Escape From Center for Human Problems
By Paul Morantz (C)Aug 2016
You would think when you walked into a clinic where the title started with the word “Center” you could be confident. But history would prove you wrong. The worst psychotherapy of all time was the Center for Feeling Therapy and not far behind was the Center for Human Problems. Both shared in common the mixing of unlicensed and licensed therapists and the providing of a single theory applicable to all. Both preached against leaving, dripped of verbal abuse and brainwashed. And so once again in late 80’s I was back in court asserting my clients had been subject to intense and harmful brainwashing.
For similar reasons, although not true in all cases, in choosing a therapist, I have suggested a reason to decline a therapist is if he has written a book on his own special theory. He’s liable to apply it to you even if it’s not applicable. But in this case, the books were novels, and were apparently very good. Like with L. Ron Hubbard, another good writer, however, fiction and fact became arguably blurred.
This Center was based upon Mr. Jay Richard Kennedy who was not licensed to practice psychotherapy in the State of California but was nonetheless the theoretician upon which the Center was based. The patients were told he was the greatest therapists of all time and were guaranteed a long-lasting and well-being life, even though it’s unethical to make such a guarantee. On occasions Mr. Kennedy gave private sessions or conducted group therapy although mainly he gave his treatment through videotaped therapy sessions that the patients were required to watch. Kennedy told his staff licenses were a bunch of bull and they were superior to PhD’s. The lack of license was concealed from the patients.
So who was Jay Richard Kennedy?
His background does not consist of the usual past failure s of a typical narcissistic cult founder. One can only assume throughout his life was some underlying anger towards his parents and some unsatisfied fulfillment. Because cult founders tend to exaggerate their history, it is hard to verify facts, but he was definitely a successful writer, was for civil rights and the rest is open to conjecture. It appears he may have been chameleon –like, constantly recreating himself, changing his professional identity at will, as if he could assume any role and change was necessary to defeat boredom. And the more he succeeded, the more he needed to branch out. Each change may have been another world to conquer.
Born Samuel Richard Solomonick around 1911 and raised, he said, in the “toughest streets in the Bronx, ” he left school in the seventh grade, claiming he spent his teen years traveling around the country, working about 28 different trades, including running a cinema,, working on a farm,, sharecropper, munitions manufacturer a bricklayer, longshoreman, wrangler, painter, printer and even nightclub singer. Solomonick claimed he was drawn to left wing causes and then became a circulation manager of The Daily Worke– the newspaper published by the Communist Party USA. Solomonick allegedly became an anti-communist with the signing of the 1939 Soviet-German Non-Aggression Pact. Solomonick claimed he decided on changing his name upon seeing a sign reading “Kennedy”.
During World War II Kennedy wrote a Spanish language radio show called El Mysterioso that was broadcast in Latin America which he described as pro-American and anti-Fascist From July 10, 1944 to May 20, 1952 the show’s American version was called The Man Called X .
After the war ended in 1945 Kennedy claimed he was employed by the United States Department of the Treasury. Kennedy and Sidney Buchman formed their own film company in Hollywood where Kennedy wrote and was credited as associate producer of To the Ends of the Earth about the Federal Bureau of Narcotics.
Always trying something new, in the 1950s, he started a brokerage firm, Jay R. Kennedy Co. Inc. in New York. In 1953 Kennedy became an author and published Prince Bart: A Novel of Our Times based on actor John Garfield. A year later, he changed fields again and became Harry Belefonte’s manager and business manager of actor Richard Conte.
Kennedy then turned to screenwriting with I’ll Cry Tomorrow (1955) based on the vaudeville singer Lillian Roth’s autobiographical 16-year fight with alcoholism (the movie starred Susan Hayward), and produced his old radio show The Man Called X as a 1956 television series. In the same year he did song writing, eventually publishing about 2 dozen songs.
During this time he claimed he also was a Federal Government informant as he believed Soviet and Red Chinese Communist agents were attempting to infiltrate and exploit the Civil Rights Movement for their own ends. He was involved in 1963 march on Wash. D.C. and communicated with Dr. Martn Luther King.
In 1966 he became vice-president of Sinatra Enterprises in the record and music-publishing divisions and story editor. The Chairman– a 1969 spy film starring Gregory Peck– was based on a novel by Kennedy. His third of four novels was Favor the Runner.
