More violence against therapists was in the news recently. A psychiatrist from McLean, VA was murdered by a patient in his home office on July 22. She then turned the gun on herself, according to newspaper reports.
The psychiatrist, Mark Lawrence, was 71; the patient was 62.
He’d just consulted with a colleague about the case after concluding that the patient was becoming paranoid and blaming all of her problems on Lawrence. The colleague suggested the patient see another therapist.
“I went home thinking I had made a good suggestion and that hopefully the patient would agree to seek outside consultation,” Melvin Stern, a friend and colleague who trained with Lawrence at the Massachusetts Mental Health Center in the 1960s, told The Washington Post.
The patient was a former scientist at the National Institutes of Health and hadn’t been working, but neighbors said there was no sign that she’d been troubled.
The Post noted that the murder occurred four years after another psychiatrist, Wayne Fenton, was beaten to death by a teenage patient in Rockville, MD.
The issue of violence against therapists usually arises after a high profile attack hits the news. But it’s something that many practitioners live with on a regular basis.
According to the New York Times, a University of Pittsburgh survey of 1,129 therapists nationwide showed that 58 percent had dealt with violence in their office, and a quarter of them had actually been attacked by a patient.
For resources on the issue, check out a page of resources collected by former APA Ethics Committee Chair Ken Pope: http://kspope.com/stalking.php
- John Nelander, Contributing Editor