More on the Smalley case and the destroyed notes

Time for some more revelations about the John Smalley case, a spectacularly mishandled fitness for practice inquiry by the UK Council for Psychotherapy.

The story so far…The UKCP took over three years to investigate complaints about Mr Smalley, a Jungian analyst with the Independent Group of Analytical Psychologists. At the end of a long sequence of delays, they decided that seven allegations had been proven, but also decided not to sanction him. The fact that he admitted in the hearing that he destroyed his notes doesn’t seem to have prompted a sanction. The UKCP’s laughable response to this is that they didn’t sanction him for destroying his notes because there wasn’t a complaint about destroying his notes.

Let’s have a deeper look at what he was accused of, and how the absence of notes affected these. Remember, in nursing, medicine and just about every other regulated profession, the mantra is, “If you haven’t documented it, you haven’t done it.” A constant reminder that if one day you’re being questioned about your actions, you need to document what you’ve done.

From what I’ve seen of the the case, a lot of disputes came down to the complainant’s word against Mr Smalley, with often differing accounts between the two parties. For example, one of the allegations found proven was that Smalley smoked during therapy. Smalley admitted smoking in sessions, but insisted this was “often just one cigarette”. The complainant, on the other hand claimed that he chain-smoked.

Obviously, one wouldn’t expect Mr Smalley to document how many cigarettes he had, but here’s a more pertinent issue. Another allegation found proven was that of “introducing one analysand to another in circumstances where that introduction created an appreciable risk of potential serious difficulty for either or both of the analysands.” Smalley introduced these two clients to each other with a view to them going into a business partnership together.

Smalley stated that he put conditions in place around this arrangement.

Now, personally I wouldn’t think it appropriate to introduce two clients to each other for any purpose other than group therapy. Even so, the fact that he did this might provide some degree of mitigation. The trouble is that the complainant flatly denied being given these conditions.

What about the other client who was invited to form the business partnership? He was invited to the hearing, but was only able to partially corroborate Smalley’s account.

Given this clear disparity between accounts, the obvious question would be, what was in the notes? Smalley’s answer to such a suggestion appears to have been, “It’s not my practice to keep notes and there’s no professional requirement to do so. Any notes that I did hold in relation to the case would have been destroyed when the relationship terminated.”

As the mantra goes, “If you haven’t documented it, you haven’t done it.”

To be continued…

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