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“Hypnotherapist” Arrested In Florida for Representing Herself as a “Dr.”

Posted Under: Hypnosis Blog,Hypnosis News

Hypnosis in the NewsThis is about an article that ran in the St. Petersburg Times, where they report that "Rovhana, 46, was arrested Tuesday night and charged with three counts each of unlicensed practice of a health care professional and unlicensed practice as a psychologist."

I think that all practicing hypnosis professionals should read this article and take heed. There are many things to learn from it, and the experience that this individual is experiencing at the hands of "the law" and "the media".

Just off the top of my head I notice that:

  1. This reporter made an error that put’s the details of the whole story in doubt, that being, the person she calls "Dave Damon" is really "Dr. Dwight Damon" the president of the National Guild of Hypnotists. (Please reporter, get the details right. I wonder what else you got wrong.)

  2. We need to not look or act like something we are not. She is not a medical or psychological professional, but from what the article says (and I’m not so sure about the reliability of the report) that the police believe that she crossed the line.

  3. She held out at "PhD" as a qualification, when she should not have, and even worse she was only a "candidate" rather than a recipient of that "degree". I put "degree" in quotes because I do not know if that "PhD" was from a properly accredited program or not.

I’m sure there are more important lessons to be gained from this "news article". What do you think? Leave a comment and let me know what you think.

Here is a link to the original article

14 Reader Comments to “Hypnotherapist” Arrested In Florida for Representing Herself as a “Dr.”

  1. Janet April 22, 2010 at 5:27 PM

    First of all it would be nice to have the actual details, and since we do not there is not much to discuss in particular about this situation. Generally speaking though this is a hot topic.

    There are many ways that degrees and certifications, that string of letters after your name, are used to mislead the public that are not actually illegal. Such as having an advanced degree in a different field that is not related to the one you are advertising but still putting the initials after your name. Some feel that if it is at all related to the service you are selling it is acceptable. Others feel that it at least shows your level of education in general.

    When it comes to presenting yourself as a board certified clinical psychologist that is obviously a transgression of the public trust and probably several state laws.

    But what about those who are not certified by the NGH yet are members. They put that certificate on their wall and the emblem on their website and the public assumes that membership is equivalent to certification, in fact may never even realize there might be a reason to look closer.

    Much of it comes down to personal ethics. How do you want to operate? My feeling is that you will attract what you put out there. If you want to be treated with respect and integrity you must act with respect and integrity.

  2. Luke April 22, 2010 at 5:55 PM

    The problem isn’t only the credentials she advertised, but the actions she took. The hypnotist in question is accused of diagnosing her clients with medical ailments, although what counts as “diagnosis” seems to be up for debate. From another article:

    “Handing a client literature on a specific ailment or suggesting that someone pursue a specific type of medication would lead a patient to believe they’ve been diagnosed, police spokeswoman Andrea Davis said.”

    Sure, but… I think that Tampa police and media could be picking better targets. There doesn’t seem to be any evidence that she actually harmed anybody (such as by delaying proper diagnosis or medical treatment in any of her clients), and she made sure to refer clients to their primary physicians for a medical opinion.

  3. Steve R. April 22, 2010 at 6:23 PM

    Hello Cal,

    There is a Tampa news report of this story and in the clip they show her business card:
    “S. Rohvana, Ph.D., Psy.D., LHT
    Adolescent and Adult Psychotherapy,
    Florida Board Certified Behaviorial Healthcare”

    According to the police, she apparently does not even have a degree, although during the undercover investigation she claimed to have a degree from Stanford. Later she told the news reporter that she was still working towards getting her Bachelor’s and Master’s degree simultaneously (whatever that means) from Florida State, but that she had to drop out of the program because of some medical issues.

    Amazingly, she claims that her only big mistake was not putting the disclaimer “candidate” after the Ph.D./Psy.D. title. (In another news article she blames this oversight on an assistant). Correct me if I’m wrong Cal, but if someone has not even completed a Bachelor’s program, then calling oneself even a Ph.D. “candidate” is beyond absurd.

