PHOENIX — On social media, Dr. Marilyn Wiley can be seen in photos holding a stethoscope and wearing a white coat with “clinical psychologist” stitched on the front.
But there’s an issue: Marilyn Wiley is not a licensed health professional.
“I saw this doctor for a year and a half,” said Reginald Jackson, a patient who also had his fiancé and two sons see Wiley. “I’m not fixed. I’m not better. This is constant suffering, and she should not be practicing.”
Wiley worked for a Scottsdale company, Vibrant Health Care, and denies any wrongdoing. She claimed she treated patients under the supervision of another provider.
“I am being targeted by people trying to ruin my career before it even gets started,” she said over the phone.
But the Arizona Board of Psychological Examiners confirmed to ABC15 that Wiley has never had a valid license. She has also twice applied to obtain a license one but those applications were denied, records show.
Wiley claims on LinkedIn.com to have a Ph.D. from Walden University, an online for-profit college, and says she belongs to both the Arizona and American Psychological Associations. However, both organizations said she is not a member.
“I don’t think people can appreciate how much damage the wrong advice or the wrong intervention can have,” said Dr. Jared Skillings, an expert with the American Psychological Association (APA). “If you’re in a spot where you’re having clinical problems, then you really need to see a licensed professional.”
The APA believes there will be an increase in the number of people seeking mental health services and therapy due to the outbreak of COVID-19.
Skilling said unlicensed psychotherapy can have long-lasting impacts on patients who are seeking help with anxiety and depression caused by the pandemic or trying to cope with the loss of a loved one.
“If you’re in a spot where you’re having clinical problems, then you really need to see a licensed professional,” Skillings said.
Jackson said he saw Wiley for a total of 30 to 40 sessions. He previously knew Wiley through his ex-wife, who went to college with her.
He said he believed Wiley was fully licensed.
Jackson also provided ABC15 with two dozen bills that show the company that employed her, Vibrant Health Care, also billed insurance for Wiley’s psychology sessions. He added that neither Wiley nor the company ever told him that she was under the supervision of another provider.
In a lawsuit filed in December against Vibrant Health Care by Dr. Sarette Zecharia, a licensed psychologist who worked at the company, it states Vibrant officials “improperly allowed, authorized, and/or promoted the practice of certain unlicensed staff members without proper licensure and supervision” as well as “charging clients and their insurance carriers” for the unlicensed work.
In Arizona, it’s illegal to call yourself a “psychologist” without a license or advertise yourself with the term “psychology.”
But social media posts show, Vibrant Health Care and Wiley did so repeatedly. Wiley also posted several photos of herself using the title “clinical psychologist” on her coat, door, and desk name plate.
She declined to directly answer questions about the photos and her use of title. She also refused to say why her licensure application was twice denied.
But she promised the truth will come out.
“This is an ongoing and pending case so I cannot divulge a lot of information with you,” Wiley said over the phone.
Jackson filed a complaint with the state board against Wiley late last year. Records show the complaint will be heard during a screening hearing on April 15.
Shortly after filing the complaint, on February 11, Wiley posted on facebook: “Someone just asked: Does a ‘Fake Psychiatrist’ have to uphold confidentiality? [Four laughing emojis] Me: Hmmmm Good question.”
Jackson said the months that have passed since he filed the complaint have been hard, especially looking back at warning signs he thinks he missed.
“It’s pretty much been a living hell. You question everything,” Jackson said. “(Psychologists are) not going to wear a lab coat. They’re not going to wear scrubs.They’re not going to wear a stethoscope. I even had her take my vitals one day before a session. I had no clue. I’m like why is she taking my vitals.”
Dr. Skillings with the APA said that’s not normal.
“Using a stethoscope or thinking you can diagnose heart conditions as a psychologist would be out of scope of practice for every state in the country,” he said. “A stethoscope is not a normal part of a psychologist’s get-up.”
Wiley said she did take patient’s vitals as part of larger healthcare services provided by Vibrant Health Care. She denies it was improper.
Vibrant did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Jackson said he’s sharing his story to prevent others from seeing unlicensed providers.
“I guess for everybody watching this. Do your research,” he said. “Just because they say they accept your insurance. Check more than that.”
Here’s advice from the APA.
“You should go into google, type in your state followed by verify a license,” Skillings said. “The very first thing you should find is where you can check that out. That’s the first thing you should do.”
ABC15 Investigator Dave Biscobing has spent years investigating unlicensed health care in Arizona. His reports have led to multiple arrests and convictions. Anyone with information about a medical impostor can reach him at Dave@ABC15.com.