“My Psychopath Ex is Becoming a Therapist”

Once, a long long time ago, I went out with (okay lived with) a lovely psychopath for ten years. This guy is a total charmer — like really, really good. I recently heard he is now qualifying to be a therapist. When he was with me, he was a truly poisonous thing, creating deep and lasting damage. And although like all psychopaths he is very insightful, I have no confidence that he will ever act in favor of those he might help, and feel very anxious that he may abuse his position.

It’s possible he may have grown up and tried to change, but when he was with me he was a cruel person who would not think anything of violent rape, and could always find ways to justify his actions. I do not wish to seek revenge; I believe that we all have the possibility to transcend our baser selves, but talking to his recent partner makes me believe he’s still the same. So, should I do something? I feel that it’s a luxury not to have to think about him anymore; I still remember the day I put the phone down and thought, “Yay! You are so out of my life.” It had, until then, seemed impossible that my life could go on without his violent control… But, now, should this guy be a therapist? This was a long time ago. He really was a smart guy. He might have changed. I will come over probably as a bitter harpy if I try to say anything. But my soul itches at the thought of this guy near vulnerable women. What should I do? — Worried for His Patients

I say leave it alone and worry about yourself. I understand the urge to protect vulnerable women, but, as you said, you don’t know who this man is today, you don’t know the details about the career he’s pursuing and the kind of people it will put him in contact with, nor do you know anything about the way in which he is being tested for his new role. And even if you did, what exactly would you say and to whom would you say it? And do you think being a therapist is the only way this man can be “near vulnerable women”? If he’s as much of a charmer as you say he is, I’m sure in the years since you last knew him, he’s had plenty of opportunities to take advantage of people if that’s what he wanted.

You can’t protect the whole world from him, so unless you know of a specific person or a specific incident you should worry about, protect yourself. Stay away from this guy. Continue living your life, and enjoy the luxury of not having to think about him anymore. He’s not your concern, and it’s not your job to protect others from the potential mistake of knowing and working with him.

*If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com and be sure to follow me on Twitter.


  1. Stay away from him! You don’t say how you learned this new information about him after so many years, but you need to cut him out of your life completely. Don’t speak to his new partner either. Just stay away and try not to think about him anymore.

  2. I agree with Wendy. Worry about yourself and stay away from this guy. I understand why you would be worried about other vulnerable women who may run across him in his new profression, but you’ll drive yourself crazy. Be thankful that he is no longer in your life. And for Jeezus sake, quit talking to his current girlfriend! What’s the point in that??

    1. Technically she said “recent partner,” which makes me think it might be his most recent ex.

      1. Even still, why is she keeping tabs on this guy and talking to his ex’s if it’s been soooooo long and she’s sooooo over him?

      2. robottapocalypse says:

        I agree completely. She’s not over him at all. She’s a vindictive dolt who complimented his psychoses in a relationship.

        Relationships are two ways, and her sleuthing into the situation prove that she’s still driving at maintaining some sort of unhealthy relationship with this guy. If she weren’t interested in mutually abusive b.s. she wouldn’t be trying to exact revenge against him via his career. She wouldn’t even know about it because she would have moved on and she’d be too busy in a healthy relationship to think twice about the loser.

      3. She might not have been keeping tabs. I had been introduced to my ex’s recent ex by a mutual friend. It wasn’t a “Oh, what’s he up to” type of thing, but my friend telling the new girl, “Hey, here’s someone who has been what you’re going through. Go ahead and talk to her if you’re having issues.”

      4. robottapocalypse says:

        Wow, your friend is kind of weak for not warning her other “friend” away from your ex if he was such a douche.

      5. Its a “he” and he wasn’t friends with the new ex, they met while she had been dating my ex and that’s how it went.

  3. How people are with their significant others can be very different than how they are in other relationships (friendships, work, sibling, etc.) in their lives. It’s a very different dynamic, and the emotional stakes are not the same. You’re projecting how he was with you to be how he’ll be in a professional environment, and you don’t know if this is the case at all.

    You state that he is qualifying to be a therapist, but licensing requirements differ greatly by state, occupational specialty, and work setting, and he may be limited to the type of work that he can even do given his qualifications. He might not even work with vulnerable women – there are many different types of therapists, and their duties vary greatly, depending on their specialty, which is determined by the setting in which they work and the population they serve.

    Given all that you’ve shared, I’d just avoid any type of interaction (licensing board, employers, past or present girlfriends, etc.) that has anything to do with him.

