Refutation of the disinformation about Monica Pignotti

Posts tagged ‘Ronald Federici’

Federici v Pignotti et al: What the Judge Actually Said

It has come to my attention that the misinformation about this case is being repeated.

To set the record straight, click here for a link to the entire dismissal document which people can read to get the full context for this case, to read exactly what the judge, the Honorable Gerald Bruce Lee stated in his ruling in the March 4, 2011 dismissal hearing when he dismissed Dr. Ronald Federici’s case against multiple defendants. This is a prime example of why it has been said that the transcriber has the most important job in the courtroom, so that there is an objective record of what occurred that cannot be distorted later. Contrary to assertions by Dr. Federici that he was “designated an international public figure”, the transcript shows there was no such declaration. The transcript (quoted below) clearly shows that judge declined to rule on whether Dr. Federici was a public figure because he dismissed the case on other grounds (jurisdiction and for Pignotti & Mercer, failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted – our words did not quality as defamation and Federici failed to demonstrate any conspiracy or tortious interference). He did not “declare” Federici a public figure, nor did he declare any of his colleagues as public figures, as they were completely irrelevant to this case. As the quotations I will reproduce below explicitly demonstrate, the judge was very clear that my comments, contrary to Federici’s repeated insistent assertions, did not constitute defamation. Here are some relevant quotes from the judge’s ruling, where he pointed out multiple deficiencies in Federici’s complaint:

Let me say at the outset that the complaint suffers from several deficiencies. The first is group pleading, and we really can’t tell what allegations are made against each individual defendant. And that is a problem that the whole complaint suffers from. And because of that, it is really not clear what the plaintiff asserts each defendant did and when and what false statements were made that are libelous, what was the statement, what was the date of it.

and

With respect to conspiracy, there’s not enough here in terms of facts to demonstrate a conspiracy. And again, the fact that the plaintiff here is engaged in group pleading makes it impossible to tell what agreement plaintiff claims was entered into by which defendants at what time to do what against Dr. Federici.

The fact that they all have criticized Dr. Federici does not mean they’ve entered into an agreement sufficient to support a claim for conspiracy.

and here’s why he granted the motion of Pignotti and Mercer to dismiss for failure to state a claim:

 The defamation claim, there’s a motion to dismiss filed by Pignotti and Mercer that does not state a claim for defamation or tortious interference with contract rights or business expectancy.

I’m going to grant that motion for several reasons. First of all, as it relates to the statements themselves, I do not think that plaintiff has set forth sufficient facts connecting Mercer with any actionable statements.

And as it relates to Pignotti, I do not think that plaintiff has set forth sufficient facts to demonstrate a claim that would meet the requirements of libel underVirginia law and the Chapin versus Knight-Ridder case.

The words specifically claimed are not set forth. They’re not set forth with any specificity. The dates are not set forth. They’re insufficient to state a claim. And looking at them as a matter of substance, some of them — Exhibit H, appears to be Dr. Pignotti responding what she believes to be actions taken by Dr. Federici on her website. These matters would not be –they would be opinion. They would not be sufficient to state a claim for libel.

And here is where he declined to rule on the public figure issue (contrary to what Federici has repeatedly asserted, he was not “declared” a public figure by Judge Lee, nor were any of his colleagues, who are irrelevant to this case although Judge Lee does point out that the possibility exists beause he advertises on the internet and TV – he made no evaluation about whether or not he was a valid expert since that would not be relevant and the case was dismissed on other grounds):

And I think without making a judgment now that plaintiff’s counsel would have to agree that there’s a question here to be decided at some point, maybe not today, about whether or not — what standard would apply to plead a libel or slander against Dr. Federici and whether or not he’s a public figure or limited public figure given that he advertises on the Internet and on television and all these others.

But I don’t have to decide that now. But if that issue were to come up, it does appear that there would be some challenge presented to Dr. Federici to credibly assert he’s not a public figure or at least a limited public figure.

I’m going to grant the motion to dismiss as it relates to tortious interference with contract rights and expectancy because he’s not proffered sufficient facts to demonstrate that Mercer or Pignotti intentionally interfered with any contracts.

The fact that he is a practicing psychologist does not in and of itself give notice to anyone else that he has contracts with particular clients or that he communicated with those particular clients. And the complaint as set forth alleges that two — I believe it was two potential clients canceled their appointments because of things that they read on the internet, not necessarily matters that were set forth by Dr. Pignotti or Dr. Mercer.

