Book description

When their therapist’s actions spawn her husband’s sudden violence, Maura, a suburban mom, is catapulted into a brutal fight for truth and justice in five court systems. Shattered: focuses on her experience as a plaintiff in a bizarre, unprecedented therapist malpractice case. Once Maura stands up to their counselor, she’s no longer collateral damage but a target.

She and her daughter’s normal lives are replaced with a dark, scary world of deception and intimidation. She becomes prey for a plethora of corrupt lawyers and con artists, and the therapist becomes increasingly dangerous. A second shrink is mind-numbingly unethical. The therapist’s behemoth insurance company tries to crush her any way they can.

But a man of conscience, comes forward and sacrifices everything to help her. He reveals what Maura’s husband has been hiding for twenty-five years and the truth about her therapist’s shocking double life. He knows the defendant well; She is his wife of eighteen years. As she works her way through five court cases, it gets increasingly perilous until the relentless intimidation escalates into assault and death threats. Finally, Maura finds her first capable, ethical lawyer on her 25th try; he ends the nightmare.

The alligators, sharks, and coyotes aren’t nearly as scary as the human predators that lurk in Charleston, South Carolina. This is a cautionary tale based on a true story.

March 15th Free E-book

Today is the last day of the Free E-book promotion! Click here to download Shattered: Deception, Betrayal, and Therapist Malpractice.

A compelling true story with a bit of dark humor woven throughout.

“Thank you for writing this important book.” Facebook

“Muir grabbed my attention from the beginning, especially when I learned this is based on a true story. It was a remarkable read, and this reader could feel the betrayal and deception run off the pages. It was a real page-turner, and to know it really happened, and could happen to someone else made it all the more emotional and even frightening. This is the first book of Muir’s that I’ve read, and it definitely kept me turning the pages. I look forward to reading more by this author.

Chapter Two

Two Months Earlier…ToBian Begins
October 2011

My intuition told me there was something very wrong, that something bad was going to happen. It was a strange feeling of precognition I’d experienced occasionally since college. This feeling had been so predictive in previous years that, throughout our marriage, Andy had jokingly called it my “Oracle of Delphi” mode. By October, I’d started feeling that ominous feeling.

The nearby military base would occasionally fly a small terror alert flag—yellow, orange, or occasionally red—which I took to mean that, at any moment, you might want to get out duct tape and plastic wrap or just kiss your ass goodbye. From this, I developed my own internal flag system to make sense of things, and to help me cope with my reactive emotional state. Every day I was at a different level of alarm, but it was generally worried (orange), scared (red), or, occasionally, cautiously optimistic (yellow). On good days, I glimpsed what seemed to be improvement and felt a sense of hope, but some worry always remained buried underneath.

On Sunday, October 3rd, we took our whacky, behaviorally challenged poodles to church for the St. Francis Blessing of the Pets. Andy couldn’t have been more kind, funny, and patient. He seemed happy. We had one of the great family Sundays like old times.

A couple of nights later, I’d gone to bed while Andy stayed up watching television on the couch in the living room. When I woke up at 2:00 a.m. he was asleep beside me. I went downstairs to the kitchen. Every door on the first floor was wide open! He had gone to bed leaving every exterior door in our house open, not just unlocked, not ajar, but fully open to the outside. A large football player could have gone through any door without touching it. The door from the kitchen to the garage was open and the garage door was open. Elizabeth’s bedroom was on the second floor, ours on the third. The first thing I thought of was Polly Klaas. Then I thought of all the coyotes and raccoons in the neighborhood that could have walked right into our house.

He’d never done anything like this before. People make mistakes, we live in a very safe place, so I wasn’t really upset as much as confounded about how it happened. He would have needed to walk right past either the front or the back door to get to the staircase to the bedrooms. I could understand if he’d just forgotten to check if the doors were locked, but not how he didn’t notice that they were wide open. And why were they open? I mentioned it the next day, as nicely as I could, and he just said he “didn’t notice.” How? His face looked a little defensive and a bit blank or dismissive considering how odd, and theoretically risky, it was. I didn’t know what to say given that he generally knew exterior doors got closed if they weren’t and we locked them at night.

So I said something vague trying to not sound condescending, “Well, I know that you know it’s good to at least close the doors at night and check if they’re locked when you’re the last one to go to bed. We live in such a safe place, but still, you never know.”

