In July of 2006, Dr. Barry Fenton began treating a woman for depression and anxiety at the office of the Uptown practice of Live Oak Counseling Center. It was 16 months later that the relationship moved outside of his office, not to mention the bounds of the typical relationship between mental health provider and patient.
They dated only briefly, ending their relationship in February 2008, four months after it started, and Fenton took steps to ensure the woman continued to receive psychiatric treatment. Word of the relationship made its way to the Texas Medical Board, however, which frowns upon such things. On August 10, 2009, Fenton entered into an agreed order with the board, submitting to a public reprimand, a requirement that he attend a "professional boundaries" course, and pay a $5,000 penalty.
The agreement also required that Fenton be accompanied by a chaperone when treating female patients, though that provision was rescinded once he completed the required coursework.
That may have happened too soon, according to a lawsuit filed Monday in Dallas County. An elderly patient of Fenton's, identified in court filings only as Jane Doe, claims that Fenton sexually exploited her for years. The petition doesn't give specifics, saying only that Fenton made sexual advances and had sexual contact with the woman. He also engaged in "therapeutic deception" by telling the patient to keep his behavior secret.
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The woman is seeking unspecified damages for past and future mental anguish and other injuries from Fenton and Live Oak Counseling Center. The office has not yet responded to a request for comment.