R. Scott Lenhart, Ph.D., Loses Psychology
License Due to Sexually Exploiting Patients
Stephen Barrett, M.D.
On November 5, 2012, the Pennsylvania State Board of Psychology temporarily suspended the license of Richard Scott Lenhart, Ph.D., who practiced in State College, Pennsylvania. On November 30th, after a preliminary hearing, the hearing examiner continued the suspension for up to 180 days so that the board could consider the matter fully. The petition for suspension (shown below) alleged that Lenhart has sexually exploited two female patients, one for nearly seven years and the other for fifteen years. In January 2013, the board issued a 77-page order to show cause that provided additional details. In March 2013, after an administrative hearing, the hearing examiner summarized Lenhart's misconduct this way:
Undisputed evidence demonstrates that [Lenhart] engaged in a multitude of inappropriate behaviors when he touched the bare skin of his patients' abdomens; self-disclosed the sexual content of his life to his patients; frequently hugged his patients; physically held his patients on his lap; lay down with them; allowed them to straddle him; held a patient with his leg positioned between her legs; engaged in genital holding and anal rubbing of a patient; wrestled on the floor with a patient; wrote on a patient's hand and stomach; rubbed lotion on a patient and allowed her to reciprocate; rubbed a patient's neck and shoulders and allow a patient to touch horn in similar fashion; brushed a patient's hair; exchanged sexual, crude, romantic and insulting text messages with a patient; listened to ongoing sexualized commentary from a patient; allowed himself to be part of a patient's sexual fantasy world and encouraged her ongoing exploration of highly sexual themes; validated that her feelings of sexual connection to him were necessary part of treatment; allowed her to engage in sexual types of behavior throughout her course of therapy, so that she presented. as out of control regarding her sexual desire toward him; accepted and maintained naked pictures of a patient; looked at pictures of a patient who was wearing lingerie in the pictures; performed oral sex on a patient; and allowed a patient to masturbate [him] to orgasm.
Although sexual exploitation by therapists is not rare, the extent and duration described in this case are extraordinary. In April 2013, the board adopted the hearing examiner's findings, revoked Lenhart's license and ordered him to pay a civil penalty of $50,000 plus investigative costs of $18,433.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
DEPARTMENT OF STATE
BEFORE THE STATE BOARD OF PSYCHOLOGY
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Richard Scott Lenhart, Ph.D.,
PETITION FOR IMMEDIATE TEMPORARY SUSPENSION
AND NOW, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs, by and through its Prosecuting Attorney, Bridget K. Guilfoyle, petitions the State Board of Psychology (hereinafter "Board") for the immediate temporary suspension of the license to practice psychology issued to Richard Scott Lenhart, Ph.D. (hereinafter "Respondent"), pursuant to Section 8(d) of the Professional Psychologists Practice Act, Act of March 23, 1972, P.L. 136, No. 52, as amended, (hereinafter "Act”), 63 P.S. §1208(d), and in support thereof alleges as follows:
1. Petitioner is a Prosecuting Attorney for the Pennsylvania Department of State, Office of Chief. Counsel, a departmental administrative agency within the Pennsylvania Department of State.
2. The Respondent is Richard Scott Lenhart, Ph.D, Who at all times relevant hereto was licensed to practice psychology in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, License No. PS006795L.
3. Respondent's license to practice psychology was originally issued on May 27, 1993, is active through November 30, 2013 and barring any action by' the Board, may be renewed thereafter upon the filing of the appropriate documentation and the payment of the necessary' fees.
4. Respondent's last known address on file with the Board is 293 Homan Avenue, State College, PA 16801.
5. At all times pertinent to the allegations in this Petition, Respondent was licensed to practice psychology in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
6. From June 17, 2003 until March 1, 2010, Respondent provided psychological services to Patient A.M.1, an adult female.
1The participants will be identified only by initials in order to protect their privacy. A key identifying the . participants will be supplied with Respondent's copy of the Petition and Order of Immediate Temporary Suspension.
7. A.M. was a complex patient who presented with symptoms of mood disturbance, anxiety, dissociation, unresolved family issues, self-abuse, and notably, a history of childhood sexual abuse.
8. Over the course of the nearly seven-year treatment relationship, Respondent developed an inappropriate and harmful personal and sexual relationship with A.M.
