Fox Doctor's Diploma Mill Degree

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Fox Doctor's Diploma Mill Degree

MAY 14--The Los Angeles doctor Fox Television has tabbed to provide "psychological counseling" to contestants on "The Swan," its controversial plastic surgery makeover show, received her Ph.D. from a California correspondence school that was described this week as an unaccredited "diploma mill" by congressional investigators, The Smoking Gun has learned.

Therapist Lynn Ianni, it turns out, is not a doctor, she just plays one on TV.

On the network's web site, Ianni introduces herself in a short video clip: "My name is Dr. Lynn Ianni and I'm the therapist for 'The Swan.'" Referring to her repeatedly as "Dr. Ianni," the 47-year-old's Fox biography notes that she has over "25 years of professional experience" and maintains an L.A. practice that helps "clients explore such complex issues as improving self-esteem, enhancing intimacy, overcoming trauma, recovering from addictions, stress management and much more." Since 1986, Ianni has been licensed by the California Board of Behavioral Sciences as a marriage and family therapist.

The bio states that Ianni received her bachelor's degree (in psychology and elementary education) from the State University of New York and then got her master's in 1978 from Notre Dame. Twenty years later, "Dr. Ianni went on to get her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from California Coast University," the bio notes.

But the Santa Ana school isn't your standard institution of higher education. California Coast "does not require formal on-campus attendance or classroom attendance" and its degree programs "have not been designed to meet any particular local, state, or national licensing or credentialing laws," according to a 2003-04 school catalog. In fact, the for-profit California Coast charges a flat fee for particular degrees (Ianni's 1998 doctorate would have set her back about $4000). According to its web site, California Coast no longer confers Ph.D.s, though a master's is priced at a reasonable $3975 ($4525 for non-U.S. residents). Prospective students are often recruited via advertisements placed in in-flight magazines.

In a May 11 report entitled "Diploma Mills," the U.S. General Accounting Office disclosed how hundreds of federal employees--including some with senior-level posts--had obtained degrees from unaccredited outfits like California Coast. The GAO investigations, conducted at the request of the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs, noted that, in some instances, advanced degrees were obtained in an effort to secure promotions. When TSG called California Coast to ask about the harsh GAO assessment, we were directed to Dr. Murl Tucker, vice president of academic affairs. Alas, Dr. Tucker did not return phone messages--perhaps he was tied up with commencement festivities.

In a brief TSG interview, Ianni said that, "to the best of my knowledge," California Coast was "Western States approved," an apparent reference to the non-profit Western Association of Schools and Colleges, which is one of six regional associations that accredit public and private schools in the U.S. WASC has accredited 147 colleges and universities in its region, including schools like UCLA, Stanford, and Berkeley (a WASC official told TSG that California Coast has never been accredited--nor even applied for eligibility). Ianni said she was unaware of the GAO report, adding that she would have to speak with a Fox publicity representative before answering more questions.

On "The Swan," female ugly ducklings submit to facelifts, breast augmentation, liposuction, Lasik eye surgery, lip injections, tummy tucks, laser hair removal, root canal, Botox shots, and other procedures in a bid to reach the reality show's series-ending beauty pageant. As they undergo this radical (and often painful) transformation, contestants are seen consulting weekly with Ianni, who said in recent interviews that she provides "psychological counseling" to the makeover subjects, "women who have never been able to seek or benefit from therapy in the past."

Such public treatment of women with self-esteem, sexual, marital, and other serious issues does not worry Ianni, because, as she assured USA Today last month, "It's not about exploiting anybody--inside or out." In the online video clip, Ianni gushes that "The Swan" is a "dream come true because I get to say something one time and instead of it only reaching one person at a time, it gets to reach the person I'm speaking to and 20 million viewers. It's wonderful, a very good feeling."