Continuing Education Module: Considerations for Professionals Who Serve
Non-Traditional Healing Projects
Social worker and psychoanalyst Dan Shaw served time in the entourage of a cultic leader. He liberated himself through internalizing the values taught in clinical social work--truthfulness, respect for the inherant dignity of the ordinary human person, and the obligation to do one's utmost as practitioner to safegard and enhance the personal autonomy of one's clients--not to foster their increased dependence.
Mr Shaw tells of how in one dysfunctional spiritual project, devotee therapists actually were encouraged to recruit their clients into the group--read the section of the paper under the heading 'Malignant Narcissistic Authoritarianism"
The hazard for devotees who are also mental health professionals is that their occupation, unlike that of 'guru' or 'life coach' is clearly regulated by law, but 'guru-ing' and 'LGAT-ing' do not currently seem to be regulated by law with the same precision as psychotherapy--or for that matter, accountancy.
Robert S. Epstein in his book Keeping Boundaries:The Nature and Function of Therapeutic Boundaries (1994) writes on page 18:
'The therapist's role is that of a fiduciary (Frank and Frank 1991);(R.I.Simon 1987). The patient's compliance with treatment requires vulnerability and trust. Patients lack the objectivity and the expert knowledge to treat themselves, and must rely on professionals with special training. Peterson(1992) emphasized that some exploitative therapists attempt to disavow this responsiblity by disclaiming any disparity in the treatment relationship. They employ pseudo-egalitarianism to exculpate themselves with the excuse that the patient is a 'consenting adult.'(eg: These pseudoegalitarians deny the existence of both the power imbalance in which they as poweholders are at advantage, by denying their accountability for responsible use of power they dis-avow that they are accountable to an ethos of care. A classic method of false empowerment is the favorite, 'There are no victims, only volunteers.' In this line of reasoning, there is no conscious way to acknowlege the power imbalance in which the person who claims its nonexistence--continues to stay on top--and shoves all accountability onto the underling the moment something goes wrong C)
In their book, Science and Pseudoscience in Clinical Psychology, Lielienfeld, Lynn and Lohr provide a chapter on New Age therapies and discuss the fiduciary relationship in greater detail:
'Under the laws of most states, both licensed and unlicensed clinicians who hold themselves out to the general public as performing the functions of a therapist establish a relationship with their clients based on trust, confidence, and confidentiality. (Corboy comments--how is confidentiality maintained in an LGAT setting? Do LGATs sign paperwork promising to hold records, videotapes and recordings confidential? Many gurus collect adoring letters from devotees or demand written grovelling apologies as a price of regaining favor. Do they ever promise to keep such letters confidential or return them to anyone who later chooses to leave?)
Back to Lilienfeld and Lohr: 'In the law, when a relationship exists between individuals, based on trust and confidence, and one individual has greater knowledge, experience, training and skill, than the other, (that is, a power imbalance--C
), then that relationship is generally considered in the eyes of the law to be a fiduciary relationship. In many states therapists are considered fiduciaries. Because of their disproportionate knowledge, training, and experience, fiduciaries are held to a higher standard of care and responsiblity for 1) the services provided to a client and 2) the appropriateness of the services to aid the client in overcoming problems.
'We propose' state the authors 'that all therapeutic relationships be considered fiduciary relationships and that the standard of care against which a therapist is judged be the standard applied to fiduciaries. That same standard should be applied to the New Age or traditional therapist, regardless of espoused ideology.'
(Lilienfeld Lynn and Lohr: Science and Pseudoscience in Clinical Psychology, 2003, page 191)
'Clients have the right to know in advance that they are being subjected to experimental approaches. Therapists have the fiduciary obligation of informing clients when such methods are being used. Therapists have the further responsiblity of informing clients that alternative therapeutic approaches are available and that these approaches are based on methods commonly accepted within the professional psychological community....as fiduciaries, therapists must ensure that psychotherapy furthers the aims and purposes of clients
(my italics-C), rather than adding to the prestige, self image, or feelings of power and control of the therapist. (Lilienfeld, Lynn and Lohr, 201)
(Or adds Corboy) 'Adding to the prestige, self image, or feelings of power and control of a charismatic guru or LGAT whose internalized image becomes co-mingled with a devotee-therapists' core self.
In this case, a situation described in article entitled 'The Group'
3 therapists who were disciples of a secretive guru and who had recruited their own clients to become disciples of this guru, surrendered their licenses rather than face criminal charges. The erring therapists had also permitted this guru who was not trained in any way as a therapist, to function as their clinical supervisor. When threatened with publicity, the therapists seem to have chosen to surrender their licenses to protect their guru from public scrutiny.
Because he was not a professional or in any occupation regulated by law, the guru escaped legal consequences, while the disciple-therapists took the rap.
Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/29/2008 12:54AM by corboy.