Four Major Mistakes Made By Jennifer Chiba, Licensed Marriage and Family/Art Therapist

Written by | October 20, 2015 5:38 am | 15 responses


Jennifer Chiba & Elliott Smith


I am not a therapist, but I have talked to a few since I have started my research about Elliott Smith’s death. Jennifer Chiba is a therapist, a marriage and family therapist, and according to this website she got her license in 1995. According to the Spin article, she has also worked as an art therapist, or at least this is what she likes to add to her credential on her Linkedin page, and she has worked as an art therapist at Five Acres, a school for abused and damaged children. Let’s add to this that ‘a marriage and family therapist treats mental and emotional disorders within the context of marriage and family systems. A marriage and family therapist provides mental health and counseling services to individuals, couples, families, and groups’… Knowing all this, are we entitled to expect Jennifer Chiba to be aware of some basic rules in psychology and therapy? I guess so, nevertheless, if we believe her narrative, she made four major errors while being a licensed therapist.

1. First, the obvious one, she removed the knife from Elliott’s chest and let’s remember that she pulled the knife out when Elliott was still standing: ‘The decedent was standing up, conscious, and gasping for breath. Jennifer pulled the knife out of the decedent’s chest and saw “two cuts” on his chest. At this time the decedent walked away and Jennifer followed him to where he collapsed’, says the police report. What happened is even more gruesome than removing the knife from the chest of someone lying down, especially when we know that one of the wounds (wound #2) was between 5 to 7 inch deep. A person, who is also a therapist from Loyola Marymount University (where Jennifer Chiba got her license) wrote the following to me: Anyone who takes a Basic First Aid class, even the people who sleep through it, are scared straight from any idea of removing an impaled object of any kind. It creates a second trauma and increases the bleed. You leave it in and wrap it to staunch the bleeding. This particularly stressed in training for clinicians who work with children!!!’ Of course the removal of the knife has greatly worried the police: ‘Additionally, the girlfriend’s reported removal of the knife and subsequent refusal to speak with detectives are all of concern’…. So this question remains, was Chiba exposed to first aid during her training? A simple email addressed to Robin Smith Jurado, Assistant Director of Human Resources, Volunteers and Recruitment at Five Acres, gave me the answer: ‘Thank you for your email, All of our direct care staff, including our therapists, is trained in CPR and First Aid.’

2. According to several articles like this one, Elliott had threatened to kill himself the morning of the day he died: ‘His girlfriend Jennifer Chiba, who discovered the body, reportedly told friends that less than an hour before his death Smith had threatened to kill himself. Used to melodramatic threats from her boyfriend Chiba ignored his remarks and took a shower – only to discover later he had stabbed himself.’ If it’s true, ignoring suicidal threats is a professional fault, a therapist should never ignore suicidal threats… ‘Never ignore, diminish, or judge a suicide threat, and remember that professional help is the best course of action for a suicidal loved one,’ says this page about suicide prevention. As a therapist she chose to lock herself in the bathroom when Elliott was allegedly suicidal? It doesn’t make sense.

3. Shortly before his death, Jennifer Chiba was pushing Elliott to see her own psychiatrist, Abigail Stanton. It is not clear whether Elliott was already seeing Stanton or not, since the Spin article says After Smith parted ways with his longtime psychiatrist, Dr. Bert Schloss, Chiba introduced him to her own psychiatrist, Dr. Abigail Stanton, who agreed to take over Smith’s medication management.’ In ‘Torment Saint’, Schultz writes ‘Elliott was planning to see Stanton too. He’d ended things with Schloss, the plan being to make a fresh start. Stanton, then would be taking over his care, managing his meds in the event he decided to start them back up again,…’

However, according to various articles about psychology, it is not necessarily a good idea when partners see the same doctor: ‘If your partner sees a therapist, don’t see the same one, and beware of any therapist who suggests that you do so. Also, watch out for feeling that you should see a certain therapist because you feel obligated to the person who made the recommendation’, or ‘Unless the therapist is specifically doing family, child or couples counseling, most therapists try to avoid seeing people who know one another in a close or intimate manner. Doing so can cause all sorts of troublesome problems for both the therapist and the patient, as the therapist will hold secrets about the two parties that they may have a hard time not inadvertently divulging’. Dr. Stanton is a psychiatrist, not a family or couple therapist, according to the reviews I have read, she sees patients mostly to prescribe medicine and that’s why we can presume that it was another error for Chiba to make her boyfriend see the same psychiatrist.

