Professional abuse

There are several definitions for professional abuse and distinctions are usually pronounced in definitions according to professional fields. One of the general descriptions, however, that sought to bridge the variations was put forward by the National Council of Psychotherapists, which explained professional abuse as a violation of an organization's code of ethics.[1] Some sources refer to this as standards of behavior, which include the maintenance of professional boundaries and the treatment of people with respect and dignity.[2] A more comprehensive version of this description states that this type of abuse is "a pattern of conduct in which a person abuses, violates, or takes advantage of a victim within the context of the abuser's profession."[3]

Professional abusers are the individuals who prey on the weaknesses of others in their workplaces or in other places related to economical strands of society. Their fundamental behavior is based in the following actions: taking advantage of their client or patient's trust, exploiting their vulnerability, not acting in their best interests, and failing to keep professional boundaries.

Forms of abuse

There are many forms of abuse. It may be: discriminatory, financial, physical, psychological, and sexual.

Professional abuse always involves: betrayal, exploitation, and violation of professional boundaries.

Professionals can abuse in three ways:

  • nonfeasance - ignore and take no indicated action - neglect.
  • misfeasance - take inappropriate action or give intentionally incorrect advice.
  • malfeasance - hostile, aggressive action taken to injure the client's interests.


There are several strategies available to organizations seeking to address professional abuse. A study, for instance, revealed that this problem often arises when there is an extreme power imbalance between the professional and the victim. A framework based on different grades of client empowerment and ways of strengthening it can help solve the problem.[4] Those who have been subjected to professional abuse could also pursue any of the following courses of actions: lodging a complaint; reporting abuse to the police; and, taking legal action.[2]

It’s essential to build outside resources and talk about what’s going on in your relationship. A professional is the best person, because one can build your self-esteem and learn how to help yourself without feeling judged or rushed into taking action. If you can’t afford private individual therapy, find a low-fee clinical in your city, learn all you can from books and online resources, join online forums, and find a support group at a local battered women’s shelter. Do this even if it means keeping a secret. You’re entitled to your privacy.[5]

There are also organizations that can help those who are victimized learn more about their rights and the options available to them.

See also

Further reading


  • Dorpat Theodore L. Gaslighting, the Double Whammy, Interrogation and Other Methods of Covert Control in Psychotherapy and Analysis (1996) ISBN 9781568218281
  • Penfold, P. Susan Sexual Abuse by Health Professionals: A Personal Search for Meaning and Healing (1998) ISBN 9781442679832
  • Peterson Marilyn R. At Personal Risk: Boundary Violations in Professional-Client Relationships (1992) ISBN 9780393701388
  • Richardson, Sarah and Melanie Cunningham Broken Boundaries - stories of betrayal in relationships of care (2008) ISBN 9780955852008
  • Sheehan Michael J. Eliminating professional abuse by managers - Chapter 12 of Bullying: from backyard to boardroom (1996) ISBN 9780393701388

Academic papers

  • Blunden, Frances; Nash, Jo (1999). "Tackling abuse of patients and clients - the work of POPAN". The Journal of Adult Protection. 1: 42–46. doi:10.1108/14668203199900009.
  • Britton, Ann Hartwell (1988). "Sexual Abuse in the Professional Relationship". Hamline Law Review. 11: 247–80. SSRN 1698822.
  • Khele, Suky; Symons, Clare; Wheeler, Sue (2008). "An analysis of complaints to the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, 1996–2006". Counselling and Psychotherapy Research. 8 (2): 124. doi:10.1080/14733140802051408.
  • Kumar, Shailesh (2000). "Client Empowerment in Psychiatry and the Professional Abuse of Clients: Where Do We Stand?". The International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine. 30 (1): 61–70. doi:10.2190/AC9N-YTLE-B639-M3P4. PMID 10900561.
  • Namore, AH; Floyd, A (Oct 2005). "Teachers taking professional abuse from principals: Practice that's so bad it must violate a school's core values". Education Digest. 71 (2): 44–9.
  • Polier, HJ (1975). "Professional abuse of children: Responsibility for the delivery of services". American Journal of Orthopsychiatry. 45 (3): 357–62. doi:10.1111/j.1939-0025.1975.tb02546.x. PMID 1146968.


  1. O'Sullivan, Michael. "Professional Abuse". Retrieved 2018-08-07.
  2. "Abuse by health and social care workers | Mind, the mental health charity - help for mental health problems". Retrieved 2018-08-07.
  3. "What Is Professional Abuse?". wiseGEEK. Retrieved 2018-08-07.
  4. Kumar, S. (2000). "Client empowerment in psychiatry and the professional abuse of clients: where do we stand?". International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine. 30 (1): 61–70. doi:10.2190/AC9N-YTLE-B639-M3P4. ISSN 0091-2174. PMID 10900561.
  5. Lancer, Darlene (6 June 2017). "The Truth About Abusers, Abuse, and What to Do". Psychology Today.

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