    1. I get your point, but uh, I wouldn’t want someone who, even at some earlier point in their life, thought it was cool to violently rape their gf to be my therapist.

      1. I don’t disagree, but unless she reported the rape(s), there’s nothing she can do about it at this point.

      2. robottapocalypse says:

        Also, who is to say that she isn’t exaggerating how evil he is in order to garner the responses she wants out of the advice column and its readers? She’s obviously fishing for recognition and support in her decision to keep poking the hornets’ nest.

        And I know this will be flamed, and I will be accused of being a rape apologist, but she never mentions that she was in fact raped by the guy. She makes an accusation that he would rape people, but doesn’t back it up with facts of reported rape. He would have a heck of a time getting that job with even 1 reported sexual assault. It all seems too fishy to me.

      3. I so agree. Unfortunately, unless the LW wants to spend the rest of her life standing outside of his office warning every potential patient, there is not a lot that can be done.
        Case in point, a childhood classmate’s father who’s a psychiatrist stood trial after being publicly accused by MULTIPLE patients of molestation and is now a decade later once again a practicing therapist (he plead out to some more minor charges and his license was suspended for awhile). Now of course all of this information is readily available to any potential patients who would think to look but the sad truth is a lot of people don’t even consider investigating a therapist’s background. This makes my skin crawl and it’s made me question if some predators purposefully seek out occupations like therapists because it gives them access to more vulnerable prey.

  4. BoomChakaLaka says:

    “And for Jeezus sake, quit talking to his current girlfriend! What’s the point in that??”

    Yeah, what’s up with that? Maybe they were friends and by a twist of fate they both found themselves in this situation. But if you actively sought her out, that’s kind of weird. Furthermore, if you are so thankful for him being out of your life, why are you gethering information on him in order to judge whether he is the same?

    I dunno, LW. I say leave it (him, his new gf, etc) alone and continue moving on with your life.

  5. The LW says the psycho ex wouldn’t shrink from violent rape. If there was a domestic violence situation, were any police reports made? If so, copies could be anonymously sent to his university or the state licensing board. Otherwise, if it’s her word against his, no, there’s nothing to be done. The desire to protect vulnerable people is laudable, but I’m not sure you can.

    Incidentally, LW, I’m not sure how you know what your ex is doing these days, or how it came about that you spoke with his current. Maybe you live in a really tiny community and it’s unavoidable, but if you can avoid him, you should. Don’t track what he’s doing, don’t talk to his partners. If you have mutual friends who bring him up, tell them you’ve moved on with your life and don’t care to know about him anymore.

  6. If he was really so horrible, how did it take her 10 years to figure it out?

    1. Battered woman syndrome?

    2. Britannia says:

      It can be insanely difficult to really get yourself out of the clutches of a sociopath – they know how to get you close and then fuck with you *just enough* to make you want to send packing, and then they pull you back in… it is completely calculated on his point, the woman is really just his plaything, performing “tests” to see just how much he can manipulate her.

      It’s really, really unfair for you to question her about that sort of thing. She was a victim of emotional manipulation and abuse, at the very least, and it’s very fortunate that she managed to get out of the relationship with her mind and body still relatively intact… socio/psychopaths do NOT like losing things they have deemed their property.

      1. robottapocalypse says:

        Then why is she still trying to get back into it with this “psycho”?

  7. Trying to do something would be like sending an open invitation back for him back into your life. Your intentions are good, & well understood, but I don’t think this situation calls for your intervention.
    Why do you know his current gf? Is she a friend of yours? Then again, if she was, I’d wonder about HER, for a) dating an ex-bf of yours & b) dating a violent, phsyco ex- bf of yours. Forget he exists!
    Trust me, if he does get unruly with patients, he won’t be in business for too long. Some how, some way, the truth will come to light.

  8. fallonthecity says:

    Yeah, I really don’t think anything can be done here unless there are police records to indicate he’s violent and abusive… and even then I’m pretty sure they do background checks on therapists… (right?).

  9. I’m so going to get purple thumbed into oblivion but I have to say this…

    In my experience, the people who are the best at helping others overcome their mental/social/drug issues are people who have either had to overcome the issues themselves or people with a family history of similar problems. So while I am NOT condoning any of his behavior he just may be in the place where he can do the most good for others.

    So maybe just maybe he will recognize his own issues and do something to address them OR he may do exactly what you think he’s going to do and get into some serious trouble and then get appropriately punished.

