I saw Maria Pennefather as a client through a church I attended. She had an office at my church and advertised her services as a Marriage and Family Therapist in the weekly parish bulletin. In the seven years I attended this church, I noticed her ad for "compassionate, confidential therapy" was posted there every week with the letters "MFT" after her name. I was very unimpressed with her approach as a therapist and only saw her once. Later, I learned from talking with other members of my parish that others were not happy with her services either and one former client said she seemed "off." I contacted the Alabama Board of Examiners in Marriage and Family Therapy to check her credentials. To my shock, I was informed that Mrs. Pennefather NEVER held a license to practice therapy in the state of Alabama. I then called the licensing board in Pennsylvania where Mrs. Pennefather is from. Her MFT license had expired in 2009. In this profession as in many others, a license to practice must be renewed every two years. If you move out of state, you must apply for a new license to practice in your new state of residence. That entails taking the required tests and paying a fee. For some reason she didn't bother to do so.
There is nothing worse than people who pose as devout Christians as a false front to con people and win their trust. This person was not checked for her credentials by the pastor like she should have been, and she likely bilked the members of the parish out of thousands of dollars over the years. It is a violation of state law to advertise yourself as a Marriage and Family Therapist or practice therapy in any capacity without an up-to-date license. That is malpractice and fraud. I can't imagine what harm she must have done to the poor unsuspecting couples, individuals, and children who were subject to her "professional" help. She only stopped perpetrating her fraud after she was reported, ordered by the licensing board to Cease and Desist and fined the maximum 1000 dollars. As one therapist I spoke with said, she should have been prosecuted by the State Attorney for her crimes and for the damage she did to the professional title of Marriage and Family Therapist.
A hallmark of Narcissistic Personality Disorder is having an epic sense of entitlement and believing that rules and laws for ordinary people don't apply to you. Shockingly, the investigator at the licensing board informed me that even after she was ordered to cease and desist, she called him several times asking him to make an exception in her case and allow her to continue practicing therapy anyway!
I was later accosted by Mrs. Pennefather and her husband and saw up close what a truly disturbed and mentally unbalanced person she was. She screamed at me in my face, and her husband hurled vulgarities at me while brandishing a large stick. I saw the unhinged, nasty old woman behind the kindly Catholic therapist facade which she used to hoodwink people to trust her and seek her help. In retrospect, I should have seen it as a red flag when she once confessed to me that none of her grown children were speaking to her.
This horrible experience taught me to always check the credentials of anyone I seek for professional help of any kind. Its disgusting to think that some con artists like this woman would be so sleazy as to use a pastor or a church to fool people, win their trust, and take their money.