Castlewood director steps down after accusations of brainwashing

2013-05-29T00:15:00Z 2013-12-31T10:17:23Z Castlewood director steps down after accusations of brainwashingBy Blythe Bernhard bbernhard@post-dispatch.com 314-340-8129 stltoday.com

This story was updated to include Castlewood's response to the claims in the lawsuit.

A psychologist who was sued by four women for allegedly brainwashing them at Castlewood Treatment Center for eating disorders is no longer leading the center or its expansion facility in California.

Mark Schwartz, who founded the west St. Louis County inpatient center about 12 years ago, was still listed as a staff member earlier this month on the websites of Castlewood and Monarch Cove facility in northern California. The references have since been removed. Schwartz and his partner Lori Galperin stepped down from daily operation of the centers in December, according to Castlewood spokesman Jim Bates of a Los Angeles-based public relations firm. Bates would not elaborate on the change.

Nancy Albus, who previously worked as a director at Castlewood, was elected CEO in December by the board of directors, which includes Schwartz and Galperin. Albus could not be reached for comment.

Four women have filed separate lawsuits in St. Louis County Circuit Court since 2011 against Castlewood and Schwartz with similar allegations that they were hypnotized between 2007 and 2010 and brainwashed into believing they were members of satanic cults. The women said Schwartz also implanted them with false memories of sexual abuse. Schwartz is scheduled to give a deposition in late July.

A spokesman for Castlewood previously has called the claims "spurious" and has said the center will "defend this case vigorously."

In April 2012, Castlewood revealed plans to open the 12-bed facility in California. Galperin was to run the California center while Schwartz stayed primarily in St. Louis, Bates said at the time.

Schwartz is licensed as a marriage and family therapist in California and a psychologist in Missouri, with no discipline in either state. Galperin has a clear record as a clinical social worker in Missouri and is not licensed to practice in California.

More than 1,000 patients with eating disorders have stayed at the campus overlooking Castlewood State Park. Therapy techniques at the center include internal family systems, which involves encouraging patients to counteract their destructive qualities, according to former patients and Castlewood’s website.

Internal family systems is not the standard of care for eating disorders primarily because patients are malnourished and vulnerable to psychological damage, according to interviews with several experts in the disorders.

Blythe Bernhard covers health and medicine for the Post-Dispatch. Follow her on twitter @blythebernhard

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