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Ronald Federici: Another “Response” to Critics

March 16, 2011

Dr. Federici has now posted another response to his critics this time linked to directly from his main website. People might wonder why I am promoting Ronald Federici’s link. Read it and you’ll understand. Federici’s colleague Heather Forbes posted a similar “response” on her website.

In it, he comments on the now dismissed Federici v Pignotti et al, dismissed on the grounds of jurisdiction and failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. I put “response” in scare quotes because from what I have seen, other than by assertion that what he does is perfectly safe and legitimate, he didn’t appear to be responding to any of the substantive issues his critics have raised, such as the dangers of prone restraints which is a very public, heated ongoing controversy that is perfectly legitimate and within our rights to discuss, but instead chose to engage in more personal attacks on us and out of context references to my distant past (e.g. leaving Scientology 35 years ago). It is interesting to note the remarkable similarities in the style of writing and content of this “response” and earlier anonymous postings here and here (with the more blatantly libelous material from the anonymous postings removed – not saying Federici necessarily did these anonymous ones but the similarities are quite striking).

Dr. Federici also fails to mention that Dr. Mercer and I have published a number of criticisms of the “professionals” he mentions that were published in peer reviewed journals. Such journals very carefully review submissions for quality and also for their professional tone and would never accept the kind of hateful or bizarre pieces he portrays us as having written.  Here and here are examples of scholarly articles authored by Dr. Mercer on coercive restraint therapies. Hateful and bizarre or scholarly, appropriate criticism that people who practice these methods view as a threat, so rather than make an attempt to defend their position in a professional manner, they name call? You be the judge.

What we have published is legitimate, scholarly criticism about restraints and other aspects of these types of therapies; criticism that has passed peer and editorial review. See my CV for a listing of my scholarly publications in reputable, peer reviewed journals. Several years ago Dr. Federici attempted to complain to the editor of one of the journals where Dr. Mercer published, but the complaint was to no avail because the editor courageously stood his ground that what Dr. Mercer wrote was legitimate, scholarly criticism.

Additionally he also made completely unwarranted references about my state of mind — unwarranted because by his own admission, neither he nor any of the colleagues he mentions have ever even met, much less done any kind of mental health assessment on me, nor will he ever come near me in that capacity.

He also stated that we feel we are above the law. No, we are not “above the law” and since I am fortunate enough to not be living in a totalitarian dictatorship, everything I have written here is perfectly legal and within my constitutional rights to free speech and there were no copyright violations, only fair use quotes. There were also in my opinion quite bizarre references that some of the defendants thought their criticisms were comical. Far from it. None of the defendants, as far as I know finds anything the least bit “comical” about Dr. Federici’s work. When I have viewed media programs where Dr. Federici portrayed his work, such as Dateline NBC’s Saving Dane or read the transcript of his BBC appearance, my personal response to it is that I find it heartbreaking to see what these children have to go through, not comical in the least.

I recommend people read what Dr. Federici has to say, read what I have to say and decide for themselves who they feel is making the most or the least sense.

He mentions that the Federal judge in Federici v Pignotti et al “designated” him an “international public figure”. This is somewhat different from the verbal report I received about the hearing and my understanding of what occurred, having read the transcript. I was unable to find any such “designations”. When Judge Lee stated his ruling, he declined to rule on whether Federici was a public figure noting that this would be an issue that may arise in the future as to whether was a public figure but was not something that he needed to rule on at this time. Since he dismissed the case on the grounds of jurisdiction and failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, it did not matter whether Federici was a public figure because regardless of whether he was or was not, Virginia was not the appropriate jurisdiction for the case and (for Mercer and Pignotti) he failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.  The ruling confirmed that my statements were opinion and that he failed to identify any statements specifically attributed to Dr. Mercer. My Memo in Support of Motion to Dismiss, however, did argue that he ought to be considered at least a limited public figure and one of the bases for this was his statement in Federici’s Complaint (see #10, p. 2) where he described himself as “internally [sic] renowned” as well as his multiple media appearances and it appears that the judge did agree with us that this may be the case given that Federici had presented himself in that way, but he did not rule on it. The transcript of the dismissal hearing will become public record following a 90-day waiting period on June 23, 2011 and at that time it can be posted and people interested and read it and decide for themselves what their understanding is of what transpired. [Update: the full transcript can now be read by going here]

