Concerned About Unconventional Mental Health Interventions?

Concerned About Unconventional Mental Health Interventions?
Alternative Psychotherapies: Evaluating Unconventional Mental Health Treatments

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Remarkable Consistency of Ronald Federici

I usually don’t look at Amazon reviews of my books, because most of them are intended as textbooks or supplementary texts. I doubt that too many people buy them because they see them advertised or critiqued on Amazon—they are more likely to be ordered because of publishers’ advertising or comments by publishers’ reps visiting campuses. However, this morning a friend called my attention to a series of “reviews” by the Virginia psychologist Ronald Federici, which you can see at

Anyone looking at a single book would see a review that would appear to be directed at that book alone, but Amazon happily makes it possible to see all of a reviewer’s reviews (as at the link above). Thus we can easily see that Federici has written almost identical comments on each book, and has complained in each case that I offered no solutions to parents. This is, of course, perfectly true, because most of the books were not addressed to parents particularly (although they may have been marketed as text/trade books in some cases). The infant development textbook  and the “myths and misunderstandings” books that gave rise to this blog have sections that deal with parent beliefs and parent behaviors, but they are far from being books of advice. One of the reviews refers to my teaching at a community college, and I did indeed teach one course at such a college about 40 years ago--  but this is of course not an element of a  review, but instead an ad feminam argument designed to distract the reader from the real point.

Federici is nothing if not consistent, as he has spent quite a few years cursing my positions and praising his own (note the laudatory review of his own book shown at the same link, apparently written under another name at one time but now reverting to its real author). He has been especially consistent in his use of proof by assertion, simply repeating the same points without any effort to bring evidence to his support. This is certainly what occurred the only time I ever spoke to him face to face, when he sued me in Small Claims Court in Fairfax, VA, claiming that he had lost clients because of what I had said about him on the Internet. He brought a pile of printouts of e-mails and placed them in evidence--  but provided no evidence that the writers were real people, or indeed that they were written by anyone but himself. As a result, the judge found in my favor. Within an hour after leaving the courtroom, I received an e-mail (and later a hard copy) inviting me to come and work with Federici! (If this bit appears inconsistent, just think of it as a consistent focus on “whatever works”).  

That trial was in 2010, and a later suit (dismissed by a federal judge) was brought to court in 2011. I had not heard from Federici for quite a while. But now we have these repetitive reviews, the most recent written in late 2013, with a pause since the one before that in 2011. Federici has also been active in another sort of nuisance lately--  I hope to be able to talk about this when it is resolved, but it’s probably better not to comment just now.

It’s probably pointless to ask why Federici does not simply present data to support the claims he makes in his book about the use of methods like prone restraint of uncooperative children. If he had the data, he’d give them, no doubt. Nor is there much point in asking why he puts his energies into personal attacks; this is what he does, and I don’t suppose it will change now. But what has re-awakened Federici’s interest in me? Could it be that he wonders whether I was involved in discussions expressing concern about what role he might play in Russian decisions about adoption? Or is it that, having been thanked for his help in the recently published book by Nelson, Fox, and Zeanah, he feels he may share in some political benefits that might be forthcoming for supporters of international adoption, and therefore is entitled to throw his weight around? Could it be that a personal matter going back about two years has irritated him? Or could it just be that he is really consistent, and I am on his enemies list, so whatever little noodge he can provide is worth doing?

Seeing Federici’s “reviews”, and thinking a lot recently about the Bucharest Early Intervention Project, I went back to Roelie Post’s 2007 book, Romania, for Export Only: The untold story of the Romanian ‘orphans’. There’s no index to this daily journal kept by a Dutch employee of the European Commission, so it can be hard to find details, but I did find some references to Federici’s involvement in Romanian adoption affairs. This is a complicated story connecting international adoption with child trafficking, but what is especially interesting to me in terms of Federici’s consistency is an e-mail quoted on p. 79, one of a number sent by him to Post in 2001. My point in quoting this is to show Federici’s presentation of his own credentials ( a point on which I filed a complaint with his professional licensing board several years later). He said:

“Dear Madame, My name is Dr. Ronald Steven Federici , Neuropsychiatrist* in Washington DC area and specialist in the neuropsychiatric* evaluation and treatment of post-institutionalized children. They tell me I am regarded as one of the world’s experts in the most complicated cases of children who have been institutionalized, and I lecture all over the world with my medical* team from my international charity Care for Children International Inc. I am also Director of a large group medical-psychiatric* practice and Professor* of Child Development.” (* added by JM)

I have starred points on which Federici has consistently made claims that cannot be supported. By referring to himself as a neuropsychiatrist, he implied that he has a medical degree (as psychiatrists do), whereas in fact his degree is Psy.D., with original specialization in school psychology and later licensure in clinical psychology. He made the same suggestion by speaking of neuropsychiatric evaluation and treatment, neither of which he is qualified to do, and by referring to his medical team and medical-psychiatric practice. Incidentally, although he has been a “professor” in the sense of teaching a course as an adjunct, he does not hold the faculty rank of Professor at any college or university.  (And of course, whether “they” really told him he was regarded as one of the world’s experts, I couldn’t possibly say.)

Federici is remarkably consistent, it’s true. He consistently does not want to respond to critics by arguing the evidence for the safety and effectiveness of the methods he advises in his self-published book, and he consistently does want to take whatever backdoor approach he can think of to attack those who are concerned about those methods. Isn’t it time for him to come out and discuss differences in a straightforward professional manner, as his real credentials suggest he should be able to do? I, as well as several others, would be happy to engage in a public debate with him.


  1. It took me a minute of staring at those reviews before I got it - these are the reviews anyone can enter on Amazon! That is so funny! It's like Michael Jackson going to his fans that "Billie jean is not My Lover, and the Kid is Not My Son!" as opposed to having any sort of defense in court. He's taking his case to the reading public, rather than in a professional forum! Trying to hit you where it hurts, in book sales.
    That says volumes.

    1. Yep, that's what those reviews are. That's why I suggested a debate-- but that won't happen, I'm sure.