Disciplinary Action against
Walter Buenning, Ph.D.

Stephen Barrett, M.D.


Walter L. Buenning, who practices in Colorado Springs, Colorado, has for many years been a major proponent of the dubious concepts of "reactive attachment disorder" and "attachment therapy." In 1999, in response to a complaint, the Colorado State Board of Psychologist Examiners placed Buenning on three years probation, during which he was required to (a) undergo psychotherapy, (b) take continuing education courses about client/therapist boundaries, and (c) have his work with clients closely monitored by another psychologist.


BEFORE THE STATE BOARD OF PSYCHOLOGIST EXAMINERS
STATE OF COLORADO

Case No. RG PS DLKYI


STIPULATION AND ORDER


IN THE MATTER OF THE DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDING AGAINST THE
LICENSE TO PRACTICE PSYCHOLOGY IN THE STATE OF COLORADO OF
WALTER D. BUENNING, Ph.D., PSYCHOLOGY LICENSE NO. 1424,

Respondent,


IT IS HEREBY STIPULATED and agreed by and between the Colorado State Board of Psychologist Examiners ("Board") and Walter D. Buenning, Ph.D. ("respondent"), as follows:

1. The Board has jurisdiction over the person of respondent and the subject matter set forth in this stipulation and order.

2. The Board of Psychologist Examiners granted respondent a license to practice psychology in Colorado on January 19, 1990. Respondent was issued psychology license number 1424. Respondent has been so licensed at all times since this license was issued.

3. On or about August 17, 199, the Board received a complaint alleging that respondent engaged in actions which were below generally accepted standards of practice and prohibited under the Colorado Mental Health Statute.

4. Following investigation of the complaint the Board determined that reasonable grounds existed to refer this matter to its legal counsel the Colorado Attorney General, for initiation of disciplinary action against respondent's Colorado license to practice psychology and his practice of psychotherapy.

5. Respondent understands he has the right to a hearing with respect to the complaint filed against him. Respondent further understands and agrees that, by voluntarily and knowingly entering into this stipulation and order, he waives his right to a hearing; relieves the Board of its burden of proving the facts and conduct complained of; gives up his right to present a defense by oral and documentary evidence; and gives up his right to cross-examine witnesses. Respondent understands that he has the right to appeal the Board's final order to the Colorado Court of Appeals. Respondent further understands and agrees that, by voluntarily and knowingly entering into this stipulation and order, he waives. his right to appeal or otherwise to contest the validity of the final Board order entered pursuant to this stipulation.

6. Respondent admits and agrees as follows:

a. Respondent entered into a professional and therapeutic relationship with client TS as part of his practice of psychology and psychotherapy, to provide TS with psychology services and psychotherapy as defined in C.R.S. §§12-43-303 and 12-43-201(9) .

b. During the course of the therapeutic relationship respondent acted or failed to act in a manner which does not meet generally accepted standards of practice in violation of C.R.S. §12-43-222 (1) (g) ·

7 . The Board hereby orders that respondent's practice of psychology and psychotherapy shall be suspended until he undergoes an evaluation by a Board-approved mental health provider (“evaluator”) and is found by the Board, based on the results of the evaluation, to be able to practice psychology and psychotherapy with skill and safety for his clients and in accordance with generally accepted standards of practice.

8. The evaluation shall involve both a practice evaluation and mental status evaluation. The practice evaluation shall involve all aspects of respondent's practice of psychology and psychotherapy including his training, experience, and competence to practice psychology and psychotherapy. The evaluator will also conduct a mental status evaluation. The evaluator will submit a written report to the Board which describes the details of the evaluation and the evaluator's findings on whether respondent can practice psychology with skill and safety for his clients and in accordance with generally accepted standards of practice and if respondent has the necessary qualifications, ability, and competence to conduct his practice of psychology and psychotherapy. Should the practice evaluator find that respondent has the qualifications, current ability, and competence to engage in the practice of psychology and psychotherapy with skill and safety for his clients and in accordance with generally accepted standards of practices and the Board accepts this finding, respondent may resume the practice of psychology and psychotherapy. Respondent's practice of psychology and psychotherapy shall be on probation for
a period of at least three years following his resumption of practice. Respondent shall not resume the practice of psychology and psychotherapy until he has a Board-approved mental health professional who shall monitor his practice of psychology and psychotherapy (“practice monitor") and a Board-approved therapist (“therapist”) who shall provide therapy according to the terms of this stipulation and order. During the period of probation respondent can practice psychology and psychotherapy only if he complies with all conditions of the probation and has a practice monitor and therapist in place.

