A confession of malpractice? The Yuval Carmi case - comment

Carmi’s type of malpractice, conducted in a professional environment, is not the same as what we are seeing with the increase of sexual violence during the pandemic.

Activists from Lotem, an organization that seeks to fight 'gender-based terror,' and from activist group "Breaking Walls" hung posters with the face of Yuval Karmi, a psychologist accused of sexually assaulting his patients, in the Jerusalem neighborhood where he lives. (photo credit: Courtesy)
Activists from Lotem, an organization that seeks to fight 'gender-based terror,' and from activist group "Breaking Walls" hung posters with the face of Yuval Karmi, a psychologist accused of sexually assaulting his patients, in the Jerusalem neighborhood where he lives.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Since the Israel Police released the name of a Jerusalem psychologist this week who was reported to have engaged in sexual relations with a patient, two more patients have come forward and reported him as well.
A psychologist who has sexual relations with his patient is violating his profession’s code of ethics.
When people who experience a trauma, from mild to severe, are encouraged to seek medical assistance whether medication from a psychiatrist or therapy provided by a psychologist – or both – the patient has to trust his or her therapist, a stranger, and open themselves up to receiving help.
The power of the therapist is immense and the patient is vulnerable.
 In Israel, to become a licensed therapist, one needs a master’s degree in clinical psychology, a full-time internship under instruction of a clinical psychologist for at least two years and must pass an exam upon completion.
During the internship, psychologists-to-be are monitored by professionals as they handle mock professional situations. If something is “off” about their mannerisms, they may be queried, or simply receive a failing grade.
But beyond the initial training, there is not much further monitoring of psychologists for it would be unethical to eavesdrop or videotape a psychologist conducting a session with a real patient. After qualification, there is not much beyond trust keeping psychologists in the positions they hold.
So how would a man like Yuval Carmi, who claimed that the sexual interactions with his patient were consensual, be spotted? In this case, he was reported by one of his patients.
IN AN INTERVIEW with N12, where the patient bravely faced a television audience, she explained that Carmi had collected a vast knowledge – as psychologists are expected to – about her past, her history and her personal behavioral tendencies. He then allegedly took advantage of that to engage in sexual misconduct.
Someone who, over the course of years and years of regularized conversation, has collected a vast array of knowledge about a person’s deepest inhibitions can easily exploit them.
Nothing could stop him, especially not the victims of his assaults.
Because he has such deep knowledge about her, and is seen as an authoritative figure in her life, there is no way his actions could be considered consensual.
Israel has a long way to go to eradicate sexual assault. This is especially true during this pandemic, when people are cooped up, unemployed and tensions are high. But Carmi’s alleged type of malpractice, conducted in a professional environment, is not the same as pandemic-generated sexual violence.
Perhaps the fault lies in the training. If he honestly believed his actions were consensual, he seriously misunderstood some of the most basic teachings of psychology.
Patients in these circumstances must be encouraged, despite the trauma, to expose violations and not keep their struggle internalized. This is difficult. Patients develop a personal relationship with their therapists and may feel that acting against them is a betrayal of a mutual trust.
There is also a fear of  blaming the victim. Indeed, many say that the psychologist is innocent until proven guilty. But isn’t his confession of sexual relations with a patient already a confession of malpractice?
And so, victims must come forward. To encourage that, they must be offered a safe environment in which they can do so.