Petition Letter to TSBEP
To: Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists (TSBEP) Board Members
333 Guadalupe Street
Tower 2, Room 450
Austin, Texas 78701
As a follow up to the TSBEP Board meeting on February 14, 2019, we the undersigned to this petition wish to reiterate our grave concerns about one of the TSBEP licensees, Dr. Alissa Sherry (Lic 32248), who conducted deeply-flawed forensic custody and psychological evaluations for family courts which irreparably harmed our children, our families, and us personally. We are saddened that we must take these actions today, but in doing so, we hope to prevent this tragedy from happening to other members of the public who are court-ordered to obtain evaluations.
We urge you to take this petition and our individual complaints about Dr. Alissa Sherry seriously and investigate her actions thoroughly.
As a critical component of the family law system, we ask that this Board consider taking the actions below, among others, to remedy troubling issues pertaining to misconduct in forensic evaluations and implement long-overdue reform. It is incumbent upon the Board to uphold its professional integrity by strengthening its policies pertaining to forensic evaluations conducted by its licensees, and enforcing those rules rigorously by identifying and disciplining unethical practitioners.
Thus, we ask that the board instill more oversight and provide more direction to forensic psychologists involved in family court cases. Taking these and other steps will prevent needless devastation to Texas children and their families. It will also better inform the court as to the best interests of the children, which is the clear mandate in these cases.
To not address this important issue would be negligent; it may place the public, especially one of its most vulnerable populations – children – at further risk of irreparable damage and may further erode the public’s faith in the psychological profession.
As a result of the damaging effects that Dr. Sherry’s misconduct had on our and our children’s lives, we request that the Board conduct a comprehensive review of its policies and rules regarding forensic evaluations. Due to the critical and extensive nature of the problems discussed herein, we request that the Board create a committee to conduct such a review, and have among its members at least two (2) parents to represent the public’s perspective.
Requests and Recommendations
Given the sheer volume and patterns of misconduct in her custody and psychological evaluations, we request
- that you require Dr. Sherry to undergo a physical and mental evaluation due to a reasonable suspicion of impairment per Texas Occupations Code Section 501.158 Competency Requirements. In conjunction with its own investigations, this action will inform the Board as to this licensee’s competency and further, prevent this potentially impaired practitioner from putting other clients at risk of harm.
- Until a proper investigation can be completed, we request that the Board suspend forensic evaluations conducted by Dr. Alissa Sherry altogether from the Texas family law courts.
For all forensic custody and psychological evaluations conducted by Board licensees, we make these requests, including but not limited to:
- Provide and enforce a strict requirement that opinions and statements be validated methodically and scientifically. Require evaluators to clearly identify information that was not substantiated and rationale for not doing so.
- Establish and enforce rigorous rules when diagnosing individuals for forensic family law cases.
- Require and enforce evaluators to spend equal amounts of time with parents (as well as their attorneys) and children (including time spent independent of parents).
- Set and enforce stringent guidelines about collateral informants regarding their reliability and objectivity, including but not limited to, requiring all informants to sign affidavits certifying the truth, completeness, and accuracy of information attributed to them in the final evaluation.
- Prohibit an evaluator from recommending the dismissal of other professionals.
- Prohibit and enforce all psychologists from ex parte communications.
- Set and enforce limitations on time allowed for forensic evaluations, both psychological and custody.
- Set and enforce fees and costs associated with, including a maximum cost, for forensic evaluations, both psychological and custody.
- Conduct regular audits of forensic psychologists, including but not limited to, their methodology, conduct, and reports.
- Provide a clearly defined process for review and authentication of the evaluation report prior to finalizing, including corrections, and include such in the final report.
- Require all communications between evaluator, attorneys, and all parties are via email and made available to all parties involved. Any telephone conversations should be recorded.
- Enforce evaluators adhering to the court-ordered scope of services.
- Require all forensic evaluators to be proficient in and employ trauma-informed methods.
