IONIA, Mich. (WOOD) — An Ionia therapist is under criminal investigation and his license remains suspended after he had an affair with a patient, Target 8 has learned.

State investigators say Derek Robertson, a former social worker based at Viewpointe Counseling in Ionia, had a sexual relationship for nearly a year and a half with a woman who was seeing him for treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder.

His license was summarily suspended April 10 by the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, Target 8 has discovered.

“(The complaint) finds that you pose an immediate threat to the public health, safety, or welfare,” a letter from LARA to Robertson states.

Michigan State Police told Target 8 on Tuesday there is an active criminal investigation into Robertson’s behavior.

Through a Freedom of Information Act request, Target 8 obtained the state report detailing the accusations against Robertson. Investigators wrote that Robertson admitted that nearly all the allegations are true.

Tyler Gibb, the co-chair of medical ethics, humanities and law at the Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine, said the behavior is unethical because of the power imbalance between patients who are in a vulnerable position and their therapists.

“For somebody to take advantage of that initial vulnerability and then to exacerbate it by engaging in sexual behavior with the patient, it strikes at the foundations of the doctor-patient relationship,” Gibb told Target 8.

“It really undermines the trust that not just this patient but all patients who hear about it have or should have in health care providers and the health care system,” he added.

Investigators said Robertson admitted to having sex with his patient in his office and at his home.

In Michigan, it’s illegal for mental health professionals to have sex with clients, regardless of consent, warranting a misdemeanor charge of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct. If convicted, the offender can face up to two years in prison. No charges have yet been filed against Robertson.

“There’s also civil liability,” Gibb added. “This can be a form of malpractice.”

Relationships between patients and therapists are also banned by the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association.

“It was included in the very first Hippocratic oath,” Gibb said. “It’s foundational to what we believe health care providers or doctors ought to be.”

The woman first started treatment at Viewpointe for anxiety and depression in November 2018, the report states. Her therapist at the time recommended she start seeing Robertson for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy to “address prior traumas.” The woman saw both Robertson and her first therapist for several months, but she eventually started seeing Robertson exclusively for PTSD.

Physical contact between the two began in February 2021, investigators said. They eventually started having sexual intercourse that June, according to the report.

From June 2021 to June 2022, the woman said they had sex during appointments twice a week, with Robertson keeping the office door locked and the windows covered. The state says Robertson admitted that he continued to bill her for therapy even when they only had sex during appointments. In therapy, she told Robertson she was sexually assaulted in 2019. Still, investigators say Robertson insisted on having sex with her in a similar environment to where the assault happened, which was a traumatic trigger for her.

“There’s been a number of studies that have shown just engaging in sexual relationship with a health care provider can lead to increased rates of depression, anxiety, PTSD in some situations,” Gibb said. “There are actual harms that fall on the patient due to this type of relationship.”

Robertson admitted he was aroused by the patient telling him stories of her past sexual abuse, investigators said.

The two frequently texted and emailed outside the office. The state says Robertson later confessed to sending her nude photos. Robertson, who was married, also went on several overnight trips with her. Investigators say he also admitted to sending her $9,000 over Venmo to pay off her debt and buy clothing and a laptop. Robertson told investigators he tried ending the relationship at least five times starting last April, calling it emotionally toxic for him.

“I was going to have a nervous breakdown,” Robertson reportedly told investigators.

Investigators said the woman signed a “termination of services” form that ended her therapeutic relationship with Robertson on June 2, 2022. But their sexual relationship continued through November, when they finally stopped talking, the state says.

According to the report, Robertson blamed himself for the sexual relationship, saying he was “ashamed” and “should have never put the patient through this.”

“(Robertson) stated he does not know what person he became,” the report says. “(Robertson) stated he has always been a rule follower and hearing the questions this investigator is asking is embarrassing, and if he heard what he has done he would think he was a manipulative monster.”

Robertson reportedly told investigators that he deserves whatever sanctions he receives.

“(Robertson) stated he ignored the red flags, pushed people away, put himself in a horrible position, and will regret it for the rest of his life,” investigators recalled.

He insisted he never had a physical nor romantic relationship with any other patient. He also denied sending money via Venmo to any other current or former patients.

Still, Robertson told personal information about the victim to a second patient and often texted the second patient about his personal struggles, according to investigators.

“Patient 2 began to feel that her sessions became more about (Robertson’s) problems than her own,” investigators said.

In late March, as the state investigation continued, Viewpointe Counseling posted on Facebook confirming Robertson was no longer working in the building.

“We are deeply sorry for any inconvenience and heartache that any client may experience having to deal with losing a therapist so quickly,” the counseling group wrote. “We are with you in trying to navigate a difficult situation.”

Viewpointe distanced themselves from Robertson in a statement provided Tuesday to Target 8.

“The Viewpointe Counseling Building houses individual clinicians who operate as individual LLC’s,” the company wrote. “Robertson Services LLC rented office space from the Viewpointe Counseling Building and Derek Robertson is no longer renting an office space within the building. The Viewpointe Counseling Building no longer has any affiliation with Robertson Services LLC.”

Robertson’s attorney did not respond to a request for comment as of Tuesday evening. Attempts to reach Robertson too were unsuccessful.

MSP told Target 8 that any other possible victims should contact the MSP Lakeview Post at 989.352.8444 as the investigation continues.

Gibb said he’s working on a larger research project to examine how often improper sexual relationships happen in health care.

“The suspicion of people who work in this area is it’s actually way more common than the average patient or average person would presume that it is,” Gibb said.