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New Website on Ronald Federici’s Critics

March 10, 2011

Following a dismissal of Federici v Pignotti et al on March 4, 2011 in the Virginia federal court, it seems that a new website has just been put up, claiming to be a response from Ronald Federici to his critics, entitled My Critics. The website lists Dr. Federici’s e-mail and web address, so it appears to be genuine.

Upon examining the website, I found no responses whatsoever to the substance of any of our criticisms. What I found instead were ad hominem attacks. Additionally there were some inaccuracies and selective, out of context presentations of my past on the page about me that I wish to now correct and put into proper context:

1. Regarding the statement I am associated with Advocates for Children in Therapy, although I am in agreement with much of their criticism, I am not presently associated with Advocates for Children in Therapy and have not been since December 2010. I have never been an officer of ACT – I was only on an informal professional advisory board from 2006 to 2010 (I characterize this as informal as members were never listed anywhere that I could find and we never had any formal meetings). I will forgive him that one because he had no way of knowing this, but please correct your webpage to reflect this, Dr. Federici.

Additionally, although this was not mentioned on his website, I want to remind Dr. Federici of the statement that I made on this blog nearly a year ago, that I am perfectly fine with not using the label “attachment therapist” to describe him, as my primary concerns are about his methods as portrayed in his book and media appearances. I stated:

I have also noted that Dr. Federici does not wish to be labeled as an “attachment therapist” and so I will not label him in this manner. To me it’s the issues rather than the labels that are important, so if he doesn’t wish to be identified in that manner, I won’t.

Although others have labeled him as an “attachment therapist” since he has objected to this term, I have respected that and refrained from doing so. I am in no way responsible for the postings on the other blogs and websites that do not have my name on them. I did not write, nor do I have control over any of the material on the ACT website, nor am I responsible for the postings on A Search For Survivors.

2. Regarding the statement that I am “associated” with Charly Miller, I have no association whatsoever with Charly Miller other than a few casual e-mail exchanges.Not that I would consider an association with her negative, but just wanted to set the record straight. Moreover, Charly Miller is not associated with Advocates for Children in Therapy and stated this in a sworn affidavit in the recent now-dismissed lawsuit.

3.He states: “I have never met Dr. Pignotti. I have invited her to to my clinic to observe my work, and she has not accepted my invitation. Instead, she prefers to attack me on the Internet. “

The first sentence is true. He has never met me. However, I have never received any kind of invitation from Dr. Federici to visit his clinic and observe his work. If people examine the content of this blog, I have not personally attacked Dr. Federici. I have, however, criticized his methods as portrayed in his book and media appearances.

That being said, although I have never received nor declined his invitation,  I am not sure what a visit to his office would accomplish since I have not criticized the work he does in his office and my ability to observe him working with his patients would be limited and rightfully so, by the patients’ right to confidentiality. My ability to observe would be limited only to those patients who consented to such an observation. I would have no way of knowing whether what I observed was representative of what he actually does. I would come away from such a visit with only anecdotal evidence.

Moreover, what I have criticized is his work, as he portrayed it in the media on programs such as NBC Dateline which filmed him actually working with a family in their home and having viewed the video of that full program, it appears to be consistent with the intervention he describes in detail in his book, Help for the Hopeless Child. So in that sense, having viewed the Dateline episode, I have observed him working with families, as filmed by the media. If I were to observe him at work in his office, whatever I would be observing would not provide me with actual evidence on the safety and/or efficacy of his methods. For that, we would need to have well-designed, controlled clinical trials published in peer reviewed journals.

4. Regarding the statements about my having been  in Scientology, while he did state I left Scientology, what he neglected to mention is that I left and completely repudiated Scientology 35 years ago in 1976. I am well known on the internet as being a very vocal critic of Scientology and I no longer subscribe to its belief system in any way, shape or form and have not since 1976. Although I did not immediately go public with my experiences, since 1989, when I first went public with my experiences I have been a strong critic of Scientology.

