March 12, 2014

Does striking off a counsellor or psychotherapist stop them from working?

I’ve just been handed a pretty scary set of data-crunching. Jo D Baker is a regular commenter on this blog. He looked at this page which lists all the people struck off by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy since October 2005. He then did web searches to see if there was any evidence of them advertising their services as counsellors and psychotherapists. He collated the results into a spreadsheet which I’ve uploaded here – Copy of BACP Sinners & Outcomes 06032014.

The results were startling. Of the 53 counsellors and psychotherapists struck off in that period, 22% gave positive hits to websites that appeared to be advertising their services. Even more concerningly, three of them seem to be still registered with Britain’s other major psychotherapy organisation, the UK Council for Psychotherapy.

Here’s a few highlights from Jo’s spreadsheet. Continue reading

March 8, 2014

The Exeter counselling service denying “cult” allegations – Palace Gate responds

Last week I wrote about Palace Gate Counselling Service (also known as Phoenix Counselling Service), a firm in Exeter which recently made an online announcement that they are facing complaints from two therapists who accuse them of running a “therapeutic cult”. They state that these complainants have (unsuccessfully) reported them to a number of agencies, including the police, Adult Safeguarding, the Employment Tribunal Service and the Advertising Standards Authority.

Palace Gate strongly deny any wrongdoing, and accuse the complainants of acting out of commercial motivations. They state that there is a misconduct hearing pending, but decline to say who with. However, it appears to be with the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP).

The dispute seems to have triggered a decision by Palace Gate not to renew their membership of the BACP.

Since then I’ve had a couple of responses from Palace Gate via the comments threads to various blog posts, so I’ll collate them here. Continue reading

March 6, 2014

Stuart Macfarlane, the Daily Mail and therapy abuse

Back in September, I broke the news of Stuart Macfarlane, a Jungian psychotherapist who committed serious sexual misconduct with a vulnerable client, causing huge psychological trauma to her. Outrageously, he was not struck off by the Guild of Analytical Psychologists, but merely given a two year suspension. He could be practising again in September.

Today, the Daily Mail has broken the news that he had a second victim, Flora McEvedy has clearly shown a great deal of courage in stepping forward to tell her account. Sadly, the Mail’s presentation of the story is dreadful.

A word of advice to the Mail. When reporting the exploitation of a vulnerable adult by a professional, here’s a few pitfalls you really should try to avoid. Continue reading

March 3, 2014

More on the Exeter counselling service fighting “cult” allegations

Here’s a bit further about Palace Gate Counselling Service (also known as Phoenix Counselling) in Exeter. As I commented last week, a long, bizarre post appeared on their blog. They state they are involved in a bitter dispute with two therapists who are accusing them of running a “therapeutic cult”. According to their director Lindsey Talbott, Palace Gate have been reported to a slew of agencies, including the police, Adult Safeguarding, the Employment Tribunal Service and the Advertising Standards Authority.

To date no findings of misconduct have been made against Palace Gate, and they strongly deny any wrongdoing. There remains a forthcoming hearing with a psychotherapy organisation. Palace Gate refuse to say which one, but it appears to be the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy. Continue reading

March 2, 2014

The limits of child psychiatry

This morning I read an article which I mostly agreed with, but contained a brief snippet that irritated me. Sean Duggan in the Guardian rightly points out that mental health services are suffering from a crisis of under-investment. It’s all very well for politicians to talk about “parity of esteem” for mental health with physical health, but that simply isn’t translating into services on the ground. Services are being slashed to the bone, with vulnerable people being left to sink or swim, and sadly, too many them sink and drown. Duggan is entirely correct to say that this needs to be reversed.

Here’s the bit that irritated me.

Our children’s mental health cannot be left to chance. One child in 10 has a mental health problem. Three quarters never receive any treatment or support. Yet children with poor mental health go on to become adults with poor mental health. And those with the most common childhood mental health problem, conduct disorder, can look forward to dramatically harder, poorer and shorter lives than their classmates. We need to take action now to create a whole system of mental health support for children that boosts resilience and protects those who become unwell. [emphasis added]

Continue reading

February 27, 2014

Exeter counselling service condemns “cult” allegations

This is odd. An Exeter-based counselling firm has published a lengthy blog post claiming to be under attack by certain nefarious individuals who have apparently accused them of running a “therapeutic cult.”

