Jean Penczar, who presented at this year’s International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation (ISSTD) conference, was the subject of a disciplinary order by the Arizona Board of Behavioral Health Examiners in 2016. According to the Consent Agreement, Penczar agrees that the following description of events — which occurred while she was a Licensed Professional Counselor — are true:

  • Penczar began treating a client for Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) in Penczar’s second home — from which she ran her private practice —  in 2007.
  • In 2008, Penczar allowed the client to move into her second home, initiating an unethical dual relationship.
  • The client paid Penczar $200 per month until late 2009 or 2010, when Penczar allowed her to live there rent-free due to financial hardship.
  • From 2008-2010, the client was being treated “almost daily.”
  • By 2010, treatment became less frequent.
  • In Fall 2012, Penczar introduced the client (Client 1) to another client (Client 2), who was also being treated by Penczar for DID.
  • Client 2 began harassing Client 1 in 2012-2013.
  • In September 2013, Client 1 reported to Penczar that she had been raped by Client 1 at Penczar’s private practice/second home.
  • Client 1 saw a doctor, who determined that there was physical damage consistent with a sexual assault.
  • Penczar failed to report the ongoing threats and harassment, as well as the sexual assault, to police.
  • Penczar’s clinical documentation consisted of “informal notes and pictures drawn by clients.

These are shocking allegations which, again, by signing the Consent Agreement, Penczar acknowledges are accurate. As a result, the board came to the following conclusions:

  • Penczar demonstrated “conduct, practice, or condition” that impaired her ability to “safely and competently” practice her profession.
  • Penczar violated laws against dual relationships.
  • Penczar “failed to conform to minimum practice standards” related to consent for treatment, treatment plan, and client record.

Given her egregious failure to follow basic standards of practice, the board issued the following orders:

  • Penczar may not practice under her license.
  • License expired on 10/31/16.
  • She may not renew her license.
  • She may not apply for any new license for 5 years.

This is actually a far harsher punishment — well-deserved, to be sure — than we’ve seen with most ISSTD presenters who have been investigated for unethical behavior, of which there are many. In fact, mental health practitioners affiliated with the ISSTD have engaged in much worse behavior that boards felt merited barely any punishment at all.

It’s rather incredible how so many practitioners with close connections to the ISSTD — a group that claims to champion victims of torture and abuse — have settled lawsuits, had their licenses suspended, and have otherwise engaged in clearly unethical behavior.

Even worse, the ISSTD has failed to practice due diligence: Penczar was invited to this year’s conference despite the fact that the board order has been available on the Arizona Board of Behavioral Health Examiners’ website since it was issued in 2016.

The good news is that, while the ISSTD continually fails to do background checks on their own speakers, we’re happy to do it for them.