In 2008, Michigan began running background checks on individuals applying for psychologist licenses in the state. Since then, it's become significantly more difficult for convicted criminals, sexual predators, and other dangerous people to become licensed to practice as a psychologist in the state. But what about the psychologists who were already licensed to practice before the new law was put into effect? According to a report from the Detroit Free Press, at least one such threat went overlooked for many years. The threat in question is a man who has held a limited psychologist's license in Michigan since 1993. Reportedly, his license is limited in Michigan because he primarily practices in Indiana. However, he has worked in Michigan in the past, and allegedly lied on his 1993 application in order to obtain a license in the state.
The man, who has been licensed in Indiana since the early 90s, both as a social worker and a marriage and family therapist, has a number of serious criminal convictions on his record. The entries on his criminal record, which include two rape convictions, an armed robbery conviction, and a number of burglary and attempted burglary convictions, date back exclusively to 1973 and 1974. All of these convictions were filed in Wisconsin, where he used to reside. He spent 15 years in prison following his second rape conviction.
However, despite the numerous felony infractions, the man was able to obtain psychologist licenses in both Indiana and Michigan. Per the Detroit Free Press, he avoided detection by lying and committing fraud on his 1993 license to practice in Michigan, answering no to the "have you ever been convicted of a crime" question, and using a false birth date and social security number.
It's bad enough that this man could become licensed to practice as a psychologist, therapist, and social worker in two different states. Even worse, the Detroit Free Press claims that he served as the President of the National Association of Forensic Counselors for a period of time. That association, which is based in Fort Wayne, Indiana, reportedly gave this repeat rapist a chance to "offer training and certification to sex offender counselors around the country."
The good news is that Michigan is taking steps to rectify the issue and invalidate the man's license to practice in the state. The state's Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs filed a complaint in early May, citing fraud, deceit, and "lack of good moral character" as a reason to strip the psychologist of his license. The man will have 30 days to respond to the complaint, either in writing or by requesting a hearing. If he fails to respond, the issue will be forwarded to Michigan Board of Psychology, which will likely strip him of his license.
There's no sense in talking about whether or not Michigan should have been running background checks on psychologist license applicants back in 1993. What should be discussed, though, is the state's process for updating or renewing licenses to practice psychology in the state. After Michigan added background checks for psychologist licenses in 1998, why were existing practitioners not required to renew their licenses and undergo screening? Such a move might have helped to root out existing threats in the system, and would have likely gotten this particular therapist out of a patient-serving industry seven years earlier.