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Therapist faces ethics charges

Former Rolling Hills Community Church pastor Travis Waits has been barred from practicing as a licensed professional counselor and marriage and family therapist in the state of Oregon.

The Oregon Board of Licensed Professional Counselors and Therapists announced the ruling on March 5.

The board found that Waits, along with two individuals from Portland and one from Stayton, had violated the traditional code of ethics expected of licensed practitioners. Waits was alleged to have engaged in a sexual relationship with a former client, and was also charged with “disclosing confidential information about one client to another,” the board reported. Waits faced further accusations of improperly safeguarding confidential electronic information, abusing alcohol and “providing services outside his field of expertise.”

Waits was further criticized for the sexual nature of his relationship with two women who sought counseling for past sexual abuse.

The board issued a Notice of Proposed Discipline on Sept. 13, 2012, which proposed “to revoke the professional counseling (LPC) and marriage and family therapy (LMFT) licenses of Travis Waits.”

Faced with these charges, Waits surrendered his licenses and is permanently barred from practicing as a therapist in the state of Oregon.

The board is an Oregon state agency whose stated purpose is to protect consumers through enforcement of licensing requirements for professional counselors and therapists. The board maintains a code of ethics for state-licensed counselors and therapists and investigates complaints against practitioners.

The board's executive director, Becky Eklund, confirmed that no fine had been issued to Waits.

According to the board's notice of intent to revoke Waits’ license, Waits violated the licensee code of ethics, which prohibits sexual relationships between therapist and clients within three years of counseling.

Records show Waits was a pastor at Rolling Hills Community Church from March 2007 until his resignation in March 2011, when he disclosed he had carried on a sexual relationship with a female congregant who had also been his client in his private marriage counseling practice in 2009.

Waits reportedly began an extramarital affair with the woman, identified in board documents as “Client A,” while working with her through the church in August 2010.

Both Waits and his client were married during their on-again, off-again sexual relationship, which ended for good in late summer 2011, according to Waits.

Through his private practice, Waits began counseling a woman identified by the board as Client B in July 2010. After regular weekly sessions, including 20 with Client B’s husband, Waits allegedly shared inappropriate personal information about himself, detailed as admissions of his own personal struggles with anxiety, as well as his past infidelity. Waits was accused of flirting with Client B during this time, both in counseling sessions and when he encountered her socially. The board alleged that Waits' advice to Client B became increasingly sexual in nature, and Client B claimed she confronted Waits regarding some of the chat messages and emails they exchanged outside of counseling sessions. When the woman told Waits she wished to stop seeing him as a therapist, he reportedly warned her that seeing another therapist would cause her psychological harm.

Waits also told Client B that Client A, an acquaintance of hers, had sought counseling from him for similar issues. He advised the two women to speak with each other, and it was then that Client B found about Client A’s affair with Waits, at which point Client B stopped seeing Waits as a therapist.

Waits was also charged with giving Client B access to client emails on two occasions when he asked her to install anonymous blogging software on his work computer.

The board found that Waits was impaired when he provided counseling services. Waits reported he was often drunk when he exchanged sexually-charged emails with Client A, and that he was also periodically under the influence of powerful prescription medication and took on too large a caseload by seeing around 34 clients each week.

Reached for comment, Waits confirmed that he closed his Tualatin-based private counseling business in 2012.

"I made some incredibly hurtful choices a few years ago, that deeply wounded the trust of my family and church community," Waits said. "My wife and family have forgiven me for my moral failure, and we are rebuilding our lives together. I've had the help of some very caring counselors that have, and are, helping me in my recovery."

On his own website, Waits responded to the charges against him by stating, “My title now is just Travis. Never again will I allow the position or title to sway me away from who I am.”

But in a blog post dated Feb. 18, Waits explained his motivation in creating the website traviswaits.com was to “set the record straight.” He addressed visitors who might be “one of the people maliciously slandering my name in your ignorance” or “a board member protecting the public in your lofty Oregon Board of Licensed Professional Counselors and Therapist chair,” writing, “You cannot harm me, you have no power over me, you mean nothing to me.”

The board’s allegations against other therapists included one other charge of an inappropriate practitioner-client relationship, filed against a registered intern who was pursuing a license. The board also issued a $2,500 fine against an individual for practicing counseling without a license, as well as a charge that a therapist had viewed pornographic material on his computer while teaching a class to coworkers.

For more information about the Oregon Board of Professional Counselors and Therapists, visit oregon.gov/oblpct.



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