He said, “Oh I know.” and looked so dismissive that I thought maybe I should further explain the obvious, to make sure this wasn’t going to become his new normal. I didn’t know if he felt my concern about Elizabeth’s safety and his well-being.

I elaborated, “Elizabeth is on the second floor, the first bedroom from the staircase and we’re one floor up. And raccoons are out and about at night. It would be unfortunate to find one in the kitchen.”

He still looked blank. It made me question if this was just a random mistake or another anomaly—a sign that I should be worried something was wrong with him.

Most days, however, I feared something I couldn’t name. I’d always been very sensitive to the people and animals in my household. I always knew if Elizabeth was getting sick well before she did. It was the same with him.

Occasionally, I noticed Andy had a strange speech pattern, something I’d never witnessed before and he had trouble with everyday things. He was basically normal, though, and he still went to work every day. He was watching more TV, but he’d always watched a lot more than I did, so it seemed only a little more extreme. He was a little quieter. But he had a new job managing a small engineering branch office 80 miles away. I thought maybe he was just more tired from the job or the driving.

But then I noticed a few mornings and then many mornings, he had trouble getting his keys, wallet, and phone together before he went to work. I tried to help him get more organized, to put everything together on the hall table, etc., but it didn’t seem to take. It was like watching a kindergartener get ready for the first day of school, instead of a professional heading out for another day of work.

Occasionally, when I felt that ominous feeling, it seemed that “it” was getting worse and that “it” might get awful. Somehow, I just knew “it” was going to come from ‘the Andy direction’ and his moments of seeming “off” didn’t seem so minor. But some days everything seemed okay. Mostly it was just a sense that he wasn’t engaged like his mind was elsewhere and he seemed less interested in Elizabeth and me. He seemed to withdraw into himself more than normal, but not all the time. Just sometimes. I didn’t keep a record, but it felt like it got more frequent as time went on. But I thought possibly his new job as a branch manager was the cause. I asked him if there were any problems or if it was stressful. But he always said no. Normally, if he had a work issue, he’d talk to me about it; I was always on his side. I asked if his long commute was tiring. But he said it didn’t bother him that he was used to driving a lot for work as a field geologist.

I was hoping our counselor would know what was going on. The doctor didn’t seem to have any ideas. I didn’t know what else to do. We’d gone to see Dr. Elsa together a couple of times in early October and she’d said she thought he might have ADD. That seemed plausible. It reminded me of how quickly she’d diagnosed him before, though her method of diagnosing him was different this time. She’d made her diagnosis by giving him an Adderall pill in her office and having him report on the effects. She said this was much more efficient and economical than going through a battery of tests with a Psychologist. Andy and I were fairly shocked but desperate enough to not question how unorthodox it was. I was pretty sure it was illegal but as desperate as I was, I decided not to think about it too hard. She seemed confident and she was the one in charge. I still trusted her and her efficiency at getting to the root of the problem had impressed me before. He said he thought it helped. She sent the diagnosis to our doctor and he started taking Adderall. For a brief time, it did appear to work. Then he’d gone back to his previous state, worse even.

Before I’d seen the texts, before Andy had started his individual therapy, when I still trusted her, I sent Elsa an email about my concerns. I’d said the Adderall didn’t seem to be the answer. She’d had a plan which sounded great, as I was completely out of ideas. I didn’t know then that it would be the worst possible idea, something that would make things much worse.Paragraph

Sent: October 14, 2011 7:43 a.m.
Subject: Andy
Andy seems to be back to his ADD self even with the medication. He is starting to space out again for hours at a time. He watches TV endlessly. Sometimes, he doesn’t make any sense when he talks. And he’s grumpy—all the time. He used to be so sweet. Now, half the time, he’s just such a jerk for no reason. Elizabeth avoids him. I don’t know if he needs a different medication or if there’s something else wrong. It’s really hard to be around him when he’s like this.

Sent: October 14, 2011 7:52 a.m.
Subject: Re: Andy
I’ll see you tomorrow. I have an idea. I’ll talk about then. Dr. Elsa

• • •

When I went to see her alone, at this appointment in mid-October, mostly I talked about how worried I was about Andy. During the appointment, she said something that struck me as odd: “You need to stop being such a martyr and put yourself first.” I must have looked unconvinced. “Do you know what happens to martyrs?”