The firm in question is called Palace Gate Counselling Service. They have a very professional-looking website, as well as a blog which has a fair amount of somewhat New Agey content. The directors are John Clapham (who also runs Taunton Counselling Service and Phoenix Counselling Services) and Lindsey Talbott, who seems to be writing most of the blog content.

Talbott has a lot to say about this apparent attack. Her blog post, entitled, “The Conflict” is long. Very long, in fact. She must view this as something important, as there’s a link to it on the header bar of the blog’s main page. She states that a “battle between therapists” is taking place. Continue reading

February 16, 2014

Religious agendas disguised as counselling

Last month I wrote about a counsellor, Lesley Pilkington, who aims to turn gay people straight as part of a thinly-veiled religious agenda. She’d previously been struck off by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy. Until recently she was instead with the Association for Christian Counselling, probably the only professional body that would have her. Now she’s been kicked out by them too.

It turns out Pilkington and her ilk are not the only “counsellors” who are motivated by religious beliefs at the possible expense of the client. This was pointed out to me by Dr Brooke Magnanti, who you all know as Belle de Jour of blog, books and TV series fame, though these days she’s an academic researcher rather than a sex worker. A recent Telegraph investigation recorded counsellors at so-called Crisis Pregnancy Centres telling women that if they have an abortion they’re more likely to become a child sex abuser or to develop cancer. Needless to say, neither of these are true.

Magnanti points out that these counsellors are employed by an organisation with a very clear social agenda.

The vast majority of such ‘clinics’ in the UK (scare quotes because the counsellors are neither medical nor mental health professionals) are run by CareConfidential, an offshoot company originally founded by Christian Action Research and Education (CARE).

What are CARE’s other big interests? Well, they are also the secretariat for the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Prostitution and the Global Sex Trade. This APPG aims to promote the so-called Swedish Model, beloved of both the far right and radical feminists…

They were also deeply involved in supporting Section 28, the law which served to effectively silence any mention of homosexuality in schools and other public institutions until 2003.

A bit of Googling also reveals that they funded interns to 20 MPs and, as with Pilkington, they’ve promoted gay-to-straight conversion therapies. They’ve published research criticising the lack of tax breaks for stay-at-home parents.

This is an organisation that has a very specific idea of how society should be, and is actively campaigning for  it….no gays, no sex workers, no double-income families…and of course, no abortions. And that’s how one ends up at a situation where a “counsellor” is telling someone that if they have an abortion, they could become a child sex abuser.

Counselling is, in theory at least, supposed to be an emancipatory process that enables individuals to understand their own thoughts and feelings, to reflect upon and effectively make life choices. It should be to empower the client in relation to their own self, not to be railroaded along somebody else’s agenda.

But organisations like CARE can still call their staff counsellors because neither “counsellor” nor “psychotherapist” are protected titles, though Geraint Davies MP has a private members bill for regulation of counselling and psychotherapy. I’m aware that if his bill passes then CARE’s staff and the likes of Lesley Pilkington will simply call themselves coaches, advisers, mentors, whatever – and carry on practicing. But they won’t be able to use the word “counsellor” with all that’s assumed to mean by people who seek one out.

In the meantime, if you see a counsellor or psychotherapist, you should only use one who is with an accredited voluntary register such as the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy.

 

February 15, 2014

In Praise of Mental Health Cop

This morning I woke to the very surprising news that Mental Health Cop (also known as Inspector Michael Brown of the West Midlands Police) has closed down his blog, Twitter and Facebook page. I don’t know the reasons for this, and those who do know seem to be rather tight-lipped about it. I have noticed, however, that several other police tweeters have also closed their accounts.

I had the pleasure of meeting Michael at the Mind Media Awards 2012, where he won the Mark Hanson Award for Digital Media, and interviewed him afterwards. We’ve also conversed online many times, and what’s frequently struck me is how dedicated he is to promoting better understanding of the intersection between mental health and policing. Over time, I’ve come to the view that I was speaking not only with an outstanding police officer, but also a genuinely nice guy. He has certainly challenged my stereotypes of police officers, and has consistently behaved as a credit to the ideals of policing.

