Leah Remini Star Therapist Facing License Revocation
Accused of “incompetence” and “gross negligence,” California therapist claimed “specialized expertise” in evaluation of mother of two she never met.
Investigators for the California Board of Behavioral Sciences have recommended disciplinary action against therapist Rachel Anne Bernstein.
The vocal supporter of the defunct Cult Awareness Network (CAN) allegedly offered an expert opinion to a family court about a woman who was never her patient and with whom Bernstein had spoken only once by telephone. Bernstein is accused of gross negligence, incompetence, failing to maintain confidentiality and “practicing outside the scope of one’s practice and experience.”
Bernstein is also closely connected to several of Leah Remini’s associates and guests on her television show featuring expelled Scientologists. Vice president of Remini-backed Aftermath Foundation, Aaron Smith-Levin, is a close friend of Remini’s and regular on her show. Smith-Levin along with fellow ex-member and Remini guest Chris Shelton both direct clients to Bernstein, who appears in nine of Shelton’s online videos. Bernstein in turn promotes Shelton on her podcast as “one of the stars” of the Remini show.
Another regular on Remini’s show is Claire Headley, a known patient of Bernstein’s. Headley is best known for a failed lawsuit against the Church where she and her husband, who were expelled from the Church for embezzlement, had to pay the Church’s legal fees when the case was tossed out of multiple courts. Bernstein, in addition to seeing Headley as a patient, consulted Headley on her ill-fated lawsuit.
According to the accusation document dated March 1, 2019, Bernstein improperly billed herself as an expert in identifying narcissism and violated confidentiality by revealing contact information in a letter to the court without the woman’s consent. “[Bernstein] showed that she lacked general knowledge about informed consent and confidentiality, which are primary tenets of the practice of marriage and family law,” states the board document, which identifies interested parties only by their initials.
Bernstein improperly billed herself as an expert
in identifying narcissism and violated confidentiality
by revealing contact information in a letter to the court without the woman’s consent.
“[Bernstein] violated M.S.’s confidentiality ... by disclosing confidential information about M.S. in the April 2018 letter she submitted to the family law court in connection with J.S.’s petition for change of custody, without first obtaining M.S.’s consent and a signed written authorization/release.”
Board investigators also contend that Bernstein “held herself out as having specialized expertise in diagnosing narcissism to support her diagnosis of M.S. as narcissistic, without meeting M.S. or conducting an evaluation of M.S., which did not conform to standard therapy practices for assessment and diagnosis.”
Bernstein, based in Encino, California, has been a licensed therapist since 1991 and a credentialed teacher since 1987.
In addition to current involvement with the International Cultic Studies Association, Bernstein is a partner with the Freedom of Mind Resource Center, a group that, according to its website, helps “the public understand ... mind control in all of its forms including controlling people, cults, beliefs, estrangement, and parental alienation.” Freedom of Mind is headed by former CAN “deprogrammer” Steve Hassan, who has appeared and promoted himself on Remini’s A&E show.
CAN, which featured Bernstein as a lecturer at numerous conferences and events, folded in the mid-1990s after the group lost a lawsuit filed by a man who was kidnapped and held for days by a CAN deprogrammer.
Bernstein did not respond to requests for comment.
A spokeswoman for the California Department of Justice, which serves as an arbiter between the Behavioral Sciences Board and accused therapists, said her office received a “notice of defense” from Bernstein on March 20. A hearing on the matter has not yet been scheduled.
The full accusation against Bernstein is available here.
Anyone with knowledge of illegal or unethical activities on the part of any therapist, psychologist, counselor or psychiatrist is urged to report such activities to the proper authorities as well as Freedom at firstname.lastname@example.org.