Washington Psychologist Michael Olson, Suspended from Practice; "Adopted" Former Patient, Gave Her a Gun

August 19, 2021

A Lynnwood, Washington psychologist became “overinvolved” with a former patient — at one point giving her a gun — leading the state Department of Health to indefinitely suspend his license earlier this year.

Michael Olson, 61, a resident of Woodinville, put the client at risk of harm, according to Department of Health charges filed in May 2020. The state agency announced the discipline in a news release this month.

Olson’s office was in Lynnwood. He had held a psychologist’s license since 1988.

He became friends with the woman when she moved to the Seattle area in the early 2010s to take an occupational therapy nursing job, according to Olson’s written statement in a police report. The woman’s husband died about a year after the move, leaving her with no family in the area, no home and no car. Olson offered to be the woman’s “family,” he wrote.

She had been diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder, a psychological condition that involves multiple personalities. The longtime psychologist saw her for 130 therapy sessions starting around 2011, when the woman was in her late 30s.

Olson, then in his early 50s, ended his therapeutic relationship with the woman “to become her ‘family’ and ‘informally adopt’” the client, according to the charges.

Around the same time, Olson and the woman bought guns together. The pair got concealed-carry permits and went to firearm safety classes together.

In 2013, Shoreline police responded to a call about a dispute in a car, the charges say. Powell was in the driver’s seat, and the woman was reportedly clinging to his leg, refusing to let go and calling him “Daddy.” Police confiscated the woman’s gun. Olson later gave her his gun, according to the charges from the health department.

In October 2014, Lynnwood police were called to Olson’s office for a report of a fight. Officers arrived to find Olson and the woman “on the ground punching each other,” according to police reports.

Olson reportedly told police the woman was his patient.

A year later, in 2015, Lynnwood police responded to another disturbance at Olson’s office, where the woman was refusing to leave, according to the charges. Olson reported he had been paying the woman’s bills and that she was having money problems.

In 2018, somebody called 911 to report the woman was walking west in the eastbound lane of a Lynnwood street, firing repeated gunshots into the air.

Police reportedly arrived to find the woman walking in circles, with a .380-caliber semiautomatic pistol. Police ordered her to drop the gun. She started to raise the gun, then threw it to the ground, according to police.

The woman reportedly told police that somebody was after her. She was arrested and booked into the Lynnwood jail for investigation of reckless endangerment. A search revealed the pistol was registered in Olson’s name.

Officers went to the woman’s home in Snohomish County. Olson showed up. He reportedly told them the woman was his adopted daughter, and that he was stopping by to check on her and “give her some more morphine.” Olson was holding the woman’s prescription morphine for safekeeping to help with her addiction issues, he reported, so he needed to see her as soon as possible. The woman was suffering from opiate withdrawal, the report says.

Superior Court Judge Bruce Weiss signed a one-year extreme risk protection order for the woman in 2018. She was prohibited from possessing firearms due to “dangerous mental health issues,” “abuse of controlled substances” and “reckless use of firearms.”

According to the health department’s findings, Olson “blurred practitioner/client boundaries” and assumed a caretaker role post-therapy. The psychologist also failed to keep adequate records while providing therapy, according to the disciplinary paperwork.

Olson can petition for reinstatement of his license. He must take a professional ethics course, pay a $2,000 fine and complete three years of probation.

On his website, Olson wrote that he helps clients by “guiding them out of confusion and pain and helping them create a new framework for their lives.”

Olson could not be reached for comment. Calls to his office went to voicemail. In a voicemail greeting earlier this month, he stated he was on sabbatical and gave instructions for patients interested in setting up appointments.

That voicemail had been taken down as of this week. Calls to his former office line rang and rang, and then hung up.

Source: Ellen Dennis, “Lynnwood psychologist, now suspended, gave a client a gun,” HeraldNet (Everett, WA), Aug. 19, 2021, URL: https://www.heraldnet.com/news/lynnwood-psychologist-now-suspended-gave-a-client-a-gun/#comments  

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