9. Should the evaluator determine that respondent cannot practice psychology and psychotherapy in accordance with generally accepted standards of practice and with skill and safety for his clients, or does not have the appropriate qualifications, ability, or competence for the practice of psychology and psychotherapy, and the Board accepts this finding, respondent shall not resume the practice of psychology and psychotherapy or any portion of his practice of psychology and psychotherapy that he is found not qualified to conduct until such time as the Board determines he is qualified to practice psychology and psychotherapy or any portion of his practice that he is found not qualified to conduct. Based on the findings and recommendations of the evaluator, the Board shall determine necessary actions that respondent must take and conditions he must meet so that he may become qualified and competent to safely practice psychology and psychotherapy or any portion of his practice he is found not qualified to conduct. Once respondent satisfies the Board that he has taken the appropriate actions and met the conditions so that he is qualified and competent to safely practice psychology and psychotherapy or any portion of his practice he was found not qualified or competent to conduct, he may resume the full practice of psychology and psychotherapy. Respondent must have a Board-approved practice monitor and therapist in place before he resumes the practice of psychology and psychotherapy and he will be on probation for at least three years with practice monitoring and therapy upon resumption of practice. If respondent is permitted to resume only a portion of his practice of psychology and psychotherapy, that portion shall be subject to probation with practice monitoring and therapy for at least three years. If respondent resumes the remainder of his practice of psychology and psychotherapy, that portion of his practice shall then be subject to probation with practice monitoring and therapy for a period of at least three years. During the period of probation respondent can practice psychology and psychotherapy only if he complies with the conditions of the probation and has a practice monitor and therapist in place:

10. The conditions of respondent's probation are:

a. Respondent will strictly observe the prohibitions set forth in §12-43-222{1) and assure that he does not engage in any activities that are prohibited activities or fall below generally accepted standards of practice.

b. Respondent's practice of psychology and psychotherapy shall be monitored by a Board-approved mental health provider (“practice monitor”), who both monitors and evaluates respondent’s practice of psychology and psychotherapy and reports in writing to the Board in accordance with this stipulation and order.

c. The practice monitoring shall be conducted as follows:

(i) The practice monitoring must consist of individual face-to-face contact that occurs for at least once a week for one hour or such longer time as the practice monitor deems necessary. During the practice monitor meetings, respondent and his practice monitor must review and discuss each of respondent's active cases at least once every month to allow the practice monitor to determine whether respondent is practicing psychology and psychotherapy in accordance with generally accepted standards of practice and with skill and safety for his clients.

(ii) The practice monitor is authorized to examine and shall examine such client records and case files as the practice monitor or the Board deems appropriate to assure that respondent is practicing psychology and psychotherapy in accordance with. generally accepted standards of practice and with skill and
safety for his clients.

(iii) The practice monitor must report the results of her/his monitoring to the Board in writing and send a copy of each report to the respondent. The practice monitor must submit her/his first report within five days of the end of the first full month of practice monitoring. The practice monitor shall submit subsequent reports within five days of the last day of each month thereafter (i.e. t on a monthly basis) for the first twelve reports. After the submission of the first twelve reports, unless otherwise ordered by the Board, the practice monitor shall submit her/his reports by the fifth day of every third month (i.e., on a quarterly basis) until the practice monitoring is completed.

(iv) If the practice monitor is of the opinion that respondent is not practicing marriage and family therapy, psychology and psychotherapy in accordance with generally accepted standards of practice or with skill and safety for his clients, the practice monitor shall report her/his opinion and the basis for that opinion to the Board. The practice monitor shall make that report in writing within 48 hours of forming her/his opinion. The practice monitor shall send a copy of such a report to the respondent when s/he sends the report to the Board. Should such a report be submitted respondent shall immediately cease the practice of psychology and psychotherapy.

(v) After Board approval of the practice monitor, respondent and his practice monitor shall enter into a written contract for practice monitoring. The practice monitor shall provide a copy of that written contract to the Board as part of her/his first report to the Board. The contract must contain a provision stating that the practice monitor has received a copy of this stipulation and order and the Board's file; has read these materials; and understands the duties and responsibilities s/he is undertaking as respondent's practice monitor.