Based on my Catholic school indoctrination, I replied, “They go to heaven.”

“No, they get crucified.”

I was nonplussed into silence, so she changed the subject.

“How’s Andy doing?”

“I’m worried about him. Since you said he might have ADD, I read some books on it. I always read a lot when I want to learn about something new. My favorite book was Is It You, Me, or Adult A.D.D.? The author, Gina Pera, described how hard it was to live with her husband who had undiagnosed ADD for many years: how she became a “fixer” and a caregiver and, essentially, disappeared under the weight of his issues. It could have been describing me and Andy. But at the same time, the Adderall doesn’t seem to have fixed it.”

“Yes, I know the feeling. Dealing with my husband Ted is like a needy child. A huge majority of caregivers end up with chronic fatigue. I had to hire a person to come in and deal with my ADD daughter and her homework. I tried, really, I did. But I was getting abusive.”

Somehow, I felt her part of the conversation was more about her.

“Well, my point was that I think he might have ADD, but maybe he doesn’t have the right medication?”

“Are you sure he’s taking it? I recall that he stopped taking his antidepressants. Maybe he’s non-compliant.”

“Yes, I’ve seen him take the medication. And I don’t think that was so much intentional non-compliance, just forgetting to pick up the prescription. He’s back on Wellbutrin and Prozac again, this time taking three of each a day, which seems to be an awful lot. But it’s not like before when he went back on antidepressants after a week of forgetting Then he went back to ‘normal.’ This time he hasn’t.”

She didn’t comment when I paused. So, I continued, “He bought himself a gigantic TV and he’s watching at least six hours every night. I mostly hide in the bedroom and read. He especially likes news stations; MSNBC is going all the time. It’s like he’s having a personal relationship with Keith Olbermann. I’ve asked Andy if he thinks that the news anchor can see him and if Keith Olbermann knows how important he is in our household? Andy didn’t get the pointed joke. Probably he wasn’t listening.

“Talking about this with you makes me recognize how worried I am. There’s been a cavalcade of screw-ups at home, forgotten things, and confusion about communications over the last few days. I can overlook a lot, but if he’s doing this during his job, that’s scary. He seems like he’s either going to get fired or have a nervous breakdown or both.

“And I feel like I’m being yanked around on a cheap carnival ride. The kind of carnivals they used to have that would set up in the parking lots of strip shopping centers. I think they were run by gypsies. I loved them as a kid–even though they were death traps. But I don’t love this. Elizabeth is confused and so am I.”

She finally found something to comment on. “Great imagery, I remember those carnivals! I love your vocabulary. You’re the only person I know who would use ‘cavalcade’ in a sentence.”

I wondered if she was paying any attention to the words coming out of my mouth—you know, the smaller ones that actually mattered. I wasn’t trying to be entertaining. It seemed like she’d missed the point of what I was saying. I tried another example.

“Elizabeth and I just sit at the breakfast table, watching him scurry about, frantically looking for stuff—glasses, keys, etc. This goes on almost every single day. It’s his chicken-with-his-head-cut-off routine. I’ve tried to help him get organized, but he just gets mad.”

“Maybe he needs actual therapy instead of just dropping in with you.”

“I don’t know. Maybe he needs a different medication.” I responded, worried Andy might not like therapy. “Dr. Amen’s book on the six kinds of ADD said that different treatments are required for each type. I have a psychology undergraduate degree. Also, I’ve been reading up on personality disorders. Maybe even narcissistic personality disorder or borderline in combination with ADD, so the medication wouldn’t help with all of it?”

Elsa wasn’t too interested in sticking with her first diagnosis and responded, “I think he needs therapy to get at the childhood roots of his negativity. Fortunately, I have been learning a wonderful, new therapy that will do exactly that—fix his anti-social tendencies. It’s called ToBian. It’s like really fast, efficient psychoanalysis.”

“Could he have borderline personality disorder?” I asked, still clinging to the previous topic.

“No, I can tell if people have borderline personality right away. He just had awful parents.”

“Well, that’s the truth,” I agreed.