5. I was never romantically involved with Quentin Hubbard. Interestingly, this is also a false statement that has been posted by an anonymous individual as part of the smear campaign against me. Quentin and I were never anything more than good friends and I clearly stated this on my written account of my experience in Scientology. I have to wonder, though, so what if I had been? Quentin was a very different person from his father. How would an alleged relationship between teenagers/young adults be the least bit relevant to my activities 35+ years later?

6. His statement that I “tired of Scientology and became a practitioner of Thought Field Therapy” is also not accurate. I did not leave Scientology because I “tired” of it. I left Scientology because I strongly disagreed with the way the organization was being run and refused to be abused anymore. I left Scientology in 1976 and it was not until 20 years later, in 1996, that I became involved in Thought Field Therapy, a practice that I left and completely repudiated in 2004. My involvement in one had nothing to do with my involvement in the other. TFT, although I do consider it pseudoscientific, is not a cult and has none of Scientology’s beliefs or abusive practices. And yes, the beliefs about OT III are absurd, but the beliefs of many mainstream religions, when taken literally, might be viewed that way by outsiders.

What this webpage neglects to mention is that in the intervening 20 years, I went back and completed my college education at the University of Michigan and I got my Masters in Social Work from Fordham University. It also neglects to mention my numerous accomplishments and publications but instead highlights only my mistakes which I have freely admitted to and corrected. The website in question also neglects to mention that not only did I discontinue practicing TFT, but I published a randomized controlled experiment on TFT in a peer reviewed journal that showed that TFT VT was not what was claimed. I never used TFT or VT to diagnose anything in the sense of a DSM diagnosis. The word “diagnosis” in TFT jargon has a completely different meaning. It simply means determining which points to tap on and in what sequence. It does not mean conferring a mental health or medical diagnosis on anyone.

7. I have never defined myself as a “professional critic”.I have stressed the importance of criticism to move science forward, but I have never identified myself in that manner.

8. I did not abandon any type of practice when I stopped doing TFT. I stopped doing TFT in 2004, yet I continued to work for Dr. Mark Steinberg (who does many things other than TFT), engaging in other practices for a full two and a half years until July, 2006 when I left to become a full time student in a doctoral program. As a full time doctoral student I could not continue practicing, as I was very busy with the program.

I do not consider this website a response to critics. What this looks like to me is an attack on critics with no response whatsoever to the substance of our criticisms. A good part of the page on me highlights a youthful mistake I made in the 1970s that is now part of my distant past. The reason I am still involved in criticizing Scientology and associating with Scientology critics and ex-members is that I care about the other human beings who have been abused by its practices. My own involvement, however, ended 35 years ago. Discussing what I did in my teens and early 20s is not a valid response to my criticisms. I wonder how many other people who came of age during the 60s and 70s would like to have their youthful activities during that period trotted out and presented against them, out of context.

If Dr. Federici would like to actually respond to my criticisms, I would be interested in his responses to the questions I have posed on this blog and criticisms of his methods as portrayed in his book and media appearances that I have yet to see addressed by him.

Regarding the page on Jean Mercer, she had previously responded to his allegations in the small claims case regarding her Psychology Today blog that he also mentioned in his page on her and in this case, the judge ruled in her favor. The reason Psychology Today lost the small claims case was by default, they failed to appear in court, but Jean Mercer did appear in court with him and the ruling was in her favor. A full transcript of the proceedings of this small claims case is public record, as it became an exhibit in the now-dismissed Federici v Pignotti et al.where Dr. Mercer was a defendant for the second time.

Additionally, saying that Dr. Mercer “failed” to obtain a license is not accurate. Dr. Mercer’s degree is in Developmental Psychology and this is not clinical psychology and thus, is a profession that neither requires nor offers a license. Thus, she never tried to obtain a license and one cannot fail at something one has not tried to do.

