A prominent psychologist and expert on post-traumatic stress disorder, especially among rape and child abuse victims, has been barred from renewing his license in Wisconsin.
The state Psychology Examining Board last month decided Mervin R. Smucker, 60, of Milwaukee, who did not renew his license last year following a lawsuit settlement, can “never apply or reapply for any credential.”
Smucker was deemed unprofessional by having a “relationship” with a female client, behavior that could “impair his objectivity and create a conflict of interest,” according to the board’s decision of Feb. 10.
The patient was being treated for a history of traumatic experiences, including an abduction and gang rape, according to the examining board’s decision.
That patient also sued Smucker, accusing him of sexual exploitation. Smucker denied a sexual relationship and settled for an undisclosed sum, said Jerome Konkel, the woman’s lawyer. Part of that settlement last year required the psychologist to relinquish his license and “refrain from treating patients,” according to Konkel.
Smucker also is a defendant in a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Milwaukee in which a female patient accuses him of “inappropriate therapeutic handling.”
In both lawsuits, the identities of the people claiming mistreatment are kept secret.
Smucker’s lawyer, Marie A. Stanton, said he has “retired” from all of his professional activities in Wisconsin and added it would be inappropriate to comment on the pending lawsuit.
Internationally known expert
Smucker is an internationally recognized expert in treating victims of post traumatic stress disorder, specializing in cognitive and trauma therapy. He gives seminars and workshops worldwide on his methods, which are widely referenced.
A description of Smucker’s workshop says he pioneered a treatment called “image rescripting and reprocessing” that alters a victim’s recurring images of trauma and has been effective in treating patients with “distressing, intrusive imagery.”
The Medical College of Wisconsin lists Smucker as an “associate clinical professor.” A college spokesperson said he does not treat patients there.
He also practiced at two clinics in Milwaukee, neither of which claimed him as a staff member when contacted this week. In marketing information for his seminars, he was described as “Clinical Director of the Trauma Treatment Program” at Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital in Milwaukee. Kathleen Schmitz, at Columbia St. Mary’s, said Smucker does not work there.
The Examining Board’s decision listed Smucker as living in Goshen, Ind., but according to a federal lawsuit filed against him, he is living temporarily in Germany. Stanton said Smucker has a long-standing professional presence at institutes and universities in Europe.
His license to practice psychology in Indiana remains valid, according to Indiana state records. But part of the Milwaukee County court settlement, according to Konkel, is an agreement that he “will refrain from ever providing psychotherapy to patients.”
“We would not have settled without that. That is what my client cared about most,” Konkel said.
The Wisconsin Department of Regulation and Licensing reports its decisions to two national databanks: the National Practitioner Databank and the Healthcare Integrity and Protection Databank.
According to the regulatory board case, Smucker — licensed here since 1990 — provided psychotherapy to the woman from October 2002 to May 2005, with one-to-two-hour sessions twice a week.
After March 2004, he did not take notes of the sessions, and during the therapy period he provided her with rides home and met her at his home in Fox Point and at a rental property he owned in Milwaukee. In October 2004, he drove her to a Middleton hotel to attend the Midwest Conference on Child Sexual Abuse and Incest. According to the stipulated decision, the hotel’s records showed the two had connecting rooms. She claimed they had sex; he denied it.
The board decided the relationship was unprofessional, as was the failure to keep records of the sessions. In addition to agreeing to relinquishing his license renewal or application rights, Smucker was also ordered to not provide any therapy to anyone in Wisconsin.