These events began as an almost routine story about a mental health advocacy website spreading disinformation about domestic violence that demonizes men, denies male victims and shields female perpetrators.
And while the disinformation is there in abundance, more digging behind the scenes at allaboutcounseling.com revealed what appears to be gross professional misconduct and an ongoing scheme involving psychological extortion, abuse and depraved indifference. Multiple sources have alleged that the site management is preying on and manipulating site users for cash with the finesse and brio reminiscent of a corrupt televangelist operation.
And they are reportedly heaping a plethora of emotional abuses and threats on site users who speak up against it.
All of this is being conducted under the auspices of mental health advocacy; with the professional blessings (and under the state license number) of a clinical psychologist.
The details of this story have the expected intricacies and complications of most scandals, especially with the efforts that the alleged perpetrators have made to disconnect their names from their actions. But the scam runs something like this:
Allaboutcounseling.com runs a members only on-line forum in which individuals are invited to join and participate for the benefit of “Confronting fears, honest feedback and active growth through the use and benefits of anonymity and healthy communication.”
Users are made to believe that there interactions there are completely anonymous and conducted in an environment where it is safe to be openly vulnerable and to disclose intimate details of problems in their lives.
For some this seems to be the case.
But many former site users are saying that frequently what happens there is markedly different. In fact, after a month long study of the site and several interviews with former ACC members, I found the reports too consistent to be ignored.
In what appears to be a systematic pattern of significant abuses, the site management presents professional psychological qualifications, induces users to rely on the forum as a source of peer and arguably professional support, but subsequently acts toward many of the members with the following:
- Banning users without notice, reason and without a referral to other help.
- Redirecting banned users to pornography websites when they attempt to log on.
- Tacit email threats to expose users identities publicly for dissenting from site management
- Site management “diagnosing” members with personality disorders as a reaction to dissent.
- Regularly threatening members who depend on the site forum to close it unless money is donated.
- Encouraging the abuse of most male members and abusively targeting female members who had congenial communications with males.
- Fomenting conflict between forum members and encouraging some individuals to abuse others.
In fact, as I studied reports of the abuses from some of the sites former members, the picture that clearly emerged was that of tactics used by cult leaders to control and manipulated their followers. Or, as one member, who requested anonymity, put it, “I felt that it was abusive because of the way it chummed vulnerable, trusting people who came to the site, and drew them in to a charmer/abuser codependency cult.”
This same member, after posting that she felt the instigated conflict helped the hit count of the site was reportedly told publicly by site management that she was “delusional, sick and paranoid.”
Another member, again speaking on the condition of anonymity, reported being banned from the site without notification and then being redirected to a pornography site when he attempted to log on.
Part of his reaction to this, taken from a statement which is available in the comments section at avoiceformen.com, was unsettling. “I had always respected the site coordinator,” he said, “but after she did this to me I was sad to say the least. I was hurt. I felt deeply betrayed, humiliated and abused.”
Another former member reported that she too was redirected to a pornography site after being banned from the forum.
And yet another member reported getting an email from site management that repeatedly demeaned her, and made multiple references to her location, number of children and her profession. This was interpreted as a veiled threat to reveal her identity or worse. And it is of particular concern because there are many members who have joined the allaboutcounseling.com forum for support when escaping abusive relationships in which they were or are being stalked.
Such a breech of confidence in those situations could have disastrous results.
On the surface, some of this behavior may appear part and parcel to the internet. There is a lot of flaming going on, and capricious site administration is hardly rare. It happens on a lot of websites. But this isn’t just a lot of websites. It is a site that proffers, with professional credibility, to extend support to people at highly vulnerable moments in their lives. Indeed, it beckons them to participate throughout most pages on the site and assures them they are in a safe environment.
These actions not only reflect a moral deficit, but are likely in violation of the State of Ohio’s rules and regulations governing professional counselors, the American Psychological Associations Code of Conduct, and various other state laws. This is especially true as site management presents professional credentials, accept money and places no disclaimer whatsoever regarding participation in the forums.
