Probe Into Online Scheme Revealed Fake Therapist, State Health Officials Say

Rachel Acenas
By Rachel Acenas
July 6, 2024US News
Probe Into Online Scheme Revealed Fake Therapist, State Health Officials Say
An illuminated computer. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

A therapist has lost her license after allowing her wife to treat clients on her behalf, according to health officials in Tennessee and Florida.

Peggy Randolph was a licensed clinical social worker in both states for online platform Brightside Health.

Her spouse, who does not have a license, held online sessions with her patients instead, according to an investigative report by the Florida Department of Health widely circulated this week.

The 2-year-long scheme was only exposed after her spouse’s death, officials allege.

An investigation began in February 2023 when a patient discovered through a social media image that she was discussing confidential information with a fake therapist, Tammy Heath-Randolph.

“Photographic evidence was provided by the patient which included a picture of herself speaking to [Tammy] in one of her scheduled consults,” the May 2023 report stated.

The deceit was exposed after the wife died last year, according to a Tennessee Department of Health settlement agreement signed earlier this year.

Although Tammy Randolph is only identified as “T.R.” in documents, an online obituary shows that she passed away on Feb. 11, 2023, and lists her spouse as Ms. Peggy Randolph.

Ms. Randolph initially denied the accusations and claimed she was unaware that her spouse was participating in the therapy sessions on her behalf and also getting paid for the work. But she later acknowledged that it was her wife in the photo, further blaming her wife’s actions on her “uncontrolled bipolar condition.”

The state alleges that Ms. Randolph carried out the scheme so that she had time to see other patients in person while her wife provided consultations online.

The online platform offers “life-changing care for anxiety and depression,” according to its official website. Its therapists also treat patients who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), burnout, and suicidal thoughts.

Brightside Health confirmed that Ms. Peggy Randolph worked as an independent contractor.

“The claimed behavior would be a breach of Randolph’s contractual agreement with Brightside and a violation of her professional code of ethics,” the company said in a statement to NTD News. “We’re extremely disappointed that a single provider was willing to violate the trust that Brightside and, most importantly, her patients had placed in her, as trust is the foundation of the patient and provider relationship in both telehealth and in-person care.”

During Brightside’s internal investigation, “it became apparent Tammy Heath-Randolph was seeing all of Peggy Randolph’s patients online … and had been for a long time,” according to health officials.

Ms. Randolph worked for Brightside Health from January 2021 to February 2023 and was assigned to provide therapy sessions for “hundreds of patients” over video calls during that time period.

She voluntarily retired her licenses for Tennessee and Florida in August 2023 during the company’s probe into the matter.

Both state health departments closed their investigations into the case after Ms. Randolph gave up her license to practice.

Brightside Health told NTD News that it reported the case to federal authorities, notified the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) of a potential HIPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) violation and issued refunds to all its patients affected by the case.

“We take our patient experience seriously and hold ourselves to a high ethical code of conduct,” the company said. “Brightside only contracts with healthcare professionals licensed with relevant state medical boards and follows national standards of credentialing.”