Kentucky Psychology Board vs. the First Amendment. Oh My!

Submitted by Charlton Stanley (aka Otteray Scribe), Guest Blogger

John Rosemond syndicated columnist psychologist
John Rosemond

Kentucky Psychology Board SealSixty-five year old North Carolina family therapist John Rosemond was having a day much like any other day last May, until he opened the certified letter from the Attorney General for the Commonwealth of Kentucky. In a Cease and Desist letter, the Kentucky Attorney General advised him the Kentucky psychology licensing board had determined that by publishing an advice column in the Louisville Herald-Leader, he was practicing psychology without a license. The letter warned him that if he did not cease and desist, he faces criminal penalties which includes both fines and jail time. The Attorney General thoughtfully enclosed an affidavit which John was to sign and return, promising that he would forever give up his life of crime.

You read that right. John Rosemond, syndicated columnist, is being threatened by the Commonwealth of Kentucky that he might face stiff fines and jail unless he stopped writing his advice column in Kentucky newspapers. Naturally, John did what any self-respecting reporter or columnist would do. He got a lawyer. He contacted Jeff Rowes of the Institute for Justice who agreed to take the case, and last July 16, Mr. Rowes and local counsel, Richard Brueggeman, Esq., filed a 45-page lawsuit in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky.

By way of background, John Rosemond has a Master’s Degree in psychology, and is licensed to practice in North Carolina as a master’s level psychologist. He still sees a few clients, but most of his time is spent writing and speaking engagements. He has been writing an advice column for 35 years, making him one of the longest running newspaper columnists in the country. His column appears in about 225 newspapers. He has written numerous books on families and parenting. Mercifully, he has given up his gig as the lead singer in a rock band; however, he did open for REO Speedwagon. That was a long time ago.

As events have unfolded, it was discovered that last February, a retired Kentucky psychologist, Dr. Thomas Kerby Neill, wrote a letter to the psychology licensing board, complaining about the advice Mr. Rosemond had given in his advice column, questioning his credentials, and accusing him of practicing psychology in Kentucky without a license. Dr. Neill did not contact Mr. Rosemond before filing the complaint, which is itself problematical, because the Ethical Principles and Code of Conduct of the American Psychological Association states:

Ҥ 1.04 Informal Resolution of Ethical Violations

When psychologists believe that there may have been an ethical violation by another psychologist, they attempt to resolve the issue by bringing it to the attention of that individual….”

When reading Dr. Neill’s complaint, it is clear that he does not approve of the content of the newspaper column as well. In fact, when reading the letter, it not a stretch to interpret that as the underlying reason for writing the letter in the first place. Dr. Neill is concerned about advice he does not agree with as a child psychologist. In other words, it is not only the sig line, but content of the column as well. Dr. Neill writes, in part:

 “…General advice on parenting is very different than specific advice regarding an individual child. I am enclosing a recent example that in my estimation is particularly out-of-line (Lexington Herald-Leader, February 12, 2013). While Mr. Rosemond’s suggestions might work very well, they could also create serious problems for the youth and the family in question…”

Because John Rosemond did not meekly sign the affidavit and is fighting back, there has been what appears to be serious efforts at damage control. Attorney General Jack Conway, on whose letterhead Assistant Attorney General Brian Judy had written to John Rosemond, says this blindsided him, and he did not authorize the letter to be sent out over his name. According to Mr. Conway, when Brian Judy wrote the letter he was not acting as an agent for the Attorney General. Because of this development, plaintiff’s attorneys filed an agreed order severing Jack Conway from the lawsuit with prejudice. But never fear, there are plenty of defendants left, including all the members of the psychology licensing board. The complaint and exhibits, including Dr. Neill’s letter, are at the link below.

Complaint & Exhibits (PDF)

The psychology board has backtracked, now saying all they want is for Mr. Rosemond to stop using his professional title in the small bio attached to his newspaper column. I have talked to both Messrs. Rowes and Rosemond, and they are not backing down. There will be no affidavit. As John put to me, “Why should I not say I am a psychologist? That’s who I am.”

And we might add, he first started practicing in 1971.