    Either way, you just have to let the universe/God figure out what to do about him and keep yourself moving forward to become a happy productive person.

    1. Jess of CityGirlsWorld.com says:

      I don’t disagree but if the man is a pyschopath, and it sounds like LW was using the term clinically and not flippantly, then there really is no transcendence because such people utterly lack in human empathy –which is, I believe, the backbone of therapy.

      1. Absolutely. We can hope that the program he’s enrolled in requires individual and group therapy for the students (my sister’s program did), along with hours of supervised practice sessions and that somewhere along the way this guy will out himself to a knowledgeable observer, but sociopaths can be extremely hard to spot.

      2. Touché.

        Let me preface this comment with…I am NOT excusing or justifying his past behavior.

        Now that that has been said…

        Aren’t you making the assumption that he hasn’t changed in 10 years (that’s a long long time to stay the exact same person)? How do we know there wasn’t a whole lot of self analysis and examination, some profound religious experience, and some therapy in the past 10 years that has lead him to want to become a therapist to help others? You know the old… ‘I’ve seen the light and I want to help others’. *shrug*

        The LW hasn’t seen him in 10 years so unfortunately she doesn’t know if he’s the same person or not. I will concede that there is a very real chance that he is the same old person that he was 10 years ago but that’s why I said earlier let the universe/God handle him. LW should focus her energies on being the best healthiest person she can be given her past relationship with him.

        Secondly, unless the LW is a therapist herself how can she use the term ‘psychopath’ in the clinical sense? I never take that term seriously when I hear people use it to ‘diagnose’ someone’s behavior because really the only time most non clinical people have ever seen or heard the associated behavior is in the context of a police/medical/legal TV show.

        Most people have absolutely NO idea that psychopath/sociopath is a complex behavioral and personality disorder that manifests itself in so many ways. It oftentimes takes years for clinicians to diagnose someone as a psychopath/sociopath. So for the LW to use it in the context of getting us to understand how horrible the relationship was is a little flippant to me.

        But I digress and was arguing semantics however at the end of the day, I can only hope the LW takes the advice given here on DW and does what she thinks is best for her.

        Anyway, I am going to end my rant the same way I ended my initial comment to the LW…‘Either way, you just have to let the universe/God figure out what to do about him and keep yourself moving forward to become a happy productive person.’

      3. The LW was _with_ him for 10 years. She didn’t specify how long it’s been since they dated.

      4. my bad.

      5. Britannia says:

        I agree, Jess. Everyone, check out sociopathworld.com if you want to learn more about this kind of people in a very humane, less clinical sense. The DSM IV only tells you so much… you really do have to experience being in some sort of relationship with a socio in order to understand that this kind of person DOES NOT CHANGE, just like an addict is always an addict. They may be in recovery, but sociopathy is NOT something that changes or goes away. It’s possible for sociopaths to live a positive life and contribute positively to society, but it’s a very rare thing to happen because of the way they are.

        Frankly, my hypothesis is that this man is getting into therapy because he thinks: “Oh, I can actually get paid to fuck with people? Awesome!” Not because he actually wants to help people. Sociopaths don’t consider the merits of helping other people to be worth the expenditure of their energy. He’s most likely doing this so that he has a steady stream of puppets to play with.

      6. robottapocalypse says:

        This is one of the most insulting things I’ve ever read.

        My mother is a diagnosed sociopath, and an award-winning social worker. Her ability to internalize others’ problems and manipulate them into doing positive work for themselves is unparalleled. A great number of successful social workers are sociopathic or have strong sociopathic tendencies. How else do you trick the socially incompetent into making good decisions for themselves?

  10. It seems worth 10 minutes of googling time to check and see if the state licensing board has an anonymous report feature. It’s unlikely that a single report would prevent him from getting licensed, but perhaps if there’s a note in his file that one ex-gf reported him, then the first time a patient claims something happened it will be taken that much more seriously.
    And to PFG-SCR, people who enjoy power over others, and abuse that power, violently? I’m okay with a sweeping generalization that they are unfit to be put into a position of power over unsuspecting vulnerable people.

    1. I’ve reread the letter a few times. I think if someone was abused they would be able to produce legitimate examples for an anonymouse letter. All I’m getting from the letter is a. LW still stalks this guy that she dated a “long long” time ago, keeping tabs on his education and his current partners. That creeps me out. b. LW is casual about throwing out the term psychopath. That says a lot about the LW and not her ex. No flippin way was this guy ever diagnosed with that disorder or evaluated by a professional for it, or he wouldn’t be in therapy school. Seems like this guy is trying to do something good and respectable with his life. How would you feel if someone you dated a long long time ago. Suddenly materialized and decided to hold an ancient relationship against you and to undermine your ability to get a job in your chosen profession? I’m sorry, but that’s just really crappy behavior. Let the professionals *that he works with* decide if he is unfit to be a therapist.

