“The therapeutic setting is the one place you’re supposed to be 100% safe from harm and violation. I wasn’t.”
- helps potential victims recognize early warning signs,
- comforts others to know they aren’t alone,
- inspires others to take action,
- brings more awareness to this issue that hurts so many people, and
- promotes changes to legislation that better protect vulnerable people from unethical therapists
A number of Terry Ganaway’s alleged boundary violations were witnessed by others or involved others. I’ve also posted:
- emails and notecards from him,
- comments he made on his Session Notes, and
- entries from my journal of that time period.
More happened than is shared here. As there is an ongoing investigation, this description is basic.
Even though it’s obvious he was not properly licensed to be in private practice, and he does not use the word “intern” on his website or in his advertising (as required by law); because there has not yet been a formal trial, my statements on this page are allegations only. The allegations are also public information on file with Florida’s Department of Health.
If you see any of these signs from your own therapist, please be careful, and consider speaking to another mental health professional about your concerns. Also, you can call your Mental Health Licensing Board if you are uncomfortable or think your therapy sessions are beginning to go awry. They will tell you if a mental health professional is violating the Code of Ethics.
I know the idea of asking those questions to someone outside the therapeutic relationship is scary and/or offputting, but an unethical therapist can easily create doubt, turmoil, and confusion if they start to act unethically. An outside perspective can prevent worse abuse from happening. If you feel unsettled or uncomfortable, please ask another professional’s opinion.
Your therapist has power, but that doesn’t mean you have no voice. You deserve not to be hurt. A mental health professional has an ethical, and often legal, responsibility to you. In many states in the U.S. and in other countries, some forms of therapist misconduct are felony crimes.
My story helps show the slippery slope that a therapist embarks on when their interest in a client changes to something other than professional. It shows how they begin to groom a client into thinking they are special, deserving of extra attention from the therapist, and molded into what the therapist wants instead of what is positive and healthy for the client.
The Complaint Filed with the State of Florida’s Department of Health
To start, it may help to read the report filed for Terry Ganaway with the State of Florida’s Department of Health. Terry was reported by another therapist who found out about his alleged misconduct, a report was written by a State investigator, and this report (I believe) was compiled by the attorney assigned to the case.
The report shows up under his name on this page.
- Click on “Link to Complaint”.
- Click on the Case #, “201209579”, to read the full report.
You can also read it here if you prefer not to go to the Dept. of Health website.
How It All Started
I started seeing Terry Ganaway for therapy January 8, 2010. He had been referred to me by Mike Cohen of the Center for Brain Training where I was receiving neurofeedback. Mike gave me a referral for both Terry and his wife, Lyn Ganaway, as well as one other choice.
I was deeply grieving and suicidal after the death of my family, and Mike felt I would benefit from therapy. I had been opposed to it, but he made it clear he was not comfortable continuing neurofeedback with me if I didn’t have a therapist.
Unfortunately, no one at the Center for Brain Training checked the Ganaways’ licenses or credentials. Mike was under the impression that Terry was a psychologist and that Lyn was a therapist. I found out later that both Terry and Lyn were also clients of Mike’s, and that Terry was seeing Mike for a mental health disorder.
Terry Ganaway, licensed as a Social Worker Intern, was not a psychologist. His wife, Lyn, only has a bachelor’s degree and is a Certified Addiction Professional (CAP). Neither of them are legally allowed to be in private practice in the State of Florida. They advertised being “board certified and licensed in clinical counseling and psychotherapy”, but that is not true.
Neither Mike nor his supervisor, Catherine Moritz, spent the one minute it would have taken to verify the licenses of Terry and Lyn Ganaway, yet they recommended and referred clients to these these illegally practicing people.
William “Terry” Ganaway, who goes by “Dr. Ganaway”, received a Ph.D. from a long-distance learning program called Westbrook University, which is not accredited by the Department of Education. Feel free to Google “Westbrook University” and form your own opinion of how reputable this Ph.D. is.
During a therapy session, Terry told me that both he and Lyn were going to the Center for Brain Training for treatment. Terry said he went for Generalized Anxiety Disorder and was taking Lexapro. I do not remember why he said Lyn was seeking treatment. That Terry told me this information about him and his wife is an example of self-disclosure, which is a muddy area in the therapeutic world. It is often one of the first sign of the “Slippery Slope” toward boundary violations and misconduct. There was no reason for me to know about either of their mental health problems or treatment choices.
Self-disclosure is also part of the “grooming process”, whereby a therapist begins making a client feel they are special and have access to privileged information about the therapist. Typically, the more “special” a client feels, the more dependent they become on the therapist, and the more they isolate from other people in their circle.
From January 8th, 2010 until the end of March or beginning of April 2010, my therapy session were fine and helpful. My emotional state improved, I started to better manage my grief and trauma, and I started to get my life back together after a number of traumas, including the death of my father and the suicide of my fiance just three weeks apart.
Therapy with Terry Ganaway Begins to Fall Apart
In the beginning of April, the situation began to change. Terry started scheduling my appointments at the end of the day in the evenings. No one was in the office. In fact, there was rarely anyone in the entire building, and the parking lot was often empty.
