Therapist who sexually exploited patient allowed to re-register with UK Council for Psychotherapy

[Trigger warning: sexual exploitation]

Last year I noticed that the UK Council for Psychotherapy had this listing on its online complaints archive.

Geoffrey Pick of The Association of Arbours Psychotherapists (AAP) has been found to be in breach of Article 6 of the AAP Code of Practice. Article 6 of AAP’s Code of Practice provides that ‘a member should maintain appropriate boundaries with their patients and take care not exploit their patients in any way, financially or sexually’.

In view of the above decision Mr Pick is:

1) suspended from the membership of AAP (and UKCP) for a period of one year from 16 May 2011;

2) required to enter therapy at least once a week with a therapist approved by AAP’s Ethics Committee and reports from the therapist are to be submitted to the AAP’s Ethics Committee once a quarter;

3) required to engage in further professional development as agreed between him and the AAP’s Ethics Committee liaison; and

4) required to meet a member of AAP’s Ethics Committee once a quarter.

There wasn’t any more detail than that, which left me wondering what he did.

At the end of his suspension period the above entry disappeared from the UKCP website, and Mr Pick’s name was put back on the UKCP’s online register of therapists. He was free to practice again.

I can now reveal that Pick was having a sexual relationship with one of his patients, a vulnerable adult under the care of mental health services.

I have a media statement from Surrey and Borders NHS Foundation Trust, which reads.

“Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust dismissed Geoffrey Pick from his role as a psychotherapist with the organisation on 27 January 2011 following an inappropriate relationship he had conducted with a client.

“We take our duty to protect the people that we serve very seriously and reported Geoffrey Pick to the local authorities, the Independent Safeguarding Authority and to the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapists. We also undertook an investigation into the practice of Geoffrey Pick which included talking to his manager and other team members to identify any lessons to be learnt.

“We have spoken directly with the client and continue to offer her our sincere apologies.”

The patient in question reports having been severely traumatised by the episode. She suffered a catastrophic deterioration in her mental health, spent several months under the care of a Home Treatment Team and took two overdoses. She subsequently sued Surrey and Borders for the damage inflicted upon her. The NHS trust admitted liability and paid a significant sum in an out-of-court settlement. She continues to receive mental health treatment, but does so from a neighbouring NHS trust, and is still in psychotherapy to come to terms with what happened.

The UKCP sent me this press statement.

In January 2011 Mr Pick was dismissed by his employer for gross professional misconduct. Following on from this his UKCP organisation, the Arbours Association of Psychotherapists (AAP) considered the matter in relation to his fitness to practise, and found Mr Pick to be in breach of Article 6 of the AAP Code of Practice, and Mr Pick was suspended from the membership of AAP and UKCP for a period of one year from 16 May 2011.

AAP notified us of the decision and this was published on the UKCP website.

At the end of the suspension period AAP confirmed that Mr Pick had complied with the conditions imposed during his suspension and that it was now permissible for Mr Pick to resume membership of AAP and UKCP.

In April 2013 Mr Pick informed us that he was resigning from AAP and UKCP with immediate effect. In compliance with this notification his name was removed from the UKCP Register.

I’m absolutely shocked that the Arbours Association, and by extension the UKCP, didn’t strike him off. I was curious to see what my own regulator, the Nursing and Midwifery Council, has to say about such acts of misconduct. I looked up their Indicative Sanctions Guidance.

In all cases of serious sexual misconduct, it will be highly likely that the only proportionate sanction will be a striking-off order. If panels decide to impose a sanction other than a striking-off order, then they will need to be particularly careful in explaining clearly and fully the reasons why they made such a determination, so that it can be understood by those who have not heard all of the evidence in the case.

Well, this was certainly within the category of serious sexual misconduct. Even worse, it was sexual misconduct with a vulnerable adult. Worse still, the patient endured significant harm as a result of his misconduct, and her life was endangered due to the overdoses. I don’t have any doubt that if this was heard by the NMC instead of the UKCP this guy would have been struck off.

I decided to find out whether Pick was still accepting patients, so I created a bogus e-mail account under the name “Clare Stiller”. On 21st March 2013 I sent him an e-mail posing as a vulnerable adult looking for a therapist.

