Psych Students Sue Pacifica

Claim Graduate School Lied About American Psychological Association Accreditation

Wednesday, October 2, 2013
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In two different lawsuits filed in January and September of this year, 39 former clinical psychology PhD students are claiming that their alma mater, Pacifica Graduate Institute, knowingly misled them about one of its key accreditations, an alleged omission that the ex-students say robbed them of thousands of dollars in tuition and fees and future income. For more than 10 years, the lawsuits allege, Pacifica misrepresented its clinical psychology program’s accreditation status with the American Psychological Association (APA), which the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation have endorsed as a top accreditation for professional psychology programs.

The former students claim that prior to and during their years at Pacifica, the school told them its program was APA certified or had accreditation pending; the school first applied for the APA stamp of approval in 2008 but was rejected. Eric Woosley, the lead attorney for the former students, said that each student discovered the issue at different times but were unable to transfer units from a non-APA school to an APA school. As a result, the lawsuits state that the students are each about $150,000 in debt — from tuition, student fees, and commuting expenses — and those who are not living in California, where APA accreditation isn’t required to get licensed, are having trouble finding work.

Erik Davis, Pacifica’s director of communications, released a statement on the lawsuits: “We are proud of our standard of education and the programs we provide. We have always been forthright about our APA accreditation status, and we are confident that our clinical psychology programs provide our graduates with knowledge and skills sought after by employers across the country.” Davis also added that all of Pacifica’s programs are accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).

According to Jeffrey Thomas, the assistant executive officer of the California Board of Psychology, clinical psychology graduates of schools with WASC accreditation can get licensed in California, but other states may require APA accreditation. Woosley said specific dollar amounts have not been set in the cases, but that the ex-students are suing the school for the program’s expenses, loss of future earnings, and attorney’s fees. Woosley said he expects more former students to join the lawsuits.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

Quack, quack, quacks...

Byrd (anonymous profile)
October 2, 2013 at 10:41 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Woops. That's where the "myth" part comes in.

Draxor (anonymous profile)
October 2, 2013 at 11:07 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Wouldn't be the first time this tactic was used by local Institutions. Brooks Institute under the leadership Of Ernie Brooks Junior pulled the same trick and got away with it. The current owners then later got caught with registrar shenanigans. Glad to see that the local media is at least willing to cover these issues.

It's hard to find examples of business transactions ( other than higher ED) where so much is promised in return for good money and so little often returned AND the customer ( in this case the student ) willing to too often NOT question at all how they got hoodwinked.

yendopostal (anonymous profile)
October 2, 2013 at 11:11 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Mhmmmm, and how does that make you feeeeeeeeeeeeeeeel? they should sue themselves for not pursuing a degree in STEM.

StockiestCastle (anonymous profile)
October 2, 2013 at 2:23 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The following statement is exactly what Pacifica posted on their website and catalog, after APA rejection.


Pacifica continues to update its Self-Study for application to the American Psychological Association for accreditation.
American Psychological Association guidelines indicate that all students registered and in good standing in any aspect of the program on the second day of the APA Site Visit and our Clinical Program receives APA Accreditation, will be deemed to have graduated from Pacifica's APA accredited Clinical Psychology Program when they complete all degree requirements. Graduation from an APA accredited program may facilitate licensing. APA accreditation will advance Pacifica’s mission, which is rooted in Depth Psychology.”

This is what Pacifica was posting after their application had been rejected and before they even applied. All the while Pacifica promised their students that APA was going to be a positive outcome. They even had students prepare for site visits from the APA. Pacifica mislead their students. It is extremely difficult to get a post doc internship in CA if one has not graduated from a non APA school. This is critical information, that Pacifica was obligated to provide to their student. Shame on them!

This is just the tip of the ice berg for Pacifica!

johansendk (anonymous profile)
October 2, 2013 at 2:36 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Wouldn't think one would need a phd to google and see if a college is APA accredited? Duh!

sallyc (anonymous profile)
October 2, 2013 at 4:15 p.m. (Suggest removal)

In the legal community around town he's known as Eric Boosley

montecitotex (anonymous profile)
October 2, 2013 at 11:16 p.m. (Suggest removal)

This guy and I've know him for years is about as morally twisted a snake in grass. Ten bucks on the dollar that he concocted this lawsuit himself. Cue the lawyer jokes!

montecitotex (anonymous profile)
October 2, 2013 at 11:25 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I am concerned that so many students believed they were misled. While attending classes I was told that the school was following a course that could lead to APA accreditation and was not promised that they would receive it by the time I graduated.

I'm also surprised that almost all of the comments are negative. I received the very best education at Pacifica Graduate Institute and was inspired by fellow students who were generally more talented than my classmates at an Ivy League school. I attended Pacifica because unlike most psychology graduate schools, it had a mission of teaching depth psychology and linked its teaching to the historic roots of the field that are still relevant. My professors there were dedicated, passionate and highly qualified and included several psychiatrists and training analysts. I felt well mentored there and graduated fully prepared to complete a postdoctoral fellowship at Kaiser Permanente.

