The struck-off therapist teaching psychotherapy – Regent’s University’s horrifying response

Last week I commented that a psychotherapist who has been struck off by the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy was still lecturing in psychotherapy at Regent’s University London. Andrea Scherzer had turned up to a therapy session drunk, leading not only to her striking-off but also dismissal for gross misconduct from an NHS trust. I didn’t get a response from Regent’s prior to publication, but they did promise they’d send me one today.

I’ve now had their response, and it’s….not what I expected. Actually it’s quite spectacularly jaw-dropping. I’ll quote it in full, interspersed with commentary from me.

A meeting was held today involving John Nuttall the Head of Regent’s School of Psychotherapy and Psychology, an HR representative and myself from which I now have the following statement:

As Andrea Scherzer was not an accredited member, the BACP have the right to suspend membership but do not have authority to suspend therapeutic practice or her employment as a teacher, which is left to the University to decide. The School of Psychotherapy & Psychology became aware of Andrea Scherzer’s membership suspension in November 2013 by reading about it on the BACP website. An internal investigation was then carried out at the University in December last year which reported its findings in January of this year. The investigation concluded that there was no reason for Andrea not to continue in the role.

First of all, she isn’t simply suspended from the BACP. She’s struck off! But apparently that isn’t a reason for her not to teach psychotherapy in a university?

Also, they only heard about it by reading the notice on the BACP website in November 2013? That’s when her membership was withdrawn! Shouldn’t she have told them her conduct was under investigation? There’s a couple of quotes from the BACP notice that I think are probably relevant here.

The disciplinary panel also noted that Ms Scherzer had continued to work as a teacher in psychotherapy at [ . . . ] despite being advised in her suspension letter dated 22 November 2011, that she was not permitted to work….

… Ms Scherzer told her former employer that she had notified [ . . . ] of her suspension from work but later admitted that this was a lie and she had not notified [ . . . ] of her suspension at that time.

Anyway, back to the Regent’s press release.

The incident concerned took place well over two years ago and the School upholds one of the principle tenets of the psychotherapy and counselling profession, which is that people are able to reflect on their behaviour and change.

Yes, I get that people are able to reflect on their behaviour and change. And I get that developing a drink problem is a very human failing that could happen to us all, there but for the grace of God.

But, here’s a few more snippets from the BACP outcome.

Further, Ms Scherzer gave evidence at the disciplinary hearing that she had had a problem with alcohol since 2002.   However, Ms Scherzer did not disclose this to BACP at any time during her period of membership nor in her response dated 29 November 2011 to BACP’s letter dated 28 November, when Ms Scherzer stated, “In answer to your question, no, I have never had a problem with alcohol addiction”….

…Ms Scherzer demonstrated no personal responsibility for her actions by stating that the client that she saw raised no complaint about her and placing the responsibility on her employer to notify her if they had had any concerns with her when she arrived at work, rather than being self-aware and realising for herself that it was inappropriate for her to be at work when she had had little sleep and had consumed a vast amount of alcohol the previous night….

…The Panel found that information had to be extracted from Ms Scherzer over a period of time and at times Ms Scherzer appeared to be economical with the truth…

…The Article 12.6 Appeal Panel noted that Ms Scherzer attributed the appearance of being economical with the truth and issues with regard to information being extracted from her over a period of time to mistakes and administrative oversight.  However, the Article 12.6 Appeal Panel was not satisfied with Ms Scherzer’s explanation.

Does this sound like someone who is showing their capacity to change?

And if Regent are talking about principle tenets of psychotherapy, what about other principle tenets? Such as accountability? Or honesty?

Returning to the statement by Regent’s.

Mr Paul McGinley’s case has already been investigated and no further action was deemed necessary.

I’ll grant them that one. Although Mr McGinley was sanctioned by the BACP in March 2014, only a couple of the allegations against him were found proved, and he was only given a minor sanction. Unlike Ms Scherzer, he remains a BACP-registered psychotherapist.

Your blog post has brought to light an internal process issue for us, in that updates into incidents such as these, leading to internal enquiries, do not automatically lead to a review of the online profiles. We aim to improve this process and will now take profiles off-line of any academic being investigated, with matters specifically regarding professional recognition, until such time a decision is made, at which point the staff profile will be updated and made visible again.

That doesn’t sound like a process intended to improve accountability. More one to minimise PR damage.

Your original email was not received by the School (or HR) as it had not yet been attended to amongst a large number of marketing related enquiries.

Andrea’s web profile was updated on the 28th March at 11:22 (along with a number of other profiles that day) for an entirely different reason, and specifically to update the name of the school which changed recently from the “School of Psychotherapy & Counselling Psychology” to “School of Psychotherapy & Psychology”. So it happens that the profile update on the same day as your blog post is coincidental – if Andrea’s name had been later in the alphabet her page would still be showing the date of the previous update which was 6th November 2013.

So, here we have a lecturer in psychotherapy who has been struck off by the BACP. She was so dishonest throughout her BACP hearings that she pretty much struck herself off. And her university’s response is pretty much, “Yes we know, but we don’t care.”

I got some criticism in the comments thread to my previous blog post for using the word “rotten” in the post title. In the light of this response I’m happy to own that use of language. There clearly is something rotten in the psychotherapy department at Regent’s. Rotten to the core.

14 thoughts on “The struck-off therapist teaching psychotherapy – Regent’s University’s horrifying response

  1. I find this very frightening. That said, it seems to be part of many people’s psychology, to turn a blind eye because that is far easier than admitting that a fellow professional has been unethical.

    I wish it wasn’t this way, but I have learned experientially that it takes bags full of integrity to do what’s ethically best, but whether there’s enough people in the profession with a decent level of integrity…well…I am not convinced that that is the case at all and sadly, this post saddens and disappoints me but doesn’t really surprise me.

  2. I also find this frightening. In addition to Amanda’s comment, I know University’s often find it easier to ‘hide’ problems than be faced with possible constructive dismissal cases etc.

    I fail to see is how this matches their core value of ‘delivering psychology and counselling skilfully and ethically’. It would be interesting to hear UKCP response to this.

  3. I see no problem with that. While an alcoholic won’t necessarily harm patients, I can see how an alcoholic may simply not be trusted to practice psychotherapy and be alone in a room with a patient. On the other hand, the very same person can teach a group of adults without a similar concern being raised. After all, the person still has the required knowledge.

  4. Is Paul McGinley gay or bisexual?

    • I have no idea. To be honest I’m not sure I see the relevance of your question.

      • I heard he is gay and if its true all those allegations by her female client are just rubbish and absolute lie, that’s the relevance

      • I’ve made it clear that the majority of allegations were found not proved, he has not been struck off and is still entitled to call himself a psychotherapist. I have no idea what his sexual orientation is.

  5. Phil the tabloid language that you use, dilutes and detracts from the more salient points that you make about regulation. The fact that people tried to give you some feedback on that, and that you defiantly replied with Regents department is rotten to the core makes me question what your motivation and agenda is here?!

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