This is a common misconception many people have about the psychology profession. The only psychology degree that has licensure is the PhD or PsyD degree in Clinical Psychology or the EdD degree. All the other degrees are research-based and since they are non-clinical, there is no licensure. The recipients of such degrees did not “fail” to obtain a license as they were not required nor expected to obtain one. Nevertheless, recipients of such degrees are highly qualified to criticize in their area of expertise, and in the case of Dr. Mercer, her area is child development. Saying that Dr. Mercer “failed” to obtain a license would be akin to saying that she “failed” to obtain a law degree. She never attempted to do either. One cannot fail at something one did not set out to do.

There is one point of agreement I have with Ronald Federici. I am obviously strongly in favor of free speech, but free speech ought not to give people the right to make libelous, defamatory statements about others. I agree wholeheartedly, since for the past two years, I have been the target of an anonymous defamer(s) who has made factually false statements about me on the internet that would easily qualify as defamation (for example, the lie I was fired from FSU when I was not which I can easily refute) so I have great empathy for people who are the victims of cyber defamation.

However, regarding Dr. Federici’s allegations that I have defamed him, although I have repeatedly asked Dr. Federici via this blog, to supply specific statements he believes I made of a factual nature that are false, accompanied by evidence that they are false, I have yet to see such evidence against any statements of a factual nature I have made. If people read Dr. Federici’s Complaint about me in the now-dismissed (on jurisdictional grounds) Federici v Pignotti et al, they will find that he listed a number of statements that I argued in my Memo in Support of Motion to Dismiss are opinions, not facts and that I was exercising my right to criticism and my right to defend myself and the only statements in that complaint I am responsible for are the ones I put my name to. Where I did state facts, I supported them and sincerely believe them to be true. To the very best of my knowledge, what I have written about him does not qualify as defamation and where I have stated facts, I have backed them up with evidence. If there is any evidence I am unaware of, I invited him to supply it but thus far what I would consider to be such evidence has not been forthcoming, hence I stand by any factual statements I have made on this blog, as I am sincerely convinced of their truth.

The use of restraints, particularly prone restraints, even when done “correctly” in institutional settings or schools under highly supervised conditions, remains a heated, controversial topic and I am far from being the first one to maintain an opinion that they are dangerous, based upon research and other documented evidence I have cited on this blog. The language of controversy, as I understand it, falls into the category of free speech.

My invitation, however, remains open. To date, no court of law has ever ruled that anything I have written is defamation and in the United States, the burden of proof is on the Plaintiff.

Although please note that I am not accusing anyone in particular of the anonymous postings nor am I intending to imply anything about anyone in particular, it is also interesting to note that following the dismissal of Federici v Mercer, the anonymous smear campaign against me has greatly escalated. The timing is interesting to note, since for the duration of this case from the time we were served until dismissal (December 2010 to March 4, 2011) the number of smear postings against me and other defendants greatly decreased and the ones that were posted were for the most part mild and probably not legally actionable. Less than a week after the dismissal, however, the smear campaign has become quite ugly. Complete fabrications about me by anonymous and posters using aliases once again began appearing, including a posting on a site that claims to expose people who cheat on their spouses from someone who made up the lie that I “stole” her husband and then anonymous posters began posting links to this site all over the internet so it now comes up on Google searches in my name.

Aside from the highly sexist notion of “husband stealing” which holds the alleged “other woman” completely responsible for having an affair while portraying the cheating man as a victim of the other woman, this alleged event is a complete fabrication and never happened. The last thing in the world I would ever be interested in doing is “stealing” anyone’s husband as I am happily single and have been my entire life (yes, believe it or not, not everyone wishes to marry and some of us are what psychologist Bella DePaulo called “single at heart”) and have zero desire to have affairs with married men. This just goes to show how desperate some people have become to attack me rather than address the real issues at hand, which have nothing whatever to do with so-called husband stealing. In one of the postings linking to the cheaters website two of our lawyers last names were mentioned so that anonymous poster appeared to have this case on his or her mind.

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9 Comments
  1. Michieux permalink

    A former Scientologist? As the account of your experience in that organization was written decades ago, what do you think of Scientology today? Not that it matters a whole lot, and I fully accept your decision should you decline to comment. What matters more is the wonderful work you do today via this site, work which I hold in the highest regard.