9. Respondent demonstrated a vast array of inappropriate, unprofessional, destructive and exploitative behaviors throughout his treatment relationship with A.M., including the following:
- a. Respondent "friended" A.M. on Facebook and had more than fifty (50) Facebook contacts of a personal nature with A.M. between February 2008 and February 2010.
- b. Respondent exchanged dozens of text messages with A.M., some of which involved crude humor, sexualized content and .romantic words such as "sweetie."
- Respondent encouraged A.M. to purchase pornography and permitted her to view it in his office.
- Respondent encouraged out of the office sessions, which took place at locations including a toy store, a public library, the Penn State Campus, and a parking garage.
- Respondent made excessive self-disclosures of a sexual nature, including that: i) he became sexually aroused around A.M.; ii) he might become sexually aroused if A.M. took off her clothes in his office; and iii) he became sexually aroused by a fantasy that A.M. wrote.
- Respondent engaged in inappropriate physical contact with A.M. under the guise that it was a crucial component to effective psychotherapy. This physical contact included Respondent holding A.M. during their sessions, Respondent unbuttoning his shirt and allowing A.M. to put her face against his bare chest, Respondent placing his hands underneath A.M. 's shirt to touch her bare stomach, Respondent and A.M. laying down together on the floor of Respondent's office, and Respondent allowing A.M. to sit on his lap and straddle him.
- During a particularly emotional session, Respondent hit A.M. on her back and then kissed the back of her neck to make her feel better.
- Respondent rubbed lotion and oil on parts of A.M.'s body, including her hands, neck, shoulders, back and feet and A.M. did the same to Respondent.
- Respondent sexualized and romanticized his relationship with A.M. by writing notes in which he stated "I've loved you for a long time", "I love you" and "Deal' Sweetheart."
- Respondent held A.M. 's genitals over her clothing on several occasions in. what he stated was an effort for A.M. to come to terms with her history of sexual abuse.
- Respondent kept naked pictures of A.M. and also viewed pictures of her wearing lingerie.
- Respondent gave one of his shirts to A.M. so she would think of him when they were not together.
10. A.M.'s treatment relationship with Respondent ended in March 2010 and A.M. is currently under the care of another licensed healthcare provider.
11. From approximately 1997 through approximately early 2012, Respondent provided psychological services to Patient N.M., an adult female.
12. N.M. presented with a number of psychological issues, including a history of severe childhood sexual abuse.
13. Over the course of the fifteen-year treatment relationship, Respondent groomed N.M. for sexual activity in much the same way that he groomed Patient A.M. by holding N.M. during her psychotherapy sessions, giving one of his shirts to N.M., and stroking and touching N.M.'s body, including her breasts and genitals.
14. After grooming N.M. for sexual activity, Respondent and N.M. began engaging in sexual activity in Respondent's office. The sexual activity included N.M. masturbating Respondent to orgasm, Respondent performing oral sex on N.M., and Respondent and N.M . . holding and stroking each other while naked.
15. Respondent informed N.M. that having a good sexual experience with him was probably the only bridge remaining for N.M. to heal from the trauma of severe childhood sexual abuse.
16. As was the case with Patient A.M., Respondent made excessive self-disclosures of a personal and 'sexual nature to N.M., and over time the relationship changed such that N.M. was supporting and counseling Respondent with his painful issues by holding him while he cried and comforting him, including sexually, on many occasions.
17. N.M.'s treatment relationship with Respondent ended in approximately early 2012 and N.M. is currently under the care of another licensed healthcare provider.
18. Respondent exploited two survivors of sexual trauma by re-traumatizing them in his role as a psychologist,
19. Respondent's malevolent pattern of sexual grooming and repeated sexual misconduct with female patients over years of treatment makes him a threat to current and future patients.
20. Based upon the foregoing factual allegations, the Respondent's continued practice of psychology within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania makes Respondent' an immediate and clear danger to the public health and safety.
WHEREFORE, the Petitioner respectfully requests that the Board issue an Order immediately suspending the license to practice psychology of Richard Scott Lenhart, Ph.D., License No. PS006795L, pursuant to the authority granted to it pursuant to Section 8( d) of the Professional Psychologists Practice Act, Act of March 23, 1972, P.L. 136, No. 52, as amended, 63 P.S. §§ 1201 -1218.
Bridget K. GuiIfoyle
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Department of State
Office of Chief Counsel
P.O. Box 2649
Harrisburg, PA 17105-2649 (717) 783-7200
DATE: November 5, 2012
This page was revised on May 12, 2013.