Utah therapist accused of sexually abusing patients has faced new scrutiny

This comes after an investigative report by The Salt Lake Tribune/ProPublica into the therapist, who was considered an expert in helping struggling gay Latter-day Saint men.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Canyon Counseling in Provo. One of its owners, Scott Owen, is under scrutiny after a Salt Lake Tribune/ProPublica investigative report which detailed the accounts of a number of men who allege Owen touched them inappropriately during their therapy sessions.

Former therapist Scott Owen built a reputation over his 20-year career in Utah County as a specialist who could help gay men who were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

But this summer, The Salt Lake Tribune and ProPublica published an investigative report that detailed the allegations of three men who gave strikingly similar accounts of Owen allegedly touching them in ways they felt was inappropriate. Some of the men said their Latter-day Saint bishops referred them to Owen — including three more men who spoke out in recent weeks to say their bishop used church funds to pay for sessions where they allege Owen also touched them inappropriately.

The summer report by The Tribune/ProPublica was the first time that allegations against Owen had become widely known. And since it was published, other entities have responded: Provo Police are now investigating. Church-owned Brigham Young University has reevaluated its relationship with Canyon Counseling, the therapy business that Owen co-founded. Owen’s business also cut ties with him in recent weeks, before announcing in September that it was closing altogether.

Scott Owen (Obtained by The Salt Lake Tribune)

[Read more: These men say their Utah therapist touched them inappropriately during sessions paid for by the LDS Church]

Owen had not responded to detailed lists of questions sent to him regarding allegations that he touched his patients inappropriately.

A police investigation

(Provo Police Department) Police are now investigating sexual abuse allegations involving Scott Owen.

The Provo Police Department confirmed it is now investigating Owen.

“We opened an investigation after we saw your initial report,” Provo’s Capt. Brian Taylor told a Tribune reporter, “and we have offered interviews to anyone who has something to say about their experience at Canyon Counseling, with Dr. Scott Owen. And we continue to do that.”

This is the first time that the department has looked into whether Owen’s alleged touching during therapy was illegal. Taylor said police have been in contact with “more than one” alleged victim so far.

Their investigation is still open, he said, and Provo police are seeking to speak with other people with allegations of abuse involving Owen.

Prior to the August publication of The Tribune/ProPublica article, the agency said, it did not have any record of anyone ever reporting Owen to them for alleged sexual misconduct.

Utah law says patients can’t consent to sexual acts with a health care professional if they believed the touching was part of a “medically or professionally appropriate diagnosis, counseling or treatment.”

Canyon Counseling closure

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Canyon Counseling in Provo.

Owen gave up his therapy license in 2018, after several patients had complained to state licensers that he had touched them inappropriately. He continued to own Canyon Counseling, and appears to have had an active role in the business — though that changed dramatically after The Tribune/ProPublica report.

First, on Aug. 15, less than two weeks after the article appeared, Owen was removed from state business records as Canyon’s Counseling registered agent. Soon after, the practice noted on its website that Owen has “no ownership nor any other affiliation in any manner” with the business.

Then, in late September, Canyon Counseling announced it was closing altogether. A therapist who worked there at that time, Shawn Edgington, has since reopened the business as Palisades Counseling.

Edgington said his business has “no ties” to Owen, adding that “any alleged abuse by Mr. Owen is completely unacceptable and not condoned in any manner by Palisades Counseling.”

“Palisades Counseling and its therapists, do NOT tolerate abuse of any kind,” he wrote in an email. “Any kind of abuse of women, children, or anyone is completely unacceptable and will not be tolerated in any form by Palisades Counseling and its therapists.”

BYU reexamined its relationship with Owen’s business

(Isaac Hale | Special to The Tribune) Brigham Young University and surrounding Provo.

This summer, BYU’s Student Center — where four Canyon Counseling therapists worked — began reevaluating its relationship with the business “as it learned of concerns about one of the owners,” according to university spokesperson Carri Jenkins. She said that because Owen had never practiced there, the Student Health Center was previously unaware that he had surrendered his license.

Jenkins said Canyon Counseling was the only outside therapy business that the university’s Student Center has worked with. When asked if the Student Center will work with Palisades Counseling, she said it continues to “review different possibilities.”

Canyon Counseling’s owners, including Owen, did not answer questions about why they closed the business, or if BYU’s re-evaluation of its relationship with their company factored into that decision.