Is Your Life Coach Really a Former Psychologist Who Had Their License Suspended/Revoked?

In many states, an individual can advertise themselves as a provider of therapeutic services to help people deal with their problems.

The person can do it without a license and it’s entirely legal, as long as he/she doesn't associated themselves with any of the professional titles that are regulated by state licensing agencies, such as “psychologist."

Such individuals use titles such as “life coach,” “mentor,” “consultant,” and “private psychotherapist.”

For the consumer, accepting services from an unlicensed therapist may be no more risky that accepting services from a licensed one—as long as you know they are unlicensed. 

In some cases, these unlicensed providers once had licenses to practice (e.g. a psychology license) until they did something which caused the state to take away their license. A few examples of this follow. 

ROBERT WEATHERS

Robert “Dr. Bob” Weathers is an Irvine, California-based “recovery coach,” as well as a speaker, trainer, and consultant, according to his website. On his blog, wherein he regularly quotes poets and philosophers at length, Weathers admits to having dealt with his own chemical addiction.

He also lets you know that he’s got a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and 40 years of counseling experience.[i]

What he doesn’t mention is that he surrendered his psychologist’s license to the California Board of Psychology in 2010 on findings that he had sexual intercourse with a former patient. He did not deny the allegation.

In 2002, Weathers was the clinical director of a drug rehabilitation facility in Malibu called Passages. He was Patient S.W. went to Passages for treatment for cocaine addiction. Her therapist was Weathers. They met twice a week to talk about the issues that brought her to rehab. “She felt like she was talking to a friend rather than talking with a therapist,” according to the Psychology Board’s Accusation.

Prior to engaging her in a romantic and then sexual relationship, Weathers admitted to S.W. that he had been romantically involved with a graduate student while he was at Pepperdine University. He ended up leaving her and she reported their relationship to the Dean, who asked for Weathers’ resignation. As a result, he lost his professorship and tenure at the university.

Though S.W. returned to her home in New Hampshire in December 2012 after her treatment at Passages, Weathers remained in intimate email correspondence with her. When she came back to California to see her mother in February 2003, Weathers took her on a date and ultimately had sexual intercourse with her.

Psychologists are prohibited from engaging in sexual contact for at least two years after the conclusion of the patient-therapist relationship.

Weathers continued to visit S.W. and engaged in sexual intercourse. In December 2003, he moved to New Hampshire and, in 2006, married S.W. Later in the year, poor Bob had a “melt down” after returning from some short-term work at Passages. He “really wanted to move back to California,” according to the Board’s document.

In January 2007, he left S.W. Though he later agreed to attend reconciliatory therapy with her, he backed out of that too.[ii]

KARA KARAM

Kara Karam can be found online as a “relationship coach” and a “life coach” who provides services in both Columbus, Ohio and in the Virgin Islands.[iii]

The state of Ohio initially issued a psychology license to Karam on December 10, 1999.

The Ohio Board of Psychology suspended her license indefinitely on January 26, 2017.

According to the Board’s document gives the basis for the suspension:

“On July 19, 2016, the Board received a complaint from Client X, who alleged that Dr. Karam engaged her in a personal and sexual relationship within weeks following the termination of an outpatient psychological psychotherapy relationship. It was alleged that Dr. Karam shared a home and living expenses with her and allowed Client X to pay Dr. Karam’s legal fees related to a matter involving another former patient.”

Karam admitted that the following was true:

  • She began treating the patient, an adult female, beginning on June 26, 2014, when the patient presented for psychological treatment through an employee assistance program. The patient sought treatment for depression and anxiety secondary to a traumatic workplace experience and a childhood history of traumatic abuse.
  • She provided weekly individual psychotherapy sessions to the patient for approximately five months, until October 15, 2014, when the patient’s treatment was terminated, and she transferred to another mental health provider.
  • Within four months of the termination of the patient-therapist relationship, she entered into  a sexual relationship with the former patient.
  • March 15, 2015, she completed and signed an apartment rental application wherein she listed her marital status as “partnered” and listed the patient by name, as her spouse. She listed her reasons for leaving her previous residence of 15 years as “moving in with partner” and indicated that she intended to live there indefinitely. In April 2015, she and the former patient began living together.
  • She benefited financially from her relationship with the former patient by accepting money to pay for her personal expenses including but not limited to legal fees and living expenses, such as the former patient paying approximately ten months of her monthly rent in advance.
  • Her sexual relationship with the former patient continued until September 2015, when the former patient moved out of the shared residence, perceiving her relationship with Karam to be unstable and highly conflictual.

Karam further admitted that her conduct with the former patient constituted violations of rules or regulations governing professional conduct by a psychologist, including improper financial arrangements with a patient for former, patient, engaging in sexual contact with a patient or former patient within two years of the termination of therapy, terminating or interrupting therapy for the purpose of entering into a sexual, personal, or financial relationship with a patient, and others. [iv]

CAROL LANDESMAN

Carol Landesman is an “integrative and holistic life, health and wellness practitioner/coach” located in Gresham, Oregon.[v]

From November 1989 until approximately April 2013, Landesman was a licensed psychologist in the state of Oregon. Her license expired in 2013 and it appears that she never attempted to renew it. Her status with the Oregon Board of Psychologist Examiners is “Retired Psychologist.”

However, in July 2014, Landesman pleaded guilty to one count of felony mail fraud for having billed a religious organization for work she never performed—a crime she committed between 2004 and 2010, in her capacity as a counseling psychologist. She was sentenced November 13, 2015 to three years’ probation with the first six months to be spent on home detention.

The false billings began in 2004 when the Diocese of Paterson, New Jersey, settled a lawsuit with a man who had been sexually abused by a priest as a child. The diocese paid the victim and his wife nearly $300,000 and also agreed to pay for the couple to undergo counseling with Landesman. She treated the husband and collected more than $100,000 for that work but the wife decided against therapy. Nevertheless, Landesman sent numerous invoices to the diocese, stating that she’d provided counseling to the wife, for which the diocese compensated her.

As part of her sentence, Landesman was required to pay $113,770 in restitution to the diocese.[vi]

Buyer beware: the unregulated “professional coach” industry offers an opportunity for self-proclaimed experts in life’s challenges to charge a fee for their services, but of even greater concern is that it's become a haven for convicted and disgraced former psychologists to continue trading on their Ph.D.s without having to reveal their crimes and misdeeds or answer to a state licensing agency. 

Citizens Commission on Human Rights recommends that if you are considering accepting the services of a life coach or similar-titled person, to do a bit of research, such as with Google, to ensure that you're not putting your your personal matters into the hands of a felon or other less-than-reputable individual.

 


[i] “About” page, website of Dr. Bob Weathers, URL: http://www.drbobweathers.com/about/

[ii] Stipulated Surrender of License and Order in the Matter of the Accusation Against Robert Weathers, Ph.D., Case No. 1F-2008-190012, California Board of Psychology, May 27, 2010.

[iii] Entry for Kara J. Karam, Noomii, The Professional Coach Director, https://www.noomii.com/users/kara-karam and website of Kara J. Karam, Psy.D, URL: https://karajkarampsyd.business.site/

[iv] Consent Agreement between Kara J. Karam, Psy.D. and Ohio Board of Psychology, January 26, 2017

[v] Website homepage of Carol Landesman, Ph.D., URL: https://www.drcarollandesman.com/index.html

[vi] “Psychologist sentenced to probation in fraud case,” The Bulletin, November 14, 2015.


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