Former Supporter of 'Holding Therapy' Agrees to Stop Practicing It

Former Supporter of 'Holding Therapy' Agrees to Stop Practicing It

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PROVO, Utah (AP) -- The controversial practice of "holding therapy" could be over in the state, after the last advocate was ordered by licensing officials to stop practicing it.

Jennie Gwilliam and Larry VanBloem, directors of Cascade Center for Family Growth, had been under fire from state licensing officials for the practice.

VanBloem died suddenly in a December car crash, and Gwilliam decided not to dispute allegations of abuse at a scheduled January hearing before the state's Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing.

Holding therapy has been decried as medical quackery and physical abuse by its detractors and celebrated as a miraculous balm to severely troubled children by its supporters. It's not endorsed by any major professional organization, but is designed to provoke rage in a child and draw out repressed anger.

Gwilliam agreed to stop practicing it, and will have her therapy sessions supervised for the next three years.

If Gwilliam violates terms of her probation, her license as a clinical social worker will be revoked.

"She and Larry believed in attachment therapy very much," said Craig Snyder, an attorney who represented Gwilliam and VanBloem in legal matters pertaining to their licenses to practice therapy. "(Gwilliam) feels that holding therapy is appropriate and that it helps people, but she doesn't intend to practice in that arena anymore."

Snyder said Gwilliam had decided to stop practicing holding therapy even before the state ordered her to do so.

"She was not admitting or denying any of the allegations," Snyder said. "After Larry's death it didn't make sense to go through with a five- to six-week hearing on stuff she doesn't plan to do anymore."

There are still two pending lawsuits against Gwilliam by former clients who say they were physically and mentally abused during therapy sessions at the Orem treatment facility.

Allegations of abuse at Cascade first surfaced in 1997, and in 2002 the state filed a petition seeking to revoke the licenses of VanBloem and Gwilliam. The petition detailed five cases in which VanBloem and Gwilliam lay on top of children who were restrained by "methods including sitting on the child's legs or wrapping the child in a blanket."

The petition, which was disputed by VanBloem, Gwilliam and their supporters, also alleged that therapists at Cascade used their hands and knuckles to press into the child's abdomen and ribs, causing pain.

In 2002, Cascade was linked to the death of 4-year-old Cassandra Killpack.

Killpack was allegedly killed by her adoptive parents, who forced her to drink water until she passed out as punishment for taking a sibling's soft drink.

The Killpacks said they learned the punishment technique at Cascade, a charge that cast the therapy center into the national spotlight. VanBloem and Gwilliam denied involvement, and Cascade was not implicated in an investigation by the Utah County Attorney's Office.

VanBloem and Gwilliam say they never hurt children during holding therapy sessions.

Gwilliam has moved to St. George, where she plans to continue practicing as a therapist.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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