Michael has since gone on to win other awards. At the This Week in Mentalists Awards 2012 for mental health blogging, he picked up Best Mental Health Not Otherwise Specified blog. In the #Twentalhealthawards he was runner-up in the Informative category in 2012. Then in 2013 he won Professional Not Otherwise Specified and was a runner-up in the Informative and Helpful categories.

In his online output he has been consistently informed, passionate and articulate. His blog in particular has been a valuable resource not only for frontline police officers and health workers, but also for mental health survivors and activists. If it has to remain offline, the loss will be huge.

As I stated earlier, I don’t know why Mental Health Cop has closed down. However, what I will say is that Inspector Brown has my respect and best wishes.

February 12, 2014

A 6 month suspension for sleeping with a client: Rob Waygood and the UKCP

A few days ago I commented on this recent decision by the UK Council for Psychotherapy to give a Jungian therapist, Rob Waygood, a 6 month suspension rather than a striking-off. Waygood admitted to starting a sexual relationship with a client shortly after the therapy ended. There is no statutory regulator for counselling or psychotherapy, but the UKCP recently became an “accredited voluntary register” with the Professional Standards Authority.

Before exploring this case further, I’m going to put something out there. When I’ve discussed similar cases in the past on this blog, I’ve subsequently wound up getting e-mails from people who know more about those particular cases. I’ve no idea if there’s anyone out there in a similar situation who happens to be reading, but if they are, my e-mail address is thus_spake_z at hushmail dot com.

For my own regulator, the Nursing and Midwifery Council, the indicative sanctions guidance is very clear.

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.

Not only did the UKCP not strike Waygood off, but the original sanction was ridiculously lenient. A warning letter, plus an order to spend two years attending supervision. Such slaps on the wrist used to be absolutely typical of some psychotherapy organisations, particularly those of a psychoanalytic persuasion. There’s numerous past cases where serious boundary breaches were written off as transference gone wrong rather than abuse, and the therapist got sent on his way with nothing worse than a ticking-off.

In this day and age, and particularly now that the UKCP is an assured voluntary register, such token sanctions simply won’t do. The UKCP appealed the decision as unduly lenient, arguing that his behaviour “was fundamentally incompatible with the Registrant remaining on UKCP’s Register.” On appeal the sanction was increased to a 6 month suspension.

Given that the UKCP haven’t struck Waygood off, have they been particularly careful in explaining their reasons for such a determination?

I e-mailed the Professional Standards Authority to ask what they thought of the case. It’s the PSA’s policy not to comment on individual cases, but they did state that, “We expect all AVRs to take sexual misconduct seriously.” They also kindly provided me with a link to the relevant guidance.

I’ve been browsing the PSA’s, Clear sexual boundaries between healthcare professionals and patients: guidance for fitness to practise panels to see how it compares with the UKCP’s decision for Rob Waygood.

The PSA guidance doesn’t state anything along the lines of “for x misconduct, issue y sanction”. However, it does give some suggestions of what might be considered aggravating and mitigating factors.

Some of the aggravating factors they list include:

the vulnerability of the patient. Research shows that abusers often target vulnerable groups of patients, including those seeking help for mental health or emotional problems

The UKCP decision doesn’t give any indication of whether the client had any mental health issues or other vulnerabilities. That said, one could argue that anyone undergoing therapy is in a vulnerable position, particularly in a piece of psychodynamic therapy where you’re opening up your deepest thoughts to a stranger. We do know from the decision that the client suffered harm as a result of the relationship.

whether the healthcare professional took deliberate steps to facilitate abuse, for example scheduling the appointment as the last of the day, working without a chaperone being present, making inappropriate house calls, dissuading the patient from seeking a second opinion

In the Waygood decision, “Visiting the client’s house sometime between 18 and 21 April 2011 and acting in an affectionate manner” certainly reads like an inappropriate house call to me.

whether there was any grooming of the patient, ie did the healthcare professional deliberately cultivate an empathetic relationship with the patient over a period of time?

