Professional abuse

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Professional 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."[1] This typically involves a violation of the relevant professional organization's code of ethics.[2] Organizational ethics or standards of behavior require the maintenance of professional boundaries and the treatment of people with respect and dignity.[3]

Professional abuse can involve workplace bullying or sexual harassment, or taking advantage of clients' or patients' trust, exploiting their vulnerability, not acting in their best interests, and failing to keep professional boundaries.

Forms of abuse[edit]

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

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]


  • 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[edit]

  • 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. ^ "What Is Professional Abuse?". wiseGEEK. Retrieved 2018-08-07.
  2. ^ O'Sullivan, Michael. "Professional Abuse". Retrieved 2018-08-07.
  3. ^ a b "Abuse by health and social care workers | Mind, the mental health charity - help for mental health problems". 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.