4. I was watching ‘28 Days’ over the weekend, the movie where Sandra Bullock plays an alcoholic who ruins her sister’s wedding and is sentenced to 28 days of rehab. At one point the drug counselor/therapist tells his patients when it is the right time to go back to dating after rehab: ‘When you get out, go buy yourself a plant, then after a year with the plant, go and buy yourself a pet, at the end of the two years, if the plant and the pet are still alive, you can think of dating again!’

‘While Chiba eventually became Smith’s girlfriend in the weeks after his Neurotransmitter Restoration Center treatment, Smith was in need of care more than romance’ wrote Ben Nugent in his book ‘Elliott Smith and the Big Nothing. By all means, Chiba attempted to start a relationship with Elliott immediately after his treatment, when he was still very vulnerable. On the website Alcohol rehab, you can read the following on this same subject: ‘One of the worst things that an individual can do in early recovery is jump headfirst into romance. It is strongly advised that they remain focused on themselves until their sobriety is strong. Once they are settled in their new life, they can then begin to consider sharing it with somebody else.’… ‘It is recommended that people who are still within the first year of their recovery should avoid beginning romantic relationships. This is because their priority needs to be staying sober. The first few months of recovery are often described as an emotional rollercoaster because there is so much going on. The last thing that an individual will want to do will be to add the stress of a new relationship to the mix. It is going to take all their attention to make it through this early part of recovery.’ How come Jennifer Chiba, an art therapist with 15 years of experience, could not even apply this elementary rule that even a Hollywood flick could get right?

She made four major errors that are not excusable coming for a trained therapist, if some could be partly explained by a state of panic (removal of the knife), the others appear much more calculated and unforgivable.


15 Responses to “Four Major Mistakes Made By Jennifer Chiba, Licensed Marriage and Family/Art Therapist”

  1. Roi Hans

    Ah, yes, the classic fan-boy syndrome: looking for a Yoko Ono to blame everything on. Patethic.

      • Carla

        you tell those ignorant people how it is Alyson.
        @roi hans if u would have scratched just the surface u would know Alyson is a journalist since many, many, many years. she met Elliott before he passed and is not a fan girl. but somebody who is deeply troubled by the non taken actions of the LAPD after Elliott’s passing. what makes one wonder, if they just saw him as another drug addict loser, shrug their shoulders and thought it was not worth their time and the tax payers money. sadly how it is. if u would take ur time reading up just a little bit, instead of just one article u probably stumbled across by accident, maybe u would change ur thinking into at least a little head scratch. there r things that make no sense and we will never get the truth it seems. But Alyson is not giving up and if u would see the efforts she is making its mind-blowing to me. she is always professional in her way, follows the moral guidelines of a true journalist and I love her writing. she is an inspiration. take a look dude!

    • Maria D'Angelo

      Seriously? Yoko was untalented and annoying, however, this woman was by all accounts from everyone who knew her (including me) a terrible person, and she i consider what she did that night to at the very least to be negligent homicide but I suspect she downright killed him. Do some reading and investigate. This chick also dated Rivers Cuomo and he said she sucked him dry both physically and emotionally and it was the only time in his life he considered ending his life. He said she played head games with him all the time and tried to control every aspect of his time. I never believed her when she told me about being a therapist, plartly because of all the drugs she doing when I met her, but mostly because of her complete lack of empathy or tact, or ability to even fake either for social purposes. And she was a terrible musician.

      • Eric

        Both women claimed the hearts of the best, memorable and talented artists. That speaks volume to many. You are just jealous. Don’t worry, we don’t blame you for that.