And finally, with respect to conspiracy to injure in trade business reputation under 18.2499, this complaint does not come close to meeting the requirements of Ashcroft versus Iqbal in terms of setting forth facts that plead conspiracy in more than just conclusory terms. So for those reasons, the motion to dismiss will be granted for the reasons just stated.

So there you have it. These are the reasons the case was dismissed, as stated in the public record. Not all the twisting and shouting and attempts to resurrect ancient history by Dr. Federici, Ms. Heather Forbes and their supporters is going to change that. Not all the ranting about irrelevant voting machine cases and a 35+ year ago involvement I had in Scientology that I have long since repudiated and misportrayals of Jean Mercer’s blogging (she was not “fired” by Psychology Today – she quit after they forbade her to write about Federici because they failed to show up in court when he sued them and he won by default, although he lost against Mercer, who did show up and successfully defended herself and continues to blog about him), are going to obfuscate this public record of what transpired. That being said, Psychology Today never hired Jean Mercer for pay in the first place, hence the term “fired” is completely moot.

I have not defamed Dr. Federici. I have exercised my Constitutional right to express my criticisms and sincerely held concerns about his interventions as described in his self-published book and media appearances. And no, challenging authoritarian, non-empirically supported practices and refusing to fall into lock step with self-proclaimed “experts” who make claims in self-published books and promote themselves via testimonials is not “hate” speech. It is done out of a caring and concern for mental health clients who licensed mental health professionals are there to serve. Expression of such opinions does not constitute defamation, nor does it constitute interference with business, nor does the fact that the defendants agree with one another about this, constitute conspiracy. Instead of responding to the substance of my concerns, he continues to choose to attempt to resurrect irrelevant ancient history and engage in personal attacks. People can judge for themselves what that may indicate. Where is the evidence that prone restraints and the intervention he promotes is safe and effective? When and where specifically did he train in the administration of the restraint procedure he recommends? More authority-based assertions that his holds are completely safe just do not cut it, in my opinion, especially after so much of the published literature I have consulted on the dangers of prone restraint, even when administered correctly. Even the literature I consulted that is in favor of prone restraints, outlines very strict precautions that must be in place and checks and balances, monitoring, record keeping and safety equipment (e.g. resuscitation) that would not be difficult, if not impossible to have in a private home. At best, prone restraint is a highly controversial procedure that I have every right to express my opinions on. These are very real issues and substantive response does not appear to be forthcoming. Instead the ad hominem (personal) attacks on critics continue.

I would be more than happy to put this matter to rest and never mention it again, but since the anonymous WordPress bloggers and others are continuing to post and repost misportrayals of what occurred, I will defend myself, as I have the right to, by posting public records. Bottom line: Keep posting misportrayals of what occurred and I will keep reposting links to and quotes from the actual public records from this and possibly other cases.

Advertisements

Two Propaganda Tactics: Repetition of Lies and Context Dropping

A well-known propaganda tactic is to repeat lies. However, not all the repetitions in the world will change the facts of reality. A lie is still a lie, no matter how often it is repeated.  The anonymous smear campaigners have given us repeated examples of this.

Another propaganda tactic is to selectively report events from a person’s distant past. Dr. Ronald Federici has done us the honor of providing an example of this tactic in action, now repeated on blogs, when he attempts to resurrect ancient history by launching ad hominem attacks on critics rather than responding to the substance of their concerns (e.g. questioning the highly controversial recommendation of prone restraint on children and asking where and when he trained in the use of such procedures, for example). Long-ago dismissed voting machine cases I had zero involvement in and practices I have long ago left, repudiated and now am a known critic of, are irrelevant. Thank you, Dr. Federici.

Of course, the fallacy in this is that first all, I have never expected or encouraged people to believe something simply because I say so. What I have done is presented a number of references of research-based opinions from organizations such as SAMHSA and white papers on prone restraint (written by people who have never had anything whatsoever to do with voting machine cases or Scientology) that people can read and form their own opinions.  Federici’s response appears to be, in essence, the ad hominem, who would believe a former Scientologist? That’s no problem because I am not asking people to believe anything just because I said so. Moreover, the expressions of my views have nothing to do with being a former Scientologist (in fact I left and fully repudiated Scientology over 35 years ag0). My education, including my PhD, my training in evidence-based practice and 20 peer reviewed publications are evidence that I am qualified to evaluate the evidence behind claims, but even so, I would never expect anyone to simply believe something because I said so. I invite people to look at the references and links to articles in my postings which contain evidence to back my opinions up and make their own decisions.

