UPDATE: A Dalton counselor charged with sexual assault by a practitioner of psychotherapy against a patient has accepted a plea deal.

Daniel Durward Staats, a former counselor at Helping the Hurting, was sentenced to two years in prison and 18 years on probation.

Staats must also register as a sex offender and attend sex offender counseling. He cannot have any contact with girls under 18.

Staats will also not be able to work as a counselor again.

He was arrested in 2017 following an investigation, which stemmed from allegations of inappropriate and illegal contact with women who were in his care for court-ordered psychotherapy counseling as part of their probation.

In a 2011 Dalton Daily Citizen newspaper interview, Staats described Helping the Hurting as a "Christ-centered counseling ministry." Helping the Hurting's Facebook page (now deleted) said Staats has a master of divinity in pastoral counseling.

PREVIOUS STORY: A Dalton counselor is being charged sexual assault.

Dalton Police say that 63-year-old Daniel Durward Staats was arrested Friday evening after an investigation, which stemmed from allegations inappropriate and illegal conduct by Staats with women who were in his care for court-ordered psychotherapy counseling as part of their probation.

The investigation of Staats began in August. A woman who was a patient of Helping The Hurting, a counseling service which is owned by Staats, came to the Dalton Police Department to report conduct by Staats that she felt was inappropriate during a counseling session. 

The woman reported that Staats was discussing sexual subjects with her, and told her that he and his wife were in an open relationship and that it would be ok for her to send him photos of herself, according to police.

Staats also told the woman that he had a secret Facebook account under an assumed name and that they could use it to communicate. 

The woman received a friend request from the fake Facebook account and a few private messages. The woman did not allege any physical contact with Staats other than a hug at the end of one session.

As the investigation continued, it led a second woman who alleged sexual assault by Staats. 

This woman also was in Staats’ care as a counselor as part of her probation. This woman reported that during a counseling session in July, Staats sat next to her on a couch and began to ask inappropriate questions and also touched her. 

Police say Staats then exposed himself and encouraged the victim to perform a sex act on him. 

Dalton police say that under Georgia law, O.C.G.A. 16-6-5.1, it is illegal for practitioners of psychotherapy to have sexual relations with people under their care. Staats also had supervisory authority over the victim because the patient was taking part in therapy as part of her probation.
The months-long investigation concluded in December with a detective obtaining a warrant for Staats’ arrest on December 21st on a charge of sexual assault by practitioner of psychotherapy. 

Staats was arrested on December 22nd.