania Department of State, which began after the two patients came forward with accusations, according to press secretary Ron Ruman.

Lenhart, whose office was on South Pugh Street in State College, had his license suspended in November due to the alleged sexual misconduct.

The Department of State has since filed a court order outlining the 111 counts against Lenhart and giving him until Feb. 18 to respond to the charges, according to the documents. Ruman said Lenhart can request a hearing and present evidence to defend himself.

A number listed for Lenhart’s downtown office has been disconnected. He did not return messages left on his home phone. Lenhart represented himself in a previous hearing on his license suspension, and it’s not clear if he now has an attorney.

According to the charges, Lenhart engaged in a pattern of sexual grooming and repeated sexual misconduct with the two patients over years of treatment.

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

He allegedly told one patient, whom he treated for 17 years, that having a good sexual relationship with him was “probably the only bridge remaining to heal from the trauma of severe childhood sexual abuse,” according to the documents.

Lenhart is accused of incorporating hugging and touching as part of regular therapy, which progressed to more direct sexualization.

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,” the Department of State wrote in the documents.

If he does not contest the charges, Lenhart could lose his license and face a maximum fine of $10,000 for each of the 111 counts against him.

In addition to his practice, Lenhart previously had been a fixed-term lecturer at Penn State Altoona. He most recently taught during the 2012 spring semester. He is not a current university employee, according to a Penn State spokeswoman.