Field of Science

Fox News expert with mail-order degree blames “homosexual impulses” for Santa Barbara mass shooting

Robi Ludwig, media commentator
In the wake of the mass shootings by a disturbed man in Santa Barbara, California last week, Fox News featured comments from Robi Ludwig, a self-described psychotherapist, who blamed the shooting on the “homosexual impulses” of the shooter. Her comments caused an immediate firestorm, and a few days later, real estate company Coldwell Banker, for whom she consulted, announced “we feel it best to part ways with her as our lifestyle real estate correspondent.”

As Salon.com’s Sarah Gray pointed out, it is unethical to diagnose a patient whom you’ve never met. This didn’t seem to stop Ludwig, who also claimed that the shooter might have been in the early stages of schizophrenia. Ludwig later attempted to take back her comments on her Facebook page, claiming she was misunderstood.

Does it matter if Ludwig, who uses the title “Doctor” in all her media appearances, is a real doctor? It's presumably why we are supposed to take her seriously when she diagnoses a mass murderer on television.

The title of doctor also matters to the thousands of people who have spent years of study and research to earn a Ph.D. or an M.D. Robi Ludwig, it turns out, has neither. 

Ludwig previously hosted a reality TV show on TLC where she offered marriage advice. Her listing at Psychology Today shows “School: University of Pennsylvania” and lists her graduation year as 1990. Sounds legitimate, right? U. Penn is an Ivy League school; a doctorate from there is certainly impressive.

Her website reveals a different story.  Her “doctor” title, which she uses in every mention of herself and the name of the website itself (drrobiludwig.com), is based on a Psy. D. degree from Southern California University for Professional Studies, an online-only, for-profit correspondence school,  which changed its name in 2007 to California Southern University. 

Note to readers: an online degree is not a doctorate. Any online, for-profit college that claims otherwise, and this obviously includes Cal Southern, is just trying to fool people.

I’ve known hundreds of scientists and scholars who’ve put in the sweat equity required for a Ph.D.: years of course work, mastery of a specialized area of study, and additional years doing original research and writing a Ph.D. dissertation. The Cal Southern Psy.D. requires nothing more than course work - no dissertation required - and the courses are all online. This falls grievously short of a real doctorate. Taking a bunch of online courses at a third-rate online school does not earn one the right to be called “doctor.”

I checked the American Psychological Association’s site to see if the Psy.D. program at California Southern is accredited. It is not. (Very few Psy.D. programs, which are much less rigorous than Ph.D. programs, are accredited. Most clinical psychologists have Ph.D.s.)

In other words, “Dr.” Ludwig has a mail-order degree from an unaccredited program. Her undergraduate degree is from Cedar Crest College, a small women’s college in Pennsylvania. So how can her Psychology Today profile list the University of Pennsylvania as her only school? Apparently she does have a master’s in social work from U. Penn, but her undergrad and Psy.D. degrees are from far less prestigious institutions. Her Psychology Today profile also lists a license number, without saying what the license is for. Apparently it’s her license as a social worker, not as a clinical psychologist. 

Being called a doctor is obviously important to Ludwig. But it wasn’t important enough for her to spend the years of study required to get a Ph.D.

Let’s return to Ludwig’s Psychology Today profile. Does she claim to be a psychologist there? No: although she uses the title “Dr.”, she is listed as “Clinical Social Work/Therapist.” Psychology Today explains that 
Clinical social workers commonly hold a master's degree in social work (or the equivalent) and have completed two years of supervised practice to obtain a clinical license. They may use a variety of therapeutic techniques, including psychodynamic therapy or cognitive-behavioral therapy.” 
So Ludwig is a licensed social worker who has an unaccredited Psy.D. from an online university. Not to criticize social workers, who provide valuable services to society, but they are not doctors.

Fox News probably doesn’t care that Ludwig isn’t a real doctor or a licensed psychologist, or what the “Dr.” in her title means. But that’s just a guess.

Having a Ph.D. is no guarantee of competence. Plenty of people with Ph.D.s make stupid comments on television, especially when they are spouting off about subjects outside their expertise. But the Ph.D. degree does mean something, which is why so many people work so hard to earn them. But an online Psy.D. degree from California Southern University isn’t even remotely comparable to a Ph.D. If Ludwig wants to earn the title Doctor, she has a long way to go.

2 comments:

  1. You should have focused on accreditation, not PsyD or online. There are many accredited, well-regarded PsyD programs. And they have more rigorous clinical training than PhD programs -- that's their point.

    ReplyDelete
  2. What does a "lifestyle real estate correspondent" do? What kind of lifestyle corresponds to a mindset like that?

    ReplyDelete

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