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Liar's Club: Carter Psychology Center Caught in Web of Deception

Board of Psychology Disciplines Center's Namesake, Psychologist Dr. Debra Kay Carter, Ph.D.

February 23, 2015

Parents visiting the Carter Psychology Center (CPC)'s web site are offered a rosy glimpse at the range of family court-related services the center provides, from parenting coordination to court-ordered psychological evaluations to child custody evaluations, now referred to as parenting plan evaluations. Reminiscent of pharmaceutical ads on television depicting favorable outcomes for prescription drugs set against idyllic backdrops, the CPC promises that their professional guidance in parenting and custody matters will “help achieve optimal parent-child relationships that allow children to be nurtured and thrive,” “help individuals reach their fullest potential,” and “help families achieve a stabilized environment.” Unlike pharmaceutical ads that must at least warn of potential side effects, there is no mention of the potential side effects of CPC's services, e.g. emotional and financial stress resulting from a nine-month long child custody evaluation, one or both parents being dissatisfied with the center's recommendations to the court, etc.

Take for instance the case of mother K.K. and father G.P., who Judge Becky Titus of Sarasota County ordered to undergo a child custody evaluation performed by CPC. An administrative complaint filed by the Department of Health (DoH) against psychologist Dr. Debra K. Carter, Ph.D. relating to the case indicates that the CPC commenced a child custody evaluation on May 1st and did not produce a report to the court until February 3rd of the following year. The DoH further alleged N.B., Psy.D. participated in the evaluations of K.K. and G.P., and the subsequent data assessments and report writing. According to the DoH complaint, N.B., Psy.D. was represented as a Licensed Psychologist along side Debra K. Carter, Ph.D. to parents, attorneys, a psychologist and medical doctor on authorization forms and in correspondence.

At the time of the child custody evaluation, according to the DoH complaint, N.B., Psy.D. was not licensed to practice psychology in Florida, did not possess a provisional license to practice psychology in Florida, had never even applied for a provisional license to practice psychology in Florida, and did not possess a limited license to practice psychology in Florida. Sarasota County court records indicate that Nancy Baird, Psy.D. was subpoenaed as part of the custody case. According to the DoH compaint, N.B., Psy.D. violated Florida Statute 490.012(1)(c) by holding herself out as a psychologist without a valid, active license to practice psychology in Florida.

The DoH also alleged that by employing and supervising N.B., Psy.D. at Carter Psychology Center, Dr. Debra K. Carter maintained a professional association with N.B. despite knowing or having reason to believe that she was not licensed to practice psychology in Florida, constituting grounds for disciplinary action under Florida Statute 490.009(1)(f). The DoH further alleged that Debra K. Carter, Ph.D. did not send a letter to the Board of Psychology agreeing to supervise N.B. pursuant to Rule 64B-19.11.01(2) of the Florida Administrative Code.

In its Final Order, the Board of Psychology fined Debra K. Carter, Ph.D. $1,000, and ordered Dr. Carter to reimburse $3,309.34 in costs associated with the investigation, prosecution and preparation of the matter. The Board also required Dr. Debra K. Carter, Ph.D. to complete twelve hours of continuing education in the areas of laws, rules and ethics pertaining to supervision.

As for the rosy promises on CPC's web site of parental harmony and children thriving as a result of the center's professional recommendations, the court entered a dissolution of marriage of K.K. and G.P. on March 17th, and a supplemental petition for modification was served on November 10th of the same year, scarcely eight months later. So much for empty promises.

Moreover, the mind-numbing number of mental health professionals and social workers subpoenaed in this family's case seriously calls into question exactly who is benefiting from such extensive, often court-ordered mental health intervention, if not the family who found themselves in court – again. The following mental health professionals and social workers were subpoenaed in this family's case: Dr. Debra Carter, Nancy Baird, Psy.D., Dr. Scott Permesly, Dr. Roxanne Permesly, Mary G. Davenport, Ph.D., John E. Keiffer, M.D., Ruth Shapiro, M.S.W., L.C.S.W., and Steve Steiner, M.S.W., L.C.S.W. There is an order of discharge of parenting coordinator and two orders appointing parenting coordinator recorded on the case docket, suggesting that one or both of the parents was dissatisfied with the professional services of one of the parenting coordinators.

No inference can or should be drawn that any of the aforementioned mental health professionals or social workers, other than Dr. Debra K. Carter, Ph.D. or N.B., Psy.D., were ever associated with Carter Psychology Center, the DoH administrative complaint, or the Board of Psychology's Final Order against Dr. Carter. That said, a license verification of the other aforementioned mental health professionals and social workers on the Medical Quality Assurance (MQA) web site reveals that the DoH filed an unrelated administrative complaint against Dr. Roxanne Permesly, a Licensed Mental Health Counselor. In the DoH complaint, it was alleged that Dr. Permesly signed a license renewal affirmation stating that she met all of the license renewal requirements. According to the complaint, Dr. Permesly was selected randomly for an audit by the Board of Clinical Social Work, Marriage and Family Therapy, and Mental Health Counseling, and Dr. Permesly was not able to provide proof that she had completed the continuing education requirements for license renewal. In its Final Order, the Board indicated that Dr. Permesly admitted the allegations contained in the administrative complaint, and she was fined $500.

What does it say about the family courts relying on expert testimony to determine child custody and visitation (now referred to as time-sharing), and parental responsibility when three out of a staggering nine mental health professionals and social workers subpoenaed in one family's case – or fully one-third – have allegedly violated professional ethics?

Ironically, the National Cooperative Parenting Center (NCPC), co-founded by psychologist Debra Carter, links to her ethics advice to other parenting coordinators from its web site. Not surprisingly, Dr. Carter did not disclose her own professional disciplinary record when doling out professional ethics guidance to others.

Perhaps parents should derive comfort from the fact that Dr. Carter received an award from the American Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC). Other AFCC notables include current Director B. Kerry Brown, L.C.S.W., disciplined by the Board of Clinical Social Work, Marriage and Family Therapy, and Mental Health Counseling for conducting a child custody evaluation of psychotherapy clients; and former award recipient Dr. Kathryn Kuehnle, Ph.D., who settled a 14-year-long wrongful death and negligence lawsuit last year relating to the death of six-year old Mathew Rotell, for whom she was providing professional services as a psychologist.

Have you had an experience with psychologist Debra K. Carter, Ph.D. that you would like to share?

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