An Encino psychologist who once headed the ethics committee of the California State Psychological Assn. has had his professional license suspended for having sex with a female patient, among other improprieties.
Dr. Sanford Brotman, 60, was given a one-year suspension after admitting to the state Board of Medical Quality Assurance that he violated state regulations for psychologists. In exchange for the admission, the board waived a public hearing that could have resulted in a stiffer penalty.
The suspension began Aug. 26, according to John Martinez, deputy chief of the medical board's Los Angeles office.
Charges by Homemaker
The case stemmed from charges by a Thousand Oaks homemaker that she and Brotman had sexual relations while she was in therapy with him from 1979 until 1982, Martinez said. Brotman also violated his profession's ethics by going into business with his patient and revealing to her confidential information about other patients, including a fellow psychologist and a child molester, Martinez said.
Brotman signed an agreement settling the case in April, and the seven members of the medical board's psychology examining committee approved it in June. Martinez said the allegations of the woman, identified in medical board documents only as Linda G., were supported by evidence gathered by investigators.
In an interview Tuesday, Brotman said his troubles arose because he is "a vulnerable individual who can respond to a waif-like quality" in a woman. Brotman portrayed himself as a family man who, while undergoing "mid-life crisis," became infatuated with his patient.
Brotman said he and the woman also started an outpatient clinic in the San Fernando Valley "after she was no longer my patient."
A practicing psychologist for 27 years, Brotman said he has taught the subject part time at California State University, Northridge.
"It was an inappropriate infatuation," he said. "My behavior can be questioned."
Brotman also insisted that his former patient's allegations exaggerated what happened. "Eighty percent of it is wrong," he said. "If her story were accurate in all respects, I don't deserve to be on this planet. I'd be some sort of reprehensible Svengali."
Under the agreement, Martinez said, Brotman must undergo regular therapy with a medical board-approved psychologist during the year his license is suspended. When the year is up, another psychologist will evaluate him to determine whether he would be a danger to patients if the license is reinstated, Martinez said.
If the evaluation is favorable, Martinez said, Brotman will have to pass the oral section of the state's licensing examination for psychologists before resuming his practice.
If the evaluating psychologist gives him a negative appraisal or if he fails the exam, Brotman will have to wait another year before going through the process again, Martinez said.
Rogers Wright, who recently completed a term as president of the state psychological association, said the professional organization last year took its own disciplinary action against Brotman for ethical violations. Wright would not say what the action was.
Wright said Brotman was chairman of the association's ethics committee for a short period about 15 years ago. Until the current case, he said, Brotman had a reputation as a "well-known, distinguished psychologist."
Brotman said he now has no income and has filed for protection from creditors under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.
He said he sold the outpatient clinic, which he declined to name. He said the patient has filed a malpractice suit against him in Los Angeles Superior Court.
"I unplugged the circuit board of my brain," the psychologist said of his actions with the patient. "I lost my critical objectivity. I guess it's like Mayor LaGuardia used to say when he said he doesn't make many mistakes, but when he does, it's a beaut. This one was king-sized. . . ."