2 Cascade therapists say truth being twisted
2 Cascade therapists say truth being twisted
By Geoffrey Fattah
Deseret News staff writer
Published: Friday, Sept. 20 2002 11:43 a.m. MDT
With their careers on the line, two Utah County therapists are accusing state licensing investigators of twisting the truth and telling lies about their version of holding therapy.
OREM — With their careers on the line, two Utah County therapists are accusing state licensing investigators of twisting the truth and telling lies about their version of holding therapy. Larry VanBloem and Jennie Murdock Gwilliam, who run the Cascade Center for Family Growth in Orem, question the timing of the state's action against their licenses as therapists. Earlier this week, charges were filed against the adoptive parents of a 4-year-old girl who died in July of water intoxication. The parents, Richard and Jennette Killpack of Springville, were charged with felony child-abuse homicide and child abuse for allegedly forcing a large quantity of water down Cassandra Killpack as punishment for taking a soft drink. The couple now contends that they were simply acting upon the advice given to them by a therapist at Cascade during the one week they had taken the girl there. Utah County investigators said they found no evidence that Cascade had given the Killpacks such advice. But despite that VanBloem said he has been made the target of a political plot by some state lawmakers. VanBloem said he is not surprised that the state is seeking to yank his license. "Of course we expected it, but we didn't expect lies," he said from his office in Orem. According to the state's petition, filed Wednesday, state investigators allege that VanBloem's practice of "compression holding therapy" places children at risk for emotional and physical trauma, even death. The petition details five cases in which VanBloem and Gwilliam lay face-to-face on top of children to restrict their breathing. They would then use their hands, elbows or knuckles to press into the child's abdomen and ribs to inflict pain. VanBloem said the purpose of this therapy is to get the child to release emotional pain and anger, which he believes is stored in a child's gut. VanBloem is also accused of pulling hair and using "aversive 'tickling' " to some clients, as well as wrapping children in sheets and blankets to restrain them. Both VanBloem and Gwilliam face 14 counts of professional and ethical code violations, including failing to properly document therapy sessions and obtain adequate parental consent. "They're just gross inaccuracies, just twisting the words and taking small parts and blowing it out of proportion," said Gwilliam. "The hair-pulling and pinching, that's never happened." VanBloem says four out of five parents in the cases cited in the state's petition have expressed support for Cascade. One woman, a former patient of VanBloem's, said state investigators twisted her words, making the therapy sessions sound like "torture." Johanna Everett, who says investigators listed her as "Lisa," was treated by VanBloem when she was 13. VanBloem allegedly "believed Lisa experienced psychological pain in the womb," according to the petition. The petition states VanBloem administered "compression holding," using his forearms to apply pressure to the girl's abdomen and wrapping her in a blanket. "They took my statements totally out of context. Most of what they said was true, but they put little spots of lies into it," Everett said. "They made it sound like it was torture, and it wasn't." Other clients from Cascade are coming forward to defend the embattled center and its owners. "I have nothing but the highest praises for the therapists at Cascade," said Deb Evans of Pocatello. Since October, Evans said she has been taking her 8-year-old adopted son for holding therapy sessions to treat his failure to bond with her. Evans said they had tried everything, from books to conventional therapists, with no success. Initially Evans said she the sessions were "difficult to watch" but later saw a marked improvement in her son. "He is a totally different child than he was a year ago. He's much more loving and affectionate." Everett acknowledged that when she was 17 she complained to the Utah Department of Professional Licensing about her holding therapy sessions. Everett now says that she has recanted that complaint after undergoing more therapy from another source. "I wasn't in the right state of mind at the time," she said. "I feel that they've helped me a lot." Scott Thompson, spokesman for the Utah Department of Commerce, which oversees the licensing division, said the state stands behind the petition. "We're not going to get into a debate in the media over the validity of this," Thompson said. "They will have their chance to respond." VanBloem and Gwilliam have 30 days to file a written response to the allegations made in the petition. Both say it may take some time but that they do plan to file a response.