What lies behind the credentials of “Naomi Aldort, Ph.D. and psychologist” and the uncomfortable relationship in the natural parenting community with “experts” proffering “expert advice?”
First, let’s be clear about what Aldort has been saying about herself and her credentials. In this screen capture (early July 2011) you can see how Naomi Aldort was claiming on her own Facebook page to hold a Ph.D. and to be a psychologist specializing in parenting:
Indeed, Aldort is billed as "Naomi Aldort, Ph.D." in dozens of contexts on the web, in print, at conference appearances, and including in the pages of her own self-published book. It is either outright said or implied in those contexts that she is either a psychologist, a child psychology expert, or a family therapist/counselor.
However, according to records from the Washington State Department of Health, she does not now and has never had a license to practice as a psychologist in that state, where she has resided since at least the early 1990s. Aldort did, however, formerly hold a license as a "registered counselor." This license was good from August 1994 to June 2010 and has expired. (Source: https://fortress.wa.gov/doh/providercre ... dnt=579963) It is likely that Aldort has not renewed it because she cannot; many people who were licensed as "registered counselors" no longer qualify for any license under new state laws which require mental health counselors to have at least some college-level background in mental health related topics. (Source: http://www.doh.wa.gov/hsqa/professions/ ... efault.htm)
So if she is not a licensed psychologist, and she is no longer a "registered counselor," what is her background? And how does she justify charging $5,000 - $9,000 for "retreats" at her home during which she will provide advice about "parenting, marriage, relationship, food, health, education" and instruct you in "ways to be with your child/ren and in playing power games effectively"? She charges $350 per hour for "counseling", but what is the source of her alleged expertise in that field? (Source: http://www.naomialdort.com/family-retreat.html)
Web searches conducted in an effort to learn more about her background only add to the enigma. It was easily found through public records that she had held copyright on a classical music aerobics program, that she had been involved in some kind of legal proceedings involving forest trespassing, that her maiden name was Katzir, and that she had immigrated to the USA from Israel in the 1980s. It was also easy to find that two of her three sons were heavily promoted by Aldort as classical music "prodigies." But nowhere could anyone find details on where she had attended college or graduate school, or in what degree programs she had matriculated.
Naturally, given the extreme and controversial nature of Aldort's parenting advice, for some people this raised a lot of questions. Starting in earnest in the summer of 2011, and coincident with Aldort’s presence on the mothering.com “Ask the Experts” forum, attempts to get answers from Aldort through the expert forum on Mothering.com were met with either silence--or the typical invitation to contact her to set up a phone session at the usual rate of a couple hundred dollars.
Starting in early summer 2011, when Aldort did not respond to direct questions about her credentials in the Mothering.com forum, and when some of the posts questioning her credentials were locked and removed, several readers began to convene on the spin-off bulletin board Trolls with Wooden Spoons to share their suspicions and dig deeper.
One poster checked the Dissertation Abstracts International database and found no entries by Aldort, which heightened suspicions about her alleged educational credentials. In discussions on the site, Aldort had asked Mothering.com readers concerned about her credentials to email her directly. When this poster emailed Aldort to clarify, Aldort responded that she did not, in fact, have a degree in psychology but that all of her education was in music. Another poster received an email reply from Aldort that read, in part:
What I write here is copywritten. Please keep the content of this email between us...
Please know that I purposefully avoid putting credentials by my name as much as possible, because I oppose the system of academic approval. I studied music, not psychology (Undergrad: Hebrew university and graduate school at the University of Colorado)...
Interestingly, my writing has been taught in universities since 1995 (McGraw Hill Text book)...
Forum readers immediately set to work verifying Aldort's claim about her writing having been included in a textbook. It was quickly established that Aldort’s work had merely been cited in passing and she was not a contributing author, as she had implied. (It's interesting to note that although Aldort claims to reject the mainstream practice of citing one's credentials, she did go on in that private correspondence at some length about the academic and professional accomplishments of her three sons.)
Further efforts to verify that Aldort had completed a doctoral program in music at Colorado failed to turn up any evidence of such degree, although it appears that she may have at least started a graduate music degree of some sort. Later on, Aldort backpedaled on even the music degree, saying that her graduate degree was incomplete.
So the truth was coming out: Aldort is not a licensed psychologist and does not have a graduate degree of any kind from an accredited institution. But this discovery, in turn, raised a number of even more pointed questions.
