Billings psychologist Constance Reynolds testified during a disciplinary hearing Thursday that she never had a sexual relationship with her client.
State officials want to revoke Reynolds' license, saying she had an illegal sexual relationship with a client, shared confidential client information and engaged in illegal business transactions with clients. A hearing on the matter began in Billings Wednesday and concluded early Thursday evening.
Administrative Law Judge Greg Hanchett will consider the testimony before issuing a recommendation to the Montana Board of Psychology, which has the final say in any disciplinary action.
The central complaint against Reynolds involves accusations that she had a sexual relationship with her client Dana Mobley. The state also said Reynolds broke the law by renting a room in her home to Mobley and giving her gifts while she was in therapy. Mobley testified during the hearing. She later spoke to The Gazette and agreed to have her name published. Witnesses in the case were referred to by their initials. Some requested anonymity during public testimony, saying they feared for their jobs and health.
Mobley said the sexual accusations were contrived by a bitter colleague of Reynolds, Katina Mendez. After Mendez and Reynolds stopped working together and socializing, Mendez sought revenge.
"They'd been best friends for 17 years. (Mendez) went berserk. She started making accusations," Mobley said. "There was not a sexual relationship between me and Dr. Reynolds."
By the end of the day Thursday, the embattled psychologist's disciplinary hearing began to resemble an afternoon talk show. There had been testimony of implanted memories, of a daughter having an affair with her mother's girlfriend and confrontations between scantily clad women in Reynolds' bedroom. The two state attorneys assigned to the case often shook their head during the testimony.
Mendez, a therapist and one-time MSU-Billings professor, was the first to testify Thursday. She said Reynolds and Mobley began spending "inordinate" amounts of time together while Reynolds was offering therapy to the woman. Mendez was the maid of honor in Reynolds' previous marriage and initially practiced under Reynolds' license.
Mendez said she was convinced that Reynolds was having an affair with Mobley. Mobley was currently in a relationship with another woman, who was also Reynolds' client. Reynolds appeared "ecstatic" over her new love, Mendez said.
"She was happy. I just wish she had been happy with someone who was not her client and with someone who was not in love with another of her clients," Mendez said. "I was very sad that I was watching my friend make these colossal mistakes."
After the other client learned of the affair, she became so distraught she needed hospitalization, according to the state's investigation. Mendez then confronted Reynolds in her home. When she arrived, Reynolds and Mobley were "scantily clad" in the bedroom. Undergarments were strewn about on the bed and the room was filled with roses and large, heart-shaped boxes of candy.
"(Reynolds) informed me that she adored (Mobley)," Mendez said. "They were affectionate with one another, kissing and hugging."
Mobley denied the incident. "That never happened. That's a flat out lie," she said, adding that she has medical problems that make intimacy difficult. "There's not much I can do. The least of my thoughts is sex. My feelings for Dr. Reynolds aren't like that. She's my best friend."
Mendez said she was threatened by Mobley, but decided to file a complaint in September 2002 with the Montana Board of Psychologists. "I had been threatened very directly that I would be harmed if I did anything," she testified.
Another of Reynolds' clients, a young woman, testified that she had been having an affair with Mobley, not Reynolds. The young woman's mother was in a long-term relationship with Mobley and the young woman considered Mobley to be her step-mother. All three women were clients of Reynolds. Because of rules of confidentiality, Reynolds said she could not explain to Mendez the chaos that was occurring.
Reynolds also said she had strict limits on what she could advise her clients. But she felt she needed to keep them as clients because she understood the situation. Reynolds described her approach as "systems therapy."
Special Assistant Attorney General Julia Swingley scoffed at such notions. She said there was no mention of systems therapy during the preliminary investigation.
"Did you offer any documentation or expert testimony on systems therapy?" Swingley asked.
Reynolds said she could do some research and provide "excerpts" of reports.
Ron Burns, an investigator for the Montana Department of Labor and Industry, testified that Reynolds was evasive during his investigation. She failed to answer questions and provide documents or receipts detailing financial transactions with clients.
"She did not cooperate with the investigation," Burns said.
In one casee, Reynolds did not list a drunken driving conviction on her application for a psychologist's license, which is illegal, Burns said.
Reynolds did not provide any paper records or receipts to show that she rented her basement to Mobley, Burns said. Reynolds also failed to provide proper documentation behind her purchase of a home from Mobley's mother, who was also a client.
Reynolds had the house appraised by her bank to determine the purchase price of $102,000, but she never showed this document to her client, who was selling the home.
"I was just told," the woman testified.
The woman said she approached Reynolds to sell her house. "I was under financial stress," she said.
Reynolds said she has paper records stored in a box in her basement. She simply misplaced the box. "I know it's not in the garage," she testified. "I know it's not upstairs."
Another client, who has multiple personality disorder, testified that she lost trust in Reynolds and became concerned that Reynolds would implant false memories in her mind.
In the case of one horrible childhood memory, Reynolds "specifically told me to change the end of it," the client testified. "I didn't know how to deal with that. … She also referred to my mother, who is severely, severely mentally ill, as a fruit loop.' To hear that from a professional hurt me. What does she think of me?"
Maurice Richards, who was seeing Reynolds for depression, said he was shocked to learn that his confidential information had been shared with another client, Dana Mobley. Richards was giving Mobley a ride when she told him she knew about his younger brother, Mark, who had been killed in Vietnam.
Richards wept as he told the story. He said only his immediate family and Reynolds knew the name of his slain younger brother. He felt betrayed when he realized Reynolds had shared this information with another client.
Richards filed a complaint against Reynolds. Months later, in September, he received a phone call on a Saturday morning from a woman claiming to represent Child and Family Services. The woman claimed Richards' 2-month-old grandson was being abused by Richards' son. The woman then uttered an obscenity, and Richards said he recognized the voice to be that of his therapist. He hung up and called state officials the following Monday. Child and Family Services said such an abuse complaint involving an infant would be investigated in person. An inquisitory phone call would not have been made on a weekend by a person who did not give a name, Richards was told.
"I became very concerned about my family," Richards testified. "From what has all taken place … I have a hard time trusting anybody. The first thing that Constance Reynolds said to me, Well you can rest assured Maurice, you can trust me.' To me, that word trust' shouldn't ever be used so loosely."
During her testimony, Reynolds denied the accusation.