Pinellas woman claims family therapist had sex with her, forced her to leave troubled son

in Local Courts by

A potentially career-ending lawsuit accuses an award-winning therapist of having an inappropriate sexual relationship with a vulnerable patient.

The patient, referred to as P.A. in the suit to protect her identity, was struggling to deal with her teenage son, C.A. The mother-son duo was recommended by DCFS to seek counseling to strengthen their relationship and work out the son’s behavioral issues.

DCFS scheduled P.A. an appointment with Michael Putzulu, a therapist working at Suncoast Center.

The overall goal of counseling was to improve how P.A. approached issues with C.A., work on her anxiety, and develop a low-stress home environment.

In early 2014, the family had their first meeting with Putzulu. From there, they would meet every Wednesday at 4 p.m. at their home.

A few sessions in, Putzulu recommended C.A. live with his maternal grandmother.

After two sessions, Putzulu would stop by P.A.’s home without an appointment. Many visits were on short notice or completely unannounced. He would drop by during all hours of the day and night, even as late as 11:30 p.m.

Putzulu, allegedly, began rubbing P.A.’s legs while in the home. He would ask her to meet him at restaurants. Eventually, they started meeting in his home during the time he was her therapist.

Throughout their meetings, P.A. was urged to leave her boyfriend. She was living with her long-term boyfriend when the sessions first started.

At some point, their relationship became intimate, and P.A. left her boyfriend and their home to live with Putzulu.

According to the suit, Putzulu became extremely controlling. P.A. wasn’t allowed to text or use voicemail, she couldn’t go out without him; he limited her access to clothes, therapy, medicine and money.

Putzulu forced her to cease seeing her psychiatrist. He sent her to a former co-worker, Thomas Kiernan, to receive medications he selected for her. He paid for the visits and medication.

Thomas Kiernan is an advanced registered nurse practitioner who worked for Hector Corzo, a psychiatrist.

Kiernan never questioned why P.A. needed the medication or counseling, he merely provided the medication to P.A.

While living with Putzulu, it became harder for P.A. to see her son.

Putzulu only met with the son three times. However, he claimed the sessions were successful.

The boundaries set by the American Mental Health Counselors Association were breached by Putzulu when he pursued a relationship with his patient.

P.A. is suing Putzulu, Suncoast Center, Kiernan, and Corzo for the emotional distress they caused, either directly or indirectly.