Misportrayals of my Views on Libel Law

Contrary to more misportrayals, as usual, of my views on that other WordPress blog by saying I am on the “wrong side of a legal debate”, anyone even remotely familiar with my views would immediately recognize that I am completely opposed to the proposed criminal libel law in North Carolina and am very glad to hear it got struck down and agree, it would have been the worst libel law, ever, my worst nightmare when it comes to suppression of internet free speech.  In my prior posting about criminal libel law in Florida, that law is not nearly as sweeping and applies only to very specific forms of speech and was not specifically about the internet, not all internet speech and I never said I was in favor of it. I was simply noting that it existed, leaving the door open for prosecution, should the anonymous posters who are posting obscene lies about me be identified. I was noting that as an item of interest and also noted that I wasn’t even sure if it had been recently enforced, as it appears to be one of those antiquated laws. In Florida, it is also still illegal for unmarried people of the opposite sex who are couples to live together but of course, hundreds of thousands of couples in Florida do and it is not enforced and this obviously outdated law should be taken off the books.

Only someone who is either extremely deficient in thinking skills or who is deliberately attempting to mislead people about my views would conclude I would support such a law. If anyone is on the wrong side of that debate, it would be Ronald S. Federici, who tried (and ultimately failed) to gain jurisdiction over several defendants from out of state in his internet defamation lawsuits, so it would seem to me that the NC proposed law would be right up his alley. Plus, since it would criminalize defamation, it would spear him the expense of having to hire a lawyer, although the disadvantage would be that he’d have to convince the State to press charges, which would be highly unlikely since so far he has been unable to state a claim that was acceptable to the court (e.g. his Federal case against me was dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted). Nevertheless, if that law had been in existence in Virginia, Ronald Federici could have gained jurisdiction over all of his defendants, had he been able to state a claim. Go here for documents which show that it is Ronald S. Federici who repeatedly tried to get defendants brought in from out of state so he could sue them for internet defamation, conspiracy and tortious interference. However, a Federal judge put an end to that by overruling the decision of a small claims court judge (Federici also lost the small claims cases against Mercer, Miller and Advocates for Children in Therapy, but the judge in that case had stated that he believed Virginia had jurisdiction over them — however when case law was presented to the Federal judge in his later lawsuit, it was ruled that Virginia does not have jurisdiction over any of the defendants and that the mere fact that people in Virginia read the postings was not sufficient reason for Virginia to have jurisdiction. A law like the one proposed in NC, however, would have changed that).

In any case, I completely agree that the NC law would have completely killed Constitutional rights to free speech and I am adamantly opposed to it and overjoyed that it was defeated. Is that clear enough for you, anonymous cyber smear campaigners? It is well known that I publicly support anti-SLAPP legislation and the kind of law that was proposed in NC could have encouraged all kinds of frivolous lawsuits and had horrific unintended consequences.

What I do think is that something needs to be done about is extreme cases of obviously malicious fabrications being posted on the internet that can wreck a person’s life. Now that is draconian. That is something our Constitution does not guarantee and that, under law, is subject to usually civil defamation statutes. What still needs to be worked out is how to deal with anonymous people on the internet who are getting away with this. The fact that such postings can come from outside the US makes this issue particularly complicated and problematic and I, for one, am not so arrogant as to presume that I have the answer for how to deal with this. There are no easy answers to this and since the internet is still relatively new, this is something that probably won’t be worked out for years. Also, wording of such a law needs to be worked out so that it would clearly distinguish between people who are posting malicious lies designed to wreck a person’s life and people who are exercising their legitimate constitutional rights to free speech by expressing opinions and the facts, as they sincerely understand them.

On the one hand, people do need to remain free to exercise their right to free speech, which includes the right to express opinions, including criticism that people might not like and well documented facts. What free speech does not include, however, is malicious lies and outright fabrications of the sort that have been posted about me, for example, copying a posting from a website, altering it and then putting my name in it, something I recently caught the internet smear campaigners doing, red handed. That is a clear demonstration of malice and deliberately posting falsehoods that would even win a case against a public figure. However, in this particular case, I didn’t even need to go to the law. The website owner, once I presented him/her with the evidence, much to their credit, had the decency to remove the posting. However, he/she didn’t have to and not all website owners would have done so. So thank you, Liars and  Cheaters RS, for being decent and honest human beings. Sadly, not every website owner is and hence, the need for some kind of carefully and clearly worded law, not the proposed and now-defeated NC law.

