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  1. #1
    Randell1234 is offline Moderator
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    Is it illegal to refer to yourself as doctor if you are a therapist and you are ABD

    I noticed this billboard whrre I live for this person and they list there credentials as PhD ABD. They refer to themself as Dr multiple times on the website. I think this is really misleading for patients.


    They list:

    M.S.W., L.S.W., L.C.S.W., L.I.S.W., Ph.D ABD


    Jill Fischer - Peters M.S.W., L.S.W., L.C.S.W., L.I.S.W., Ph.D ABD, Psychotherapist/ President Marriage and Family Therapist in Seminole, FL

    Who We Are | Living Well Psychotherapy Associates Inc. - Seminole, FL | (727) 391-9800

  2. #2
    Kizmet is offline Moderator
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    Telling a lie is not always against the law but it may be a violation of professional ethics.

  3. #3
    Rich Douglas is offline Registered User
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    Legalities are for lawyers. But, since the PhD sends a particular signal in that field, the person is acting deceptively since most people won't make the distinction regarding "ABD."

  4. #4
    graymatter is offline Registered User
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    As was noted on a previous thread, this is about defrauding those who don't know the difference.

    More common (and apparently not illegal) is when someone has a terminal degree in one discipline (or perhaps an honorary doctoral degree) and implies that it is in another (professional) discipline. For instance, a man with a (legit) masters in psychology who refers to himself as "Dr" because he has a (less-than-legit) "PhD" in religion.

  5. #5
    mbwa shenzi is offline Registered User
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    All but dissertation...for me, it was two years of coursework and then two more years for the dissertation part. A friend of mine, who did his PhD in a totally different field took very few courses and spent most of his time working on the dissertation (coursework - 20%, dissertation - 80%) so, at least at my university, the "all" in "all but" doesn't necessarily amount to very much.
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  6. #6
    Kizmet is offline Moderator
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    A part of my concern is that the ABD status is often perennial. It would be one thing if the ABD disappeared in a year but sometimes people are not even actively enrolled in their doctoral program yet continue to identify themselves as ABD.

  7. #7
    Ted Heiks is offline Moderator and Distinguished Senior Member
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    ABD is a perennal thing. It indicates that you worked on your Whatever.D. degree years ago and washed on the dissertation. If you're still working on your Whatever.D. program, you are Whatever.D. Cand. Too many confuse the difference.
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  9. #8
    Neuhaus is offline Registered User
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    Is it ethical? No. We have gone over and over the hypothetical LMHC with a PsyD potentially misleading people into thinking they are a licensed psychologist . And I think there are merits on either side of that argument. But, at the end of the day, that situation still deals with an earned doctorate.

    The whole perpetual ABD situation extends into virtually every industry. I receive resumes from people who are "ABD" in doctoral programs they surely were withdrawn from decades ago. Some people are more forthright and list their achievement merely as "doctoral coursework" but note that they never received the degree. Others do cutesy things like list out a PhD and in a smaller font face include a notation of "ABD" after it. One applicant put an asterisk beside his PhD and, at the bottom of the second page, noted "all but dissertation."

    Is it illegal? Depends upon whom you ask. A mental health practitioner may very well have to answer for such conduct to their respective licensing board. However, that will only matter if their licensing board actually cares.

    I once send a note to the state bar concerning a lawyer who was pretty heavily marketing himself as a "Doctor of Law" complete with using the title "doctor" and very strongly implying that his JD was something that most lawyers didn't have. As I recalled the ABA set out guidance about this exact thing during the shift between LLB and JD, I though maybe they should be aware of what this guy was doing. They don't appear to have cared at all. And that guy was also including that he was a "professor of law" in his materials as well (he taught in the paralegal program at the local CC).

    So, at a minimum, it's misleading advertising . I don't think I would call it full on deception, however. People don't typically hire mental health practitioners on the basis of degrees. No one is sitting there saying "well, I'd love to hire this guy because he has good reviews, but he has an EdD and I'm drawing a line in the sand at PsyD with a preference for a PhD." Many people simply see a nonsensical alphabet soup after the name that, frankly, doesn't sway them either way. I'd say it's "deception" in the case of one of those unlicensed dental offices the state shuts down every few months. There, a person held him or herself out to be a dentist without the required training or the necessary license and lured unknowing patients in with a promise of professional care they were incapable or unwilling to offer. ABD shenanigans are misleading, they are unethical and I would argue they speak to the character of the individual (i.e. Perhaps someone so vain as to need to mislead people into thinking they have a doctorate has issues of their own which impact their ability to provide care). But if a person is offering a service they are qualified to offer and operating within the guidelines of their license then I think it's all a lesser offense than outright deception.
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  10. #9
    Garp is offline Registered User
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    If you are ABD you do not have a doctorate and should not be calling yourself "Dr.".

