"I don't have a crystal ball," says owner of anger management counseling service that treated accused murder Steven Zinda
March 23, 2011
It has been acknowledged for some time that the mental health profession is unable to reliably predict patient violence.
So it is no surprise that in the following article, Claudia Dias admits her inability to do that, in reference to a former client who was charged with murder just days after graduating from her anger management program (which he'd been in for a year).
One could also conclude that, in the case of the accused, anger management counseling does not work. Columbine High School shooter Eric Harris had been through anger management counseling prior to his killing rampage with pal Dylan Klebold in April 1999. And in June 2010, Virginia anger management counselor Jose Luis Avila was jailed for pointing a loaded firearm at federal Marshalls (Avila, who did not know they were federal Marshalls, had honked at the men, who he thought were standing in the road. He initially left the scene but, thinking one of them had made an obscene gesture at him, came back and pointed a gun at them).
So much for anger management.
The following story describes Dias as a counselor, though the California State Board of Behavioral Sciences, which licenses mental health counselors, does not list an active license in her name (or for "Claudia Diaz").
An anger management counselor who treated Steven Zinda for over a year said she was "devastated" when she heard Zinda was charged with killing a young man with an axe just days after he graduated from the program.
"I don't have a crystal ball," said Claudia Dias, Director of Changing Courses, where records obtained by News10 show Zinda, 29, enrolled in a court-ordered anger management program in December 2009.
"I've done this kind of work for about 30 years and I've never had anyone do (anything like this) with my name on a completion certificate," Dias said. "This is not my shining moment."
Sacramento County sheriff's investigators said Zinda killed David Valdez, 20, after chasing him nearly a quarter mile through a field in Rio Linda.
Valdez' car became stuck in the mud in front of Zinda's home early Sunday morning and Zinda apparently mistook Valdez for a burglar who had earlier broken into his home.
The counseling order is contained in a 2009 divorce petition filed by Zinda against his wife, Joanna, 21, who lives in Yuba City.
The couple share legal custody of a 2 and a half-year-old son named Lucas, although Steven had sole physical custody. The file was still active with the next court hearing scheduled for April 5.
"Parents shall participate in counseling to address issues regarding domestic violence with a licensed mental health provider," reads the Sacramento County Superior Court order.
The file also suggests substance abuse problems. "Parents shall participate in an alcoholism and drug dependance evaluation," the order reads.
Zinda was arraigned Tuesday afternoon in a Sacramento County Jail courtroom on a murder charge. He appeared briefly with a retained attorney but did not enter a plea and remains in custody without bail.
Clients who were leaving the Changing Courses anger management class Tuesday did not wish to talk about their former classmate, but Dias spoke for the group.
"We're devastated. All we can think about is the 20-year-old kid and how much terror he must have been in, and Steven's 3-year-old son, and Steven's family. There's a ripple effect on the people," Dias said.
Dias said she often uses the teachings of Austrian psychiatrist Victor Frankl with her anger management clients.
"Between every action and reaction there's a space. And in that space is choice," Dias said. "And (in this case) wrong choices were made."
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