    She gave her clients brochures specific to disorders like depression and male menopause, and recommended that clients get their doctor to prescribe them specific medication to treat those disorders. Her excuse, that doing those things is not the same as formally diagnosing or giving people medication, is mind-boggling in its ignorance.

    What is sad is that some people are defending this behavior by saying things like “Gee, people give each other advice about medication and treatment all the time. What’s the big deal?”

    It is scary to see that so many people do not understand the difference between two neighbors or relatives talking about some new treatment they heard about on Dr. Oz, vs. someone who falsely sets themselves up with all the trappings of a medical professional, and dispenses advice as a professional. This is incredibly unfair to unknowing members of the public who would most likely put different weight on the advice given by “Aunt Sandy” vs. “Dr. Rovhana”.

    Here’s the kicker: this person also claims to have been unaware that she was doing anything wrong, that she was just following her training and operating within the guidelines she was taught. In the news clip they show one of her many certificates, including the NGH certificate. I wonder what the NGH folks (who do a Herculean job trying to inform and get people to practice within ethical guidelines) think about that?

    Now the question I wonder about is, was the instructor that certified her just totally neglectful in informing her about the basics of operating legally in that state? or is she just characteristically engaging in dishonest behavior, pleading ignorance as a result of spending time in prison before getting bailed out? Anyway, I guess it is impossible for any training program or hypnosis organization to teach common sense to willfully ignorant people.

  4. Cal Banyan, MA, BCH, CI, FNGH April 22, 2010 at 7:16 PM

    I contacted the NGH and I’ve have heard back from them about this. I’ll write more it after you have all had a chance to chat about this a bit more. 🙂

    I’ll also write something about what it is like to be an instructor, teach a class and then watch an occasional grad do unwise things contrary to his/her training.

  5. Rich Smith April 23, 2010 at 7:31 AM

    Last night I was watching this cool “street magician” on the Travel Channel and I, a practicing hypnotist for the past twenty-plus years, felt a connection with this guy.

    He was doing tricks he’d learned or invented and he was doing them really well. His goal was to produce a “Well, I’ll be damned! That’s awesome!” response in his audience.

    In my practice, I, too, use what I’ve learned or invented to generate a “Well, I’ll be damned! That’s awesome!” response in my clients. Yes, it’s mostly smoke-and-mirrors, but the great thing is that most people who experience it benefit from it.

    Just like the magician, I don’t tell my clients the details of what I’m doing, because that would destroy the magic. I don’t pretend to be anything other than what I am; that would neither be necessary nor helpful.

    So, what credentials are required to work magic? Does a really awesome magician need a certificate to amaze? Who are these certificates designed to convince, the client or the hypnotist?

    I wonder, who certified Milton Erickson as a hypnotist? What hypnosis degrees decorated his office walls?

  6. Debbie Lane April 23, 2010 at 9:23 AM

    I have been in contact with the reporters who reported this in our area. (There are several.) I thanked them for opening up a dialogue that helps to create a more informed consumer, while withholding judgment until all the facts are presented. It is my belief that people need to ask good questions right up front.

    As I result, I have several interviews scheduled to promote becoming a savvy consumer. This is a wonderful opportunity for our profession!

  7. Michael Bueti April 23, 2010 at 12:51 PM

    To Debbie, fantastic!!! What a great way to make this a teaching moment. As Dr. Damon states in the original article, use of the term hypnotherapist can be problematic in itself. For those interested in reading the original article you can find it here..

  8. Cal Banyan, MA, BCH, CI, FNGH April 23, 2010 at 1:59 PM

    Thanks Michael! I forgot to put the link to the original article in the blog post. I’m going to update it as soon as I can.


  9. Cal Banyan, MA, BCH, CI, FNGH April 23, 2010 at 2:19 PM

    Okay, first let me say that I NOT the official spokesman for the NGH. Having said that I’ll tell you kind of what I’m hearing…

    * 1st, this person is not a member of the NGH.

    * 2nd, if she was a member and had followed the recommended Standards of Practice, she would not have found herself in this situation.

