Counselor with history of violence against women keeps state license

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NEW BERLIN (WITI) -- James Kirsch is what you might call an expert on abuse. He's a licensed professional counselor in Wisconsin. Last year, he started incorporating horse therapy into his practice.

"It's always been my dream to practice on my own but to include horses," Kirsch told an undercover FOX6 producer.10688307_366602346836997_8752239676948943542_o

Kirsch's fiancee operates a horseback riding lesson company called 14 Carrot Stables in New Berlin. On her property, Kirsch runs his owns business, the Wellness Health Ranch. There, his website says, he specializes in working with children and people who have behavioral issues and family problems.

"Basically what I do is I have been doing psychotherapy for 20 years," Kirsch told a FOX6 producer.

He says most of his training is in pediatrics.

"I treat just about everything under the sun when it comes to concerning about kids," Kirsch said.

But before you consider sending your kid to the Wellness Health Ranch, you might want to know a little more about the man who would be treating your child.

Kirsch Strongarm charge

A 2012 battery charge for Kirsch in Brown County.

One thing he probably won't mention during his sessions is his history of abusing women.

"It was like living as a prisoner of war," says his first wife, Leanne.

"I thank God to this day that I got out of it alive," says his second wife, Lori.

James Kirsch's ex-wives are two women who once hated each other. They are now unlikely allies. Their harrowing stories of survival are eerily similar.

"He used to like, to pick you up by your face or your neck area and kind of dangle you," Lori remembers.

"He would just pick me up and throw me over the top of his head and into a wall," Leanne says.

They lived through nearly a decade of abuse, which is documented in court files and public records.

In 2005, while married to his first wife, Kirsch pleaded guilty to domestic violence-related charges of disorderly conduct and criminal damage to property. He threatened to burn down his house with his family inside.

"We were scared to death. The kids were little and they were screaming, 'Daddy no. Please don't kill us.' It was just horrible," Leanne says.

Years later, Kirsch put his second wife in the hospital after throwing her across the room. She landed on a humidifier. Hospital records show she had broken ribs and a punctured lung. Kirsch lied to doctors, saying his wife had just tripped over some moving boxes.

first wife

First wife of James Kirsch says she still fears for her safety.

"I just worry that eventually he is going to kill somebody," Lori, his second wife, says.

He's spent months in jail. He's been convicted three times on domestic violence crimes. He even vouches for his criminal defense attorney in a TV commercial.

He's been required to  complete domestic violence counseling. Courts from Indiana to Wisconsin have forbidden him from having contact with both of his ex-wives, who still say they fear for their safety.

2nd wife

Kirsch's second wife shares details of abuse while married to James Kirsch.

"I think about what he is still allowed to do and how many people he can hurt. He is a very violent man," his second wife Lori says.

One court even required him to have supervised visitation with his own children. At one point, he was even forbidden from going to their school.

"If anything, his violence is getting worse over the years than better," Leanne says.

Marriage counselors told his second wife she should record their interactions. In one recording, he is worried about what the Licensing Board will think about his recent court cases. He screams at his wife, "I look like a mental health lunatic. I'm a mental health provider!"

So why would a man with a documented history of violence against women be allowed to work in a profession where his job is to help people?

"I think it is outrageous," Leanne says.

"I don't think he is stable to work in that field. I don't believe at all that he should have his counseling license," Lori says.

Neither does the state of Wisconsin.

In an email obtained by the FOX6 Investigators, a lawyer for the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services writes Kirsch "has no business counseling anyone about anything."

That was in May 2014.Kirsch 3-13-12

But a simple search of the state's website shows his professional counseling license is still in good standing. He was able to renew it in January.

And despite complaints being filed against him with the state Licensing Board in 2005, 2009, 2011, 2012, and 2014 --all related to domestic violence -- the state of Wisconsin has never disciplined him.

His first wife, who ironically has a PhD. in psychology says she's concerned for the parents who may not know about his background before they sign their kids up for therapy.

"It's about the field that I work in. "I think it is disgusting that he has had this many convictions and that he still has a license," she says.

State officials refused an on-camera interview, saying it was department policy not to give media interviews. But Kirsch, it says, is still under investigation.

In the meantime, he's allowed to continue counseling families and children.

His website says he treats everything from Autism and depression to behavioral issues and family problems.

But the real problem, his ex-wives agree, is him.

"I think the community as a whole -- psychologists, social workers, therapists -- believe this is way outside of what the normal would be for a therapist," Leanne says.

"I am glad I got out before he killed me," Lori says.

Kirsch was suspended from his last job at a clinic in Green Bay. He was supposed to undergo a mental health assessment to see if he was fit to practice in light of the allegations against him in his last domestic dispute. During his evaluation, state records show he lied to the doctor, saying he had no criminal history. He's currently being investigated by the state for unprofessional conduct.

Kirsch refused an on-camera interview. On the phone, he told FOX6 he's a changed man. When asked about his Wellness Health Ranch he said, "We don't do any counseling here. I do not practice psychotherapy."

He says he does work with children, but he doesn't counsel them. He says he's not using his professional counseling license anymore. He says he's merely a "wellness specialist, bonding with people and animals."

He says he has worked hard to be a different person, even though he "has not had the best personal life."

 

 

 

6 comments

  • Bridgit

    I was on last year with the same thing its mind blowing how the state of Wisconsin does not take domestic violence seriously they let these guys repeat and repeat the only time they do anything is if you go on TV about it they say they have to investigate what’s to investigate its black and white its court documented and by the time they do it could be to late someone could be hurt or even dead its sad

    • Mr. Bob

      Bridgit,
      I think it is more than the state of Wisconsin not taking domestic violence seriously. This lack of intervention appears to be prevalent when you look at other professions the state has licensing authority over such as physicians, dentists and chiropractors. It’s as though they are afraid of being sued by these individuals so they don’t take action. It sounds as though this guy James Kirsch is in need of some intensive inpatient treatment. He should have been imprisoned for these actions.

  • Kelly Schultz

    I believe they should investigate a little bit further a lot in this story does not add up. a lot of people go through bitter divorces. there is always 2 sides to a story I believe we only heard one side of the story

    • Bridgit

      Apparently you did not watch the story they showed pictures of the bruises on the women and court documents of restraining orders and police reports

      • xenologer

        Yeah I don’t know what his side of the story could contribute that would explain and justify the obvious physical battery of people who loved and trusted him. There aren’t two equally-valid sides of every single story. Sometimes someone does the wrong things and that is really the actual verifiable truth.

  • kim lawson

    This is the first time I have read this, this is very black and white, a man has no right to place his hands on a women or anyone else in anger, if you can’t control yourself around a person you love, what would you do to a child in counselling when you have a bad day, verbally abuse them. He should be in field of work where he is monitored, and as far as the wives being abused, I don’t see a let’s get him attitude, I see a pattern of abuse, would not want to be the next wife, and if I was one of the first two wife’s, I pray the kids safety is taken seriously by the courts and mother’s. What is wrong with this state.

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