Unlicensed therapist faces B.C. RCMP probe for alleged illegitimate autism assessments

A therapist who dropped an application for a psychology license after he was accused of sexual misconduct by a patient is now being investigated by the BC RCMP for alleged parents having to undergo an autism assessment without he was not qualified to perform, CBC News reported.

Xander Phoenix, subject of a public safety notice from the BC . College of Psychologywas also accused by a former superintendent of fraudulently using his signature on inspection reports.

The two parents and former supervisor say they have filed a police report and Kelowna RCMP has confirmed an investigation is underway.

CBC reviewed two autism assessments for children in the Kelowna area signed by Phoenix in March 2021 and April 2022, as well as related $3,000 bills for his services.

The Department of Child and Family Development says Phoenix is ​​not on the registry of autism providers and in BC only registered pediatricians, psychiatrists and psychologists can write a review about autism.

Two parents who shared their child’s assessment said they went to the police after learning they were invalid. These assessments are necessary to access appropriate funding and support for children with autism, but as of December, the overall wait time to have a child evaluated in BC is 84.7 weeks.

“He’s taking away too many opportunities from deserving kids. Now we have to start from scratch,” said the mother, whose child was assessed by Phoenix in April.

“The waiting list is much longer than it was six months ago.”

CBC has agreed not to name parents to protect their children’s private health information. Both said that Phoenix refunded their money after they confronted him about his incompetence.

Therapist says he ‘never lied about my qualifications’

Phoenix told CBC in an email that he is not aware of any police investigations related to his assessments and insists he is fully qualified to conduct them because of his training and experience. his experience.

“I’ve never lied about my qualifications. They [the parents] all know I am eligible to complete autism assessments and also know I am not registered but under supervision,” he said.

However, he acknowledged that some of his autism assessments had not been accepted by the Department and said he agreed to refund customers.

“I have done many reviews, all of which were accepted, even court-approved in BC. If those reviews are invalid or illegal, they will never be accepted and recognized,” he said.

On the question of its former supervisor’s use of signatures in reviews, Phoenix said it was a “bug” and that the issue was “resolved and resolved.”

Phoenix added that he no longer practices in BC and has given up his clinic here.

“I’m just a private citizen now who just wants to be left alone,” he said.

The former supervisor reported Phoenix to the police

Phoenix currently holds a psychiatry degree in Florida.

As CBC previously reportedhe applied for a license in BC at one point but withdrew his application during the university’s investigation into allegations he had sex with a patient.

Phoenix also let his Virginia driver’s license expire last summer ahead of a disciplinary conference related to similar allegations.

In previous conversations with CBC, he did not deny having sex with the woman in question but insisted she was never actually his patient.

Phoenix claims to be fully qualified to conduct autism assessments. (DedMityay / Shutterstock)

BC’s College of Phoenix public announcementfirst posted in September, does not mention any charges against him but says he is not and has never been licensed in the province.

Since then, the notice has been updated twice without any explanation as to why the addition was necessary.

The update first addressed Phoenix’s relationship with his former supervisor, psychologist Harry Stefanakis, stating that Stefanakis has not been linked to Phoenix since May 21, 2021. Monday said that psychologist Catherine Currell never had any connection with Phoenix.

The autism assessment review provided to the CBC may provide some insight into why the notice was revised.

One of the reviews included Stefanakis’ signature and the other Currell’s. The two experts described in the report are Phoenix’s “consulting supervisors”.

Stefanakis’ signature is on the previous review, on March 30, 2021, when he was still Phoenix’s supervisor.

When asked to comment on Phoenix, Stefanakis wrote in an email, “He used my name fraudulently more than once. I submitted a police report and reported it to the BC College of Psychology. “

The purported review signed by Currell was written more than a year later, on April 7, 2022.

When asked why Currell’s signature was used, Phoenix said, “it was my fault.”

Currell did not respond to a request for comment; however, her website makes it clear that she does not provide any services to children or young people.

The university said it was aware of the allegations

College registrar Andrea Kowaz said she was limited in her ability to share more information.

“I can say that the university has the authority to defend the title of ‘psychologist’ and has taken steps to alert Mr. Phoenix to statutory restrictions that prohibit him from using that title to describe her work in British Columbia,” she wrote.

Kowaz went on to say that she is aware of allegations that have been shared on social media regarding Phoenix writing an autism assessment.

“We understand that allegations have been made public about Mr. Phoenix.… We cannot comment specifically on those allegations,” Kowaz wrote.

She said the university does not have the authority to investigate criminal allegations involving someone who has never been a psychologist registered in BC, and that these complaints are best handled by the police.

Reports were filed with the RCMP in Burnaby, the location of Phoenix’s former clinic, and in Kelowna.

Kelowna RCMP confirmed it was in charge of the investigation but declined to comment further.

“We are not in a position to discuss the specifics of an ongoing investigation other than to say it is progressing and we do not have a timeline regarding when it will be completed. city”, Sgt. Kevin Duggan said in an email.

One parent said she worries the lack of regulation of counselors and therapists in BC makes it too easy for people to take advantage of vulnerable people like children with autism. (Zahraa Photography / Shutterstock)

Although Phoenix said he no longer practices therapy in BC, there’s nothing stopping him from seeing patients again. Psychotherapy and clinical counseling are not regulated in this province.

That’s worrisome for the mother of a child assessed by Phoenix in March 2021.

“There are people who can wear masks and pretend to be someone they are not and take advantage of many people in vulnerable situations,” she said.

“The experience that I’ve had with this individual, I think, may be because there’s no governing body to do anything about it.”

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