In any case, I have to challenge Dr. Federici’s understanding of what it means to be  declared a public figure. It does not mean that what the person declared a public figure is saying or doing is necessarily valid. L. Ron Hubbard would, no doubt, have been declared a public figure. Roger Callahan, who has made many media appearances promoting Thought Field Therapy would also likely be considered one, should he ever decide to sue any of his critics. Jenny McCarthy would very likely be considered a public figure if she were to become involved as a Plaintiff in any lawsuit involving anti-vaccine activism or autism — that does not make her a bona fide expert in autism– it only makes her a public figure, meaning she has thrust herself into public controversies involving these topics. It is likely if I chose to sue someone for any untrue statements made about me about Scientology or cults, I may also be declared a public figure since I have made a number of media appearances on these topics.

Most importantly there are clear limits on what people can say, even about a public figure. Public figures can sue for defamation and such suits are winnable; they just have stricter standards. It has to be proven not only that factually false statements were made, but also that they were made knowingly, with malice. While I am not a lawyer, having taken on litigious groups such as Scientology, I have educated myself on what the legal limits are on what what can and cannot say, which may vary from state to state but have similar principles.  Here are Virginia’s standards for what must be proven in cases where Plaintiff is a public figure.

Federici has repeatedly alleged that our statements about him are malicious so if that were true and if the statements were both false and malicious (which they are actually neither, but if), he could sue defendants for defamation and win — the problem is that Federici’s allegation of maliciousness are not true because I (as well as the other defendants) are sincerely convinced about the truth of what we write and bear him no malice and that is what would preclude him from having a winnable case, as I understand it. There were no fabrications. When the transcript of the hearing in question becomes available within the next 10 days or so, I will post it so people can go directly to the documents themselves, rather than Ronald Federici’s secondhand report of what transpired in the hearing.

A few other points about this “response”. Several of his allegations about the other defendants seem rather bizarre and inaccurate to me, but I will leave it to them to reply or not. Jean Mercer has already replied, correcting some things that were written about her earlier and repeated in the present response, supplying some details about the matter with Psychology Today that he and his other defenders have omitted (such as the fact that Dr. Mercer won the small claims court lawsuit and Psychology Today lost it only by default because they failed to send a representative to court).

As for his allegations about me, in addition to the ones I have already corrected and clarified that were in his previous response, there are a few more he added that I need to set the record straight regarding. It is odd that he continues to insist on holding me responsible for the contents of the ACT website. Although I do not believe that it contains any copyright violations and that all the quotes about his work are fair use and well within their rights, I have never had any control whatsoever over the contents of the ACT website. I was never an officer of ACT and do not and never have, contrary to his repeated assertions, operate or in any way run ACT. I was merely an informal professional advisory board member between 2006 and 2010. What that mean is that (like any other human being on this planet who cares to contact them) I was free to make suggestions to the officers of ACT, but the final decision about what went on that website was Linda Rosa and Larry Sarner’s, not mine and indeed there were times when I made suggestions they chose not to follow (fine with me, I have no problem with that because it is not my website and I am not responsible for it).

Here is a summary of who is responsible for which exhibits that were listed in Dr. Federici’s complaint:

Exhibit A (pp 22-29) is the Advocates for Children in Therapy Website. As stated in my Motion to Dismiss (see p. 10), Exhibit A contains “nonspecific author postings noting that Larry Sarner is now Executive Director.” In that same MTD and also in the small claims trial, it states that Jean Mercer is only responsible for the material on that website she put her name to (none of that was cited in the complaint in the instant case) and not for anything else.

Exhibits B and C (pp 30-43) are Wayward Radish’s A Search for Survivors. None of the defendants had any control over any of the articles on this website.

Exhibit D (pp 44-50) is Charly Miller’s website and she clearly states her name and authorship of the article in question and even provides a citation. None of the other defendants are responsible for this website.  Charly Miller has never been associated with ACT, has never claimed to be associated with ACT and submitted a sworn affidavit stating this.

Exhibits E, F, G and H (pp 51-76) contain articles and postings in my name, including this blog. These are the only exhibits in the complaint I am responsible for although I noted in my Motion to Dismiss, that Exhibit H exceeded the one-year statute of limitations in Virginia with regard to defamation (although I also argued that this blog article was in no way defamatory and came under the right I had to defend myself).