Then, in the 970s, he took on again a new persona. He studied psychotherapy and not letting Calif. Licensing laws get in the way, he began to formulate his own form of therapy and opened the Center for Human Problems Inc. in Tarzana. My clients, who we will call Scott and Donna Bailey entered that world in 1983 as Kennedy was now in his 70’s.
Typically of therapeutic cults, therapists on staff were also patients of Mr. Kennedy, some having arisen from patient to therapist. Two therapists were lovers of Mr. Kennedy and simultaneously lived with him. One of the women, Ilene Adler, referred to herself as Mr. Kennedy’s wife, although it was suspected this was not true. Patients had had affairs with Mr. Kennedy as well.
The environment was definitely cultish, the intent appearing to be to keep the patient as long as they could continue to be a source of income and promulgate the centers “new theories.” The main concept was one must continue a life goal to be perfect like “Jay;” the goal is lifelong because Jay is always evolving to a higher state. Like Scientology, a new theory was always being added to so one had to keep learning to reach the next renewal level.
As in typical therapeutic cults, a single theory is applied to all. All would become worse if they ever left the therapy. All problems stemmed from their parents. The therapy taught was the best theory ever created and the only one that could ever work. Jay had abilities other human beings did not have, including the power to cure people others could not. He had the best memory in the world, does not get sick, will live to be 150 and can make a diagnosis on a single glance. Ultimately, patients by staying in the therapy would have the same abilities. All the other therapists had overcome physical illnesses and, patients were promised, it would happen to the patients if they continued in therapy. Each who does stay will live more than 100 years.
And each will benefit by helping mankind, and they can do so by donating money to the Center above the price of therapy so that Kennedy could have time off from practicing therapy to instead write a book on how to better mankind.
As with all therapy cults, the theory revolved around the self-diagnosis of its founder. The theme was that all people are crazy because they do not realize what their parents have done to them. But for the parents all people can live perfect lives capable of never being sick and living to 150. Jay Kennedy had evolved to such a state and the others could too. Other therapists had evolved but not as high as Kennedy. Thus patients were encouraged to blame, and thus hate, their parents for their problems and to eliminate contact with their families. As in all cults, the Center was to become their “family,” and socialization with fellow patients was encouraged over non-patients. Kennedy often declared he was their “Father” and the Center was their family. Christmas was spent with their new family.
Diane Prutznan, a former therapist follower at the Center, who later helped counsel the Center’s victims, said she herself was told she would be dead within 5 years if she ever left. Some of the other Kennedy theories had a Scientology –like ring to them, such as Christ came from another planet and left in his space ship.
As done in many cults, the therapy was vicious and used verbal and humiliating attacks. When patients acted contrary to the theory or questioned they were denounced as crazy or neurotic. If they tried to be critical they were to be asked “where’s your degree?” (Concealing the fact that the therapist had no decree either).
The Center conveyed two messages, while seemingly in conflict, combined to form a strong force to bind a person to the organization. Patients were told they were so crazy they need to be at the Center and that if anyone leaves that person will become 1000 times crazier for having started therapy and then quitting. At the same time a patient is told because he is there, he is better than the rest of the world and is evolving to a higher state.
As is done in cults, the theories became theology and absolute. They would all change the world and bring all people to the Center because it would save the world. Thus patients were to donate to the Center so it would be unnecessary for Jay Kennedy to see patients. He could instead help the public at large by writing books, although he never wrote any on his therapy theories.
Sometimes patient s complained of lack of money and asked to cut down on the amount of therapy but this was quickly labeled as “being neurotic” as one “desperately needed weekly therapy.”
Scott entered the Center around 1983 and was primarily seen by Adler who at the time was not licensed to practice but this was concealed. She was routinely referred to as a therapist. Scott had been an entrepreneur since the age of 14. He had dropped out of high school and commenced a series of businesses out of a garage, later obtaining his high school degree and taking other college courses. He commenced a successful manufacturing company and by 1987 had gross sales of $250,000. And then his therapists convinced him to sell his business because it was only there to compete with his father. He should instead pursue singing and art. In fact, the Center needed to pay off \Center debts and after the sale of Scott’s business he paid off Center debts of $7000. He also donated money to Jay Kennedy so that he could save mankind. Scott had sold his business for $90,000. In just a few years the business grossed over $1,000,000 a year.
