Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Steve Lopez….No!!!!!!!!!

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on August 11, 2013

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Yes, Steve Lopez is a tremendous advocate for the mentally ill. His journalism has brought awareness to the problems in LA County in ways in which psychiatrists have been anemic. I have applauded him before in my posts. . In today’s LA Times, I also agree with his main point that in the proper environment, it is both cost-effective, and helpful to patients to get quality treatment for their mental illness. I also agree that Step-Up-On Second is a model facility for the mentally ill. Yet, it is this paragraph that I am compelled to comment on.

“At Step Up, which serves hundreds of clients, Andy got counseling, he switched to a more effective medication and worked as a chef after culinary training. He also moved in with his girlfriend, social worker and therapist Kathy McTaggart. Without McTaggart and Step Up, Andy told me, he might still be in jail or worse.”

This is unacceptable. A therapist should never develop an intimate relationship with his patient, no matter what. I am confused as to why Mr. Lopez chose Andy for this story, as this last detail contaminates his point. This article could lead people to believe that if the patient can “take their therapist home,” literally speaking, then there is hope. In fact, most of the time, this boundary violation creates more mental suffering, as the playing field never balances. The image this gives to the therapeutic community is potentially very damaging. Many therapists help patients, such as Andy,  develop intimate relationships with others, thereby giving them the confidence to create a life for themselves which has meaning. The therapist is that essential bridge to self-confidence and self-esteem. When the patient never gets off that bridge then perpetual dependency, and not deep self-esteem, ensues. That this worked out for Andy is not the point. The point is that Mr. Lopez should not have exposed this practice as the model treatment.



5 Responses to “Steve Lopez….No!!!!!!!!!”

  1. mimi said

    shirah – i know kathy and i’m pretty sure she doesn’t work at step up. in fact i think she’s retired by now bc i haven’t seen her in a long time. i have a really hard time believing this is true and wonder if steve got it mixed up? i haven’t read the article but will – ugh! i hope it’s not true and he got mixed up – kathy is a great social worker and has a long history of doing good work in the school system. she is highly respected and i just can’t imagine this is true! thanks for pointing this out – i’ll go investigate!! m

  2. mimi said

    ok – just read the article! i didn’t know that kathy had passed away – how sad. i still don’t think that the story makes sense and i agree that it’s a shame that steve lopez published this without us knowing if he fact checked that story. mimi

  3. Shelly said

    I read the quote in your blog and to me it reads as if Andy got involved with Step Up and A Therapist, whose name was Kathy McTaggart. Just from the quote in your blog, it did not look to me that Andy got together with the therapist while he was involved in the program. I agree with you, though; if they dated or became romantically involved while in Step Up, that would be a gross violation of boundaries.

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