Three years ago the Kentucky Board of Examiners of Psychology informed me that my newspaper column, through which I have distributed common-sense parenting advice for 40 years, constituted the unlicensed, criminal practice of psychology.
That extraordinary claim led to a First Amendment lawsuit that was reported in this paper and across the country. I won, and late last month, the final paperwork was filed resolving my case.
The case was surrealistic from the start in May, 2013, when I received a cease-and-desist order from the office of the Attorney General of Kentucky threatening me with fines and imprisonment if I did not immediately comply.
The order was triggered by a Feb. 23 column in which I offered advice on how to deal with a difficult teenager. This upset a retired Kentucky psychologist, who complained about me to the board.
The board — in what a federal court would later describe as “an exercise of regulatory zeal” — concluded that I was illegally practicing psychology in Kentucky without a license.
It is interesting to note that according to the same “reasoning,” Dr. Phil, Dr. Laura, Dr. Drew, and even “Dear Abby” are breaking the same law.
So why did the board single me out? Because the above mentioned are good for business while I am most definitely and purposefully not. With intention, I try to help parents solve problems that might otherwise eventually lead them and their kids to mental-health professionals and the high likelihood that their kids will be tested, diagnosed and medicated.
The expensive tests are rarely necessary to making these diagnoses; the diagnoses have no scientifically established medical or objective validity; and there is serious question as to whether the drugs reliably outperform placebos in clinical trials. In addition, many of these kids will end up in talk therapy. Never mind that the efficacy of talk therapy with children (or adults, for that matter) has never been established.
Yes, I’m a psychologist, but I’m a psychologist who believes that psychology has caused more problems for children, parents, marriages, families, schools, communities and culture than psychologists even know how to solve.
Since the 1960s, when American parents began listening to psychologists tell them how to raise children, child mental health has been in a nose-dive. There’s simply no shred of objective evidence to suggest that psychology has improved the state of American parenting.
Psychology boards around the country want the consumer to believe that only people they approve should be allowed to talk to other people about their personal problems. But the evidence says otherwise. So does the First Amendment, which protects the right of every American to seek out advice from the person they believe is most qualified or they feel most comfortable with, regardless to what the government thinks.
It’s a shame that it took a federal lawsuit to make the board see that (if it even does). It could have saved itself a lot of trouble and saved the cost of defending its petty, frivolous and — most of all — unconstitutional attempt to force me to stop publishing my weekly parenting column in Kentucky newspapers.
Justice would be served if Kentuckians stopped giving psychologists their business until the individual members of the board reimburse that loss.
Meanwhile, if they need parenting advice, Kentuckians can always turn to a friend, a family member, a clergyman or even — thanks to the federal courts — a humble newspaper columnist.
John Rosemond is a family psychologist whose column has run in the Herald-Leader for more than 30 years.