On the way home, I thought about her expression when I was talking about Andy. I couldn’t read it and it had seemed odd as if she was contemplating something she didn’t expound on. And I wondered what she meant about being abusive. How abusive? Then I brushed off these ill-formed thoughts. She had hooked me with her pitch for ToBian Therapy and she had a track record of fixing Andy.

• • •

When we’d seen her in graduate school, her suggestion of antidepressants had worked for twenty years. Every couple of years, he would forget to keep up with his refills and revert to the difficult, withdrawn, and illogical Andy that made me uncomfortable. After four or five days, I’d notice Andy was acting more akin to his father, than his usual self. I’d not say that specifically because he’d have been horrified. I’d just tell him that seemed a little “off,” and ask if he’d forgotten to get his prescription filled. He was always very surprised that I could tell. He’d get it filled quickly because he was so freaked out that it was so obvious to me. This year had been the first time I had failed to notice. I’d been consumed with a stressful job and a hundred other things, and it got by me. When I’d asked him months later about it, he’d lied about it for the first time, probably because he was too far down the rabbit hole. He’d gone back on antidepressants about a month earlier, but this time it didn’t help. We never even talked about the fact that he had lied to me. I was too worried to make a discussion out of that.

So, I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what else to do but trust Dr. Elsa’s insight again.

When he got home from work, I broached the subject of this new therapy. Andy and I read a web article that she’d directed me to written by a New Jersey psychologist and ToBian Therapist. There didn’t seem to be much online about ToBian therapy so that was the basis for my understanding. To paraphrase, it said people are all born with unique potential. Some parents may use their children to satisfy their own unmet childhood needs and fail to help them develop their potential. This comes at a great mental, emotional, and spiritual cost when those children become adults coming out much later in life. ToBian Therapy can reverse the destructive conditioning and end the suffering.

It seemed okay. Neither of us had any better ideas. I thought it was a way Andy could throw off whatever was causing his attitudes, come to terms with his neglectful and rather odd parents, and return to the sweet, gentle person I’d known for half my life.

In September I’d gone with Andy to see the our family doctor which I’d never done before. He’d seemed as concerned as I was about what was going on. At that visit, he admitted that he had indeed gone off antidepressants despite what he’d told me earlier and she’d prescribed him some more. Other than that, our doctor didn’t seem to have any idea what was wrong or how to go about figuring that out. She only said that maybe she could get the insurance to pay for an MRI but sounded very doubtful. The antidepressants didn’t seem to help even after more than a month. So, when Dr. Elsa sounded confident about her new therapy, I was optimistic. I was usually optimistic, but this time I might have been more desperate than hopeful.

• • •

I emailed Dr. Elsa about whether insurance would cover this therapy and got a response that gave me a little pause.

Sent: October 16, 2011 7:43 a.m.
Subject: Re: Your New TherapyParagraph

I do think Andy would benefit from this new therapy I’ve learned…and it is so designed for the impatient patient!!!

I take insurance, which will cover it, as I bill it as “cognitive behavioral” therapy. There may be a surcharge on ToBian of about $50 per session, so $150 for three sessions. I have to ask my bookkeeper what your insurance currently pays, then let you know exactly.
Dr. Elsa

I thought it sounded a little sketchy, but I really didn’t know that much about insurance rules. Still, I didn’t have any other ideas.

Why would she have to bill it as something else? I’d worked for a company that contracted with insurance companies. I’d learned a little about fraudulent billing. She also told me that the therapy needed to take place at her home in Bonnet Island. She said she needed quiet and there were often random people showing up at her office door on King Street.

Copyright © 2019 by Maura Muir. All rights reserved.

Chapter One

Pink Cowboy Boots
December 8, 2011

In no universe would it be “right” for a woman to send my husband a photo of herself in pink cowgirl boots, an obscene T-shirt, and a micro mini skirt. Dr. Elsa had a PhD. in Social Work and had been in practice for decades, this woman in the micro mini. She was married for almost as long as we’d been.

• • •

We’d consulted with Elsa Dekowski, or Dr. Elsa as she liked to be called, during our only prior marital difficulty twenty years earlier. We’d been in graduate school and remodeling a house when suddenly Andy started acting irritable, not his normal nice, easy-going self but like I was a construction worker who worked for him. He was aware I’d had little experience doing home remodeling stuff. Most wives wouldn’t have jumped in to help, so I felt it was a lot that I pitched in and was trying my best. He had sounded increasing gruff and critical and raising his voice, almost yelling at me. He knew me well enough to know that wouldn’t help anything but just upset me. But it was like suddenly he didn’t know me, and I didn’t know him. When I explained that he was hurting my feelings, he would get briefly nicer then “forget” and revert to his supervisor tone. I didn’t know what to make of it.

