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Provo counselor arrested, accused of sexually abusing gay male clients

Police say Scott Dale Owen was arrested Wednesday following a standoff after he failed to show up for a scheduled surrender

SHARE Provo counselor arrested, accused of sexually abusing gay male clients

Steve Griffin, Deseret News

A Provo clinical mental health counselor who claimed to help counsel gay men was arrested Wednesday following a standoff with police after he failed to show up for a scheduled surrender.

Scott Dale Owen, 64, of Spanish Fork, was booked into the Utah County Jail for investigation of four counts of forcible sodomy and six counts of object rape involving clients at the Canyon Counseling Center in Provo where he practiced.

"Provo police have interviewed 12 separate victims, all claiming some form of criminal sexual abuse by Dr. Scott Owen. Provo police are aware of additional victims and believe that additional cases involving Dr. Scott Owen are probable," a police booking affidavit states.

Many of the victims told investigators that they were referred to Owen for "treatment revolving around same-sex attraction," the affidavit states.

"Dr. Owen during his therapy would tell the victims that their relationships with men were broken and his therapy could help them be able to have 'normal' relationships with men and eventually women," according to the affidavit. "Dr. Owen would then tell the victims that physical touch was part of the therapy. ... Dr. Owen used his position as a therapist to coerce the victims into engaging in kissing, cuddling and sexual touching during therapy session."

Owen was first licensed as a mental health counselor in 1999. In 2016, he was reprimanded by the state for allegedly touching a client inappropriately, according to disciplinary records of the Utah Division of Professional Licensing.

"Between 2013 and 2018, (Owen) again inappropriately touched a number of other clients who (he) was treating," the records state.

In 2018, Owen surrendered his license, but he allegedly continued to have an active role with Canyon Counseling.

It wasn't until August that Provo police say they began receiving reports from multiple victims after a story outlining an alleged pattern of abuse was reported by the Salt Lake Tribune.

Owen's arrest on Wednesday is based on allegations from two men who sought therapy from him in 2017. Police note in the affidavit, however, that "the reports of sexual abuse against Dr. Owen cover a substantial period of time, 2010-2018, with a large number of reports being made against him."

Owen had agreed to surrender to detectives Wednesday at the Spanish Fork Police Department, but he failed to show up, according to Provo police.

"When he did not appear, detectives began searching and located him near the town of Thistle. Dr. Owen was alone in his car and a standoff ensued," police said.

Owen was pulled over on the side of the road when police located him by "pinging" his phone. When officers approached, they noticed a gun in his car, said Provo police spokeswoman Janna Lee-Holland.

"Highway 89 near Thistle and north of Birdseye was closed while tactical units from the Utah County Sheriff's Office responded, and negotiators worked to get Dr. Owen to safely surrender," police said.

Owen surrendered about four hours later without further incident.

Canyon Counseling closed on Sept. 30, according to its website, and was sold to another company which resumed operations on Oct. 1 under a new name and management.