Psychotherapist lied about qualifications, board says

November 24, 2008 - 9:39AM

A Colorado Springs psychotherapist who for years has represented himself as a licensed psychologist - and been appointed by judges to conduct evaluations in numerous cases - has been suspended for lying about his qualifications.

Mark Hoffman was reprimanded Nov. 10 by the Colorado State Grievance Board, which said in its ruling that Hoffman had "provided substandard psychotherapy," "breached professional boundaries," "shared confidential information" and "used misleading advertising."

Hoffman declined comment Thursday other than to say, "I'm retired. I don't practice anymore."

His attorney, Denis Lane, did not return a call seeking comment.

For years, Hoffman has been appointed by 4th Judicial District judges to do evaluations in divorce cases and child custody cases. A number of attorneys and judges were surprised to learn Hoffman is not a licensed psychologist.

The Verizon Yellow Pages, under "licensed psychologists" has a listing for "Hoffman Mark H ED D." He advertised in a Colorado Bar Association publication that he was a "State Licensed Educational Psychologist #0166489," according to
He presented himself numerous times as a "forensic psychologist," according to the Grievance Board order.

And he's told judges in open court he's a psychologist.

He's not.

A Colorado law states an "unlicensed psychotherapist may not in any way refer to himself with the words ‘psychologist' ‘psychology' or ‘psychological.'"

Mental health professionals don't have to be licensed psychologists to be appointed in divorce or custody cases, said 4th Judicial District Judge Robert Lowrey.

"They are all qualified, and they are of good benefit to the court," Lowrey said, without referring to Hoffman specifically. "They can go much more in depth than the court and learn more than we can ever possibly learn in a few hours of testimony. ... They have more time to ferret out the truth."

Kris Stewart, 51, of Colorado Springs made the complaint to the Grievance Board about Hoffman in 2005.

Stewart's wife left him and took his son and a divorce and custody case ensued.

The judge required Stewart and his wife to get psychological evaluations. So based on a word-of-mouth recommendation, Stewart hired Hoffman.

"He told me he could really help me if he was appointed my special advocate," Stewart said.

So he asked the judge to appoint Hoffman and also paid him more than $9,000.

When Hoffman made his recommendations to the judge, he included "a diatribe against me" and "manufactured things I supposedly did then said I confessed to them," Stewart said.

Stewart taped the sessions and was able to not only prove he didn't confess to those things, but that Hoffman made some strange sexually oriented statements to Stewart, he said.

"I was told that had I not recorded it, no one would have believed me," Stewart said.

He sent the recording to the Grievance Board and an investigation was launched.

To protect his son and former wife's privacy, Stewart did not provide details about the things in Hoffman's report to the court.

Hoffman was slapped with a six-month suspension, according to the Grievance Board, and is not to "engage in the practice of psychotherapy" and not "hold himself out as a psychologist."

If he decides to practice again after the suspension, he will be on probation, required to undergo counseling and enlist the use of a "practice monitor" to supervise his practice.

Stewart said he bears no ill will against Hoffman, but thought it was important others know what he was doing.

Even though Stewart lost custody of his son, that was not his motivation for making the complaint, he said.

"Victory was not sweet," Stewart said. "But there is satisfaction that a long effort finally bore fruit. I don't want him to be hurt. I just want him to stop hurting others."