(vi) Respondent or his practice monitor may terminate the monitoring relationship on written notice to the other and the Board not less than 60 days before the date of termination. The notice shall state the reason for the termination. In the event of such termination, respondent cannot practice psychology and psychotherapy without first obtaining another Board-approved practice monitor, who shall conduct her/his monitoring and report to the Board in accordance with this stipulation and order.

(vii) Respondent cannot practice psychology or psychotherapy without a practice monitor in place during the period of probation.

d. Respondent cannot supervise or consult with other persons for the purpose of those other persons providing psychotherapy or any form of professional mental health treatment to clients unless respondent's supervision or consultation is monitored in accordance with paragraph lOc above.

e. Respondent shall undergo therapy with a mental health provider approved by the Board (“therapist”) . as a term of probation. The therapist shall conduct therapy and report to the Board in writing as follows:

(i) The psychotherapy must consist of individual or group therapy sessions, or both, that occur in a frequency to be determined by the therapist, but in no event less frequently than once every week, unless otherwise approved by the Board based on recommendations of the therapist.

(ii) The therapist shall report to the Board in writing both the progress of the therapy and whether respondent is able to practice psychotherapy with reasonable skill and safety for  his clients and in accordance with generally accepted standards of practice, and must send a copy of each report to the practice monitor and respondent. The therapist must submit her/his first report by the fifth day of the month following the first full month of the therapy. The therapist shall submit subsequent reports by the fifth day of every month thereafter {i.e. I on a monthly basis) for the first twelve reports. After the submission of the first twelve reports, unless otherwise ordered by the Board, the therapist shall submit reports by the fifth day of every third month thereafter (i. e., on a quarterly basis).

(iii) In the first report, the therapist shall state that s/he has received and read a copy of this stipulation and order, the Board's file and the evaluator’s report, and must state that s/he understands the duties and responsibilities s/he is undertaking as respondent's therapist.

(iv) If, at any time, the therapist is of the opinion that respondent is practicing psychology and psychotherapy in a manner which does not meet the generally accepted standards of practice or has a condition which renders him unable to treat ,clients with reasonable skill and safety or which may endanger the health or safety of persons under his care, the therapist shall report such opinion and the reasons for that opinion to the Board. The therapist shall make that report, in writing, within 48 hours of forming her/his opinion. The therapist shall send a copy of such report to the practice monitor and respondent when s/he sends the report to the Board. Upon submission of such a report respondent shall immediately cease the practice of psychology and psychotherapy.

(v) Either respondent or his therapist may terminate the therapeutic relationship on written notice to the other and the Board no less than 60 days before the date of termination. The notice shall state the reason for the termination. In the event respondent does not have another Board-approved therapist prior to the termination, respondent shall cease the practice psychology and psychotherapy. until he has another Board-approved therapist in place. The subsequent therapist shall conduct therapy with respondent and report to the Board in accordance with this stipulation and order.

(vi)  Respondent cannot practice psychology and psychotherapy during the period of probation if he is not undergoing therapy in accordance with this stipulation and order unless otherwise provided by the Board based on the recommendations of the therapist.

f. During the period of probation respondent must complete at least 20 hours per year of graduate level professional continuing education that is pre-approved by the Board and designed to educate mental health professionals in client/therapist boundary · issues, dual relationship issues, and other legal/ethical issues related to the 'practice' of psychology and psychotherapy. Completion of an approved jurisprudence workshop shall be required as part of this continuing education requirement.

g.  Respondent will not treat any client that is diagnosed with or displays symptoms that lead the respondent or his practice monitor to determine that the client's problems include issues that are beyond respondent's training, experience or competence. Should a new client seek psychology or psychotherapy services from respondent and he or his practice monitor determine (when the client initially seeks treatment or at any time after treatment is commenced) that the client has problems or treatment concerns that are beyond respondent's training I experience or competence, respondent will refer that client to another practitioner for psychotherapy treatment and terminate any therapeutic relationship.

h. Respondent, not the Board, shall be responsible for any costs and/or expenses incurred for the evaluation, practice monitoring, therapy, education, or any other action required in fulfilling the requirements of this order.

i. Respondent shall take reasonable steps to assure that his practice monitor and therapist provide required reports to the Board.

j.  Following the Board's written approval of respondent's practice monitor, respondent shall provide written notification to each client informing the client of the name, address, and telephone number of respondent's practice monitor. Such notification may be provided in a mandatory disclosure statement. The practice monitor shall indicate in the her/his reports that such written notification has been made.

