Jerry Kopel

In last week's Statesman, Bruce Brian criticized my column regarding the future split of the State Grievance Board (SGB) into five separate disciplinary/licensing boards for psychotherapists. Unfortunately Brian's comments were full of inaccuracies. I'll list just a few of them:

Brian: "Mr. Kopel explains (in a November, 1988) article that pressure from licensed professional counselors, marriage and family therapists and the unlicensed psychotherapists prompted him to write the current law."

Kopel: That statement by Mr. Brian is a lie. No such comment was made by me in that article. And not only did the unlicensed psychotherapists not lobby FOR the bill, they OPPOSED being placed under regulation.

Brian: "Sexual abuse of patients was such a great concern to the professions" (psychologists and social workers) that they worked to get the bill (making such action criminal) passed in 1988.

Kopel: Psychologists, the psychology association, and the state psychology board had all of the 1960s, the 1970s, and half of the 1980s to propose legislation to criminalize sexual abuse of patients by psychotherapists, or at least by psychologists. It didn't happen. For Mr. Brian to claim any credit for, and "great concern by" the regulated occupations in getting the law passed to criminalize sexual abuse of patients is truly a mockery.

The law to punish sexual abuse came about through the efforts of Dept. of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) then-staff member Theresa Donohue who provided our Sunset committee with a survey of 600 psychiatrists, social workers and psychologists in which "43 percent of the respondents personally knew of occurrences of sexual abuse of clients, less than two percent admit personal guilt and very few have ever filed complaints..."

Brian claims the pre-1988 disciplinary record of the Psychology Board was a better record than (as stated in the DORA report) that of the SGB. He writes of how private professional associations did the grunt work through ethics committees on minor disciplinary infractions. But he doesn't mention that belonging to professional associations isn't a requirement for licensure. Many professionals regulated aren't members and ethics denouncement by an association doesn't do very much to someone who is not a member.

As to who had the better record, don't take Mr. Brian's word or my word. Get a copy of the DORA Sunset report and check out the numbers in the appendix.

Mr. Brian begins his comments by putting words into the mouth of DORA official Bruce Douglas. I interviewed Mr. Douglas a day before the House Health Committee hearing on the SGB Sunset report and heard none of those comments. Mr. Douglas can make his own response to Mr. Brian if he so wishes. But Douglas is a pragmatist who forced the lobbyists and the professional associations to accept five boards of psychotherapists to be dominated by consumers.

Mr. Douglas may be about to learn a hard lesson. The professional associations, not content with the bill they had the House Health Committee pass in early December (and for which they gave their promise that it contained the substantive provisions) are going to seek more substantive amendments. I was informed there may be 51 pages of amendments to a 55 page bill.

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