Massachusetts shrink outed as former stripper

The successful therapist is also caught practicing without a license -- but her patients don't really care.

Published January 27, 2006 7:26PM (EST)

The Boston Globe magazine offers up a fascinating story this week about a successful therapist who was recently outed for treating clients without a license -- and, perhaps more damning to her reputation, for being a former stripper.

Lucy Wightman, 46, was known as a smart, warm psychologist whom patients adored for her laid-back style and her deep reserves of empathy. She had offices in two affluent Boston suburbs and her practice was thriving until last fall, when an anonymous tipster informed the local Fox affiliate that Wightman was not a licensed psychologist -- her doctorate came from a mail-order university in the Caribbean -- and in the '70s and '80s she was known as "Princess Cheyenne," one of Bostons most renowned nude dancers.

When her fabricated degree came to light -- Wightman has a master's in counseling psychology but never finished her Ph.D. -- the state attorney general's office and a grand jury indicted her on 26 counts of felony larceny, six counts of filing false healthcare claims, six counts of insurance fraud and one count of practicing psychology without a license. Wightman's defenders rightly question whether she would have been charged so harshly if it wasn't for her colorful past, and argue that the attorney general is looking for headlines, not justice.

The Globe talks to some patients who feel they were betrayed and deceived by Wightman. But what's so interesting about this story is that for the most part, Wightman's patients don't really seem to care about the fabrications or about her past as "Princess Cheyenne." "She made a mistake  but I don't think what she did warrants all the attention and all the charges that have been levied against her," one patient, Al Deluca, tells the Globe. "I think Lucy is being used. If this whole thing about her being a stripper had never come out, then this would have died."

If you were seeing an extremely talented and helpful therapist, and then found out that he or she had lied about credentials, would you continue to see the therapist? And what if you found out that your shrink was once a stripper -- would you care?

By Lori Leibovich

Lori Leibovich is a contributing editor at Salon and the former editor of the Life section.

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