Another questionably lenient misconduct outcome by the UKCP

The UKCP may have now achieved accredited voluntary register status with the Professional Standards Authority, but even now some of its misconduct decisions can raise a few eyebrows. In January 2014 they gave a Jungian analyst, Rob Waygood, a 6 month suspension for serious sexual misconduct with a client. With statutory regulators such as the General Medical Council or Nursing and Midwifery Council, such behaviour pretty much guarantees a striking-off, not 6 months on the naughty step.

Here’s another decision by UKCP that raises concern. In December 2013 an outcome was reached for Susan Clancy, a psychotherapist who seems to have inadvertently traumatised a client through some intervention that involved holding them. Misconduct was proved, but the UKCP simply decided not to issue a sanction.

The details in the outcome are somewhat scant, but what seems apparent is that the complainant attended a retreat with the FSA (the outcome doesn’t state what FSA is an abbreviation for).

Despite the clear distress experienced by the Complainant, the Registrant participated in loud breathing exercises under the instruction of LB whilst the Complainant was held down.

From reading the outcome there appears to be some discussion as to whether the complainant was “held down” or simply “held”. They eventually came to the conclusion that they were “held”.

This appears to have had a deeply detrimental effect on the complainant.

The Panel particularly noted the evidence within the bundle, particularly at page 58 that detailed the impact upon the Complainant who was ‘crying daily and not sleeping’. The Panel recognized that this was the Registrant’s first opportunity to act as a supervisor and through her actions had put a client at risk. The Panel further noted that this behavior went unchecked for a considerable period of time without any checks or balances upon her supervision.

The panel then concluded that the registrant had reflected on her actions, and taken remedial steps. For that reason they decided not to issue any sanction.

A client was held, and was subsequently “crying daily and not sleeping”, and this doesn’t necessarily seem to have been recognised for some time, but this doesn’t warrant a sanction?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not necessarily suggesting Ms Clancy should have been struck off. There are a range of intermediate sanctions that can be applied. Sadly, due to the lack of detail in the published UKCP decision it’s hard to say what that sanction would be if a similar case were brought before, say, my own regulator the Nursing and Midwifery Council. The NMC has a range of sanctions, ranging from caution orders (which can last from one to five years), conditions of practice orders, temporary suspensions, up to the ultimate sanction of a striking-off. My best guess (which is hard to verify without more detail on the case) is that this sort of thing might have justified a conditions of practice order. I’m willing to be corrected on that though.

A “misconduct without sanction” decision isn’t entirely useless. For one thing, I’m no lawyer, but I suspect a clinical negligence solicitor would seize upon a public decision that misconduct took place and the client was harmed by it. Though that’s assuming that the client is able and willing to go through the stressful and expensive process of litigation. The complainant may gain some solace from hearing that what happened to them should not have happened. But I shudder to think as to what they may feel about being told that this doesn’t warrant so much as a caution.

Quite possibly there may be a few ethical issues being highlighted here. Consent, for one thing, particularly involving a form of therapy in which somebody was held (though the Panel did come to the conclusion that the client consented). There’s a lot to be said about the ethics of bodywork or psychodrama, and the requirement upon a practitioner to ensure somebody is not harmed during such procedures.

The matter of evidence-based practice may be an issue here too. We don’t know why the client was held, but one wonders what the evidence was for the effectiveness of whatever form of therapy this being used. One criticism of the Professional Standard Authority, which now oversees the regulatory efforts of the UKCP, is that they don’t seem too concerned with evidence bases. This has been a live issue with the PSA’s decision to accredit the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (scathingly dubbed “OfQuack” by its critics.)

All in all, this is a decision by the UKCP that raises more questions than answers.

2 thoughts on “Another questionably lenient misconduct outcome by the UKCP

  1. All to often the suggestion seems to be, go away and reflect, then you can come of the naughty step. The idea so many therapists have that they somehow are “holier” human beings who deserve to be treated with kid gloves at all times scares me. It scares me even more that this is a profession I intend to enter, my only solace is that I am studying under people who seem to have both feet on the ground.

    • Glad to hear that you’re studying under people who are well-grounded. There are so many people in the therapy world who are doing good work. There needs to be a separation between such people and those who are practising in an irresponsible way.

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