Layne Richard Meacham, accused of abusing a patient in his Proctor Advocate program for troubled youths, acknowledged that his therapy involves force but said his methods were based on love.
Meacham, a licensed social worker and founder of the controversial program, testified in his own defense after prosecutors rested their case in his misdemeanor child abuse trial in 3rd Circuit Court.A 17-year-old former patient accused Meacham of forcing her to stand lock-kneed for 90 minutes during a therapy session while other teenagers called her names. The session ended after the girl became so ill she vomited blood and was taken to a hospital, she said.
Meacham, describing himself as a child advocate, said his program combines tough love and reality therapy - a mix of philosophies he derived from other programs across the country and from books accepted by social workers.
"The only way you're going to get kids better is to put a kid in a reformer role and give them authority. So we set up a pro-social reformer environment that is essentially run by kids," he said Tuesday.
Force and involuntary involvement are a necessary part of therapy, Meacham said, and requiring patients to stand at attention during confrontational sessions enables them to assume control of themselves.
He said the confrontations are supervised, but he acknowledged he was not present for most of the session involving the alleged victim.
However, he said he never forced her to stand and did not direct anyone else to do so. When told the girl had vomited, he said, "I didn't think vomiting was that big a deal because usually when kids come in after running away they are drunk."
But he said he became alarmed when he learned the girl was coughing up blood and telephoned her mother. The woman told him she couldn't leave work and he promised to take care of the situation, Meacham said.
Meacham said he began working in state youth corrections after he returned from service in the Marine Corps in Vietnam in the late 1960s. He also admitted being an alcoholic, but said he has attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings regularly and has not had a drink in 21/2 years.
Another defense witness, Melroy B. Harward, testified he worked with Meacham while the defendant was employed by the state and Harward was a social worker at the Provo Canyon School.
He said Meacham has "no reputation of being a child abuser," and that his practice of having youths stand at attention was not unusual.
"Standing is an accepted method of gaining control. . . You have to use confrontation with youth regularly," Harward said. However, he said the atmosphere requires warmth and concern and should be non-judgmental.
"If a program or an individual doesn't indicate love or make them feel love you are not going to be successful," he said.
Meacham said during his testimony that he loves all his young charges, including his accuser.
"I probably told every kid in there I love them," he said.
During cross-examination by prosecutor Keith Stoney outlined a series of controversies involving Proctor Advocate, at one point confronting Mea-cham for allegedly bragging to his patients that he could "beat" the court system.