GROSSE POINTE FARMS, Mich. (WXYZ) — Patients in a mental health crisis must be able to trust their counselors. But what if those counselors sexually assault their patients or start a relationship with them?
A decade ago, the 7 Investigators showed you how doctors and psychologists convicted of sex offenses were still able to practice medicine and counsel patients. After those investigations aired, the law in Michigan changed to require the licenses of some who are convicted to be permanently revoked.
But the 7 Investigators have learned that not every crime is covered by the law, and some counselors are still being accused of crossing lines with their clients.
During recent testimony at a preliminary exam, a former client of a Grosse Pointe Farms licensed professional counselor told the judge how Jonathan Motschall repeatedly crossed the line during counseling sessions.
“I just felt something unsavory was happening,” the woman testified. “His hand was on my breast, his finger was poking my breast, getting very close to my nipple.”
7 Action News does not identify victims of sex crimes.
The woman said she was referred to Motschall by her family’s priest. She recently testified that the counselor who was supposed to be helping with her marriage repeatedly touched her body, hugged her and kissed the top of her head during counseling sessions.
“He was holding my hand at one point and it was in my lap. And I had on a sundress and his hand was on my thigh. He was stroking my inner thigh with his thumb,” she testified.
The woman says his constant touching made her uncomfortable, so she went to the police. Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy charged 69-year-old Motschall with two counts of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct.
“You didn’t say anything to him, you didn’t say I’m uncomfortable, you didn’t get up and move away, correct?” defense attorney Shannon Smith asked during the hearing.
“I did not vocalize (it). I did put my scarf over my lap,” the woman said.
According to police reports, Motschall admitted that he rubbed the woman’s back and touched her leg and also said he held her head on his chest because he was afraid she would pass out from low blood sugar.
“Essentially, he created an environment where someone is extremely vulnerable, extremely emotional and then used that vulnerability against the complainant,” Wayne County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Sona Movsisyan said.
Grosse Pointe Farms Municipal Court Judge Charles Berschback found enough evidence to send Motschall to trial.
“Based on that, I’m going to bind him over on both charges,” Berschback said.
Until 2014, some doctors and therapists convicted of sex crimes could still practice medicine and see patients and clients in Michigan.
After the 7 Investigators showed you how convicted sex offenders were still working as medical and mental health professionals, a new law was passed requiring that licenses be revoked for certain sex crimes.
Some laws may be tougher now, but there are still some crimes that don’t require that a professional license be automatically revoked including the crimes Motschall is charged with.
“It violates the relationship of all patients to all health care providers. And so it undermines the general trust in a relationship like that,” said Dr. Tyler Gibb, the co-chair of the Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine.
Gibb says sexual relationships between therapists and clients can be extremely harmful.
“Going back to the ancient Greeks and Hippocrates, not having sex with your patients or maintaining that, that relationship was in the earliest text that we have,” Gibb said.
Gibb and his students are also working to better track the numbers and types of these ethical violations that occur in Michigan.
For fiscal year 2022, Michigan’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs recorded 16 violations of sexual misconduct and three violations of criminal sexual misconduct violations of the public health code, which can include several medical and mental health professions.
Motchall’s defense attorney told us they have no comment at this time about the charges he’s facing. He will face a Wayne County Circuit Court judge in January.
The state is currently reviewing the status of his counseling license.
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