k. During the pendency of this order respondent agrees that he will provide permission to and allow his evaluator, practice monitor, or therapist to provide medical or psychological information or records to the Board in the event the evaluator, practice monitor, or therapist determines that respondent is not able to practice psychology and psychotherapy in accordance with generally accepted standards of practice or has any condition which renders him unable to treat clients with skill and safety or which may endanger the health or safety of persons under his care. As part of this stipulation and order respondent explicitly waives his right to maintain confidentiality of medical and psychological records and information provided to his evaluator, practice monitor, or therapist if the evaluator, practice monitor, or therapist determines that he is not able to practice psychology and psychotherapy in accordance with generally accepted standards of practice or has any condition which renders him unable to treat clients with skill and safety or which may endanger the health or safety of persons under his care.

11. The Board will review the status of respondent prior to the expiration of the probationary period. Respondent's probationary period is subject to continuation, amendment I or revision if the Board, in the reasonable exercise of its discretion, determines that such action is necessary to protect the public health, safety, or welfare.

12. All time periods and obligations regarding practice monitoring and therapy stated in this order run only while respondent is engaged in the practice of psychology and psychotherapy in Colorado under the monitoring of a Board-approved practice monitor and while respondent is engaging in required therapy. They are tolled and suspended at all other times.

13. If, after resuming the practice of psychology and psychotherapy, respondent discontinues the practice of psychology
and psychotherapy in Colorado, he shall notify the Board, in writing, within thirty (30) days of ceasing practice. This notification shall include the date he ceased practicing and his new address if he has moved.
.
14. In the event respondent resumes his practice of psychology and psychotherapy in Colorado after ceasing practice as
described in paragraph 11, he shall notify the Board in writing prior to the resumption of the practice of psychology and psychotherapy in Colorado. Such notification shall include his address and the date on which he intends to resume practice.

15. As used in this stipulation and order, the terms "engaged in the practice of psychology," "practice of psychology," "psychological treatment," and "psychological services," have the same meaning as "practice of psychology." as defined in C. R. S . §12-43-303. The terms 'psychotherapy services", "practice of psychotherapy", and "engaged in the practice of psychotherapy" have the same meaning and scope as the term "psychotherapy" as defined in C.R.S. §12-43-201(9).

16. Respondent enters into this stipulation and order voluntarily, and after being fully advised both as to his right to a hearing and as to the consequences of this stipulation and order. .

17. The Board order resulting from this stipulation and order possesses the same force and effect as an order entered as a result of a formal disciplinary proceeding held pursuant to C.R.S. §12-43-224j C.R.S. §24-4-105; and the Board's rules.

18. No agreement, understanding/ representation, or interpretation not contained in this stipulation and order may be used to vary or to contradict its terms.·

19 . Each provision of this stipulation and order is separate. In the event of litigation involving compliance with the terms of this stipulation and order, the issues will be restricted to those raised by the interested parties; the resolution of those issues will affect only the pertinent parts of the stipulation and order; and the parties will be obligated by the Board-construed or judicially-construed parts of the stipulation and order as if they were part of the original stipulation and order.

20. This stipulation and order shall take effect on acceptance and signature by the Board.

21. This stipulation and order is a public record.

______________________________
WALTER D. BUENNING, PH.D.
Respondent

DATED: 2-9-99

ACCEPTED I SIGNED, AND ORDERED this 16TH day of FEBRUARY, 1999.

COLORADO STATE BOARD OF PSYCHOLOGIST EXAMINERS

______________________________
JOYCE A. VIGIL
Chair

APPROVED AS TO FORM

FOR THE RESPONDENT

_____________________________
MICHAEL GROSS #7301
Attorneys for Respondent
Walter D. Buenning, Ph.D.

1771 South 8th Street
Colorado Springs, CO 80906
Telephone: 7l9/635-5578

FOR THE ATTORNEY GENERAL:

_____________________________
JAMES F. CARR, 9343
Senior Assistant Attorney General
Regulatory Law section

Attorneys for the State Board
of Psychologist Examiners
1525 Sherman Street, 5th Floor
Denver, Colorado 80203
Telephone: 303/866-5307
AG Alpha No. RG PS DLKYI
AG File No. RLJC8304

This page was posted on December 27, 2009.

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