      1. robottapocalypse says:

        Thank you Yozi, you’re one of the only people on here actually thinking about this. You are giving me hope for humanity.

  11. Hold on, LW didn’t say that her ex raped *her* or anyone really. She said he wouldnt think anything of it. That could mean a lot of things. LW should clarify. Maybe they were watching the news one day and LW’s ex saw something about rape and “didn’t think anything of it”. Anyway, I think the terms psychopath and sociopath get thrown around a lot. And in my experience whenever anyone uses them, it’s usually in reference to their ex boyfriend. It’s not really LW’s place to criticize someone for seeking a therapy license when she’s playing an amateur therapist herself. At least her ex will understand personality disorders and be able to correctly attribute them to people.

    1. I questioned what she meant by that as well. He raped her? He raped someone else? They watched a movie with a violent rape or saw it on the news and he reacted inappropriately? The “he could always find a way to justify his actions” and “his violent control” bit suggests he actually did something to her, but I need more context to figure out what she means to say happened. I know its hard for LW’s to describe situations sometimes, since obviously they know what they mean, so some clarification on that point would be helpful.

      1. Ya, I think clarification on this point is crucial. Because if the LW’s ex never actually physically abused anyone then I don’t see why she needs to intervene in his life right now. It seems obsessive. I’ve met plenty of people who say they dated a psychopath, but then when you delve deeper and you find out they dated someone who way insensitive to *them*. Just because someone treats you with insensitvity does not mean they have a personality disorder, or that they are universally insentive to everyone else. Good people can be in relationships with people that bring out the worst in them. I’m having trouble understanding why the LW needs to check up on this ex’s partners. Maybe her ex is just as scarred by the relationship, and wishes she’d leave him alone.

    2. Betty Boop says:

      I agree. There is nothing in the letter to indicate that he is a diagnosed psychopath who is a rapist. While not trying to diminish any abusive situations the LW faced, there’s nothing here to clearly show that the ex would in any way not be allowed to practice therapy. And was he abusive or was it a toxic relationship. I truly think there is a difference and this reads more like a toxic situation to me.

      1. robottapocalypse says:

        There’s really nothing in the letter saying she didn’t abuse him during the relationship. Actually, her actions towards him at this point could be construed as abusive stalking. She may be projecting onto him. People do that.

  12. If the LW’s ex is currently undergoing the licensure process to become a therapist, most jurisdictions require him to disclose any arrests, convictions or any form of disciplinary matter from other licensure boards. The question is was what the LW went through with this guy bad enough that charges against him had to be formally filed? If they were, she could disclose these matters to the appropriate licensing board (some jurisdictions to take anonymous complaints) and that can prevent him from becoming a therapist and easing her conscience about this matter. If they weren’t, then I’m sorry if what happened to the LW was so horrible, but you have a greater responsibility to take care of yourself from this incident before you even think about saving others from him and MOA from this guy once and for all – completely stay away from him, his current interests and paramours.

  13. Gosh, too bad getting a professional license isn’t a long and arduous process involving an intensive background check! The least they could do is revoke licenses of professionals who abuse their power, right? Its not like the fact this guy is your ex affects your completely objective and impartial opinion as to his moral fitness!

  14. What Greebo said. There’s pretty much nothing the LW can do. If he does turn out to be the next Hannibal Lecter, it will be noticed, hopefully, sooner than later.

  15. sobriquet says:

    This makes me depressed. Probably because of the news about Marcus Bachmann’s homophobic clinic. The reality is that there are going to be people in medical and counseling positions that shouldn’t be there. We’re all so quick to trust our doctors without any skepticism. My mother was prescribed 5 mg of medication several years ago when she was supposed to be prescribed 0.5 mg. She could have died. That’s scary stuff. Marcus Bachmann doesn’t have a Ph.D in psychology, yet he’s still allowed to practice in the state of MN. He has referred to gay people as “barbarians” and advises his gay clients to pray the gay away. It’s disgusting. Yet there he is, making loads of money doing something very unethical.

    I would usually advise you to stay out of it completely, but if there’s a way to contact the medical board or file a complaint about him, I think you should do it. It won’t harm anyone and it won’t take too long. Otherwise, just be glad he’s no longer in your life.