    If you are a therapist and have a doctorate the general rule is that it should be in a similar field such as counseling , social work , pastoral counseling , psychology , etc. In fact, some states and professional boards require this. So, if you are a licensed clinical social worker, licensed professional counselor, etc., you could have a DSW, a PhD in counseling , a DMin in pastoral counseling , an Ed.D in Educational Psych and be okay from an ethical and legal standpoint. A PhD in English or DBA would be problematic and misleading.

    The degree should also be accredited. With the exception of California, you may get into some problems if you get an unaccredited PhD and promote yourself as "Dr." in a therapy setting.
    Last edited by Garp; 01-12-2016 at 08:52 AM.

  11. #10
    me again is offline Registered User
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    Quote Originally Posted by Randell1234 View Post
    A billboard has a person person who lists her credentials as PhD ABD, but she refers to herself as Dr multiple times on the website. This is misleading for patients.

    Jill Fischer - Peters M.S.W., L.S.W., L.C.S.W., L.I.S.W., Ph.D ABD, Psychotherapist/ President Marriage and Family Therapist in Seminole, FL

    Who We Are | Living Well Psychotherapy Associates Inc. - Seminole, FL | (727) 391-9800
    Yep, it's there:

    Quote Originally Posted by About Jill Fischer
    Dr. Fischer... performs psychotherapy with children...

    Therapuetic Models utilized in counseling /psychotherapy by Dr. Fischer...

    Living Well Psychotherapy is locationed in Seminole, Florida where Dr. Fischer...

    Dr. Fischer... treats... disorders and mental conditions...

    Dr. Fischer... has testified as a qualified Expert Witness in the Judicial Court...

    Dr. Fischer... has lectured all over the country at various Universities, Hospitals and Businesses on...

    Dr. Fischer... assesses the safety needs of children...

    Jill Fischer - Peters M.S.W., L.S.W., L.C.S.W., L.I.S.W., Ph.D ABD, Psychotherapist/ President Marriage and Family Therapist in Seminole, FL [website source valid as of 1.12.16]
    Patients also are also referring to her "Dr. Jill" on the website.

    Quote Originally Posted by About Jill Fischer
    I took my daughter to Dr Jill...
    Not sure what the current law is in Florida:
    https://www.flsenate.gov/laws/statutes/2010/817.567

    Or if the law has changed:
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  12. #11
    Garp is offline Registered User
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    Another thing I would add is that if you meet the criteria I mentioned, it is a good idea to be clear who you are. I read once in regard to Physical Therapists and Pharmacists in hospital settings that it was okay to introduce them or for them to introduce themselves as "Dr." if they said something like, "Hi, I am Dr. Rujan, the Physical Therapist assigned to you" or "Hi, I am Dr. Smythe, the hospital pharmacist".

  13. #12
    Neuhaus is offline Registered User
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    My earlier statements were made based just on the PhD ABD bit on the billboard.

    The testimonials are disturbing because it's pretty clear that she is actively using the title "Doctor" when she is not authorized to do so.

    And that's interesting about Florida's law concerning false claims of academic degrees. Of course, if a person really wants to be a "Doctor" the state also gives them the religious freedom "out" with seminary degrees.

    Considering how easy it is to set up a religious degree granting institution in Florida, perhaps we should establish a "ministry" designed especially to assist individuals like Dr. Fischer in normalizing their credentials.

    I'm thinking for $1,200 we can give her a pretty certificate. We just have to make it a "religious" doctorate so...

    PhD in Theological Psychotherapy?

    How about a Doctor of Metaphysics (M.D.)?
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  14. #13
    Garp is offline Registered User
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    Neuhaus, won't work in all settings. One reg I saw said the doctorate you tacked on had to be in a related field AND accredited (regional or national).

  15. #14
    Neuhaus is offline Registered User
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    Quote Originally Posted by Garp View Post
    Neuhaus, won't work in all settings. One reg I saw said the doctorate you tacked on had to be in a related field AND accredited (regional or national).
    Well, there's never a perfect fit.

    But for the inconvenience, I imagine we can lower the price for Dr. Fischer to $999 if she orders...err...enrolls today.
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