This action by the Kentucky psychology licensing board will have far-reaching implications if they prevail in court. Most psychology licensing laws, like other licensed professions, does not only protect the title, but defines practice as well. This is the definition of the protected practice of psychology in Kentucky:


§ (7) “Practice of psychology” means rendering to individuals, groups, organizations, or the public any psychological service involving the application of principles, methods, and procedures of understanding, predicting, and influencing behavior, such as the principles pertaining to learning, perception, motivation, thinking, emotions, and interpersonal relationships; the methods and procedures of interviewing, counseling, and psychotherapy; and psychological testing in constructing, administering, and interpreting tests of mental abilities, aptitudes, interests, attitudes, personality characteristics, emotion, and motivation. The application of said principles in testing, evaluation, treatment, use of psychotherapeutic techniques, and other methods includes, but is not limited to: diagnosis, prevention, and amelioration of adjustment problems and emotional, mental, nervous, and addictive disorders and mental health conditions of individuals and groups; educational and vocational counseling; the evaluation and planning for effective work and learning situations; and the resolution of interpersonal and social conflicts;

§ (8) “Psychotherapy” means the use of learning, conditioning methods, and emotional reactions, in a professional relationship, to assist a person or persons to modify feelings, attitudes, and behavior which are intellectually, socially, or emotionally maladjustive or ineffectual…”

That law covers a lot of territory with regard to defining not only the title, but behaviors as well. Thus, even if someone does not call themselves a psychologist (or whatever), they could still be vulnerable. For instance, some states are reportedly giving pastoral counselors a hard time, despite the church-state barrier.

Licensing boards could conceivably go after anyone who dispenses advice in a newspaper column, blog or other media. That could include Drs. Oz and Drew, Dr. Phil McGraw, Dr. Laura, or anyone else who provides information or services from a distance. A North Carolina blogger who advocated for the Paleo Diet had an action taken against him by the board which licenses nutritionists.

The Texas veterinary board censured a veterinarian for giving free online advice, because he had not personally examined the animal in question.

As for the Louisville Herald-Leader, Editor Peter Baniak says they have been publishing the column for thirty years, it is very popular, and they are not about to stop now.

How about bloggers? What about self-help books? If a psychologist publishes a self-help book, and on the flyleaf identifies as a psychologist, are they committing a crime? If we take the actions of the Kentucky psychology licensing board and their attorney Brian Judy at face value, they probably are. How about a phone call from a client who now lives out of state and needs some advice or information, or just needs to talk? If you write a book on dieting, you may consider restricting sales in North Carolina, or the nutritionist licensing board may want your scalp.

There is one more twist to this story. John has a web site, and posts his advice columns there. I am curious if the Kentucky psychology board plans restraining orders against ISPs, ordering them to block his website in Kentucky, just as China and Iran block unapproved sites. After all, Kentucky citizens must be protected from the online advice of a North Carolina psychologist.

Here is Jeff Rowes, explaining his theory of the case:

Mr. Rosemond appeared in a TV interview, presented below:

In a future column, I will be making observations about how licensing boards prevent attorneys, litigants and judges from obtaining the most skilled forensic experts to assist them with cases.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am a board certified forensic psychologist, and have been in full time practice since 1972. I have also served on a state psychology licensing board as both Executive Secretary and Chair.  I know how boards work, and one of my biggest headaches was trying to keep my colleagues from violating licensees civil rights.

45 thoughts on “Kentucky Psychology Board vs. the First Amendment. Oh My!”

  1. Juliet,
    Good question, and the answer is one that needs to be understood by everyone. The primary point is, a state professional licensing board taking it upon themselves to tell an out of state newspaper columnist what he or she can write, and how to style their byline.

    Take for example a blogger explaining a diet regimen on his blog, resulting in a state licensing board filing charges against him for the content of his blog.

    Then there was the veterinarian who provided information and suggestions online, only to have the state veterinary board go after his license to practice.

    Psychology licensing did not even exist until after WW2. I am not sure which state was the last to enact a licensing law, but if I recall correctly, it was sometime about 1970.

    Licensing boards began their lives with a primary mission of ethical oversight and to protect the public from bad actors. As they evolved, licensing boards amassed power and use it. Some are now saying, abusing it. Another issue is that many professional persons appointed to sit on these boards don’t know the first thing about the law, other than what they might have learned in eighth grade civics. In my experience, they tend to either overreact, or let stuff slide that should be addressed. That is not confined to psychology. I have seen it in medicine, and as I pointed out, nutrition and veterinary medicine. At least lawyers know what the law is. Most of them, anyway.

  2. OS, don’t worry, I get it. I was just curious why a number of people took such an odd action and the “Satan” mention intrigued me. Being an imperfect person, I can’t say that I’m sorry the guy has been challenged. Sort of like, I wouldn’t be sorry if Marcus Bachmann’s “change the gay” clinic would be closed and that the second amendment wasn’t sancrosanct.

    I’ll just have to keep waiting until they make me king…

  3. pdm,
    What the Kentucky board does not get, and it is easy for others to forget as well: it is not the speech we agree with that needs protection, it is the speech we disagree with.

  4. I realize it is not the point, but the following (from Wiki) may explain why he has some critics….

    In addition to speaking and writing, Rosemond serves on the board of directors for, a grassroots organization dedicated to adding a Parental Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution.