    1. IcedVentiRedEyeGuy - in Chitown bay-bay! says:

      Way to take the high road and make a horrible judgment call on someone who you know through an angry letter and equate him to an inhumane Bachmann.
      Way to go.

      As far as the error in medication, shitty but that falls on the pharmacist filling the medication to verify that a “lethal” dose shouldn’t be administered. Plus… I can’t think of a single medication that at 5 mgs, can be lethal unless you’re talking about 5mgs of BS (bullshit, that is).

  16. justpeachy says:

    I’ll probably get a bunch of purple thumbs for this, but if you feel you have to, HAVE TO, doing something, consider writing a Yelp or Google review. You could say something along the lines that you fear his personal issues conflict with his responsibilities as a therapist, without mentioning that you are not a patient, but in fact his ex.

    Then, feel relieved that you did something and let it go!

  17. From the tone of the letter, it sounds to me like the LW has more issues than the ex she’s worried about….

    1. IcedVentiRedEyeGuy - in Chitown bay-bay! says:

      Concur. Beyond jaded, she is…

  18. Like others have said, it depends on the state he’s in and what type of education he has, but if he is becoming a *licensed* therapist, then he has gone through counseling himself and been observed with clients already. It’s difficult for people with genuine psychological problems to get through the whole process.

    There’s nothing she can do unless she has specific evidence of misconduct, like a past arrest or a complaint from a client. The claim that he was a psychopath a “long, long time ago” is not reason to try to stop someone from going into practice. In fact, if the guy has changed, I would feel sorry for him if an ex suddenly popped up claiming he was evil. And she admits she doesn’t know if he’s changed.

    If you’re so happy he’s out of your life, stay out of his. Like Wendy said, it’s not your job to protect others from him.

    (Yes, it is possible for people to use the term “therapist” without any training or credentials, but they do have to run a business and complaints can be filed).

  19. LW – I’ve been in your shoes (did you date my ex?!) and I agree 1,000,000% with Wendy — protect yourself and stay as far away from this person as possible including any thing or person that they are involved with.

    And as for those of you who are questioning this woman as if she’s just some “bitter harpy” ex, and demanding that she explain to all the extent of her “violet rape” comment and expose herself in order for you to respond in the correct manner — shame on you, seriously.

  20. real_experience says:

    Speaking from personal experience.

    Turned out my ex was a clinically diagnosed psychopath. He became an ADA in sex crimes to get his sexual thrills out of a relationship with and reading the stories of women and children being raped and abused. I suspect her ex is doing the same/similar in his job path.

    I also debated reporting him. Thus far I have not done so, as I am trying to move on with my life.

    But please be aware that these men don’t change. I also belatedly discovered he’d been raping and abusing women for over 20 years before we even met. So it’s sad to read some people’s comments saying that “people change depending on the relationship.” If it looks like a duck and acts like a duck and quacks like a duck, IT’S A DUCK.

    I wanted to report him because studies prove that like all addicts, behaviour gets worse. I’ve heard of several cases in the public eye – both before and after my experience – that these men went on to murder a future partner.

    Do I want to be one of those (many) women who come out of the woodwork after a woman has been murdered and brutalised because I did and said nothing? The very thought horrifies me.

    Although right now I’m more horrified by the sheer ignorance and egregious vilification of her that I’m reading in these comments.

    1. real_experience says:

      “Coutts insisted the death was an accident during consensual sex and he was only interested in ‘breath control play’ to heighten his pleasure. But ex-girlfriends lined up to give evidence about his macabre perversions.”

  21. Take the advice of the people on this site, stay away. It is the responsibility of his university program and licensing board to screen him out.

    I am recovering from a 5 year exploitive relationship with an ex-therapist who I started seeing when he was an intern. He exploited thousands of dollars from me and emotionally has almost destroyed me. I am convinced that he is a psychopath. He used to talk a lot about his ex long term girlfriend. But even if it happened to be you, it still wouldn’t have been your fault or your responsibility to try to stop it. I blame myself for letting myself be taken and for staying in a twisted inappropriate relationship with him for 4 years. I was stupid, vulnerable, and I trusted him completely. It was the perfect setup for a psychopath.

    How someone reacts in one situation does not control how he reacts in another. Your ex might be a great therapist, you don’t know that. You only know he sucked as a boyfriend. You are doing the right thing by staying out of it. Move on and enjoy your life.

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