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Thursday, July 18, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Therapist Sued by|Boston Marathon Survivor

ELLICOT CITY, Md. (CN) - A Maryland counselor who lost his license over his treatment of a survivor of the Boston Marathon terror attacks now faces a civil lawsuit.

This summer will mark a year since the Maryland State Board of Professional Counselors and Therapists ordered Scott Berger to surrender his professional counseling license.

The 13-page suspension document recounts the complaint that the board received months earlier from a woman whom Berger counseled out of his home in Columbia.

That patient sued Berger on March 19 in Howard County Circuit Court, repeating many of the allegations she told the board.

Though the plaintiff uses her name in the court filing, Courthouse News has redacted it because of the sensitive nature of the claims.

The woman says she began seeing Berger in spring 2013 after witnessing the Boston Marathon bombing that April. The trauma of that experience allegedly compounded post-traumatic stress disorder from which the patient already suffered based on a history of sexual abuse and other attacks.

She said she paid $180 a session, or more than $20,000, for a brand of "touch therapy" that amounted to assault and battery.

In addition to using a Taser or cattle prod to shock the patient, Berger also drank bourbon during a counseling session, and would routinely take the woman's keys to keep her prisoner, according to the complaint.

The complaint describes one incident on May 30, 2014, about two weeks before the state received the patient's complaint, in which Berger allegedly took the plaintiff, her therapy dog, Patricia, and the therapy dog's trainer to Washington, D.C., to visit the National PTSD Center.

While driving, Berger reached into the backseat and grabbed his client's leg, refusing to let go until Patricia divulged to the dog trainer painful and embarrassing information about sexual abuse she suffered from her foster father, according to the complaint.

The woman says Berger's distracted driving that day nearly caused a car accident.

It was during a conversation with one of the National PTSD Center counselors that Berger admitted to having almost no experience in treating multiple trauma PTSD patients, according to the complaint.

Berger also allegedly admitted then that he was currently taking anti-psychotic medication.

The patient says she went to Berger's office on June 3 to sever their relationship but was forced to endure another round of "Touch Therapy."

With Berger's hands allegedly on top of and underneath the patient's shirt, the patient says she began crying and asked to leave.

She was then "terrified," according to the complaint, to feel that Berger had "developed an erection" while pressing against her.

When Berger finally let go, he began to change his pants in the patient's field of vision, according the complaint.

The plaintiff says she "felt a wet spot on her stomach which is believed to be ejaculate."

Berger still had the patient's keys, however, and he would not let her leave without forcing her to say that "nothing happened here," according to the complaint.

"Catatonic" by the time she arrived home, the plaintiff says "she was vomiting in the doorway and urinating in her pants."

The plaintiff seeks punitive damages from Berger for medical malpractice and other claims. She is represented by Julia Arfaa.

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