    Rosemond is known for his old-fashioned, Bible-based parenting philosophy and approach. That, in combination with his outspoken political conservatism, has earned him a number of critics, especially within the mental health professions. Rosemond, a psychologist, generally begins his presentations by telling his audiences that “psychology is a secular religion that one believes in by faith” and that psychology has done more harm than good to the American family.

    Rosemond advocates what he calls a traditional disciplinary approach to parenting, a view that makes him controversial. Some don’t like his views on toilet training[2] and spanking [3] as they run counter to other parenting experts’ recommendations

    1. Rosemond has always been a Bible-thumper, but he has taken a more evangelical turn, of late. Again, I don’t understand why this is just now an issue.

  5. **leejcaroll 1, September 22, 2013 at 2:19 pm

    I have a group on facebook, women in pain awareness, I always write if responding to a medical issue, “I am not a medical person” before writing a reply.
    I have deleted posts from people who say “do this and you will be cured”, I do this because of my fear that there will be liability for the poster and potentially for me as the administrator as well.
    On the one hand I think you need to say whether you are or are not qualified to answer a certain question, and the columnist certainly seemed to be qualified, on the other when did it start that we constantly had to be looking over our shoulder. I guess Dear Abby and Ann should have been sued for all the advice they dispensed, without, to my knowledge, any disclaimer that “We are not psychologists, social workers, etc.”

    Lee JC,

    It seems it’s always been this way since I’ve been around in the world.

    Short of everyone doing business under an LLC with their dog list as owner & you as the their trustee I’ve long suggested the liberal use of Liability Wavier forms.

    And even though I’ve never wished for a lawsuit in some cases I almost openly invite them because I know in the cases of the corrupt Wallst/City of London Banks/Insurance Co’s & their frauds known as Derivative Contacts & the Vaccine Industry they as industries will not want any of those cases to see the light of day in public.

    In the case of the 95 yr old Vet killed by the police & his care givers recently posted here on JT Blog, everyone was rightfully outrage.

    I don’t believe it was a one off case but a result of trend being driven from somewhere. Where, I don’t know for sure.

    But even if it was a one off case it’s nothing compared to other cases.

    I believe we in the US could have a lunatic murder & harm a school bus full of girl scouts everyday, all year long for a Decade & the body count still would not be as high as the body count of the Govt/Doctors/Nurses/Vaccine Industry & all those involved in the Vaz program.

    Where’s the Outrage?

    Well, that be me, I’m completely outraged by it!

    And the numbers that support my position is growing rapidly.

    And this type Bio Weapon issue was an issue at the Nuremberg Trials in which people were rightfully Hung for.

    If you don’t anything else today read this below & pass this video along to your friends & family & give them Medical Advise from me telling them/their kids to stay the hell away from Vaccines until they’ve done their own research on the issue.

    In case you haven’t thought of it maybe the Kid central to OS’s article above & his behavioral problem might likely be Directly linked to his Vaccines.


    The Canary Party’s New Viral Video: Do Vaccines Cause Autism?
    Written by The Canary Party

    Sunday, 08 September 2013 02:00

    For many years now, families of vaccine injured children have had difficult time trying to explain to the uninitiated why the vaccine program is so problematic. Vaccine interests constantly push the sound bite, “vaccines are safe, vaccines save lives,” but the harsh reality of the damage being done is a much more complicated story.

    The Canary Party has produced a five minute video to explain the heart of the vaccine problem in this country. Because liability protection has been removed from all involved in making and administering vaccines, the program has become corrupted, begun harming untold numbers of children, and abandoning the injured.

    SNL Alumni Rob Schneider graciously voiced the important video, which makes the case that the vaccine program is broken, and informs viewers of the upcoming Congressional hearings examining the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program in the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform. **

  6. OS in person or writing. I would hope that if you give the disclaimer you will be okay.
    I am a certified hypnotherapist but only have a BA in psych. On my business cards and ads I put B.A., C.Ht. so that no one can claim they thought I was a psychologist or PH.D.
    The ridiculousness of licensing and naming is seen in hypnotherapy and counseling. In Pa you cannot call yourself a hypnocounselor but hypnotherapist is fine. It is my understanding anyone in Pa can put up a sign calling themselves a therapist but must be licensed if they call themselves a counselor, and in NJ it is the opposite. You must call yourself a hypnocounselor and are prohibited from using the word therapist, absent being certified/licensed a such.

  7. Yes, it is over-reach, but did anyone notice that he believes that Satan is often the cause of bad behavior? And, yes, it is still over-reach.

    Kentucky – home of the wildly successful Creation Museum.

    We are doomed.

  8. Great article OS,

    We have become such an impersonal nation. In other words, we are helping and communicating to others without even being in each others’ presence. Doctors and nurses can provide medical advice via telemedicine. Pyschologists and therapists can give adivce via newspaper columns and emails. You can obtain a college degree, and even a graduate degree without even meeting and talking to your professor(s). Some states are allowing K-12 be performed via the internet at home. Someone needs to do a study of impersonality and its’ effects on human sociology (our socialization process). I am sure that we are doing more harm to our human socialization process, and eventually, our overall development.

