Ex-therapist accused by client loses appeal bid


A former Severna Park sex therapist accused of hypnotizing a client and suggesting that he be the object of her fantasies has lost his bid to regain his social worker's license.

Richard L. Durschlag, who was stripped of his license last year by the Maryland Board of Social Work Examiners, had appealed that decision to the county Circuit Court. But Judge Bruce C. Williams yesterday denied the appeal, ruling that the state board's decision was based on "substantial evidence."

Durschlag, who according to court records had faced no previous disciplinary action in 29 years as a social worker, lost his license last May after the examining board cited him for unethical conduct, based on the client's allegations. The board also ruled he had billed an insurance company for telephone therapy sessions that never took place.

The woman, referred to in court records as "Mrs. A," and her husband went to Durschlag's practice at his home on Robinson Road in Severna Park in January 1988 for counseling to resolve the husband's impotence.

In subsequent session's alone with the woman, the social worker hypnotized her to lead her through "guided sexual imagery" in which Mrs. A imagined herself on a deserted island, usually with her husband, court records show.

But during a March 23, 1988 session, Durschlag suggested that he was on the island with Mrs. A and told her "now you're caressing my legs and you're feeling real affectionate," court records show.

At another session two weeks later, he replaced the husband with himself in the fantasies and described her performance of an oral sex act upon him. He told her that upon awakening she would feel "sexually erotic" and would want to commit the act upon him, court records show.

After Mrs. A declined to have sex, Durschlag apologized, saying, "It's just that you exude sex," the woman testified before the board.

Mrs. A did not return to Durschlag for counseling. She told her husband of the incident three months later.

In fighting to regain his license, the social worker's lawyers argued that testimony about events during or immediately after hypnosis is not reliable because the witness has a distorted view of reality.

Durschlag, who has moved to Florida to live with his daughter, could not be reached yesterday for comment.

In a March 12 letter to Judge Williams maintaining his innocence, he said the ordeal has "destroyed his life" and left his family bankrupt.

"I didn't believe it could happen in the United States of America. A woman can ruin any man just by accusing him. No proof. Just the accusation," he wrote. "If this woman was out to ruin me, for whatever her reasoning was, she has done one hell of a good job."

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