This document developed by Eric Sprankle, PsyD.
It is unethical for mental health professionals (e.g., therapists, counselors, psychologists, etc.) to not respect the religious beliefs (or lack thereof) of their clients and patients. Respecting beliefs involves understanding the role and function of those beliefs in the person’s life, and to work within that belief system when providing therapeutic interventions.
Since Christianity is the dominant religion in the United States, and because it is so in-grained into our culture, some mental health professionals may unintentionally disrespect a client or patient’s beliefs by assuming everyone is Christian or everyone is religious and spiritual in some way. Other professionals may intentionally insert their own religious beliefs into therapy by asserting being religious is a necessary component in treating a mental health disorder.
If you feel like a current or past mental health professional has been disrespectful of your Satanism, there are five, step-wise actions that can be taken to rectify the situation. Since many grievances of this nature can be rectified easily and informally, it is important to follow the steps in order, beginning with the least formal.
Speak directly to your therapist. Often times, simply reminding your therapist that you are a Satanist, and that your religion is important to you, is enough to remedy the situation. This can be communicated outside of session (e.g., via email) or discussed and processed within a therapy session. Many people do not have an accurate understanding of what Satanism really is; consider providing your therapist with information that will explain what you believe.
If the response is unsatisfactory or if you feel you need to take more corrective action, here are the other steps:
Address your concerns with the therapist’s immediate supervisor. All therapist trainees such as practicum students, interns, and postdoctoral fellows have a licensed supervisor. This information should have been given to you during your initial session with the therapist. If the therapist is licensed, but is working for a mental health agency or clinic/hospital, you can ask the therapist who immediately oversees their work. You can discuss with the supervisor your concerns about the therapist’s conduct and how it was unsatisfactorily resolved.
However, if the therapist is independently licensed and works in a private practice, they may not have a supervisor.
Address your concerns with the clinical director of the therapist’s place of employment. If the therapist works for a large enough agency or hospital, there is often a director overseeing all delivery of mental health services. You can ask your therapist who this person is or you can often find the information on the agency or hospital’s website. Other than “clinical director,” other names for this position include “program director” and “clinical coordinator,” among others.
However, like in Step 2, if the therapist is independently licensed and works in a private practice, they will not have a clinical director overseeing their work.
Submit a formal complaint to the state board that governs the therapist’s license. It’s important to note that filing a board complaint should not be taken lightly. This process isn’t like writing a bad Yelp review. All board complaints are investigated and can have negative consequences for the therapist even if no evidence is discovered. For example, simply having a complaint under investigation can impact the therapist’s ability to renew their license, stay employed, and/or obtain liability insurance. Again, this is why it’s important to follow grievance procedures from the least formal to the most, in order to reserve board complaints for severe ethical violations.
Examples of severe ethical violations that would warrant submitting a board complaint include forced prayer during session, reparative or conversion therapy (i.e., treating LGBT identities as a disorder that need a cure), conflicts of interest (e.g., the therapist suggesting you should attend their church to be saved), or spiritual abuse (e.g., the therapist threatening eternal damnation if you don’t change your behavior or beliefs).
Mental health professionals are licensed at the state level by a specific board related to their specific area of mental health. To start this process, you first need to know what kind of license the therapist has. These are the initials after a therapist’s name if it is not easily identifiable from their job title. Some common licenses are listed below:
LP – licensed psychologist
LPC – licensed professional counselor
LPCC – licensed professional clinical counselor
LMFT – licensed marriage and family therapist
LICSW – licensed independent clinical social worker
Once you’ve identified the type of license the therapist has, then you can look up the board’s website here. On the board’s website will be information on how to contact the board and to file a formal complaint against a licensed therapist.
File a lawsuit. In severe cases of unethical conduct that produced documented harm to the client or patient, a civil suit can be filed against the therapist. State laws vary on this process, including statute of limitations, so it is advisable to google attorneys in your area that handle malpractice lawsuits and request a consultation. Like all lawsuits, suing for malpractice is a costly and lengthy ordeal with no guarantee of a positive outcome for the client or patient.
Similar to filing a board complaint, malpractice lawsuits should be reserved for severe ethical violations that have resulted in harm.
Although in certain circumstances nothing will completely reverse the harm that was caused by a therapist practicing unethically, it’s important to ask yourself what you are hoping to get out of this grievance process. In other words, what feels the most just and reparative? To be heard? For the therapist to acknowledge wrongdoing and apologize? For the therapist to take steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again by getting additional training and/or supervision? For the therapist to experience some form of reprimand by their supervisor, employer, or state licensing board? To be monetarily compensated? It’s important to have a goal in mind as to what you’re hoping to accomplish, and to clearly articulate that throughout the grievance process.