These days, the mob needs shrinks as much as it does loan sharks, at least according to entertainments like The Sopranos and Analyze This. But headshrinkers had no place in the world of late Gambino crime family boss John Gotti, at least not until daughter Vickie sent two bickering pals to see a therapist on her reality show Growing Up Gotti.
In a recent episode on the A&E cable show, the Mafia princess sent her friends to see a therapist named Debra Pearl. It made for delightful TV, but—in a twist dad John might have appreciated—Gotti sent her pals straight into the arms of a co-worker of Independence Party leader and psychotherapist Fred Newman, who has long been accused of luring therapy patients into his other schemes.
Pearl is a longtime sidekick of Newman’s and is affiliated with the East Side Center for Social Therapy, which Newman founded, and also her own Long Island Social Therapy Group. Madelyn Chapman, a spokeswoman for the center, said the show contacted Pearl out of the blue. Regarding the cult accusation, she said, “It’s not true.”
The first to spot the Gotti-Newman connection was cult watchdog Rick Ross, on his website cultnews.com. Another longtime Newman observer, Dennis King, whose website dennisking.org focuses on Newman and sidekick Lenora Fulani, said Pearl’s appearance was part of the group’s sophisticated marketing. “The Newmanites use TV celebrities and puff pieces to attract donors and volunteers to All Stars and patients to social therapy,” said King. “It’s a cycle—raise money, recruit more cult members, raise even more money.”