“Making a number of personal disclosures to the client regarding his sexuality and sexual history”? “Commenting on the client’s femininity during a therapy session”? “Hugging and kissing his client on the hair or neck on either 14 or 28 March 2011″? That sounds suspiciously like grooming.

whether the healthcare professional used confidential information obtained in the course of treatment to their advantage, for example by encouraging the patient to discuss marital problems whilst providing ‘a shoulder to cry on’

Yep. The decision accuses Waygood of, “Using material discussed in therapy to attempt to convince the client to pursue a relationship.”

Waygood was represented at his hearing by a Mr Glyn Oldfield of Brookfields Professional Conduct Services. This is a company that provides what looks to me like Tesco Value representation at misconduct hearings by non-lawyers, presumably for people who can’t afford a lawyer – though they don’t view it that way. They say, “You do not need a lawyer!  Most disciplinary processes are not legalistic and what counts is detailed knowledge of your profession, the relevant procedures and how best to respond, not a general knowledge of the law!” I’d be interested to hear what an actual law firm would say about that – particularly a firm that specialises in representing professionals at fitness-for-practice hearings.

Waygood and Mr Oldfield presented a number of mitigating factors – he made an early admission, and demonstrated some insight into what he had done wrong.

The Panel was satisfied that that the Registrant had made early admissions in respect of these allegations and had not sought to deny the allegations, nor indeed to put the aggrieved party to the task of giving evidence at the earlier hearing, or at the Appeal.

Fair enough, he confessed his wrongdoing, and spared his client the ordeal of having to testify. But this results in something that rings an alarm bell for me.

Both Mr Oldfield and the Registrant submitted that the harm to the complainant had not fallen into the category of serious harm, and further that the complainant had not been present at the previous hearing and both her account and some matters of fact that were in dispute had not been tested (by cross-examination).

Was the complainant asked whether she thought the harm she incurred was serious or not? And besides, where does one draw the line between what is “harm” and what is “serious harm”? And even if she didn’t suffer serious harm, was consideration also given to the potential harm that could have been incurred by Waygood’s behaviour? As the PSA makes clear, the trauma from these kinds of boundary breaches has the potential to be absolutely huge and life-changing.

So, going back to that quote I found in the NMC Indicative Sanctions Guidance,

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.

Has the UKCP been particularly careful in that regard? As a personal opinion, I’d say not.

February 8, 2014

UKCP fails to strike off yet another therapist who committed sexual misconduct

A few months ago I noticed that a Jungian psychotherapist called Rob Waygood had been suspended from the UK Council for Psychotherapy. His suspension noticed briefly disappeared and then reappeared from the UKCP complaints page, and his website also reappeared then disappeared. I took this to mean there had been a ruling and then an appeal.

The ruling has now been published, and it turns out that Waygood had a sexual relationship with a client, which caused the client harm. Concerningly, he hasn’t been struck off but instead has been given a 6 month suspension.

As it happens there was indeed an appeal, though it was the UKCP who appealed rather than Waygood, on the grounds that the original sanction was unduly lenient. Incredibly, the panel simply ordered a warning letter.

The details in the online ruling are fairly scant, but they state that Waygood started a sexual relationship with his client a short time after the therapy ended. It sounds like there were some precursors happening during the therapy, such as Waygood commenting on the client’s femininity during a session.

This isn’t the first time that a UKCP psychotherapist has committed the worst possible breach of boundaries and not been struck off. In May 2011 Geoffrey Pick was suspended for a year after sexually abusing a client. He was then put back on the UKCP register, and later resigned when the media started taking an interest. Stuart Macfarlane is currently serving a two year suspension from the Guild of Analytical Psychologists and UKCP, again for sexually abusing a client. He could be practising again after September. In both the the Pick and Macfarlane cases, their victims suffered massive psychological trauma.

The UKCP seems to have extremely poor timing in making this decision. They’re an “assured voluntary register” with the Professional Standards Authority, and their complaints procedure is due to be audited soon by the PSA to ensure quality control. Meanwhile, Geraint Davies MP has a private members bill before Parliament, calling for statutory rather than voluntary regulation for counsellors and psychotherapists. The second reading is later this month.

The Waygood decision states that, “The Panel determined that the Registrant’s behaviour was so serious that the reputation of both the profession and that of the regulators was at enormous risk.” Those reputations certainly are at risk, not only by his behaviour but by this lenient decision.

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