“Site management” is most likely better identified as Heidi Raynor, M.Ed., who in her bio claims to be an experienced counselor with two years of individual counseling experience, but lists no license information or professional references.
She also apparently doubles in the site forum as “Site Coordinator or “SC” as users refer to her. Raynor herself never openly makes the admission that she is SC, but in several posts, SC claims ownership of the site and solicits for donations regularly. Those donations have to be made payable directly to Raynor and are to be mailed to her home address at 4227 W. 15th, Cleveland, Ohio.
Raynor states in her solicitations that checks must be made out to her personally, and not to allaboutcounseling.com, leaving the speculation open to whether or not she is claiming the income when filing taxes.
But Raynor is not acting alone. According to information provided on the site, the content on allaboutcounseling.com was authored by River Smith, Ph.D.. Further investigation revealed that Smith is an Ohio based clinical psychologist who practices under Ohio State license number 4658, at 11206 Clifton Blvd., Cleveland, Ohio tel. 216-651-1302
According to information received from a source at the State Board of Psychology of Ohio, Dr. Smith’s presence as one of the creators of that site, and the provision of his license number, inextricably ties him to the conduct and practices of it’s managers, whether that conduct comes directly from Dr. Smith or not.
And under those circumstances, that translates legally to the site and everyone who manages it being subject to all applicable statutes and codes of conduct for that profession.
Most of Smith’s role appears to be providing content related to mental health issues, making him the direct source of the misleading statistics and disinformation. But also by attaching his credentials to a site that is taking money, he puts his license on the line for any improprieties and ethical violations that transpire.
It also raises the significant question of whether the site is, in reality, an online psychology practice. Early information from the state of Ohio suggests that it is, though there will not be a final determination on this until complaints about the site have been investigated by officials in Ohio.
According to several of the former members of the site, Dr. Smith may be in direct violation of several statutes that govern the practice of psychology in that state. These include, but are not limited to the following:
- Failure to report sexual abuse of children to authorities (there were several posts by members that reported their children being abused)
- Failure to report physical abuse of children
- Failure to report suicide threats by members
- Children being allowed to log on and read detailed and sexually explicit accounts of other members lives.
- Domestic abuse reports ignored by site management
- Questionable solicitations for money
- Presentation of misleading information
- Proffering false counseling qualifications
Regarding the child molestations, according to a source at the Ohio State Board of Psychology, psychologists are mandated to report knowledge of child abuse to authorities and it makes no difference that the reports were received online, nor does it matter that the reports came from anonymous sources. Discovery of the sources is a police matter, not one for the psychologist to undertake or even be concerned with. Their mandate under state law is to report these incidents immediately.
There is no evidence that any reports with police were filed, meaning that a licensed psychologist and another individual claiming to be a professional counselor knew or should have known that children were being abused and did nothing but ask for more money.
At the time this article goes live, at least two and perhaps more individuals are compiling complaints against allaboutcounseling.com which will be filed with The Ohio State Board of Psychology and The American Psychological Association. This summary and a copy of the complaints will also be forwarded to the Ohio State Attorney General’s Office for consideration.
When I first brought this story to avoiceformen.com and mensnewsdaily.com, I also forwarded it to about two hundred psychotherapists that supported the site by listing their services there and by purchasing an enhanced presence in the site directory.
To their credit, several of those clinicians directed allaboutcounseling.com to remove their listings. Most did not, however, and did not respond to my emails. Their practice information is listed below.
Once the complaints with the named agencies and the State Attorney General have been filed, an update will be provided regarding this matter. And in the update, I will begin exploring how the practice of “feminist therapy” has naturally led to such abuses of ethics and hopefully what can be done to stop it.
A list of over 200 psychotherapists, counselors, social workers and psychologists that list their services at allaboutcounseling.com is available at the Men’s News Daily article here.
[Update: While the state of Ohio has not yet taken any action on the complaints, all information and reference to River Smith has been removed from the site, as has all information on the other individuals who manage and maintain allaboutcounseling.com. Just like cockroaches when the lights go on.]