Since my graduation APA accreditation has increasingly dominated the internship and job markets. This requirement excludes students from internships who are very capable of clinical work, many with prior masters level careers. Licensed clinicians with years of unblemished professional work are not considered for employment at places like the Veterans Administration.

The APA's dominance of the field homogenizes the requirements for licensure, over-riding diverse theoretical orientations. Depth psychological approaches are empirically validated. For this reason I resigned my membership in APA.

GSPhD (anonymous profile)
October 2, 2013 at 11:46 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Such a nasty defense blame the victims and attack the one helping them. Where is the soul in that? Kaiser might be about the only place a Pacifca graduate might be able to get a post doc in the state of CA, and those are few and far between.

johansendk (anonymous profile)
October 3, 2013 at 9:07 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Pacifica is a private for profit business. Their main concern is about making money for their top shareholders. Their shareholders include Pacifca's president and most of Pacifica's teachers. Pacifica got greedy and lied to their students about APA accreditation.

johansendk (anonymous profile)
October 3, 2013 at 9:44 a.m. (Suggest removal)

That place! What ever happened to tending soul? They'll say anything for a buck. Just how expensive is the Clinical program there? Without APA? Exactly!

JessieK (anonymous profile)
October 3, 2013 at 9:54 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Pacifica charges tuition fees that are in the range of Harvard, UCSB, UCLA and so on. Whereas those colleges are APA accredited they are worth the tuition charged. The only way Pacifica could validate charging the tuition they charge is by claiming they were weeks if not days from APA accreditation. The truth was Pacifica had yet to apply when Pacifica made these claims. When they finally applied APA rejected their application and Pacifica did not inform their students. Once a commitment is made by a PhD student to a PhD program the student is virtually trapped in that program because their units wont transfer and quitting is seen as a failure so it makes it very hard to switch programs. Pacifica relied on this. Pacifica also knew their student would have an extremely difficult time completing their licensing requirements. Post doc internships for graduates of non APA schools are extremely hard to find. Pacifica did not disclose this to their students.

johansendk (anonymous profile)
October 3, 2013 at 10:37 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I would assume anyone at the PhD level would do their due diligence before placing their money on the table.

We either have Fraud by the Institution or Ignorance by the pupils for not knowing that accreditation was a major issue in becoming employed.

This will be interesting to watch.

howgreenwasmyvalley (anonymous profile)
October 3, 2013 at 12:02 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Pacifica's registrar along with their top recruiting teachers all made claims in writing and verbally that Pacific's APA application was complete and was on the verge of being approved. When in reality Pacifica had not even applied. The APA does not disclose to prospective students which schools have pending applications with the APA. The APA relies on schools to accurately disclose their accreditation status. Therefore, students had to rely on the information they were being provided by Pacifica.

johansendk (anonymous profile)
October 3, 2013 at 12:32 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Who would post the kind of stuff Jonan SendK is writing incessantly. Best defense PGI could have is their lawyer messing the bed online...

ShirleyWiscomb (anonymous profile)
October 3, 2013 at 3:27 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Appreciate the advice Shirley. Just trying to get correct info out. I am a former student and just thought I could provide relevant information. Would not want to hurt anyone and hate to see my school being dragged through the mud. I sure hope they do the right thing here.

johansendk (anonymous profile)
October 3, 2013 at 3:38 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I wonder if these plaintiffs know that if you lose a case like this they will owe HUGE $$$$ for damage and recovery. Years of legal fees and estimated damage divided by the number of plaintiffs while the lawyer walks.

MattJohanson (anonymous profile)
October 4, 2013 at 11:31 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Any institution or business would obviously seek substantial monetary costs from the plaintiffs who have wrongfully sued and damaged a respected business.

MattJohanson (anonymous profile)
October 4, 2013 at 11:37 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Better be careful MattJohanson montecitotex is going to scold you for posting comments on two different sites.
I find it highly unlikely that how many? Three dozen former Pacifica students with more to be added would all have the same experience. I am a former student and I know Pacifica claimed they were weeks if not days away from APA accreditation so in my mind if it turns out they were not, I think Pacifica might have a big problem. Especially considering their students relied on Pacifica to tell the truth.

johansendk (anonymous profile)
October 4, 2013 at 5:31 p.m. (Suggest removal)

This is a distressing situation for someone like me who has been involved non-academically with the Institute since the land was purchased. That was 24 years ago. I am the outside contracted land manager (landscape and farm) for the Institute and not an employee.

My experience as an observer of the APA accreditation process was limited to hearing staff and faculty commenting on the complexity of the process and the enthusiasm with which they approached their tasks. Time after time, the APA returned with more requests. In the end the rejection of the Institutes application shocked everyone, it being so unexpected.

MarshallC (anonymous profile)
October 7, 2013 at 6:40 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Jung teaches authenticity; which is not necessarily the requirement of truthfulness. Students obviously were not doing their homework.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
October 16, 2013 at 9:25 a.m. (Suggest removal)

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