  9. Otteray Scribe 1, September 22, 2013 at 3:02 pm

    This is not a matter of an unlicensed person doing professional work, it is a matter of a person who has been licensed in one state being told their out of state license is not good enough. Really?
    Yes it is in the North Carolina case.

    In the case where “it is a matter of a person who has been licensed in one state being told their out of state license is not good enough” perhaps that implicates the “Full Faith and Credit” clause of the U.S. Constitution:

    Full faith and credit shall be given in each state to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state. And the Congress may by general laws prescribe the manner in which such acts, records, and proceedings shall be proved, and the effect thereof.

    (Article IV, Section 1).

    Which implicates some of our least litigated and defined jurisprudence.

  10. Juliet,
    There really is not. It’s WYSIWYG.

    As I see it, the issue is a form of protectionism. One state telling another state, “We are better than you.” Lawyers have Pro Hac Vice to fall back on, so they can easily go from state to state, as long as they work with a local attorney. Other professions, such as psychology, don’t have that.

    This is not a matter of an unlicensed person doing professional work, it is a matter of a person who has been licensed in one state being told their out of state license is not good enough. Really?

    What a lot of people don’t know, and licensing boards choose to ignore, is the requirement for licensing is virtually identical everywhere. Graduate from an accredited program, take the EPPP test with a passing score, and pass an ethics quiz.

    None of those issues have anything to do with writing a newspaper column. Some licensing boards even tell professionals how to sign their name.

    As far as disclaimers go, IMHO, if you give bad advice in an article or book, the consequences should be the same as if you did it in person. No one goes to a professional of any kind and are told they are not dispensing advice. What makes writing any different? The deterrent to handing out bad advice anywhere is it opens one up to malpractice. That should be motive enough to keep ’em honest.

  11. I’m in favor of licensing and oversight for all professionals, particularly those involved in mental health. However, this is crock of pure Kentucky horse dung. Rosemond’s column has been running in the Herald-Leader for probably 20 years or more. There must be something more to this story.

  12. I have a group on facebook, women in pain awareness, I always write if responding to a medical issue, “I am not a medical person” before writing a reply.
    I have deleted posts from people who say “do this and you will be cured”, I do this because of my fear that there will be liability for the poster and potentially for me as the administrator as well.
    On the one hand I think you need to say whether you are or are not qualified to answer a certain question, and the columnist certainly seemed to be qualified, on the other when did it start that we constantly had to be looking over our shoulder. I guess Dear Abby and Ann should have been sued for all the advice they dispensed, without, to my knowledge, any disclaimer that “We are not psychologists, social workers, etc.”

  13. I haven’t read his column in hears but I hated his advice – he was mean and punitive. If he had kids, they are probably in therapy.

  14. Too much government. For the most part, licensing boards are jokes. They are assigned the lowest of the bureaucrats, which means some are not even educable. They don’t protect the public, they just justify their existence and do shit like this.

  15. Randyjet,

    I understand what your point is.

    I spent 2 8 hour days teaching my 16 yr old son to drive. It was scary as hell at times.

    My point was aimed towards the rampant corruption currently in every area in the US, including licensing regs of professions.

    The need for Regs & Corruption are at least 2 different issues.

    Every time I get a chance I work on this vaccine issue & the corruption by many in the medical community with regards to it.

    If we can’t trust those with the licenses then what good are the licenses?

    Here’s a new group I found that is also working on it.

  16. rafflaw,

    I hated being so pissy with you the other day, I’m just sick of seeing many of these rotten politicians from both parties getting re-elected time & again.

    And I’m just hating the realization that because of the issues that have already taken place this year the opposition has insured the wrong people get back in one more time.

    Here’s a small piece of positive news.

  17. This is preposterous and an example of gov’t employees getting involved in stupid stuff and it mushrooming out of countrol.

    So has the commonwealth gone after Dr. Phil for essentially doing the same thing on cable television?

    Just typical of some states. Demanding everything under the sun be subject to licensing so that the state can use that license to control people and pay whatever fee or tax they demand.

  18. **DisgustedonEastBroadway 1, September 22, 2013 at 12:22 pm

    It looks to me, a ‘disinterested’ spectator… that the GOP ‘Taliban’ is making inroads into Kentucky… It might be time to send in a few Drones????? ;-O


    When did you 1st noticed you were having violent murder fantasies?

    How was your relationship with your mother when you were growing up?

    Were you a Breast Feed Baby?

    So you’ve given up on Fair Trial By a Jury of Peers?

    Your comment, MO, suggest you’re a Karl Rove/Bush& Clinton Family, Obama Neo Con Nazi type.


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