We make these requests as parents or families who were harmed by the unethical conduct and malpractice of Dr. Alissa Sherry. Please recognize that we, the undersigned, may represent only a fraction of families negatively impacted by Dr. Sherry. Due to fear of retaliation, legal advice, and pending litigation, others may not have come forward as of this date. In reality, once a family is court-ordered to obtain a psychological evaluation, there is little recourse to do otherwise.
Though all of our stories are different, there are unignorable similarities and patterns in our forensic evaluations performed by Dr. Sherry. In an attempt to counter the harm of these deeply-flawed evaluations, some of us obtained peer reviews of Dr. Sherry’s evaluations. These practitioners also identified a disturbing pattern of misconduct.
Misconduct and Unethical Conduct by Dr. Alissa Sherry
- Misdiagnoses after no significant contact with the client; with no client history of psychological issues; and which contradicted other professionals’ opinions. Dr. Sherry regularly diagnoses psychosis in a statistically impossible percentage of divorced parents as compared to the percentage in the general public.
- Misuse of psychological testing, including the Rorschach test, and use of outdated tests
- The inclusion of unreliable, biased collateral informants and the exclusion of reliable collateral informants
- Failed to base forensic opinions on information sufficient to provide substantiation for each finding; selectively included and excluded information to the extent that it misled and inaccurately portrayed the situation
- Issued reports containing errors and unsupported opinions; failed to validate and substantiate information
- Failed to recognize a lack of objectivity; needlessly biased treatment of the two parents
- Failed to comply with court-ordered scope, including failure to assess parenting attributes
- Paraphrasing and misrepresenting events to the extent that it significantly confused and misled the court with inaccurate information
- Conducted evaluations without the requisite competency
- Violated ethical principles and Board rules
- Inappropriate billing practices
- Engaged in dual relationships
- Potential improper supervision
- Misrepresented her services as legal services (e.g., Legal Consensus, and online advertisements)
Harm Caused by Dr. Alissa Sherry’s Unethical, Flawed Evaluations
As you can imagine, these evaluations took a significant, damaging toll on our children, families, and us in many respects, including psychological, legal and financial. Dr. Sherry’s evaluations of us resulted in these and other harmful effects.
- Partial and total loss of our children and grandchildren … precious time that we won’t get back
- Likewise, our children’s loss of us … also, precious time that they won’t get back
- Financial hardship and even ruin … cumulatively, millions of dollars in direct expenses for Dr. Sherry’s evaluations, expenses for litigation relating to the evaluations, and expenses for second opinions and peer reviews of the evaluations. Currently, our average cost of just the custody evaluation alone is $61,356 per person and the average spent on litigation and direct court expenses recovering from these false evaluations is $475,875 per person. Many of us have had to sell our homes and/or experienced homelessness.
- Vulnerability and injustice in litigation. Misdiagnoses and misleading findings are seized upon and exploited by opposing counsel in proceedings.
- Stigma from misdiagnoses
- Trauma from the entire process
Dr. Sherry’s evaluations represent a form of harassment, not to mention potential malpractice.
In closing, in the coming months, we will be filing individual complaints and again, we urge the Board to take these licensing complaints, and others like ours, very seriously. It would be extremely negligent of the Board to dismiss complaints against psychologists who are involved in family court cases. It would give unethical psychologists unabated opportunity to continue causing irreparable damage to Texas children and families.
At your earliest convenience, please let us know what, if any, actions the Board will take as a result of the public comments from its February 14, 2019 meeting, this petition, complaints, etc.
Thank you, in advance, for your consideration.
Tim Branaman, Ph.D., Chairperson
Lou Ann Todd Mock, Ph.D., Vice Chairperson
Herman Adler, M.A.
Ryan T. Bridges
Angela A. Downes, J.D.
Susan Fletcher, Ph.D.
Ron Palomares, Ph.D.
Andoni Zagouris, M.A.
Darrel Spinks, Executive Director (Executive.Director@tsbep.texas.gov)