Exhibit I (pp 77-80) is the website/blog of Daniel Ibn Zayd. None of the defendants are associated with Mr. Ibn Zayd, nor do we have any control over the contents of this website. He posted articles there about some of the defendants and some of us responded, but simply responding to a post does not make one a co-conspirator. In fact, one of my earlier postings corrected something he wrote about Federici, where I corrected a statement he had made about Federici and rebirthing and I stated that Federici was not involved in rebirthing, so in that case, ironically, I actually helped Dr. Federici by correcting this. Ibn Zayd also displayed his intention to be accurate, by immediately correcting what he had written and thanking me but again, he did not have to do so and I have no control over the contents of that website.

[Update March 27: Daniel Ibn Zayd has now commented on his own blog on this case and Ronald Federici’s response. He makes the very valid point that rather than being in the conspiracy alleged, the people Federici named as his “critics” are individuals, each with our own perspective on various issues who happen to have, independently, come to similar conclusions about Dr. Federici and any correspondence we had was only in reaction to Federici’s attempt to lump us all together.]

At this point, the perceptive reader will notice who is missing from this list.  Dr. Mercer was named as a defendant in this lawsuit and yet he failed to identify even on statement she made. That’s right, as pointed out in our Motion to Dismiss, no statements made by Dr. Mercer were identified in the complaint for Federici v Pignotti et al., — not even one and she submitted a sworn affidavit that she did not post anonymously or by alias. Why was she named as a defendant? Your guess is as good as mine.

Additionally, as I stated in my Motion to Dismiss, the only material I have responsibility for that he listed in his complaint was the material that had my name on it: Namely Exhibits E, F, G and H. As stated previously, I am not responsible for any of the anonymous postings or comments he listed in his complaint, although he and certain anonymous posters on the internet have repeatedly attempted to hold me responsible for such material.

His statements that I am “still in the middle” of my “scientology-cult mentality” are without basis because he has no way of knowing my state of mind, since by his own admission he has never even met me.  I do not believe that my criticisms of him would be seen that way by any reasonable person and people are invited to read my criticisms of him on this blog and draw their own conclusions.

Interesting that instead of responding to my criticisms about the prone restraint procedure he recommends in his self published book, he chooses to instead make unwarranted inferences about my state of mind. Another interesting point in this “response” is that he lists Nancy Thomas as a “professional” while slamming some of the critics who do not possess mental health degrees or licensure. To the best of my knowledge, Ms. Thomas possesses no mental health degrees or licensure. Here are some fair use quotes from her book posted on the ACT website, that her critics find objectionable. People can read them and make up their own minds. I am not “affiliated” with Daniel Ibn Zayd in any way, although it appears that his statements about his affiliation with HAMAS are unsupported. Strangely, some bizarre anonymous internet postings have been appearing claiming that I am affiliated with HAMAS and was working for a flight school in Florida when 9/11 occurred. Whoever posted this has made quite a bizarre and tasteless false statement about me, since on 9/11 I was in New York City working at Saint Vincents Hospital, about a mile and a half from Ground Zero and witnessed the tragedy, first hand. Needless to say, I have never worked for any flight school and it is a well documented fact that I did not even move to Florida until 2006 to attend Florida State University.

Additionally his statement that Jean Mercer and I criticize “every professional in the field” is demonstrably false. Right here on this very blog, I have referred favorably to several mental health professionals including an individual that Federici, in a sworn affidavit accompanying his reply to our Motion to Dismiss stated he considered a direct competitor although his attempts to bring her in on this were in my opinion completely unwarranted, since I have never met and have only exchanged one brief e-mail with this individual when she wrote me asking me about the anonymous postings that were made about us with bizarre allegations. I have never had any business relationship with this individual who I have never even met, but apparently he thought that my favorable mention of her work and subsequent reference to her on this blog constituted some kind of connection that simply was not there.

Another seeming contradiction is that one of Federici’s key arguments, as I understand it, for having the case based in Virginia was that he is based in Virginia and does business exclusively in that state. The individual he named as a “direct competitor” however does not do business in Virginia. Her practice as a licensed clinical psychologist is exclusively in the state of Pennsylvania and she makes no claim for being internationally renowned. How is it that a psychologist practicing exclusively in another state (PA) could be deemed a direct competitor of someone claiming to exclusive practice in a different state (VA)?  Hmm…

In any case, I do not criticize all mental health professionals. Far from it, as my favorable mention of a number of mental health professionals on this blog demonstrates and no, I am not paid by any of them for doing so. The mental health professionals I criticize are the ones who are practicing methods that have very little, if any, scientific support for their efficacy. The fact that I am an advocate for evidence-based practice is not the least bit cultic. Critical analysis and evidence-based practice are the very antithesis of cult-like thinking.

