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A Dad's Journey with An Eating Disorder: Castlewood /Alsana ...

Updated: Jan 27, 2022

The Morgan Foundation Steven Dunn

reposted from

Treatment Reprogramming, HIV Need Not Apply & Exploiting Patient Relationships?

Psychologist, Mark Schwartz and his wife Lori Galperin founded The Castlewood Treatment Center in St. Louis, Missouri approximately sixteen (16) years ago. After building slowly, Castlewood hit one of the first private equity jackpots in 2008 when Trinity Hunt Partners, out of Dallas, acquired a majority ownership interest. Shortly thereafter, the problems began.

In 2011, Lisa Nasseff filed suit against Castlewood Treatment Center and Mark Schwartz accusing Schwartz of implanting false memories of sexual abuse and satanic cult activity. Ms. Nasseff was a patient at Castlewood undergoing treatment for eating disorders. On the face of these facts, one could naturally assume that the Nasseff lawsuit was the very definition of a frivolous lawsuit, that it would be quickly dismissed as being filed for harassment with sanctions and costs awarded against Ms. Nasseff and her attorneys. But wait. In the next year, three other patients stepped forward and filed lawsuits against Castlewood and Schwartz alleging similar claims of brainwashing, hypnosis and concocted memories during their lengthy stays in the Castlewood residential treatment program. Finally, after the last lawsuit was filed by the fourth patient, Schwartz and his wife Ms. Galperin resigned from the board of directors and have since severed all ties to Castlewood. Even with the additional litigation, to some their claims may still sound a bit outlandish.

But wait.

In 2017, the Missouri Committee of Psychologists censured Schwartz’s license after a patient complained in 2013 about a lack of supervision at Castlewood. As part of the disciplinary agreement, Schwartz agreed to let his state license expire in January 2018.

But wait.

An investigation found that before he was the clinical director at Castlewood, Schwartz and Ms. Galperin were directors at the Masters and Johnson Trauma units at Two Rivers Psychiatric Hospital in Kansas City and also at River Oaks Hospital in New Orleans. While Schwartz and Galperin were directors at these organizations, lawsuits were filed against these hospitals for … implanting memories of multiple personality and satanic ritual abuse.

Which brings us back to Castlewood. As part of its indoctrination or reprogramming, Castlewood utilizes a type of therapy called internal family systems, which involves encouraging patients to improve the parts of themselves that are destructive. However, a number of experts in the eating disorders industry have said internal family systems violates the applicable standard of care because malnourished patients and those on psychotropic drugs are particularly vulnerable to having their memories and personalities twisted. One can readily tell that this type of treatment reprogramming readily lends itself to claims of brainwashing or suggestive memory implantation.

Of course, Castlewood’s legal issues did not end with those lawsuits and allegations. In or about 2013, Castlewood was accused of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by refusing to treat a women who had a serious eating disorder because she was HIV+. Allegedly, Castlewood repeatedly told this person that she was on their waiting list but in actuality, had no intention of admitting her. Again, on its face, it sounds preposterous that a medical facility would withhold life-saving treatment because a person is HIV+ while lying to the patient.

But, wait.

Those claims were not prosecuted by the individual afflicted, Susan Gibson … but by the Justice Department of the United States. The Justice Department found that Castlewood refused to treat Ms. Gibson because she was HIV+ despite the fact that Castlewood determined that she was qualified to receive counseling and that Castlewood’s own medical staff determined they could treat a person with HIV. Castlewood repeatedly told Ms. Gibson that she was on a waiting list even though they had no intention of admitting her. In the meantime, Ms. Gibson’s health worsened and she did not receive treatment for as long as 7 months. Ultimately, Castlewood agreed to pay Ms. Gibson $115,000 and $25,000 in civil penalties.

After more than 8 years, Trinity Hunt decided to divest themselves of Castlewood and its attendant headaches. Effective January 2017, it sold Castlewood to The Riverside Company, a self-proclaimed global private equity firm. And yet, much like the Ghost of Banquo haunted MacBeth, so too its past continued to haunt Castlewood. And so, Castlewood did what any reputable, transparent company which places integrity first and foremost would do ... it cleaned house, terminated any questionable employees, did away with its controversial internal family systems reprogramming, changed its treatment protocol to make it solely reliant on scientifically based evidence, admitted the past error of its ways and agreed to collaborate with the academic treatment centers for the betterment of those afflicted with this disease… or not. Actually, instead of engaging in those bold and forward thinking actions, in the span of six years, it changed public relations firms four times and finally, changed its name to “Alsana,” (derived from a Latin term for total health) and scrubbed all references to Castlewood from its website. There, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa for past transgressions, all is forgiven, there's nothing to see here, move along ...

But, wait.

To overcome its very checkered past and controversial history, one would naturally assume that Castlewood/Alsana would employ only the best of the best, the most ethical employee who is beyond reproach and who has always avoided even the slightest appearance of impropriety especially with its upper echelon employees.