Dear Mr Pick

I found your details from the UKCP website.
I have a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder, though I feel that my main issue is a period of sexual abuse that happened when I was a child. I don’t think think I’ve ever properly come to terms with it, and this is what I’d like to work on in therapy.
Do you work with these sorts of issues? If so, in what way do you do so?
I’m still “shopping around” and trying to work out what sort of therapist I want, so it would be helpful if you could send me some information on your qualifications and experience, and in what ways you tend to work.
regards
Clare Stiller
On 23rd March I received a reply:

Dear Ms Stiller

I do have experience of working with the issues you describe but, unfortunately I do not have a vacancy now until the end of May. If you are still looking for a therapist then contact me again . In the meantime if you let me have your address I will post details of my practice to you.
yours sincerely
Geoff Pick

In late March 2013 Pick was contacted by a journalist from a national newspaper. He responded by announcing his resignation from both Arbours and the UKCP, and stated that he would now retire from psychotherapy.

On 3rd April 2013 I took this screenshot from the UKCP online register.

PickScreenshot from 2013-04-03 18:59:30redacted

The day after I took the screenshot, Pick’s details were removed from the register. On 6th April I sent Pick another e-mail from “Clare Stiller” asking for further details of his practice. I received a reply back stating that he has now retired from psychotherapy.

I’ve previously covered the ways in which the UKCP’s fitness-to-practice procedures are utterly failing to deal with complaints effectively. The John Smalley case, which I’ve covered extensively, wasn’t so much shocking for what he did, but for the myriad ways in which the UKCP procedures failed.

This case is of a different order altogether. The misconduct involved is far more serious. Mr Pick was found to have abused his position of trust in the worst possible way. Terrifyingly, he was allowed to return to practice. It would seem that the only reason he has now retired is because the media started taking an interest.

Unbelievable. Utterly unbelievable.

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7 Comments to “Therapist who sexually exploited patient allowed to re-register with UK Council for Psychotherapy”

  1. Wow.

    Great post, terrible story.

    This part was especially mindblowing to me:

    “In view of the above decision Mr Pick is:..2) required to enter therapy at least once a week with a therapist approved by AAP’s Ethics Committee”

    Doesn’t that sound like the bad old days of the Catholic scandal? Keep it all in the (old boy’s) club… leave it to us, we can deal with this nice and quietly…

    Imagine if a psychiatrist got caught and the RCPsych said “We’ll let him back in, so long as he takes Prozac.”

  2. Rhetoric and reality…

    From the front page of the UKCP website:

    ” UKCP holds the national register of psychotherapists, psychotherapists… (of) practitioner members who meet exacting standards and training requirements…”

    “…As part of its commitment to protection of the public, UKCP works to… improve standards, and also deals with complaints against organisational members as well as individual members.”

    From the webpage dealing with the UKCP’s charitable objectives:

    “…3.to promote high standards of education, training and practice in psychotherapy and psychotherapeutic counselling…”

    And in the Wikipedia article on the UKCP they go into superlatives:

    “UKCP … exists to promote and maintain the profession of psychotherapy and the highest standards in the practice of psychotherapy throughout the United Kingdom, for the benefit of the public, and exists to promote and maintain high standards in the practice of psychotherapy for the benefit of the public throughout the United Kingdom.”

    Check out the Talk section of this Wiki article:

    “…this article has been heavily edited by representatives if this organization and it shows. ..its article here is a mere extension of its website and full of typical PR fluff. Not only does it read like a press release instead of an encyclopaedia article, it is also utterly devoid of references to reliable published sources which are independent of the UKCP. I’ve cleaned up some of the most egregious examples, but it needs a lot more work, and preferably not by representatives of the UKIP. Voceditenore (talk) 13:45, 7 July 2012 (UTC).”

    There have only been three known disciplinary hearings against UKCP members in recent years – Derek Gale, John Smalley and now the most scuzzy Mr Pick.

    None of them reflect at all favourably on the regulatory role of the UKCP. In fact they were disasters for the complainants involved and completely mis-managed by the UKCP for the worst possible reason – cronyism.

    So the question really is when will the UKCP go out of business?

    Anyone seen their annual report for 2012 yet?

    Do they have any members left?

  3. He’s not the only one from Arbours…one of the others asked a woman whether she had “enjoyed” her childhood sexual abuse and she took a near fatal overdose.
    Psychiatrists, psychologists and psychiatric nurses also get away with all forms of abuse, sometimes for decades. Haslam and Kerr are one example: http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2007/jan/28/health.socialcare
    Often the tactic with known abusers is to simply move them to a different dept/ward/area

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