Psychologist Punished for Relationship License is revoked in Walnut Creek — (THE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE)

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August 20, 1999

Author: Jason B. Johnson, Chronicle Staff Writer

A Walnut Creek psychologist’s license was revoked yesterday because of an improper relationship he had with a sexually frustrated patient who developed romantic feelings for him and later attempted suicide.
An administrative law judge found Robert Reimer guilty of gross negligence, breach of patient confidentiality and unprofessional conduct. Reimer did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Reimer was director of the lay counseling center at Walnut Creek Presbyterian Church when he was treating the woman in 1993 and 1994, said Tom O’Connor, executive officer of the state Department of Consumer Affairs Board of Psychology.

Reimer maintained a private practice in addition to his job at the church, where he began working in 1985. He often treated both his private and church clients at the church.

The patient first saw Reimer 20 years ago, after suffering a nervous breakdown, and sought help from him a handful of other times from 1990 to 1993.

In February 1993 she began seeing Reimer regularly because of problems with her marriage.  The woman told Reimer that she felt sexually frustrated and unfulfilled in her marriage.

Reimer then told her about problems within his own marriage and asked if she had ever thought of having an affair.

At one point Reimer suggested that the patient read “The Bridges of Madison County,” a book about a farmer’s wife who has an affair with a stranger while her husband and children are away.

Reimer told her an affair was “like a jewel that you could hold in your hand and remember,” according to the written decision by Administrative Law Judge Cheryl Tompkin.

Reimer often discussed personal sexual details with the woman, hugged and touched her and did not discourage her romantic feelings toward him, the judge found.

Reimer also allowed the patient to work as a lay counselor at the church under his supervision.

When the woman became too involved, writing him from 40 to 50 often sexually explicit letters, Reimer suggested that she see another therapist.

Soon after her last scheduled appointment, in May 1994, the depressed woman started drinking and taking the drugs Prozac and Zanax in an attempt to “drown out the world.”

She took an overdose of pills and had to be hospitalized. The next week, she went to a mental hospital in Southern California for two weeks.

Reimer has been ordered to reimburse the board more than $27,000 to cover the cost of the investigation and his prosecution.