Exton psychology practice target of state investigators

Daily Local News/February 22, 1999
By Michael P. Rellahan

Chester County, PA -- Genesis Associates, the psychology practice that has faced accusations of destroying families through its controversial "detachment" therapy and fostering false memories of sexual abuse and Satanic worship, is again the target of state investigators seeking to revoke its founders' credentials.

A prosecutor with the state Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs last week filed formal charges against psychologist Patricia Mansmann and licensed social worker Patricia Neuhausel, Genesis' co-owners, contending they used dangerous and unprofessional counseling techniques, against the terms of consent agreements the pair entered into in March 1997.

In addition, the allegations set forth in the complaint filed by bureau Prosecuting Attorney Bernadette Paul state that Mansmann, whose psychologist's license had been suspended for two years under the terms of the consent agreement, nevertheless continued to treat clients regularly over the past two years, in apparent violation of the agreement.

According to the complaint against her, Mansmann told Genesis clients "that the suspension was meaningless, and that the state was merely appeasing disgruntled former clients."

As it had in a similar complaint in 1996, the state seeks to revoke the pair's licenses to practice psychology and social work. The complaints, filed against the women on Tuesday, require a formal answer to the charges within 30 days. Following that, a hearing could be held in front of the state licensing boards overseeing Genesis' practice after which and Mansmann and Neuhausel could permanently lose their licenses and be fined $10,000 for each count of wrongdoing.

Neither woman could be reached for comment. A call to the Genesis Associates office in Exton Commons went unreturned.

One critic of Genesis expressed satisfaction that the state had taken action against the women, known as "the two Pats," but said she and other critics would take a "wait and see" attitude toward the case.

"It's a good step, but I'm still anxious," said Donne Rossiter, a Malvern woman whose daughter began therapy with Genesis 10 years ago and has cut herself off from the family since then. "I just want the state to make sure they don't practice any more in any way, shape or form."

Mansmann and Neuhusel, who co-founded Genesis in the late 1980s as a professional practice specializing in drug and alcohol counseling, have been under scrutiny for years because of their use of "detachment" therapy, described in a book the duo wrote entitled "Life After Survival -- A Therapeutic Approach for Children of Alcoholism." (Genesis Associates is not connected with Genesis Health Ventures, the Kennett Square-based health care corporation.)

Several lawsuits have been filed against them for malpractice, most of which are still active, awaiting trial.

In the therapy, according to the state complaint, Genesis clients are pressured to cease all contact and communication with anyone not part of "The Network" -- a tightly knit group of Genesis clients and staff members.

Under "detachment," married couples are forced to separate, children are told to cut off contact with their parents and family, and parents are forbidden from communicating with their children. Mansmann and Neuhausel threatened and intimidated their clients into joining "The Network" by saying that those outside the group were "diseased" or "toxic" and that the patients would die if they left Genesis' therapy, the complaint states.

The allegations also point to the therapeutic tool utilized by Mansmann and Neuhausel called "rage work." In so-called "rage marathons," several clients gather in the basement of Genesis' Exton offices and beat pillows with plastic bats while other clients scream obscenities at them.

In their "rage work" therapy, Genesis clients are encouraged to "recover memories" of sexual abuse by their parents or satanic worship their families participated in during their childhood. According to the state complaint, those who "recover" a "memory" of sexual or satanic abuse are treated more favorably in group therapy session.

Neither "detachment" nor "rage work" are wholly accepted professional practices, according to the complaint, and are actually harmful or disruptive to a patient's therapy.

The state had filed similar charges against the pair in 1996. In March 1997, however, they signed consent agreements, losing their licenses temporarily and accepting state certified monitoring of their practice. Neuhausel's suspension was lifted in March 1998, while Mansmann was to have been eligible to come off suspension this month.

However, Mansmann failed to give proof that she had completed the required continuing education credits the consent agreement called for and her suspension has not yet been lifted, a state spokeswoman said Friday. The new charges would have no immediate bearing on lifting her suspension if she completes the credits, and she would remain on probation, the spokeswoman said. The current allegations are supported by testimony from a former patient, referred to in the complaint only as "PR." In cooperating with state investigators, "PR" said that Neuhausel and Mansmann forced her to "detach" from her husband, who was also a client at Genesis and over a period of years move in and out of the family home, giving up custody of her children, all the while under threats and intimidation from Neuhausel and Mansmann, according to the complaint.

Although her primary counselor was Neuhausel, "PR" told state investigators that Mansmann was actively engaged in her therapy, including ordering her to take various "courses" with them, even during the time her license was under suspension.

Rossiter said it was this aspect of the state's earlier action against Mansmann and Neuhausel that was most troubling to critics -- that even though they were technically not supposed to practice, they continued to do so. "That has been our concern, that they have been out there enticing new clients," she said Friday.

The woman known as "PR" told her that during the time Mansmann was under suspension, she "was just so thrilled because they had actually gotten more clients. That was shocking."

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