    * 3rd, the NGH is not the “HypnoCops” and cannot regulate the profession; it can only deal with it’s own members when there is a problem.

    * 4th, this is a very rare situation in our profession and that when someone is properly trained, i.e., received NGH training (or NGH sanctioned training) each graduate would know better than hold out apparently false credentials, and so ignorance is no excuse.

    5th, we don’t have the facts on this situation and of course the NGH is not judging the matter. However, it may use this event as an impetus to reinforce to the membership that it should adhere to the Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice.

    6th, it is all very unfortunate that these kinds of things occur, even if they occur only rarely, because it looks bad for all of the many hypnotists who are out there doing the right thing and helping thousands of people in the process.

    Once again, I am NOT the spokesman for the NGH. But this is the general kind of thing I am hearing from the NGH about it. Of course, it is a summary, and may not be the exact words that the NGH would like to use. An official spokesperson from the NGH is always invited to post here and make an official statement on the matter, or correct me if I an not accurate in any of my generalizations.

    Have a great weekend!

  10. Debbie Lane April 23, 2010 at 2:39 PM

    p.s. this occurred only about 10 miles from my office. So, as you can imagine there has been a lot of buzz about it. I love when the Universe drops a gift in my lap! Thanks, Michael, my whole philosophy when I ran a national chain of child care centers and while bringing up my own two magnificent sons was to make every moment a teachable moment!

  11. Steve R. April 23, 2010 at 5:15 PM

    Hello Cal,
    Thanks for the update.

    Debbie L.’s response to this situation is a demonstration of why she deserves every bit of success she creates for herself!!

    Anyway, if this Rovhana person is not a member of the NGH then why was she displaying the NGH certificate on the news? here’s a screenshot (it’s easier to tell that it’s the NGH cert when the video is fullscreen): — also, the hypnosis “Institute” she attended teaches the NGH certification course.

    Also, here is a screenshot of her business card so it’s absolutely clear how she (mis)represented herself:

    (funny bit: notice the “Mentalist” title she threw in there)

    I understand news reports can get facts twisted and distorted, but those screenshots are what they are. In this case, especially given the nature of the allegation, it is hard to figure out what she actually claimed or didn’t (except for the blatant evidence of those business cards and the secret recordings done by the investigators).

    I think this leads to another big reason why it is a prudent idea to record sessions. If she had done that and IF she truly had nothing to hide, then her recording would help make it clear that she did not misrepresent and/or clarified the nature of her credentials and educational background.

    This situation also is a great reason to have clients sign something like the NGH-recommended Bill of Rights which spells out credentials and makes it crystal clear what the hypnotist’s educational background and scope of practice is!

    Now, why wouldn’t anyone do either of those things? Hmmm…. I wonder why… ^_^

    (of course it’s not clear if in this case this particular hypnotist either recorded or had clients review and sign a document like that; but you get my point hopefully)

    PS. Here is an interesting quote from her from the TV news report: “I have helped so many people that other doctors could not help.” I find that word “other” to be striking in this context. It leads me to consider the possibility that she sincerely did (and still does) consider herself to be a “doctor”!

    PPS. Cal here’s a bit of speculation I’d like you to consider: I think if there were more full-time dedicated hypnotists (Hypno 1 Percenters as you call them), this kind of thing would be less likely to happen. Because most hypnotists only do it part-time and do not do it for a living, they *may* be more inclined to do things in ways which if they lead to a cease-and-desist letter, to them it is no big deal — “Oh well, I guess I won’t do this hypnosis stuff anymore. There goes my beer money.” (except in Florida where they apparently treat this kind of fraud as a felony w/ jail time) Of course, anytime something like that happens it adds to the possibility of the entire field getting restricted state-by-state. This is why I think your efforts to encourage and develop more Hypno 1 Percenters in this field are so important — it is in my interest as a hypnotist to have more full-time, professionally responsible hypnotists out there!

  12. Cal Banyan, MA, BCH, CI, FNGH April 26, 2010 at 4:14 PM

    Hi Steve – On Friday afternoon I got a call from Dr. Damon (Pres. NGH), and we talked a bit more about this news item. He mentioned a few things to me…

    One was that he thought that my summary on about where the NGH stood on situation was accurate.