So yes, the State of North Carolina went way overboard and their proposed legislation, I am very happy to report, was defeated. However, that does not mean that anything should go when it comes to malicious fabrications being posted on the internet. Ultimate, however, I believe the solution lies not with the passage of legislation, which will always have its limitations, but with teaching people to critically evaluate statements that are made, rather than believe everything they read on the internet. Were people capable of doing this, it wouldn’t matter what was posted and Google would have to re-evaluate its search algorithms if it wanted to be credible.

Once again, the anonymous smear campaigners appear incapable of telling the difference between legitimate free speech and malicious defamation.

Why I continue to Shine a Bright Light on Cyber Abuse by those who retaliate against my Whistleblowing

As is made evident today, the anonymous WordPress bloggers (the fact they are anonymous and the fact I post using my actual name speaks volumes in terms of who has something to hide) are continuing the smear campaign by attempting to reframe the fact that I update the main posting on this blog “for reasons that remain unclear”. Unclear? This particular time I updated it because someone who appeared barely able to type the words, posted the lie that I had been arrested in the Miami Airport for passing out flyers, when in fact I have never been arrested for anything in my life.  What is most ludicrous about this is that although it would be my Constitutional right to pass out flyers if I so chose and went through the proper channels, I would never choose to be an activist in this way, since that is not the best way to reach large numbers of people. Based on the statistics of this blog, I reach far more people expressing my opinions and well-documented facts that I have sincerely concluded as true, through the internet than I ever could passing out flyers. That being said, newsflash to the cyber smear campaigners: There is something here in the US called freedom of speech. “Hate” speech is a highly subjective term. To the cyber smearers anything that calls into question the practices of their therapy gurus is something they consider “hate speech” but nevertheless, such criticism is perfectly legal, whether done via passing out flyers (which I have no intention of doing), via the internet or through any other venue. Ronald Federici’s recent losses in court against his critics bear testimony to this and that is most likely why we see cyber tantrums being thrown by his supporters and by Federici himself against the former defendants. Again, that is his Constitutional right and people can read it and decide for themselves who makes the most sense.

This is just the latest of a long string of malicious lies posted about me. Come on, now, anonymous bloggers who appear to have several blogs devoted to me (who ironically assert that “no one cares” — you obviously do given the time and energy you have put into these blogs for the past 2+ years). You know good and well what I’m doing, but in any case, here is some clarification for you. I will spell it out. The reason I update this blog is and will continue to do so is for the purpose of shining a very bright light on the ongoing internet smear campaign that includes defamatory lies and malicious fabrications about me as well as my colleagues who have been blowing the whistle on questionable therapies, that have been going on for more than two years now. The smear campaign escalated after justice was served, when a lawsuit against several of us was dismissed by a Federal judge. Most of the postings have been anonymous, but here is one that Ronald Federici has authored. If you are wondering why I am linking to it, read it and you’ll understand, as it gives people an idea of the kind of smears his critics have been subjected to.

I will continue to call the anonymous posters out on the fact that instead responding to my criticisms and the concerns I have expressed about certain therapists (for example, the restraint procedures recommended by Dr. Ronald Federici), the anonymous posters, whoever they may be, who lack the courage to post using their own names, have chosen to take the low road and attack me with lies and outright fabrications. I now have 47 colleagues who are supporting me in standing up to these bullies. See the main posting on this blog for details.

And no, these are not “updates about my career” as has been misportrayed. Contrary to the most recent false statements, I have been quite productive lately in my career, including having another study I first-authored accepted for publication in a peer reviewed journal. The updates in this blog, however, are mainly updates on the ongoing cyber smear campaign and defamatory lies that continue to be posted about me. Rest assured, these updates will continue as long as the smear campaign continues, as may be any additional discoveries I make of documents that are public record, which are quite interesting involving other cases that I am contemplating posting or linking to.