For instance, as of July 6, 2011, the Amazon product page for her book still read "Naomi Aldort, Ph.D. is a psychologist specializing in parenting." If Aldort is neither a psychologist nor a Ph.D. in music, how on earth did this come to be? Quite a number of websites list her as a guest columnist, cite her as an expert, or contain blurbs promoting her work--all bearing the title "Ph.D." or saying that she is a psychologist, or both!
Using Amazon.com's search inside feature, you can see how Aldort bills herself in the "About the Author" section of her self-published book:
It was becoming increasingly clear that Aldort must be driven by a profit motive and was willing to tell whichever story she thought would keep her in business. Although she has since gone back and deleted them, Aldort apparently was fond of leaving comments on the negative reviews of her books on Amazon, inviting the critic to partake of one of her $200 phone "counseling" sessions. One such retort (now deleted by Aldort) read:
"If you choose to take phone sessions with me (the author) I can show you much more effective and kind ways to be with your child. The book is not a panacea, but not in the way you see it."
The comment was posted in spring 2010, but deleted on July 1, 2011, in the midst of the breaking scandal. (Source: http://www.amazon.com/review/R3W8DO73QCZ/ref=cm_cr_pr_cmt?ie=UTF8&ASIN=1887542329&nodeID=&tag=&linkCode=#wasThisHelpful)
At about the same time, a forum member from TWWS posted a negative review revealing that Aldort had misled buyers as to her credentials. The review was soon removed from Amazon, apparently at Aldort's request.
Wanting to get to the bottom of Aldort's Ph.D. claims, another forum member engaged her in email correspondence:
Jul 2, 2011, at 5:03 PM, Naomi Aldort wrote:
“Thank you XXX. There is a whole ganging against me going on on the internet.
I left Mothering expert forum for that reason. These women are very aggressive.
I was naive to give out that information believing in their good intention. I don't know any of them as they hide on line behind made up name...”
Jul 2, 2011, at 7:32 PM, Naomi Aldort wrote:
Whether it is true or not is not relevant. It is slander because they use it to abuse my name.
Yes, it is true. That's why I don't have a degree by my name. On parenting I have studied from much more progressive sources than universities and invented my method which I teach to others.
So, the point is not if what they say is true. What they say is irrelevant...
There should not be any Ph.D. on amazon or anywhere. If there is, let me know so I can take it off. If had a Ph.D. in psychology, I would not have it by my name. I am devoted to teaching that our value needs no approval and that each person should decide with his/her own brain, whose service they value. People are trained by school and parents not to trust their own judgement and to depend on external approval. I am too radical for these mothers. I forgive them. It is innocent.
No problem, with "which forum." I don't really care. It was mostly curiosity.
Thank you for your support, and if you see Ph.D. or "psychologist" or even "counselor" by my name, please let me know.
Author, Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves
Parenting phone-sessions internationally
Facilitator of self-realization through parenting
(360)376-3777 (This is not the sessions line)
POB 1719 Eastsound, WA 98245, USA
Aldort has clearly been claiming to be a Ph.D. and psychologist in as many forums as possible, evidently to promote her work as broadly as possible. Who is it, exactly, that is dependent on external validation? Who is “too radical” for whom, here?
She also claims an MA in music when it suits her purposes:
And beyond that, she's not above giving out medical advice:
A poster on mothering.com wrote:
Hello, I am new to site. My 8 month old son got a fever while we were camping now 5 days ago. It has been up to a little over 104 these last few nights...He just seems so uncomfortable and cranky even when his fever goes down during the day! His nose was a bit runny, barely anything and he does have mosquito bites from camping and ate some bits of sticks by accident (if that matters?....) since there are no other symptoms i think teething, but I cannot feel any. I did not experience any of this with my older child. thank you so much in advance if you can answer my question
This is a time sensitive question and it is now over a week later. A phone call would be the better way to reach me when you need a prompt guidance.
It is emotionally difficult to watch your own baby be uncomfortable and to worry about his health. Please keep in mind that I am not a medical professional and cannot provide medical guidance. I can share m opinion and experience.
Fever is a good thing. It clears the body of illness. It could be a flu or some other inflammation the body is clearing out. I have never consulted a doctor about fever because doctors cannot know the cause unless other symptoms are obvious. Instead, I trusted the process and responded to the child/baby’s needs...
Warmly, Naomi Aldort, http://www.AuthenticParent.com