I have a lot of trauma in my background that he, of course, knew about. He knew I was afraid of men, and he knew it was difficult for me to be alone in a room with a man. Yet, he had me come to his office, where we were totally alone in an empty office, at night.
In hindsight, there were also other signs, some of which are listed. Like any average person, I couldn’t have known they were impending signs of possible misconduct ahead of time. He was my therapist. I was supposed to be safe. He had both a legal and ethical obligation to uphold the licensing board’s Code of Ethics.
Plus, he was married and a so-called Marriage and Family Therapist. I was just starting to date someone for the first time since the death of my fiance. Lastly, Terry is much, much older than me. You can see what he looks like in his picture above. I thought of him as a grandfatherly, fuddy-duddy professor-type. He was 65 years old, give or take a year. I was 38.
He knew I had never cheated on a boyfriend, that I would not be with a married man (I had done that in my past and was ashamed of it), and that I did not want to be touched by anyone as I was still grieving the death of my fiance. The last two items, he even had in writing in his file. Even though I was starting to date again, it was a new relationship, and that man and I had only kissed. I was not open to or able to be touched and was not remotely ready for intimacy. Terry knew it. He had it in writing.
April 2010 — The Beginning
My sessions became more “shared sessions” than solely therapeutic sessions. Terry told me about:
- his former drinking problem
- his Generalized Anxiety Disorder
- his taking Lexapro
- his wife’s health problems
- his wife’s former incest
- their marriage problems
- his art career
- his bankruptcy
These had nothing to do with my therapy. Even though they were supposed to be my therapy sessions, I felt special, worthy, and valued that he would confide in me like a friend. The roles became distorted as he used some of my therapy time to talk about himself. But then, he had scheduled me for the last appointment in the day so we could have “extra time”, and the office would be empty.
On April 17th, Terry came to my office for a hypnosis session. This was a significant boundary violation. It was the first of his nine hypnosis appointments where I was supposed to switch roles and be the provider, and he was the client. It was all confusing and, at the same time, part of the grooming process where he cultivated my feeling “special” that he “trusted” me enough to be my client.
April 19, 2010
Following a range of “slippery slope” behavior, the worse misconduct started April 19th. The overview is in the Dept. of Health report.
His Session Notes from April 19th state that I told him I had had a rough weekend and was reminded of my fiance’s suicide. He checked off that I was exhibiting ‘PTSD’ and ‘Unresolved Grief and Loss’. Our session ended with what is defined in the Dept. of Health report.
Here is my journal entry from April 20:
I saw him for a therapy session four days later on April 23rd. His single-line Session Notes for that day state that I told him, “I’m feeling a lot of shame.” He did not acknowledge it or ask why I was feeling shame. On his list, he checked off that I was ‘Tearful’. At the bottom of the sheet where he writes his recommendations for the week, he advised me to “take Haldol and Xanax.” My session ended as described in the Dept. of Health report.
Here is my journal from April 23, 2010.
Terry came to see me for hypnosis a second time on April 24th. At this point, he told me more about his bankruptcy, his house mortgage situation, another property, his marital infidelities, and his erectile dysfunction issue. He said a lot more about “our relationship” and where he wanted it to go. I was utterly terrified and couldn’t believe this was happening to me.
My journal for April 25th reads, “Back to Terry’s today. I’m fucked up.”
April 26, 2010
Terry’s Session Notes for April 26th state I “entered session with significant PTSD”. I was retraumatized every therapy session, so it’s no surprise PTSD symptoms were triggered going into his office.
Also on April 26th, after my session, Terry introduced the idea that he wanted me to be his business partner in a Mental Health Retreat business he wanted to start. Dual relationships, which this would be, are another boundary violation in the licensing board Code of Ethics.
I feared going to sessions, and at the same time, my family had died, I had virtually no other support, and I had nowhere else to go. I had become dependent on him, felt I had no choices, and was scared of his power to put me in a psych ward if I refused him.
Going into his office caused extreme anxiety and PTSD. He was also coming to my office for free hypnosis sessions, he had completely crossed the line of professional and legal ethics, and he asked me to be his business partner. Even worse for me, he then rented an office space literally FOUR DOORS down the hall from mine at the end of April. I was cornered.
My office had been a haven for me. Now, there was nowhere I could go and feel safe. He had my home address on his intake paperwork, I had “therapy sessions” in his office, he came to my office for hypnosis sessions by appointment, and then he rented an office right down the hall from me so he had opportunity to be within 40 feet of me anytime he wanted.
There really are not words for how horrible and traumatic this was.
Also at the end of April, he told me he wanted me to go away with him to a weekend workshop on Rapid Trauma Resolution. In just over one week, I had nowhere safe, and he wanted me to go away with him for a weekend away.
May 2010 — On Autopilot — A Numb, Traumatized Robot
May was a crazy blur of robot-like functioning. Terry came to my office for six hypnosis sessions in May. Plus I had five sessions with him in his office. He also called me to come to his office to talk about the business Retreat idea he called the Newport Project. I was in his presence a lot and in sheer survival mode.