By the way, speaking of updates, Advocates for Children in Therapy has also updated their website and has commented on the recent but now-dismissed Ronald Federici lawsuits (they were sued three times) and the ongoing internet smear campaign they have been subjected to, as well as unsuccessful attempts by therapists they criticized to have their website taken down, although the efforts of those therapists at censorship ultimately did not succeed. Go here and here to view the updates. Also see Jean Mercer’s most recent comments on Ronald S. Federici vs. a crowd of critics. Details on my criticisms and concerns are on my other blog, Potentially Harmful Therapies.

PS: The “who cares?” cliche is one of the silliest on the internet. When people truly don’t care, they don’t bother to respond to postings, saying “who cares?” They simply ignore the postings. The “who cares” cliche really means that the person really cares very deeply about what has been posted, enough to denigrate the person by trying to make it seem as if no one cares about them. Very adolescent, although some of the people who post in this manner are well into middle age.  Who cares, the anonymous posters carrying out this smear campaign ask? They obviously care very deeply, enough to sustain a smear campaign that has lasted for more than two years now.

Advocates for Children in Therapy Statement about Ronald Federici’s Lawsuits

Advocates for Children in Therapy (ACT), a non-profit advocacy organization, has now made a statement about Ronald Federici’s three attempts to sue them, first in small claims court where he lost against defendants ACT, Jean Mercer and Charly Miller, next in an appeal against those same defendants which he nonsuited and third in a case that was dismissed by a Virginia Federal judge in Eastern District Court of Virginia against those same defendants plus Linda Rosa, Larry Sarner and Monica Pignotti.  ACT also commented on the internet smear campaign. The statement can be read on ACT’s website.

 

 

Federici v Pignotti et al. Dismissal Hearing Transcript Now Available

The full March 4, 2011 dismissal hearing transcript for Ronald Federici v Monica Pignotti et al. is now available via the Citizen Media Law website and can be downloaded by going here.

The transcript shows that the case was dismissed for all named defendants (Monica Pignotti, Jean Mercer, Charly Miller, Larry Sarner, Linda Rosa and Advocates for Children in Therapy) on the grounds of jurisdiction and additionally dismissed for Mercer and Pignotti for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. [Note that contrary to misportrayals elsewhere, this was not a “split decision”. The reason it was granted for only two of the defendants is that we had different legal representation that plead that way. In other words, the other defendants did not ask for the case to be dismissed on failure to state a claim, hence the judge did not consider that, as he did for us. The difference simply reflects different strategies used by different lawyers. All defendants were granted every motion for dismissal they made.]

Regarding this failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the honorable Gerald Bruce Lee stated (p. 32):

The defamation claim, there’s a motion to dismiss filed by Pignotti and Mercer that does not state a claim for defamation or tortious interference with contract rights or business expectancy. I’m going to grant that motion for several reasons. First of all, as it relates to the statements themselves, I do not think that plaintiff has set forth sufficient facts connecting Mercer with any actionable statements.

And as it relates to Pignotti, I do not think that plaintiff has set forth sufficient facts to demonstrate a claim that would meet the requirements of libel under Virginia law and the Chapin versus Knight-Ridder case. The words specifically claimed are not set forth. They’re not set forth with any specificity. The dates are not set forth. They’re insufficient to state a claim.

And looking at them as a matter of substance, some of them — Exhibit H, appears to be Dr. Pignotti responding what she believes to be actions taken by Dr. Federici on her website. These matters would not be –they would be opinion. They would not be sufficient to state a claim for libel.

[Exhibit H refers to the posting I made on my blog regarding the letter Ronald Federici wrote to my Dean. A copy of that posting is available by going here. Although my Dean chose to take no action against me, stating that it was irrelevant to my work at FSU, I chose to respond to and expose what was attempted and express my opinions about this, a right that this Federal judge upheld.]

With regard to conspiracy for all defendants (p. 31):

With respect to conspiracy, there’s not enough here in terms of facts to demonstrate a conspiracy. And again, the fact that the plaintiff here is engaged in group pleading makes it impossible to tell what agreement plaintiff claims was entered into by which defendants at what time to do what against Dr. Federici.

