Back in June 2010, I noticed a strange and unexplained disappearance of Christina Papadopoulos from Stefan Molyneux’s Freedomain Radio.
All traces of the podcasts Molyneux’s wife had co-produced, excited conversations about her contributions to the psychology theories of FDR, and even innocent queries about her disappearance were quickly removed from the site.
Unbeknownst to most recent FDR members, Christina once played a significant role in the “community,” particularly through her series of Ask-A-Therapist podcasts, of which approximately 20 were produced.
Even though Stefan praised Christina as the inspiration behind his philosophy (the couple had even co-released a podcast suggesting she was the architect behind the “community”), she was suddenly gone—purged, in fact—from the site.
The mystery is solved
Back then, Stefan and Christina knew something we didn’t. But now we do.
Christina was being investigated by College of Psychologists of Ontario, who govern professional conduct and licensing in that province. On October 30th, 2012, she was found guilty of professional misconduct.
According to an article written by Tu Thanh Ha* for Toronto’s Globe & Mail, the College investigated whether “Ms. Papadopoulos, a psychological associate, gave improper advice on a number podcasts made with her husband, Stefan Molyneux.”
The article continues:
“Ms. Papadopoulos advocated a practice called deFOOing, or dissociating from one’s family of origin, the panel heard.
Your statements in support of deFOOing are not supported by current professional literature or consistent with the standards [of the college]…
‘Your statements in support of deFOOing are not supported by current professional literature or consistent with the standards [of the college],’ prosecutor Peter Osborne said at Tuesday’s hearing.”
Apparently, Christina offered no defense. As the Globe & Mail reports, “Ms. Papadopoulos didn‘t speak at the hearing, except to enter her plea. In the statement of facts, she said ‘she was, with the benefit of hindsight, naive about the use and possible misuse of information distributed via the Internet.'”
To me, that statement itself seems naive. The thrust of the investigation appears broader than that, based on the College’s conclusions that were issued today. The full text of the College’s decision can be found here.
The College finds several instances of misconduct
According to the findings of the College, “Ms. Christina Papadopoulos committed professional misconduct in making public statements and providing advice to the public via the website www.freedomainradio.com and podcasts available thereon…”
The statement details three main specifics, which I’ve summarized below:
- Christina provided information, advice or comment to the public in a manner contrary to the organization’s standards; i.e., providing psychological services while objectivity, competence and effectiveness were compromised. In addition, she rendered opinions that were not based upon current, reliable, adequate and appropriate information.
- She provided a service that she knew or ought to have known was not likely to benefit the client.
- She engaged in conduct or performed an act, in the course of practicing the profession, that, having regard to all the circumstances, would reasonably be regarded by members as disgraceful, dishonourable, or unprofessional.
According to the College’s conclusions:
The Member made statements and provided advice in the context of her personal experience and also while relying upon her qualifications and registration as a Psychological Associate. While providing advice to individuals, she did so without properly assessing the circumstances of the members of the internet audience to whom advice was provided.
Ms. Papadopoulos acknowledges and recognizes, that the making of personal disclosures in the context of the podcasts in which she was identified as a therapist and a registered member of the College, were capable of misinterpretation as psychological advice although she maintains that they were not intended as such.
While it may be appropriate to recommend family separation in cases of abuse, the Member did not obtain a sufficient history to ascertain whether the advice was warranted in the circumstances discussed in the podcasts. Although the Member advised that listeners seek professional help in their home communities on a number of occasions, she acknowledges that this advice was given in the absence of any meeting or proper assessment, and there was significant risk of misunderstanding by members of the public and the individuals to whom the Member directed advice and comments and such misunderstandings posed a risk of harm.
The Member made general statements and provided advice, both in general terms and directed towards particular individuals, that are not supported by current professional literature or consistent with the Standards.
The main text of the findings includes several examples of counseling that Christina offered to FDR members.
The college was also concerned with the financial role played by Freedomain Radio in all of this:
There is the risk and certainly the perception of the public, that the Member’s objectivity, competence and effectiveness were compromised by financial interests, since the Freedomain Radio website (although not the Member herself), actively solicited donations from readers and listeners, which promoted and benefited the site managed by the Member’s husband, with the suggestion that the level of donation to the website (her husband) reflect the number of podcasts listened to by any individual. The Member’s private practice website (www.mississaugatherapy.com) was also accessible in the “Ask a Therapist” section of the Freedomain Radio website.
Christina given harsh penalties
There was no lengthy defense, as Christina entered a plea of guilty to all charges:
Ms. Papadopoulos entered a plea of guilty to the allegations of professional misconduct specified in the Amended Notice of Hearing and set out above. The panel of the Discipline Committee found that Ms. Papadopoulos had committed the acts of Professional Misconduct described above.
Although Christina did not have her license revoked, the College leveled a heavy series of penalties at her, including:
- An official reprimand.
- Prohibition of any advice of a psychological nature offered in any podcast or internet based broadcast.
- Requirement of a one-year period of peer mentorship at Christina’s own expense, with a peer mentor to be appointed by the Registrar. The mentor will monitor ongoing treatment and will review a sample of client records selected at random by the mentor. The mentor will report to the Registrar at least once every three months, with such report addressing any concerns that have arisen with regard to Christina’s advice to clients.
- Christina must successfully complete at her own expense:
- The clinical extern program “Brief and Narrative Therapies with Families, Couples and Individuals (Level 1)” offered by the Hincks Centre, or a similar program to be approved by the Registrar
- A program of study approved by the Registrar and administered by a member of the College, and who may be the Peer Mentor, which will focus on emotional development, psychopathology, psychotherapy across the lifespan, and a discussion on how communications and professional opinions to clients and others are perceived.
- The Member’s Certificate of Registration be suspended for a period of six months. This suspension will be suspended (sic) until December 31, 2013, at which time the suspension will be fully remitted if the Member has complied with #3 and #4 above.
- A term, condition or limitation be imposed on the Member’s Certificate of Registration, prohibiting her from engaging in the provision of psychological services to any clients involving dissociation from family of origin, except under the direct guidance of the Peer Mentor, until she has complied with #3 and #4 above.
A final thought
To be sure, these are harsh penalties as well as a harsh indictment of the enthusiasm for defooing shown by Molyneux and his wife. On the other hand, perhaps it was a matter of time before some kind of oversight was applied to an operation so freewheeling in its application of psychology that no one is really quite sure if it contributed to a recent suicide.
I don’t want to be accused of piling on—because I am sympathetic to the impact this may have on Christina and her practice—but, still, it seems notable to me that the College randomly reviewed cases from Christina’s practice and found she did not recommend defooing to her clients.
It is as if Christina had one set of psychological standards/principles at her practice and another when she worked with Stefan at Freedomain Radio.
Or maybe she had only one set, the one she used when she thought it mattered—in her role as a therapist. And she simply ignored them when she was the supportive spouse, trying to help her husband launch his enterprise.
In retrospect, I’m wondering if she’s asking herself the same question I’m asking myself now.
After all this—if she knew her husband’s theories were all wrong, wouldn’t it have been easier to just tell him?
What a podcast that would make.
Click below to e-mail or DIGG, etc., this article! As always, I welcome your comments!
*In 2008, Tu Thanh Ha was one of the first journalists to bring the unusual psychology practices of Freedomain Radio to public light. Although his original article has been archived and no longer appears on the Globe & Mail site, it has been preserved at the Ross Institute Internet Archives for the Study of Destructive Cults, Controversial Groups and Movements. The article can be found here.