Tuesday, October 4, 2016
A few months ago, I recounted on this blog the story of one Debra “Kali” Miller, an Oregon psychologist whose license was revoked following the attempted suicide of a child she had been treating and whose parents she had been advising (see http://childmyths.blogspot.com/ 2015/03/psychology-license-revoked-become.html ). As I mentioned in that post, Miller made a smooth transition to working as a parenting coach under the auspices of Nancy Thomas, the staunch proponent of attachment therapy and of the highly intrusive attachment therapy parenting approach. Legally speaking, Miller can’t advertise herself as a psychologist any more, but there are no rules about coaching. (When I asked a listserv of APA Division 53 about what someone like Miller can do in terms of practicing psychotherapy, the answers were very mixed. It all depends on state laws and what titles and terms are protected under licensure laws. However, the overlap of the work of teachers, counselors, psychologists, and clinical social workers is so great that it can be difficult to see what “practicing without a license” actually means.)
When I wrote about Miller, I naively assumed that she was the only person who lost her license and then went to work in the Nancy Thomas industry. But thanks to a correspondent in Washington State, I have now heard of another one. This woman, Hannah Fischer-Grady, was licensed by the Oregon Board of Licensed Professional Counselors and Therapists. Her training was as a marriage and family therapist.
You can read about Fischer-Grady’s difficulties at www.oregon.gov, in the report of the Board mentioned above. Over a five-year period, Fischer-Grady had violated professional guidelines by allowing a client to work for her in exchange for treatment. The client performed work like helping Fischer-Grady move to a new office, typing documents, and taking Fischer-Grady’s old clothing to a consignment shop. (This may seem like a very mild mistake, but in fact it involves a violation of an important rule about dual relationships; while nowhere near the seriousness of a sexual relationship with a client, Fischer-Grady’s actions confused and complicated the nature of her relationship with the client as a sexual relationship does.)
Therapist-client boundaries were further blurred during treatment, when Fischer-Grady “sat on the couch with Client A, read children’s books, snuggled under a blanket, had Client A lay her head on [therapist’s] chest and listen to her heartbeat and told Client A that she was her ‘forever mama’ [Client A being an adult]”. In addition, Fischer-Grady “gave Client A hugs and instructed Client A to give ‘proper hugs’ by looking into [therapist’s] eyes while asking for and receiving hugs”. Fischer-Grady sent the client text messages such as “my cuddle-bug—be my girl forever? That means the world. All I ever want is your heart. And when my heart hurts, you fit in really good.” [Readers, please note that no sexual contact was reported, and these intimate messages and interactions appear to have been non-sexual in nature.]
Various other violations included having therapy sessions at a Starbuck’s and allowing Client A’s children to be present during sessions.
I think we can all see what the Oregon Board found to object to in Fischer-Grady’s conduct. They revoked her license, had her pay costs, and insisted on a promise never to re-apply for licensure.
So, what is Fischer-Grady doing now? She has moved to Washington State and, like Miller, has worked her connections with Nancy Thomas to become – a parent coach and respite provider! Her website www.raisinamazin.com advertises her services and notes that she is “not currently practicing as a counselor” although she has a master’s degree in counseling; unsurprisingly, no further explanation of her situation is given, and the emphasis is on her long experience with challenging children. Notably, she is a director at Camp Revolution’s “family neurofeedback intensives for challenging children”. Camp Revolution is listed and recommended on Nancy Thomas’s website, www.advancedparenting4kids.com/washington-trainers/pam-clifner/. “Family neurofeedback intensives” are described elsewhere as methods that change brain functioning and can be used for children who have experienced trauma, have ADHD, etc. etc.; these are not evidence-based techniques.
Fischer-Grady offers respite services, usually considered as temporary child care services for families in periods of stress, often because of the medical needs of a child or other family member. However, what the raisinamazin.com website has to say about respite care suggests that in fact behavioral therapy is being offered. “Before entering respite care, you (and your child’s therapist if possible) will have set goals for what you would like your child to practice (ie speaking respectfully, cleaning up after themselves, etc.). Respite care is often referred to simply as “a place to practice.”
In addition to the set goals, your child will be given age appropriate tasks/chores to complete in addition to journaling assignments (or coloring if child is too young to write) that may include writing affirmations, feelings, and taking ownership exercises. It is highly recommended you’re [sic] your child’s therapist design these journaling assignments as they are in tune with the deep seeded [also sic] issues of your child.
Safety is the number one priority. Your child is within line of sight of the respite provider at all times except at bed time, when the child is placed in a safe room by themselves with an alarm and a video monitor. Interactions with other children are under supervision and only if healthy interactions are part of the goals set together.”
It would seem, then, that Fischer-Grady’s form of respite care closely resembles the methods suggested by Nancy Thomas for treatment of adopted children whose parents are not pleased with them. Particular behavioral goals are set, including tasks that are emotional exercises. In addition, children are likely to be isolated from others but under the constant surveillance of an adult, as well as sleeping in a room with an alarm and a video monitor.
It is especially notable that Fischer-Grady requires parents to give her power of attorney before a child comes for respite care.
Is Fischer-Grady practicing psychology or counseling without a license? I would say that she is. However, I see little that can be done unless a Washington State professional licensing board looks into this matter-- or a parent complains of harm to a child. Meanwhile, Fischer-Grady can march onwards with her mistaken beliefs about the nature of love and parenting (Marguerite Sechehaye, anyone?). It’s a lot harder to get in trouble for professional misconduct with children than for similar problems with adults, because as we know, children who complain are simply demonstrating the seriousness of their mental illness.