  2. Pippy

    Mr. Hans, I’m not calling your comment intentionally fallacious, but that tired, Yoko “scare-crow” effigy you are attempting to set afire lacks the necessary stuffing to even be considered a straw man argument. Perhaps you are the one who is wildly miscategorizing your perceptions. (?)

    (Fan boy?) Ms. Camus’ evaluation of Jennifer Chiba’s conduct at the time of Elliott Smith’s death is relevant to her exploration of the officially established narrative surrounding Smith’s death.

    Smith was not Jennifer Chiba’s client, but if I recall some of her interviews correctly, Chiba has often framed her relationship with the musician as one which began with her scrupulous intention to attend to him with her accredited therapeutic skills during the time they cohabited. If Smith had actually been her client in a professional environment, she might very well have been held accountable for the consequences of her poor professional choices.

    Besides, with his introspective bent and unassuming demeanor, Smith always struck me as being more the “George” type. : )

    • Maria D'Angelo

      Actually there are federal laws of reporting which require anyone who is licenced to practice therapy to report any behavior or threats of behavior that are suicidal or homicidal, or abusive to children, regardless of their professional or nonprofessional relationship to the specific individual. Teachers and school employees are bound by that same law along with employees at your doctors office, not just your doctor. They must report. So yeah she did break the law. And 100% should ve been accountable. If a teenager can go to jail for manslaughter for bullying someone on the internet and telling them to kill themselves because they indeed killed themselves , then I’m sure someone with years did education and experience in the field should be even more accountable no? Because I know of two cases where 2 teenage girls who were telling someone online to off themselves and one girl texting her boyfriend telling him to kill him himself because she was sick of him threatening it all the time, these girls are doing time in connection to their deaths under manslaughter laws. So how is this professional woman who was educated and bound by law to not remove an impaled object and to report threats of suicide , how is she not accountable?

  3. peripheral

    So… my ex-husband’s (now deceased) dad would talk to me about this case. He may have been privy somehow to insider info as he was the former Director of the Sacramento crime lab. Also, his niece is married to Elliott’s bro, if they are still together.

    Solemnly he swore, without a doubt that Elliott could not have self-inflicted that wound.

  4. GH

    If one specifically considers the direction and trajectory of his injuries – sans the only witness’s statement – the wounds are statistically more similar to those acquired during a homicide. The (even slightly) raised hand of an assailant could (and quite often does) inflict an injury with an oblique/vertical, downward trajectory.

    Then there is the fact that the blade lacerated cartilage. That, too, is most often seen with homicides.

    Statistically, a lot of suicides tend to present with more horizontal wounds. Perhaps it’s just easier to grasp a handle that way when turning a knife on oneself.

    Of course none of this is 100% proof of either determination… and THAT is exactly the point most people miss about this case.

    • peripheral

      That sounds very familiar to how it was explained to me, though the family bias leaned toward an absolute.

      • Alyson

        Thank you for this important information. Would you accept to give me more details (even privately)? I have sent you an email, I hope to be hearing from you soon. Thanks

  5. Ajaraja

    Hi, I appreciate your dedication to finding the truth here. I have always found this case disturbing on so many levels. First, it absolutely amazes me that the police have been so negligent in this. Second it is shocking how the internet and media just takes certain statements as truth and prints them without due diligence. I’m on my phone posting so I’ll keep it short but I just wanted to say thank you and that when I see people post nasty comments it irritates me and makes me wonder what their agenda is.

  6. Vince

    Elliott Smith killed himself, bottom line, you have to be there to know why he was there, he took his life

    • Alyson

      No Vince, we don’t know, Dr. Scheinin who performed the autopsy doesn’t know, Homicide detective J King (in charge of the case) doesn’t know. The autopsy says ‘undetermined’, and the case is open (not cold).

  7. 3rd m

    Nope. Not so, Vince. The official determination of his death was unresolved. If it had been obvious that he had killed himself the coroner (a professional) would have ruled it a “suicide” and the LAPD would NOT have opened a case (that remains open to this day).


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