At times Scott complained he didn’t have the money to continue his sessions but they said this was crazy and told him to run up a bill. Then they would pressure him to come up with the money because if he did not he could lose therapy and thus “go crazy.” The therapy itself consisted mainly of being screamed at, degrading, particularly if one missed the session or arrived late. Scott would be encouraged to speak his feelings but then would be verbally attacked and told his statements indicated he was sick and neurotic. As intended, Scott terminated his family relationships. Alarmed, his mother asked to participate in the therapy but Ms. Adler refused. She told Scott’s his mother would manipulate him and defeat the therapy. The mother, said Adler, was “psychotic.” And Scott’s father, per Adler, was an “animal” prone to violence that should be avoided. And his adopted sister was the event that made it him the most “sick.”
Scott had been convinced that being at the center was the only way to live. When he met and married Donna, Ilene said the marriage could only work if she gets into therapy. So Donna complied in 1985, being convinced she was neurotic and sick despite having no significant history. She, too, eventually turned on her parents and eliminated relationships with her own family. She had a master degree and was doing substitute teaching but she was convinced by Center she was only able to work at a dress shop. It wasn’t until getting away from the center that she was able to go back to school and obtained her teaching credential.
The Center’s end was similar to that of the Center For Feeling Therapy, ending in a revolution upon the discovery of truth. In November 1987 patients learned that one of the Center’s “myths” was not true and its falsity had been willfully concealed. Further, the true character of Jay Richard Kennedy was revealed. The Emperor had no clothes. Kennedy was in his mid 70s and appeared sick. This was not possible because he was not supposed to get sick and he was to live to be 150. The patients were told he was merely choosing to work too hard to help others. But by the middle of 1987 Mr. Kennedy was no longer present. And this answer also disappeared. The official word was Jay was working on his book to save mankind and Ms. Adler was assisting. At this time Diane Porutzman, who had practiced at the Center without a license, left the Center. She later obtained her license, and in doing so realized the truth.
Ms. Adler returned and revealed Kennedy was sick, not working on a book. When Bailey’s asked how could this be?, Ms. Adler began yelling at them. She called Donna a traitor and accused the Bailey’s of denying their true emotions which were that they really loved J Kennedy who now needs them. Adler said they had to pay $4000 as Jay was sick and the Center needed money. She directed they try to get the money from Donna’s mother. Even at this meeting, Ms. Adler covered up that Kennedy had suffered a heart attack. Other questions brought on a screaming attack that patients had no right to question Jay Kennedy. His cover up went on for 4 years. Slowly, other patients and therapist left, and more information became available. The Bailey’s were told Kennedy actually had hospital nurses replaced with Center staff members, and their leader demanded sexual favors from them.
Confused and angry, the Bailey’s left and found their way to Diane who had left and herself had found a therapist to help her and studied cult environments. From here, the Bailey’s sought to return to normalcy, reinstate their relationship with their parents and find their way in life. It was not easy and their marriage did not survive. They separated in November 1989. In part they blamed the belief systems instilled at Center, which included calling each other “neurotic” or “ sick” and generally criticizing others. They were further taught to emulate Jay Kennedy. In fact, the marriage had been so centered on the Center the continuation of it served as reminder of the Center, making the marriage difficult. Center theories would still be spoken because each had been so programs for so long to speak to each other in that manner.
The case was unique in that filing a report stating the damage to the Bailey’s was Diane Prutzman, who had been a therapist at the Center and admittedly did many of the things that caused the damages. She openly admitted in her report that these things were done, and that she, being a true believer participated in doing them. She admitted the malpractice for which the defendants were responsible under the rule of respondent superior (the Center and its leadership were responsible for the acts of its therapists). She wrote that over 7 years not a single patient was ever deemed well enough to be able to miss a single session. And when someone left without permission they were called “ship jumpers” who Jay Kennedy said could not face what was needed in order to be healthy. She acknowledged the unethical promise to the patients that they would be transformed into a “new species” and were on an “evolutionary cycle” and that the techniques were “brainwashing.” She believed the patient suffered deep psychological harm and that the real problems they had were not addressed and they lost valuable time and money besides incurring the emotional trauma…”
It wasn’t too long after I filed the lawsuit that a settlement conference was held in 1990 and the case settled. I had informed the Health Department concerning the license violations and ethical violations and soon the Center was closed.
Also after the case settled Kennedy died of heart failure[ on October 14, 1991 in Westlake, Los Angeles—70 years from making it to 150.