For example, in January 2018, Castlewood/Alsana named Nicole P. Siegfried as its Chief Clinical Officer. She was also listed as the Clinical Director at the Highlands Treatment Center from April 2013 to the present. She was also listed as the Clinical Director at Castlewood/Alsana from April 2013 to the present. Prior thereto, she was the Clinical Director at the Magnolia Creek Treatment Center for Eating Disorders from July 2006 through July 2012. She has given a number of talks to the eating disorder industry and has written a number of articles on eating disorders. In fact, on January 31, 2017, she wrote an article entitled, “The Role of Hope in Eating Disorder Recovery.” As part of this paper, Ms. Siegfried wrote:

Building Hope Through Connection to Therapist

The therapeutic relationship has been identified as critical to client success in treatment. In fact, research suggests that the therapy relationship is as important as the type of therapy used in terms of patient outcomes (Norcross & Lambert, 2011). Hope has been identified as the foundation of the therapeutic alliance (Frank, 1968). By accepting the client without judgment, the therapist demonstrates optimism and hope that the client has the capacity for change. “Hope bonding” is a term that has been used to describe the formation of a sound, hopeful therapeutic alliance (Lopez et al., 2000). The fibers of connection between a client and therapist may be strands of hope that attach a client to the therapist, ground the client in therapy, and move the client through recovery. Therapists have been referred to as “hope brokers” or “hope ambassadors” in the therapy process. As clinicians, we hold hope for our clients when they have none and guide them to the pathways toward hope on their road to recovery. I have gone as far as saying that if we, as therapists, do not have hope for a client’s recovery, that client will not recover. Attempting to provide therapy without hope is the equivalent of blocking all of the exits during a fire. Alternatively, when therapists infuse hope into the therapy relationship and into the recovery process, it is as though they clear the smoke and reveal the exits out of suffering.

Very sage advice, especially the parts about how a therapeutic relationship is critical to a client’s success in treatment, and how "... the fibers of connection between a client and therapist may be strands of hope that attach a client to the therapist ..."

But wait.

In looking at Ms. Siegfried’s past employment history, there is a gap in time between July 2012 and April 2013. Now why would that be? Did Ms. Siegfried take a sabbatical and explore tropical beaches during that time period? Did Ms. Siegfried wander in the wilderness attempting to find the Yeti or the Loch Ness monster? Or instead, could it possibly be that during this time period Ms. Siegfried was being investigated by the Alabama Board of Examiners in Psychology? That is the same Alabama Board, which on November 9, 2012 placed Ms. Siegfried on probation and practice supervision for one year for ... "failure to document professional work and maintain records and .... ENGAGING IN A MULTIPLE RELATIONSHIP, PATIENT HARM AND EXPLOITIVE RELATIONSHIP." But, wait ... It appears as if Castlewood offered employment to Ms. Siegfried while she was still on probation and under practice supervision for having an inappropriate relationship with a patient! Five months after she was placed on probation, she was offered employment by Alsana! And now ... she is its Chief Clinical Officer.

To have a clinician who willfully, knowingly and intentionally took advantage of a patient in such pain, a person, a young lady, who looked to her for salvation, a person who looked to her for the very last vestiges of “hope,” only to be betrayed and taken advantage of, is nothing short of reprehensible. And to have that same victimizer write of “hope” between a clinician and patient abuses the boundaries of hypocrisy. But even that will not prevent private equity from finding a very well-respected position of authority in the eating disorder industry for that offender within five months after being placed on probation.

Apparently, only in an unregulated industry, with very little fear of any repercussions, can a professional negotiate probation and practice supervision for one year for amongst other unethical violations, engaging in a multiple relationship, patient harm and exploitive relationship with an eating disorder victim entrusted to their care. Then they can become a chief clinical officer in a PE owned treatment facility. At the same time, the abuser can become a trusted and valued member of the Residential Eating Disorder Consortium. Not only that, but despite the fact that they are practicing their trade at a residential treatment center using a controversial reprogramming treatment regiment which is largely discounted by the eating disorder industry, they can become the Chairperson of the Consortium's Research Committee.

With such a sordid history, one can't help but be amazed at the job security offered to such persons and yet not be surprised when that job security is only offered by a PE owned treatment facility which has a history of being sued for unethical conduct, of having its founder resign in disgrace, of practicing treatment reprogramming that is outside the standard of care in the eating disorder industry, that is the focus of so many complaints from families who were so incensed that they have organized formal opposition to that program, and of denying treatment for HIV+ persons suffering from eating disorders to an extent that they were taken to task by the Justice Department of the United States.

As for the therapist being a "Hope Broker," as penned by the offender, one cannot help but wonder how much "hope" was broken in that one, vulnerable, scared young lady who was entrusted to her care and who was then betrayed.

written by:

Steven R. Dunn

Dallas, Texas, United States

Steven R. Dunn, was an attorney with over thirty-two years legal experience as well as a lecturer and writer. For the past eight (8) years, he was actively involved helping his daughter on her road to recovery from a severe eating disorder. On October 30, 2016, eating disorders ripped the life from Morgan C. Dunn. Since that time, Steven Dunn has undertaken the war against the Monster, Eating Disorders on a full time basis. He established Project HEAL - North Texas Chapter. He set up the Morgan Foundation. He gave a TEDx talk on eating disorders and is working with doctors, counselors and foundations to bring greater awareness of eating disorders. Sine Metu Vive. Live without Fear.


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