Arizona Psychologist Cuts Through Corruption to Heal Her Community
Dr. Carol Gandolfo spent years earning a license to practice psychology in California. She’s worked with all sorts of patients, from the incarcerated to the developmentally disabled. People who’ve seen her work say she’s a miracle worker. But Carol insists she isn’t; she says she’s gifted with simple common sense and empathy, and uses them to connect with clients in difficult circumstances.
But this extraordinary woman faced a problem. When she moved to Sedona, Arizona, her new home state would not recognize her credentials and barred her from practicing psychology. This wasn’t Carol’s fault; it was a result of Arizona’s occupational licensing requirements. As is common across the United States, Carol was required to start the licensing process from scratch in her new state of residence, which meant spending time and money navigating bureaucracy rather than helping people. Her California license—which remained in good standing—counted for nothing in Arizona thanks to entrenched interests.
New Ways to Serve
Carol was understandably frustrated that her license in good standing was not accepted just because it was from another state. “When somebody puts that much effort into getting a license, why are we having other states that are saying, ‘Well, you don’t qualify here’?” she said. “I look at all these licenses and something needs to be streamlined.”
Rather than embroiling herself in paperwork and corrupt bureaucracies, Carol decided to give her time and talents to her community. Since she couldn’t practice professionally, she began volunteering, including helping first responders struggling with stress and trauma and advising a law enforcement task force combating sex trafficking. When a 2013 wildfire destroyed half of the town of Yarnell, Arizona, and killed 19 firefighters, Carol provided her services to survivors, friends, and colleagues of the victims, helping them cope with the tragic loss.
Sedona Mayor Scott Jablow said that Carol went out of her way to serve the town. “I feel blessed to have people like Carol,” he said. “I am really happy to be her friend and to know that she’s doing the right thing for our community and our residents, especially at the most trying times in their lives.”
She still held out hope that she might be able to practice in full again in the future. When she learned about a local effort to help professionals use their credentials in Arizona without government roadblocks standing in their way, she quickly became an ardent supporter.
Reform Brings Hope
In 2019, Arizona passed the Breaking Down Barriers to Work Act, a groundbreaking new universal licensing recognition bill that required in-state occupational licensing boards to honor any out-of-state license that met a few basic requirements. This law meant that people moving to Arizona from other states no longer had to go through the licensing process again just to use their training and experience in their careers, often saving them hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars.
This law—the first of its kind in the nation—was designed and backed by the Goldwater Institute, the state’s preeminent pro-freedom advocacy organization and an Atlas Network partner. The Goldwater Institute stands up for professionals when occupational licensing restrictions—like the ones Carol fought—are used by industry lobbyists to prevent new competition from entering the market. The Breaking Down Barriers to Work Act helped ensure that Americans can move and work more freely by limiting the power of anti-competitive licensing boards, usually made up of existing businesses and their lobbyists.
Goldwater Institute’s Vice President of Legal Affairs Timothy Sandefur said economic liberties are central to the organization’s work. “It’s something that matters a lot to me because it’s a really neglected part of [the law],” he continued. “There aren’t that many people who speak up for the right to earn a living, the right to start a small business, the right to own and use private property.”
Unfortunately, when Carol applied for her license under the new law, the Arizona Board of Psychology Examiners (BPE) refused to grant it to her. Incensed that Carol had supported a law that even slightly reduced their power, the board invented reasons to oppose her at every turn. Before the ordeal was over, they would even go so far as to disregard a letter directly from the governor explaining they were violating the law by denying Carol’s application.
But Carol didn’t have to face down the board alone; the Goldwater Institute’s litigation team had her back.
Taking the Bureaucrats to Court
Supporting Dr. Gandolfo’s case made perfect sense.
“We really are truly privileged to be able to step in in those cases where there’s a vacuum and nobody else would be able to fight back for individual liberty,” said Jon Riches, Goldwater Institute’s vice president of litigation.
The BPE’s pretexts couldn’t have been thinner. First, it denied Carol’s application to become credentialed in Arizona because she was not a new Arizona resident and because she had earned her doctoral degree from a state-accredited, rather than a regionally accredited, university. Under the law neither of these facts disqualified her. The BPE continued to deny her application, however, in open defiance of the law.
After the Goldwater Institute stepped in to appeal the board’s decision, the BPE ceased challenging Carol’s credentials and issued her a license to practice. They weren’t finished harassing her though, and soon opened a new investigation alleging that her volunteer work with firefighters had amounted to practicing psychology without a license.
It hadn’t, of course, but that didn’t matter to the board.
Goldwater Institute continued to defend Carol in court, knowing that allowing the BPE to win would not only be a miscarriage of justice but would create a precedent of allowing occupational licensing boards to trample on Arizona workers’ rights. Goldwater Institute kept up the pressure until the board finally relented, admitting that Carol had done nothing wrong.
A Nationwide Impact
With limitless energy and a seemingly unending list of passion projects, Carol has made a deep, lasting impact on her community. Now that she’s finally fully licensed in Arizona, she can apply her full skillset to doing what she does best. She continues to serve in many of the same volunteer capacities as she did before she received her license in Arizona, but now she’s also able to offer low-cost psychological services to those in her community who need her help.
Carol said the experience of trying to get her license was extremely stressful, but after the final hearing with the licensing board she felt joy at knowing she’d be able to work with patients again in an official capacity after 13 years of waiting. “It was such a wonderful day when I knew that now I could actually help people,” she said.
Since the Breaking Down Barriers to Work Act was implemented in Arizona, more than 6,500 professionals have successfully obtained licenses under the law. The Goldwater Institute has also helped allies in 15 other states pass similar legislation. For this work the organization won Atlas Network’s 2022 North America Liberty Award and was named a finalist for the 2022 Templeton Freedom Award. Their efforts continue to ensure that fewer Americans will need to overcome monopolistic licensing boards just to use their skills and serve their neighbors.