    He also said he did not want to see this person, or anyone put on trial by the media.

    He also confirmed to me that this individual was once a member of the NGH but let her membership lapse and as such is no longer a member. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who go through NGH training and receive certification but then let their membership lapse.

    Thanks for the screenshots. I find them to very useful and informative as we sort this story out.

    Your comments are all right on. If she were a member, stuck to the Code of Ethics, and the Recommended Standards of Practice she would most likely not have found herself in this situation (and have reflected so badly on the rest of us in the profession).

    Regarding your PPS… First, Hypno-1%ers are more than just full timers (and I think you know this I just want to make it plain to the rest of the readers). There are part timers who are 1%ers (but their quality of work is still in that top 1%). 1%er hypnosis professionals are in the top percentage because of the quality of work that they do, not that they work full time. Having said all that, certainly being in that top 1% makes it a whole lot more likely that one could be full time in the profession if he/she wished to do so.

    One reason I am so focused on training Hypno-1%ers is that (and I agree with you) when someone is working as a hypnosis professional, and making a good living at it, one is much more likely to want to do so in a legal way, so as to have the highest likelihood of being able to remain in business. This creates the best situation for our profession to grow and prosper.

  13. Steve R. April 26, 2010 at 7:42 PM

    Cal, thanks for the update. Thanks also for understanding that I did not mean to imply that, in my mind, only full-timers could be considered to be “Hypno 1 Percenters”. That would be a very limited way of thinking.

    I do think that a relationship exists between the two concepts. Because if a significant part of your income depends on this work, then there is a greater incentive towards constantly working towards higher levels of quality and results for your clients (regardless of specific hypnotic “school of thought”) — in a legal manner. And, if someone has the skills and approaches this work as a “1 percenter” (whether or not they were full-time) then, as you said, it would probably make them more capable of profitably doing this work for a living if they chose to, and more confident of taking that leap in the first place.

    Anyway, this case can maybe open up an avenue of discussion that I have thought about for some time. You how know on various internet directories and listings there are categories for businesses? On many of these sites (and maybe even in some print directories or other media), hypnosis practitioners seem to have no choice but to be listed under categories specific to Mental Health or Medicine. I wonder if this could cause problems in the more regulated states, even among hypnotists who do not intentionally misrepresent themselves.

    I kind of doubt it, because this categorization is often not within the hypnotist’s control, but it would maybe be prudent to figure out how the concept of hypnotists being a “separate and distinct profession” could eventually be reflected in these various directories and sites.

    PS. that involuntary categorization is still a different thing than what the alleged hypno-doctor engaged in. I understand the idea of not judging and convicting someone based on media reports, but really, take a look at her public profiles on some social networking sites, where she plainly identifies herself as a “Clinical Psychologist” at a center for “Counseling and Psychiatry”, and also wrote another bio that stated “I am a psychotherapist and marriage and family therapist in private practice.” Call me crazy, but that sure doesn’t look like the result of some typo, a little misunderstanding, or careless reporting.

    (I suppose it is possible that for some reason there has been an ongoing conspiracy against this individual involving some internet impostor impersonating her impersonating doctors and psychologists, all in an effort to discredit her. Wow, maybe, as she claims, she really is the poor victim in all this… not the unsuspecting public who was bamboozled. I don’t know…)

    PPS. That is another good lesson from this situation full of good lessons for hypnotists: Google sees all, and remembers all!

  14. Cal Banyan, MA, BCH, CI, FNGH April 28, 2010 at 3:08 PM

    Hi Steve, I completely agree with you about full timers and 1%ers. Regarding the directory issue, it seems it could be a problem, but I haven’t heard of any specific situations where it was actually a cause for alarm. Having said that, I invite anyone who knows of a problem arising from this issue, please leave us a comment.

    Thanks again for your thoughtful and sometimes humorous comments. 😉

    Gotta run – I’m working on another secret project… Hint, it involves more hypnosis videos!

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