OREM — An investigation by Utah's licensing agency indicates that a counselor at a beleaguered Orem therapy clinic was not a licensed therapist and has lost his license to practice therapy in Oregon for advocating controversial therapy methods.
Court documents filed by the Utah Division of Professional Licensing ask a state judge to order the counselor, Keith Alvin Reber, to cease treating clients at the Cascade Center for Family Growth, which has faced scrutiny since the death of 4-year-old Cassandra Killpack.
Cassandra's parents, Jennete and Richard Killpack, are accused of giving her so much water that she died. The Springville couple say they were given the discipline advice at the Cascade center — an assertion Cascade owners and therapists vehemently deny.
In the agency's July 10 filings, DOPL investigators allege that Reber, who came to Utah after Oregon officials moved to void his license as a marriage and family therapist, had been providing therapy to several children using a pastor's license.
But Reber, according to the licensing agency's probe, is not a pastor at a Utah church. Reber reportedly told DOPL investigators that his credentials as a pastor were obtained through the Web site of the Universal Life Church, an Internet church that ordains all pastor-title seekers.
According to investigators, among the children Reber treated was a girl under the age of 5. To protect her identity, she is given the name "Julia" in the DOPL documents.
But sources close to the case told the Deseret Morning News that the girl called Julia in the report is Cassandra Killpack.
According to the state's petition for a cease-and-desist order, Reber concluded that Julia was mentally ill and advised the girl's parents on "parenting techniques."
An attorney for Reber calls many of the allegations untrue.
Still, according to a copy of the state action, investigators allege that Reber came to Utah from Oregon after officials there moved to pull his therapy license.
According to a copy of the Oregon petition, investigators there alleged that from 1999 to 2000 Reber rolled several foster children in sheets so they couldn't move. Then, he pushed his fingers and fists into the children's ribs to cause pain.
In one case, Reber allegedly pushed his elbow into the child's abdomen so hard the child vomited.
On July 22, the state of Oregon revoked Reber's therapist license, calling his actions "egregious and reprehensible," and that Reber's clinical beliefs are a danger to the public, according to a copy of Oregon's final order.
According to the Utah petition, Reber was hired by Cascade in December 2001. At that time, he had applied to Utah officials for a therapy license. State officials contend that in his application, Reber did not disclose the pending licensing action against him in Oregon.
Reber reportedly told a DOPL investigator that he was hired as an "administrative" worker at Cascade and attended therapy sessions only as support staff.
As for his work at Cascade, Reber reportedly told investigators that he provided "ecclesiastical counseling" at Cascade in exchange for "donations" from clients.
The donations were paid to a registered, nonprofit organization called Hope for the Children, which has been operating in the basement of the Cascade center.
Hope for the Children says its mission is to help pay therapy costs for those parents who cannot afford it.
IRS tax returns for Hope for the Children, obtained by the Deseret Morning News, list Reber as executive director. 2001 tax documents show Hope for the Children receiving $22,169 in gifts, grants and contributions, plus an additional $6,915 from merchandise sold or services performed. In 2002, the organization reported receiving $117,860 in contributions, gifts and grants.
State investigators say Reber told them he receives a percentage of the donations to Hope for the Children in return for serving as its executive director.
Janet Peterson, Reber's attorney, says her client disputes claims that he told them he was providing therapy under a pastoral license in exchange for donations.
"DOPL's notice includes many untrue and misconstrued facts that Mr. Reber looks forward to addressing and clarifying with DOPL. Mr. Reber expects to reach a satisfactory resolution of all issues in the notice," Peterson said in a written statement.
Reber is expected to file a written response to the state action within the month.
In a statement on behalf of Cascade, Larry VanBloem, the center's director, said Reber was hired strictly as administrative staff and was never employed to do any kind of mental health therapy or work in a ministerial capacity.
However, VanBloem said he was aware that Reber, who left the center several weeks ago, had obtained a pastoral license.