A former Farmington therapist and founder of a Utah-based life coaching practice who was charged in Davis County this week with assaulting a vulnerable patient to rid her of “demons” also faces professional sanctions.
Maurice Harker, 54, is accused of forcing the patient to the ground, dragging her across the floor, covering her nose and mouth so she couldn’t breathe, slamming her against the door of his office and not allowing her to leave the room, says charging documents filed Tuesday in 2nd District Court.
He is also accused of encouraging the patient to watch pornography to get rid of the demon he claimed possessed her. He also told her he had to “teach” her about sex, and he created an online dating profile for her, posing as a patient in order to talk to applicants, the charging documents say.
The Utah Division of Professional Licensing filed a lawsuit against Harker in January after the patient initially accused Harker of the behavior. Around that time, licensing attorneys also filed a petition to revoke Harker’s license, according to documents provided to The Salt Lake Tribune on Thursday.
Although the DOPL notice was issued months ago, no information about the action can be found on the agency’s website, Harker claims “No disciplinary action.” An agency spokesman said notices of action are public documents but are only made public after a licensing issue has been decided or a professional has surrendered his or her license.
The abuse described in both the charging documents and the notice of action was intended to exorcise a literal demon – the demon “713” – which Harker said was inside the patient, the files say. Prosecutors allege Harker restrained the patient using techniques he learned as a high school wrestler, and the women suffered a broken thumb, black eyes, a knee injury and a neck injury so severe she “thought she could die.”
After the sessions, Harker lay on top of the woman and “comforted her,” licensing documents say.
The patient was at Harker from 2012 to May 2021 for treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health disorders related to abuse she experienced as a child.
“The defendant exploited her vulnerability and claimed that physically and mentally aggressive harmful techniques were necessary to treat her demon disorder,” charging documents state.
Harker is charged with one count each of kidnapping and grievous bodily harm to a vulnerable adult.
“Over time, the defendant attempted to isolate the victim from other people and relationships, knowing her secret that she was possessed by a demon (as he had led her to believe),” charging documents state. “Therefore, she depended on his emotional support and communication.”
He also referred to his relationship with the woman as a “friendship” rather than a “therapeutic relationship,” even though Harker billed her for “psychotherapy sessions,” the petition to revoke Harker’s license says.
When DOPL investigators interviewed Harker, he “admitted that he lacked the training and expertise” to effectively treat the patient’s complaints and said he never formally examined her, provided a treatment plan or took notes during sessions made, the petition says.
Harker’s attorney, Greg Skordas, did not immediately respond to a Salt Lake Tribune request for comment. When it arrived Thursday, the Division of Professional Licensing provided The Tribune with notice of the agency’s actions and the request to revoke his license.
The agency’s spokesman said Harker has allowed his clinical mental health counselor license to expire in September 2022. When a license expires, a person can reapply later, which is why DOPL sometimes takes action against people without an active license.
“Essentially, we are pursuing their residual rights,” the spokesman said.
Harker’s license expired days before Rolling Stone published an article about him in October 2022 that detailed allegations of abuse from former patients who told the magazine they were sent to Harker for help with trauma and pornography addiction on the recommendation of their Latter-day Saint bishops.
Although he is no longer licensed, Harker is still listed on Life Changing Services’ website as the organization’s owner and co-founder, as well as a “marriage repair specialist” who leads weekly trainings.
“He continues to work under special arrangements as a counselor with individuals and couples working to repair and rebuild traumatized marriages,” the website said Friday.
Davis County Prosecutor Troy Rawlings said his office initially declined to file charges against Harker because the allegations did not fall within the legal framework of the original indictment presented by investigators. Prosecutors later reconsidered after further investigation and used a different section of Utah law to file charges.
“The defendant has not been convicted of any crime, he is presumed innocent,” Rawlings said, “and we ask the public to respect that presumption unless this changes through the judicial process.”
According to records, no court dates have been set yet in the criminal case. Harker’s licensing case is scheduled to be heard Dec. 7 before the state’s Clinical Mental Health Counselor Licensing Board.