The fact that they all have criticized Dr. Federici does not mean they’ve entered into an agreement sufficient to support a claim for conspiracy.

and with regard to tortious interference and conspiracy for Pignotti and Mercer (p. 33):

I’m going to grant the motion to dismiss as it relates to tortious interference with contract rights and expectancy because he’s not proffered sufficient facts to demonstrate that Mercer or Pignotti intentionally interfered with any contracts. The fact that he is a practicing psychologist does not in and of itself give notice to anyone else that he has contracts with particular clients or that he communicated with those particular clients. And the complaint as set forth alleges that two — I believe it was two potential clients canceled their appointments because of things that they read on the Internet, not necessarily matters that were set forth by Dr. Pignotti or Dr. Mercer.

And finally, with respect to conspiracy to injure in trade business reputation under 18.2499, this complaint does not come close to meeting the requirements of Ashcroft versus Iqbal in terms of setting forth facts that plead conspiracy in more than just conclusory terms.

So for those reasons, the motion to dismisswill be granted for the reasons just stated.

Contrary to what was stated by Dr. Federici in a response to internet critics on his website, the judge did not declare him an international public figure but instead, stated that he was not going to rule on that at this time one way or the other, stating (p. 32-33):

And I think making a judgment now that plaintiff’s counsel would have to agree that there’s a question here to be decided at some point, maybe not today, about whether or not — what standard would apply to plead a libel or slander against Dr. Federici and whether or not he’s a public figure or limited public figure given that he advertises on the Internet and on television and all these others.

But I don’t have to decide that now. But if that issue were to come up, it does appear that there would be some challenge presented to Dr. Federici to credibly assert he’s not a public figure or at least a limited public figure.

Note that there was nothing said about designating him an “international public figure” nor was any statement made about his colleagues. He appears to have based his statement that Federici could be declared a public figure on his advertising on the internet and television. It is clear from this transcript that the dismissal was not based on his being a public figure because the judge had already dismissed it on other grounds, making the issue of public figure moot where this case is concerned.

This official transcript, now public record provides with an objective record of the proceedings and I would urge anyone interested to read the entire transcript.

After the case was also dismissed for the anonymous “John Doe” defendants on June 1, 2011, this case is now officially concluded.

My Prediction Comes True: The propaganda continues and I continue to challenge it

As predicted, a number of the prominent mental health professionals who have signed my statement of support are now being brought into the smear campaign, the latest being the well-known social psychologist, Carol Tavris. I am honored to be in such company. Fortunately,  most of these people are established enough that the anonymous cyber smear campaigners have no power to harm them.

I continue to be very grateful to the 47 people who signed this statement of support in helping the days of the therapy guru who is immune to questioning and criticism, come to an end by adding their voices to this ongoing conversation (this is not to say that they are all criticizing and exposing the same individuals — what they have in common is that they are exposing various forms of pseudoscience and other forms of questionable practice, as well as advocating research and evidence-based practice).

[In a later posting, I elaborated on who I do and do not consider a “therapy guru”. Since those anonymous WordPress bloggers have been attempting to twist these words and interpret them in a ludicrous way that no reasonable person would, to set the record straight, I was not talking about “terminating” or doing violence to anyone  (I haven’t a violent bone in my body!)  I was talking the continuing nonviolent cause I have been involved with for the past seven years of educating and advocating for therapy consumers. I was not  “alluding” to the most recent set of questions I asked Ronald Federici and Heather Forbes. What I am talking about is bringing those days where therapy gurus are immune to questions and criticism and dissenters are silenced to an end by speaking out and being a strong advocate for evidence-based practice and critical thinking. I don’t just mean one particular therapy guru (I was using the term generically here). I mean the many therapy gurus that are still out there who cannot deal with having their claims challenged and instead launch smear campaigns against anyone who questions or criticizes or as one “cult expert” did, bring in a third person to attack me on a list serv where I had expressed a disagreement with a statement the person had made to CNN.] The message from these 47 people is that this kind of behavior is unacceptable. They way the anonymous smear campaign bloggers attempted to twist this message is only further evidence of the propaganda campaign.

That doesn’t mean that we are “demanding answers”. What it means is that therapy gurus who feel they are above answering questions will be seen for what they are by educated consumers. As Margaret Singer pointed out, one of the most telling signs of whether a mental health professional is trustworthy is the manner in which they respond to questions.

All 47 of those people have in some way made substantial contributions to ending the days when questioning a therapy guru is not allowed. And yes, anyone has the right to ask those questions, not just people within the profession. Licensed mental health professionals are here to serve the public and that means that anyone in the public, regardless of their position does have the right to question them.