This went on for about a week when the last straw occurred. After a full day of unpleasantness, he yelled at me one too many times. I was trying to paint cabinets, apparently not very well in his opinion. I decided I’d had enough of his attitude, put down my paint brush and calmly told him, “That’s it. I quit.” As I recall, he looked shocked and didn’t say much of anything.

We’d consulted with Elsa Dekowski, or Dr. Elsa as she liked to be called, during our only prior marital difficulty twenty years earlier. We’d been in graduate school and remodeling a house when suddenly Andy started acting irritable, not his normal nice, easy-going self but like I was a construction worker who worked for him. He was aware I’d had little experience doing home remodeling stuff. Most wives wouldn’t have jumped in to help, so I felt it was a lot that I pitched in and was trying my best. He had sounded increasing gruff and critical and raising his voice, almost yelling at me. He knew me well enough to know that wouldn’t help anything but just upset me. But it was like suddenly he didn’t know me, and I didn’t know him. When I explained that he was hurting my feelings, he would get briefly nicer then “forget” and revert to his supervisor tone. I didn’t know what to make of it. This went on for about a week when the last straw occurred. After a full day of unpleasantness, he yelled at me one too many times. I was trying to paint cabinets, apparently not very well in his opinion. I decided I’d had enough of his attitude, put down my paint brush and calmly told him, “That’s it. I quit.” As I recall, he looked shocked and didn’t say much of anything.

When I returned the next day, he’d repeatedly said he was sorry. I told him I felt that wasn’t enough to explain or address how he’d acted or make everything okay with me. I didn’t ever want him to treat me like that again and I wanted to know what caused it. Although I was very devoted to him, this wasn’t what I signed up for. I didn’t think I’d married an a**hole.

His father had been rather jerky to his mother during a few times he wasn’t silent. It was fairly subtle, but his attitude was bothersome, not to her as far as I could tell, but to me. Andy always seemed like his father’s polar opposite until this. When I said he was acting like his father, he looked horrified.

I threw some things in a bag, marched out the door with our dog, and spent one night in a Holiday Inn that I knew accepted pets. Partly to get my point across, mostly to get away from him. It was the only time I ever did that. I called to let him know where we were, and he apologized. I said I’d be back tomorrow, and we could talk then.

I told him we needed to see a counselor to figure out why he’d been acting so differently and how to make sure it wasn’t going to be an ongoing problem. As much as I loved him, if it couldn’t be fixed, the specter of being married to someone with that kind of personality would have been untenable. He agreed to see a counselor. It seemed like he wanted an explanation, too. It was the only time before 2011 that I’d seen him act like a different person.

I found a counselor, Elsa Dekowski, through the college’s referral system. At that point, she’d had a master’s degree in social work. We saw her three or four times. Elsa had been great: professional, efficient, caring, and she understood why I was so upset. She’d said he had anhedonia, which isn’t exactly a diagnosis, but a symptom of depression, and gotten his doctor to prescribe antidepressants. He was back to normal in no time and we were fine again. There was barely an internet at the time, so I couldn’t look up anhedonia and I’d just accepted what she said. Anhedonia is also a symptom of other things. I wished I’d known that. I did read that Finnish people are very likely to suffer from depression and his father had seemed depressed. It made sense that Andy had a genetic predisposition and the stress of going to graduate school and remodeling a house had triggered it.

• • •

No problems until 2011, when he’d started acting “off.” In September, I’d mentioned my concern about Andy during a phone call with a friend from Columbia, who’d recommended Dr. Elsa saying she lived in Charleston now. I’d not asked for a recommendation, but it sounded like a good idea. I didn’t have a better plan. I remembered how helpful Dr. Elsa had been before. I trusted her and she was on our insurance provider list.

At first, I went to see Dr. Elsa alone as Andy’s work schedule was tight, then we went to her office together a few times. She seemed as capable as before and we felt she would know how to solve the problem. After a few visits together, he saw her alone for individual therapy. I trusted her at first, but after a month of his therapy sessions with her, I came to believe something was wrong. Someone was texting him all the time and it turned out to be her. He went from seeming a little ‘not himself’ to acting like a different person.