I isolated from everything. I mostly stopped going to neurofeedback in May, I canceled my clients so I wouldn’t be in my office, I isolated from friends, and I severely withdrew from the man I was dating because I was unable to look him in the eye in my shame and confusion. Terry seemed to both support this and increasingly foster the sense of “us” solidarity.
I was afraid all the time and having nightmares and anxiety attacks.
On May 5th, Terry sent me the following card:
On May 8th he sent this Word doc attached to an email. The left side are the lyrics to a popular and lovely song. The right side is a poem he said he wrote for me.
Also during this time, Terry was referring his clients to me. The licensing board Code of Ethics states if a mental health professional refers clients to other professionals, he or she is supposed to provide three options. Terry did not. He told them to see me, and he even paid me directly for some of them. He called it “scholarshipping”. I have reason to believe this also may have caused harm for other clients of his. One client, in particular, did not want to see me, was afraid of the idea of hypnosis, and spent her time with me crying because she felt so pressured to come.
Here’s an email that references both his referral and his “scholarshipping”:
Below is another email he sent me. He apologizes that I’m struggling but fails to recognize or acknowledge he’s the primary reason why.
He mentions he would be “delighted to receive [my] art supplies”. (I gave him a very nice easel and hundred of dollars worth of art supplies.)
First of all, he was my therapist and shouldn’t have accepted any gifts, and particularly not one worth hundreds of dollars. Second, a key sign that someone is imminently suicidal is they start to give away things that have meaning to them. I was trying desperately to get him to see what he was doing to me. None of my signs got through to him. Lastly, he calls me “dear heart”.
On May 16th, I broke out in a rash or hives. When I showed it to Terry, he said it was from “stress”. He advised deep breathing as a stress reduction technique. He did not acknowledge his behavior was a reason for the stress.
At the end of May or beginning of June, we went to the first Rapid Trauma Resolution workshop together in Melbourne, Florida. I insisted on having my own hotel room, although they did adjoin. It was not his preference.
June 2010 — Almost the End of Therapist Misconduct
Early June was just as crazy-making as May. June 7th, Terry sent me another card.
June 18th to June 20th, we went away again to the second segment of Rapid Trauma Resolution. I finally got angry and blew up at him about what he was doing to me on the 19th and 20th at this conference. I don’t know how I found the strength to do it, but I did.
Still Not Over
In the aftermath of what he did to me, I was more traumatized and damaged than I had ever been in my whole life. I cried all the time. Even though it was summer in south Florida, I wore long sleeves and pants so no one could see my figure or my skin when I had to go out. I was agoraphobic, had panic attacks and terrible nightmares, and became extremely suicidal again. (I’ve written more about the aftermath and the damage done to victims on this page about the ramifications of therapist abuse.) My extreme emotional distress was a direct result of his illegal and unethical behavior.
He wanted me to come in for a therapy session to “process what had happened.” I was still ‘under his thumb’ and afraid of his power. On June 28th, I had what would end up being the final session. According to his Session Notes, I told him that “I hated myself.” He checked off that I was:
- having “stressed interpersonal relationships”
- and that I should take meds
On July 2nd, I sent him a text that I was suicidal at 11:49 at night. He never made any attempt to contact me. Not once. However, nearly five hours later, just after 4:30 a.m., the police banged on my door with flashlights and yelled at me to get up. My bedroom was just to the right of the front door, and they were shining their lights in my windows and screaming at me to open the door.
At first, I had no idea what was happening and thought men were trying to break into my house. I was terrified! I had been sound asleep and had no clothes on. They came into my home (I allowed them in) and interrogated me for an hour about my mental state. It was very scary and even more traumatizing. The police made me call Terry, and I had to beg him not to have them take me away to a psych ward and be involuntarily committed.
As my phone records show, Terry never once called to see if I was okay. Instead, he called the police on me nearly five hours later.
It was certainly not the first time I had texted him that I felt suicidal. I had been suicidal when I first started to see him and was suicidal again after his alleged abuse escalated. It was, however, the first time since I had stopped his alleged illegal and unethical behavior. It was the first time since I was no longer his “fun girl”.
More documentation of Terry Ganaway’s wrongdoing is below:
Has the Florida Dept. of Health Acted Responsibly?
The State of Florida has been investigating Terry Ganaway since July 2012. They have irrefutable proof that he has been practicing illegally. To my knowledge, he is still practicing and has even expanded his practice to an office in Delray Beach. His website advertised that a third office in Stuart, Florida is coming soon. He refused to give up his intern license and has requested a formal trial.
Despite his practicing illegally, as of September 16, 2013, over 14 months later, the State of Florida has never issued a “Cease and Desist” letter. Three years have passed, and he has continued to see clients and even grow his business.
Therapist abuse and misconduct must stop. Lives are destroyed when one all-powerful person, bound by legal trust, commits what is a felony crime in many states and an ethical violation in all. Learn more about reporting therapist abuse here.