Another interesting contradiction is while Federici boasts in a number of places about how successful he is, in his complaint, his claim for damages claimed otherwise (see the last sentence of #35, p. 18 of his complaint) although I have yet to see documentation to support that any of the defendants were responsible for that. He can’t have it both ways though. Either his practice is failing or it is successful. Which is it? Your guess is as good as mine.

Aside from that, however, I need to take issue that having a successful practice is evidence that what the person is doing is valid. Ironically, Federici slammed me for having been a practitioner of Thought Field Therapy (TFT) when TFT was invented and has been practiced for more than 30 years by Dr. Roger Callahan, a licensed clinical psychologist with more than 50 years of clinical experience. While I am not intending to defend Dr. Callahan and have in recent years been an outspoken critic of TFT, here are some facts about him. Dr. Callahan obtained a PhD in Clinical Psychology from Syracuse University in 1955 and did his internship at the highly-esteemed Merrill Palmer Institute in Detroit where he specialized in anxiety disorders in children. In the 1960s before TFT, running an institute in Detroit for the therapy of the renowned late psychologist, Albert Ellis with whom he studied (although later when Callahan took up TFT, Ellis was strongly critical and dismissive of TFT), where Dr. Callahan practiced Rational Therapy (now known as Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy or REBT). Dr. Callahan has a highly successful private practice and has had for decades, no client has ever complained about him to his board and he is fully licensed as a clinical psychologist. Dr. Callahan’s therapy is debatable but his financial success [which I can personally attest to, having been in two of his lovely homes] and success of his practice is not debatable. If having a successful practice for decades is his standard, then Dr. Callahan (who also has a strong international presence in the UK, Europe, Japan, Africa, Australia and many more places),  fits it to a tee. I have to wonder why the double standard? Does that put Dr. Callahan above criticism? In my opinion, no, not any more than it puts Dr. Federici or any other licensed mental health professional with a successful practice above criticism.

  1. Emelia Martelli permalink

    Once I recovered from my shock that people identifying themselves as “professionals” would behave in such a pedantic manner I felt compelled to write.
    I became aware of the RAD diagnoses after looking into another pet theory that was applied to me in the seventies, traumatic birth. My first exposure to RAD was through the Youtube videos posted by a woman under the channel name “christinemoers”. I watched aghast as she subjected her children to physical restraint and sadistic sessions of making examples of her Haitian born adopted children in front of their siblings. What struck me about the poster of these videos, after much exposure to her videos and linked blog, was what I perceived to be her mentaility that if she was sick her children must be sick, birth and adopted children alike.
    After reading your blog and others I have to ask: Is it manditory for the parent of these labelled children to be sick, themselves?
    I can’t think of anything in this world that would cause me to reduce a human being to a label, yet that practice seems to permeate the blogs of these parents (My RAD, ASPIE Boy (A real handle for a woman’s CHILD, I can’t make something this disrespectful up.), RADish, RADtastic) where they are also very open about their own diagnoses of depression, OCD, PTSD, to name a few.
    Do we no longer screen potential adopters?
    Have you any thoughts on the possibility that these children are labeled and forced into these obtuse therapies simply so that their pedantic (Yes, there’s that word, again.) parents can feel special, or deal better with the fact that a child that has been so coveted in their mind is, in reality, rather bog standard as far as kids go?
    I apologize for the lack of fluidity in this post, I’m just trying to record the questions that have plagued me since coming across this strange situation.
    I thank you in advance for your answers and understand that most of my questions likely won’t be answered as you rely on evidence as opposed to conjecture in your writings, unlike your detractors.

    • These are excellent questions. I think this is possibly the case for at least some of these parents. Additionally, the dynamics of how people get recruited into cults might be a factor. Although not the case for everyone who gets into a cults, people who are going through some kind of time of stress in their lives or challenging situation where they are looking for “answers” are particularly susceptible to being pulled in. It may well be that adoptive parents who adopt a child who does not live up to their expectations and is looking for answers, may be susceptible to these therapists who claim to have the answers.

      There is also an interesting study by a sociologist, Rachel Stryker, presented in her dissertation and later in her book, The Road to Evergreen where she investigated some of the dynamics that were happening in these families and how these therapies serve the needs of the parents.

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