Lately I am being attacked for posting to the internet of all things.  Much ado is being made over the fact that sometimes on a busy month I might average around 4 postings per day to Google Groups. These are mostly postings that take me, on average, all of 5 minutes to do, so that’s about 20 minutes per day, far less time than most people would spend on some hobby and hardly the “astonishing number” that are being portrayed.

What is happening is that some of the followers of other therapy gurus and self-proclaimed top “experts” who I have questioned and expressed disagreements with (e.g. Steven Hassan who has proclaimed himself to be America’s Leading Exit Counselor), are popping out of the woodwork, glad to see this smear campaign against me and essentially informally aligning themselves with Ronald Federici and his supporters, not necessarily with Dr. Federici’s consent and approval and not in any kind of conspiracy, but essentially they are taking his side when they pile on in this smear campaign. I have questioned Mr. Hassan’s claims that the therapy he offers to ex-cult members is superior to that of other mental health professionals, since no direct comparison studies (or even uncontrolled studies, for that matter) have ever been conducted on Mr. Hassan’s approach and yet he charges fees that are quite high for a masters-level licensed mental health counselor ($2500 per day plus $100 per hour just for travel time and $200 per hour on weekends for travel time and even higher rates for holidays). What this means is he is charging $100 per hour on weekdays and $200 per hour on weekends just to sit in what he requires to be a business class section on a plane or in an airport while traveling. Some of us are lucky if we make that amount for an entire day’s actual work and don’t get paid for any travel time, yet he makes it just for one hour of sitting on a plane in the comfort of business class. On a weekend on a coast-to-coast flight, that could amount to $1000.  How can he charge this? He has convinced enough people that what he does is very special and unique, yet where is the evidence? His infomercial-style website, lacking transparency, does not list these fees and says instead to call for fees and repeats his phone number multiple times, but the word has gotten out anyway.

I have also expressed my disagreement with Mr. Hassan for claiming that most ex-cult members need therapy to recover. Again, this seems to be a prime example of the kind of propaganda tactic described by Eileen Gambrill in a recent publication of a propaganda index. Among other issues, the article discusses as one propaganda tactic, problem framing in such a way that it medicalizes and pathologizes life problems that may be more successfully worked out by means other than psychotherapy and not labeling the person with a mental health diagnosis, as Mr. Hassan is prone to do (e.g. he labels cult members has having “dissociative disorders”). A classic propaganda tactic is to 1) claim that a particular problem is highly prevalent, without empirical support for its prevalence and 2) claim that the problem is under-treated and I would add, 3) if left untreated by so-called experts in the area (who often charge very high fees for their services) that the problem will not get better or will even get worse.

This may be good for business, but not so good for the consumers who may spend time and money in therapy that not only wastes their money that could have been put to better use and may not help, but may even do more harm than good. If a therapy is not well tested, we do not know whether it helps, does nothing, or harms. We are basically taking a gamble based on misplaced trust in authorities who market their treatments ahead of testing them to see if it works. Again, it’s the old “trust me, I’m an expert” line.

This is a prime example of what I would encourage prospective therapy clients to question when interviewing therapists or people to conduct cult interventions who, in the absence of good research, claim that their approach is superior to others. It is the clients who are hiring the therapist and have every right to demand that a therapist who is making such claims provide good, sound evidence, rather than the kinds of testimonials from “grateful” mothers and the like, that we see on Steve Hassan’s website, to support those claims. Testimonials are simply not enough.

The issue and conflict here is between therapy gurus who are offering treatments based on testimonials and self-published books who are not used to being challenged vs. the critical thinkers and mental health consumer advocates who are concerned about the welfare of mental health consumers and in essence, putting these therapy gurus and their followers on notice that their days of being immune to criticism and questioning are over. We are getting, predictably, a great deal of push back on this from people who have a vested interest in this not changing and their followers who go ballistic at the thought of any criticism of their therapy guru.

PS: For the record, it is already well known that I left and completely repudiated Scientology 35 years ago. As my account of my experience makes clear, even during the time I was involved in Scientology I was never involved in any kind of violence (as the anonymous WordPress bloggers have been implying as they once again demonstrate their inability to comprehend figures of speech). While in Scientology, I never had that kind of power and was always on the receiving end of the abuse, not a perpetrator although I never experienced any physical violence the entire time I was in. During the time I was involved that was many years before the current leader who is the one who has been alleged to be violent, came into power and I was long gone before any of that happened.

Tag Cloud