    Also, congratulations on your success in that court case. Dr. Federici’s new site just smacks of sour grapes, in my opinion.

  2. Thanks. I have been a very vocal critic against Scientology for the past 20+ years, which is something he also neglected to mention and my story that I linked to above, written in 1989, makes clear. I in no way subscribe to Scientology’s belief system in any way, shape or form and consider it pseudoscience as well as a destructive cult.

    Ironically, it is only because of my prominent presence as a vocal critic of Scientology on the internet that he even found out about my involvement at all. Had I not chosen to go public and I did this to share my experience in order to help others, my involvement was so long ago and I never reached any kind of leadership position, nobody would have ever known.

    Since I see now I haven’t made this clear in the above article, I will edit it accordingly.

  3. I’m just surprised that no more extensive list of my many failures has been provided. Do you realize that I’ve never been registered with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture or obtained the hundred-ton captain’s license or been awarded the Order of the Arrow? It goes on and on… I also don’t row very well and have just had to have several root canals.

    Be that all as it may, my comments about Dr. Federici’s work have been limited to the contents of his self-published book of advice to adoptive parents, to material on his websites, and to publicly-available documents like the North Carolina Court of Appeals’ opinion on the Salvetti case. I have never said anything about what he actually does in his office or in people’s homes. My concern is about ideas conveyed to parents, and their potentially harmful actions based on those ideas.

    • I never knew that about you, Jean 🙂 There is much about my background he failed to dig up as well. For instance, when I first moved to New York City in 1980-81, I worked as a waitress and was fired from several waitressing jobs within a year, so that was an abysmal failure. I also failed to become Miss America and I failed to qualify for the Boston Marathon. The list goes on and on.

      Indeed, Jean, I share your concerns. Does that mean we are in a conspiracy?

  4. Michieux permalink

    Almost 25 years ago I, too, was beguiled by something that seemed the answer to so many questions, but in my case it was the sham known as Primal Therapy. So I can well understand how seductive Scientology might have looked to a young person searching for answers.

    Good on you, and keep up the great work — it is appreciated.

  5. Dr. Cathleen Mann permalink

    I also read Dr. Federeci’s “response” to his critics, and was surprised that there was no way for me to post questions or feedback to him on his site. He is really is feedback aversive.

    I would like to ask him in what form the invitations to observe him took? Were these written invitations or by letter or email? How did he let you know you could observe him. Also, what about client/patient confidentiality? How could you observe his work and still maintain the confidentiality of his patients/clients? I thought that was an odd way to invite you to review his work. Also, does he only have 4 critics (the ones listed)? Is he saying that only 4 people have criticized him?

    I guess he missed the part of graduate school where peer review and academic feedback were covered. Being criticized by academic peers is part of the process and should not be rejected out of hand. Also, his criticims of his critics seemed very personal to me. Who cares if someone is a clinician or not? I just found the whole thing very defensive and did not give up any new information for us to judge his work any differently.

    • Looks like he just added a fifth page on a critic, Linda Rosa.

      Not surprised he didn’t provide space for anyone to comment although he does provide an e-mail address.

      I have never received any such invitation from him (on the contrary, when I attempted to communicate with him via e-mail in July 2009, his response to me was an e-mail asking me not to contact him again and if I had anything to say, contact his lawyer and so I never e-mailed him again after that, nor did I receive further e-mails from him), although as I pointed out, I’m not sure what such a visit would prove. Even in the unlikely event I came away with warm and fuzzy feelings and felt he was the world’s greatest therapist ever to walk the face of this planet, it would still be nothing more than an anecdote and clients who consented to such an observation may not be representative of all clients. And then there’s the Hawrthorne effect to consider which shows that subjects modify their behavior when they know they are being observed.

      Bottom line is that he has the burden of proof that his self-described innovative intervention is effective, and that requires independently-conducted, peer reviewed research.

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