Samaritan Counseling and Alcoholics Anonymous Coercion

On 5/22/14, I called up my therapist, an LCSW, to ask for an appointment. I had spent over five months jumping through 12-step rehab/addiction treatment hoops required by her and David Olsen to get back into ‘non-addictions’ therapy. I did not realize that she was a ‘two-hatter’ (a professional who also sees it as her job to force people into 12-step programs), and did not expect the traumatic conversation that was about to take place.

UPDATE 2020: James Garrett was arrested by state police in Jan 2014 and charged with five felonies for fraud. He later pleaded guilty to a reduced crime. Samaritan Counseling has not acknowledged this.

I had already decided that I didn’t want to do AA back in November, and I had told them all that. Their response was to refuse to talk to me unless I went first to a twelve-step interventionist James Garrett, and inpatient 12-step rehab for 30 days (which I refused to do because it cost $17,000 and I was in the process of leaving AA). Finally, I got the addictions counselor James Garrett to allow me to schedule an appointment with my therapist. I told him that I wanted to tell her how counterproductive these requirements were, and that he had nothing to offer me as I had already decided I don’t want anything to do with AA.

He had told her, apparently, that she should not talk to me. (After all, Level 3 of “The Formal ARISE Intervention”: serious consequences are put in place if the addicted individual does not enter treatment.) He knew that all I wanted was to discuss this with her, and he intentionally would not let that happen.

“[Jim Garrett] was clear that I had set a clear boundary with the client” – Oona Edmands LCSW, Samaritan Counseling

“Discussed how his drinking damaged the relationship with Oona and how he may never get the opportunity to resolve/bring closure to that relationship” – James Garrett LCSW

Oona Edmands refused schedule an appointment to listen to what I had been through in those 5 months under her direction (direction which appeared to me to be under duress), and noted in her records that I was not following up on the ‘recommendations’. Twice she labeled my statements as ‘contradictory’ when I said I had done what they told me to do (such as $265/week group session at Saint Peter’s Addiction Recovery outpatient) but that it wasn’t helpful, as if I had not even tried it.

“He became upset and stated he did not understand why he could not just talk to me.” – Oona Edmands LCSW, Samaritan Counseling

They later labeled this being upset as “Axis II presentation”. But I told Jenness Clairmont that I had every reason to believe I’d be able to discuss this with her, as they kept telling me basically “if you do this, that, then you can talk to Oona Edmands again”, and I had spent a lot of time, money, and trust trying to do what they suggested and noting how it affected me. I hoped my experience would give them some useful insight into the ‘treatment’ they were allied with. She was being used as a carrot on a stick instead of being allowed to be a competent professional capable of listening to my actual experience with what is more and more being revealed as a fraudulent and corrupt industry with no ‘special knowledge’ – Addiction Treatment.

“I consulted with my supervisor David Olsen PhD who stated that I should not be alone with the cl. again and the only possible contact might be a group session with Jim Garrett to complete the transfer and so that Mr. Garrett would fully understand the transference issues. He stated that it was likely that seeing me would cause a relapse and Jim should understand this.” – Oona Edmands LCSW, Samaritan Counseling

This is also part of the ARISE intervention strategy (“The Intervention Network acts as a Board of Directors, so no one deals one-on-one with the addicted individual.”) This of course makes it impossible to discuss anything without the 12-step interventionist being involved.

This mediated session also never happened. David Olsen never met with me, and Jenness Clairmont also did not follow up with me after she informed me that I was accused of harassment. Instead they sent me a letter stating that under no circumstances was I to have any further contact with anyone at Samaritan. I found that extremely odd and hurtful, especially since I had done nothing wrong, but rather had spent months trying to respectfully fulfill ‘my side of the contract’, even though it nearly led me to suicide.

The purpose of this blog is to call out two-hatting among social workers. My own experience is with:

David Olsen, the Executive Director of Samaritan Counseling Center of the Capital Region, who was Oona Edmands’ supervisor and told her things like: she needs to ‘call me out on my bullshit’, that I was ‘taking her for a ride’, and that I’m a ‘ticking time bomb’. He was also behind every 12-step requirement according to my records.

Oona Edmands and Jenness Clairmont (the Clinical Director and coincidentally on the NYS Office of Professions, the licensing board) both at one time or another mentioned that they were not fond of the 12-steps. However, this did not prevent them from terminating me under David Olsen’s direction when I complained about the 12-step coercion.

It seemed more like she was trying to call me an alcoholic to cover up for something (I think she thought her job was in jeopardy because she had told me things like “it’s like we’re dating” which confused me), than actually trying to help me. Which of course made things much worse than they needed to be. The real issue is that they would not acknowledge that 12-step coercion, especially in the aftermath of that, was extremely harmful and demeaning.

James Garrett is much more overtly a 12-step interventionist. This is his method: ARISE Intervention. It is absurd that Samaritan Counseling would terminate-refer me to a 12-step interventionist after I complained about 12-step coercion, but this is, as David Olsen put it, their ‘preferred mode of treatment’. I got the impression that this is a good way to wash their hands of their own mistakes and make the client feel guilty about transference issues after they’ve enjoyed being someone’s ‘higher power’ a little too much. This is especially concerning in relation to a sex therapist who seems to have issues with censoring negative feedback, religious boundary violations, and refusing to address complaints properly.

Not one of these four therapists licensed by the State of New York has even a mark on their license for 12-step coercion, suppression of informed consent, professional conflict of interest, and refusal to address a complaint properly. They could have done the right thing, but they all chose not to, and they need to be held accountable for this. In my opinion, they should all have their licenses revoked.