• • •

After seeing this photo, I really didn’t trust her. I knew there was no way a therapist was supposed to send personal photos to a client. She’d been texting him a lot and their messages were strange like they were characters in a fantasy movie. And he’d not been getting better, but worse. He sounded delusional and she was encouraging him. I’d seen a lot of texts, unbeknownst to them, but this one was definitively inappropriate. The person who’d promised to fix my troubled husband was broken.

I slid down the wall in the bathroom onto the cold, tile floor. Then I sat there, squinting, studying the small screen on Andy’s phone. I had to be certain her shirt said what I thought it said.

Yup: I Love C*cks.

At first, I shook the phone as if it were an Etch-A-Sketch and questioned what I was seeing. Maybe it said I Love Jocks or I Love Rocks. Maybe she’s a fan of rocks and sent this to him because he’s a Geologist. Or maybe it was a reference to the college football team, the Gamecocks. That would make sense, but it was still not right for a 50-something woman–who was a therapist to send to a client–no matter what the tight T-shirt’s message meant.

The whole image wasn’t quite pornographic, but it was suggestive. It would be inappropriate even if they both weren’t married, as she was a “mental health professional” with a doctorate. The married part made it sketchy even if she weren’t a therapist. I tried to refocus, but it was hard–impossible to let go of this one. I looked at it again and was still appalled.

Really? Pink cowboy boots? Who does that?

It wasn’t lost on me that those pink cowgirl boots were nearly as outrageous as the too-small T-shirt. And then there was the micro mini skirt.

I wanted to scream but didn’t want to wake Andy or Elizabeth; it was after midnight. I wanted to reply to the texts myself. But for no reason that I could define, my gut told me the smarter course of action was to pretend I knew nothing about any of this. At least then I’d have a secret, too.

So, all I did was sit there on the bathroom floor, my butt getting colder by the second in a state of some shock.

At some point, I returned Andy’s phone to its cradle and grabbed my own.

Thank goodness that behind every naïve wife there’s a twisted, street-smart girlfriend she keeps around for times like these. Emmaline was the only person I knew who would be up at 1:00 a.m. on a Wednesday night in early December. No friends my age would be. But she was twenty-eight, single, and even partied on weeknights.

“What’s going on?” she answered, knowingly.

I told her about the texts.

“Elsa? What’s an Elsa? Can I help?”

“My life coach-counselor person. Andy and I saw her twenty years ago. She fixed him, ‘like that,’ in just a few sessions. So, Andy’s been seeing her for a month now again. He’s been acting strange and then I found this boatload of text messages.”

“Oh…my…gosh. So, your counselor and Andy are involved?”

“I don’t know. But it sure looks like she’s up for that. I can’t know this is wrong, especially for a mental health professional. That last part makes it a whole other kind of wrong. The woman who takes my insurance money every other week and Andy are sending each other overly personal messages. And some of them are weird, like, Harry Potter weird. They’re talking about wands and demons and using mental powers to make things happen. She’s brainwashed him. And he’s acting way weirder than before. And then there’s a spiritual component like she’s the high priestess in some occult religion. Oh, and the first one, it made me the sickest of all. It said ‘Hi.’ That’s it. ‘Hi.’”

“I wish I knew. And tonight’s message escalated it. A selfie of her in some outfit. A mini skirt, pink cowboy boots and a T-shirt that said, ‘I love C*cks.'”

Emmaline made a snorting noise. “Are you frigging kidding me?”

“Oh no, I couldn’t make that up if I tried.”

“Jeezzuss. What are you going to do? Can I do something? Do you need to come over? What do you need me to do? I can drag his sorry ass out of bed….”

“I don’t know what I need, Maybe tranquilizers, but I think I need to keep my wits about me.”

She laughed. “I bet there’s not enough tranquilizers to make you forget that. If there’s anything I can do, don’t hesitate to ask.”

This photo wasn’t the first text I’d seen, but the most flagrantly wrong, although the ‘hi’ one was somehow almost as disturbing.

“Hmm. That is suspicious. What the hell is she up to?”

Copyright © 2019 by Maura Muir. All rights reserved.