Local News

Wednesday, Feb 06 2013 05:34 PM

Local therapist faces misconduct accusations

BY JAMES BURGER Californian staff writer jburger@bakersfield.com

A state regulatory agency has accused Bakersfield marriage and family therapist Russell Sempell with conducting a years-long sexual affair with a client in violation of state rules and codes of professional ethics.

But a ruling on the charges by staff of the California Board of Behavioral Sciences has not been issued.

According to an accusation -- a formal statement of charges that follows the investigation of a complaint -- that was filed by Board of Behavioral Sciences staff in February 2012, Sempell initiated a sexual relationship with the client, identified in documents only as "R.R.", two years after he began counseling her in her home.

"The matter is still pending with the Board of Behavioral Sciences. Until the matter has been fully resolved, and on advice of my attorney, I have no comment. Thank you," Sempell wrote Wednesday in an email response to a reporter's inquiry about the case.

A copy of the accusation against Sempell is attached to his licence in the Board's online database. But his license remains active.

According to the accusation, signed by Kim Madsen, executive officer of the Board of Behavioral Sciences, Sempell began providing therapy to "R.R." in November 2002. In May 2005, according to the accusation, Sempell initiated a physical relationship, touching the woman's hair and back before kissing her.

The relationship became sexual later that month, the report states, and lasted until September 2009.

After May 2005, the document states, Sempell continued to provide therapy to "R.R." -- even increasing the number of in-home sessions -- but no longer required her to pay for the treatment.

In November 2009, according to the accusation, the woman filed a complaint against Sempell to the Board of Behavioral Sciences. The investigation resulted in a formal accusation against the therapist in February 2012.

Staff with the Board of Behavioral Sciences and the California Attorney General's office, which drafted the complaint against Sempell, did not respond to inquires Wednesday.

Sempell has been a licensed marriage and family therapist in California since January 1986.

He's been an activist for the mentally ill in Bakersfield since his mentally ill brother, Robert Sempell, was shot by a sheriff's deputy in Oildale in 2002.

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