Questions linger after sex misconduct settlement

01/03/2014

Guy Rogers Gullion, a psychiatrist who worked at a Point Reyes Station clinic, has been placed on probation by the Medical Board of California after an incident of sexual misconduct with a patient.

The news has shocked some of Dr. Gullion’s former clients, who described him as a dedicated and compassionate doctor who helped them through depression or mental disorders. But others said the news was unsurprising: Dr. Gullion’s intimate manner during sessions had made some uncomfortable and prompted them to find a new psychiatrist. 

Because Dr. Gullion chose to settle with the medical board, details of the accusations have not been confirmed as fact. County Health and Human Services officials declined to comment on Dr. Gullion’s contract and its termination, saying only that he stopped working at the clinic about a month ago. 

Dr. Gullion has remained silent, with the exception of a brief note published in the Citizen. He initially considered an interview with the Light, before his lawyer intervened.

“I’m calling to simply tell you that because there is potential for legal—civil legal action—that [Dr. Gullion] is going to respectfully decline to comment, on the advice of his attorney,” Mike Miller, a lawyer who primarily practices family law in Texas, phoned to tell the Light. “As much as he would like to tell his side of the story in a public forum, because litigation is likely or possible, that’s not advisable for him at this point.”

With few details confirmed, questions remain about Dr. Gullion’s case. Were his advances an isolated incident, or only the first time they were reported? Was this an anomaly in a career of helping the troubled, or the culmination of years of pushing boundaries with emotionally vulnerable patients? These are questions fit in some ways for a psychologist, one who searches for the truths in what a patient chooses to reveal. At its most basic, does reality align with the perceptions of a respected doctor?

Here is what is known. Dr. Gullion has admitted that he gave one of his clients $200, that he requested and received a massage from her, and that he exposed himself to her.

Dr. Gullion was born to a family of doctors in 1960, a year before his father graduated from medical school in Dallas. He graduated from the University of Texas Medical School in Houston in 1986. He did an internship in internal medicine—his father’s specialty—in Austin before moving to California for a residency at Napa State Hospital in 1991. Sometime in the late 1990’s or early 2000’s, Dr. Gullion began practicing at the county’s West Marin Multi-Services Center, his patients said. One document from 2003 said he was paid $55,000 annually “to provide psychiatric evaluation and treatment for adult outpatients, jail clients and clients in need of psychiatric emergency services.”

In March 2011, a woman known only as S.V. was referred to Dr. Gullion by her marriage and family therapist. Suffering from a history of abuse in her childhood and multiple psychiatric hospitalizations in the previous years, she said she needed help coping with her emotions. 

Dr. Gullion ruled out post-traumatic stress disorder and bipolar disorder in his diagnosis, suggesting that she could be aided by talk therapy. He also prescribed Abilify, an antipsychotic drug, to help with what he noted as her “melt downs.” 

S.V. visited Dr. Gullion roughly once a month for sessions. Dr. Gullion allegedly told her that their relationship was bigger than the confines of the office walls. He told her she was stunningly beautiful, the accusation says. And at the end of sessions, he hugged her and told her she made his day.

Sometime during the spring of 2012, S.V. told Dr. Gullion she wanted to buy her daughter’s school pictures but could not afford them. He gave her $200 in cash. In return, she gave him two gift certificates for free massages where she worked.

A few months later, in late August, Dr. Gullion arrived at her workplace and made an appointment to receive a massage later in the day. While he waited, he visited a family therapist who had an office in the same building. The therapist told Dr. Gullion S.V. was distraught over the recent death of a friend.

When it was time for his appointment with S.V., Dr. Gullion mentioned that he had spoken with the therapist and knew she was upset. He then stripped, exposing his genitals, and lay down on the massage table, exposing his rear. When S.V. began the massage, Dr. Gullion allegedly said he was pleased, that he enjoyed reversing roles like this. Dr. Gullion began to gyrate his hips and reached for S.V.’s legs several times. After several minutes, she left the room and told her manager. About a week later, she reported him to the Medical Board.

When interviewed by an investigator in January 2013, Dr. Gullion acknowledged that his behavior was a clear violation of ethics and boundaries. In addition to being placed on probation for seven years under threat of having his license revoked, the medical board also ordered Dr. Gullion to take courses in ethics and professional boundaries. He will undergo psychiatric evaluation and psychotherapy, and he is prohibited from supervising physician assistants.

Reactions to the settlement have varied in West Marin. Rose Hulls expressed bewilderment when she first heard about S.V. Dr. Gullion had treated her mother for serious bipolar disorder for nearly a decade until her death in 2012. She noted that he had been different from other psychiatrists: previous doctors had talked with orderlies about Ms. Hull’s mother and her problems, almost dismissing her, but Dr. Gullion never treated a patient as any less than you or I, no matter how severely impaired they were, Ms. Hulls said. And his light-hearted sense of humor and his respect for his patients helped him persuade Ms. Hulls’s mother to continue taking her medications. 

“She would always refer to him as a good doctor,” Ms. Hulls said of her mother. She said she was “shocked” and “dismayed” by the stories. “It really pains me to hear that he did that.”

A former patient who asked to remain anonymous said Dr. Gullion had a charming Southern demeanor and sold himself as a “really cool guy” who wasn’t like other doctors. But she felt uncomfortable with the way he did not keep a boundary between himself and his clients. He often discussed his own personal life and the sessions with his own therapist, she said. “The fact that he thought it was okay to go get a massage from his patient doesn’t surprise me,” she said. “I felt like he was really inappropriate. I’m glad he got caught.”

Dr. Gullion wants to resume practicing in West Marin “with as brief an interruption of care as possible,” he said in a December letter to the Citizen. “I have always told my patients in West Marin that I hoped and prayed to work here until I die, and that is my commitment.”