BREAKING NEWS: Exeter counselling “cult” struck off by British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy

In February 2014 I commented on a public statement by Palace Gate Counselling Service (also known as Phoenix Counselling Service), an Exeter-based organisation that took the bizarre step of making a lengthy blog post condemning two therapists who have made complaints against them. They stated that these two therapists have accused them of running a “therapeutic cult” and that this was the subject of a hearing at the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy. These hearings appear to have triggered their resignation from the BACP, though the hearings continued regardless of their resignation.

Palace Gate claim to be deeply dissatisfied with how the BACP have handled the allegations. The outcome of the hearing has not yet been published. However, Palace Gate have made a new online statement in which they confirm that allegations have been found proved and they have been struck off.

Although we have not been members for 5 months, the BACP states it is withdrawing our membership. The decisions are so unreasonable, & the process so flawed, we have decided it would be a waste of energies to appeal.

The hearings appear to have been prompted initially by concerns about the behaviour of one of their staff. However, as this person was not a BACP member, the topic of the hearings was about how Palace Gate handled these complaints.

Some may wonder whether the BACP have gone far beyond their remit, subjecting this firm to an unfair process.

Or, you may wonder if this is simply the usual self-justifying whining from people who have been caught out in serious professional misconduct, and who lack insight into what they’ve done.

Either way, the eventual publication of the BACP findings will no doubt be of considerable public interest.

21 thoughts on “BREAKING NEWS: Exeter counselling “cult” struck off by British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy

  1. The member of staff complained about is actually the sole owner of the private business and was the only Executive Director, until complaints were raised, when Ms Talbott was promoted, making it very clear her prior experience of ’15 years as a lawyer in the city of London’.
    I have seen the letter which resulted in PG sacking 3 members of staff. It comes across as a genuine and open request for mediation regarding issues that 5 women had raised in respect of inappropriate suggestions and/or touch in therapy and/or supervision sessions with the owner/supervisor. I have seen the outrageous response from PG to the staff who tried to raise the concerns with the owner. Unbelievable.
    The Advertising Standards Authority were concerned about PG’s misleading the public regarding BACP Membership. PG might be correct in saying that no clients have ever complained but, as the BACP hearing panel highlighted, any client who called the BACP asking to complain about PG would have been told that PG is not a member, as it is Phoenix Counselling who has membership, not PG. The people who raised the ASA complaint withdrew as a result of ongoing bullying and harassment from the PG directors. The ASA policy is that the complainants cannot retain anonymity if in a similar business.
    Z, you have already highlighted Ms Talbott’s threatening blog. The complainants have also had numerous direct threats of legal action.
    Like the ASA complaint, the complainants withdrew from the Employment Tribunal due to the bullying and harassment. It was costing so much in terms of time, money and stress that it was counterproductive and continuing the trauma. There was no hearing so Ms Talbott yet again skews the truth. PG did aggressively chase costs (when it hadn’t even gone to a pre-hearing). The judge said that technically the claims could be considered vexatious as the ET is not the correct forum for whistleblowing, and that the claims involved unsavoury allegations that may or may not be true. He deemed the complainants not wealthy enough to pay so no costs were awarded. Hardly a hearing going in PG’s favour, one could argue.
    So the ASA and ET did not go to a hearing, because the complainants withdrew due to the ongoing bullying and harassment from the PG counselling agency. And yet Ms Talbott states that they have gone in their favour. More spin.
    So here we have an agency owned and run by a man who supervises many counselling trainees, who refuses to be a member of a regulatory organisation, who acts in a way that triggers complaints, and the agency he owns and runs decided to sack them, and bully and harass them.
    The only hearings to date have resulted in PG having their membership removed twice. Perhaps unprecedented in the history of the BACP Professional Conduct Procedure.
    As for the police ‘going thorough the motions’, I would hardly call an email from the Detective in charge referring to a 2 day conference with the CPS as ‘really good news as it gives us a chance to really get them onside and stress the importance of this getting to court’ going through the motions.
    I suppose we have two wildly differing versions of a conflict, which needn’t have even been a conflict. Just a dash of humility and compassion would have yielded a very different outcome for all concerned.
    Oh and Ms Talbott herself managed to dodge accountaibility by resigning membership before a complaint to the BACP went through about her behaviour as a supervisor. Her purported surprise about this matter is yet more spin.

  2. The publication of the BACP findings should make interesting reading.
    What is striking about the Palace Gate Counselling blog post regarding this matter is the lack of any sense that they should reflect as a service on what has happened and take measures to ensure that their systems and processes are improved to prevent such a situation re-occurring.
    When the BACP makes public its reasons for removing membership, let us hope that PG takes the opportunity to own up to any mistakes that have been made and to take the necessary measures to restore public confidence.

    • Sex Therapy Bristol – my bat sense tells me you might be a touch optimistic about PG ‘reflecting’ on the BACP decision. My feeling is that the directors will quietly disappear wearing a pair of these:

    • I agree that there isn’t an ounce of reflection or insight into their actions on the blog post.

      In my experience, people who respond to a fitness to practise inquiry aggressively and non-reflectively usually do an effective job of striking themselves off.

  3. I am surprised at the person who wrote the Palace Gate blog. If I was as innocent of wrongdoing as they claim to be, I’d be appealing against being struck off. If, as they claim, BACP are putting innocent people through unjust processes, I’d also be taking the matter further and going to the press.

    I certainly wouldn’t go around making allegations, in a public arena, that the BACP have not behaved properly during the process which led to them being struck off, unless I could prove it. Would I be wrong in suggesting that the Palace Gate blog may be foolish? Surely things are bad enough for them having been found guilty of some kind of behaviour which is serious enough to see them struck off? Why then make matters worse for themselves by making potentially libellous statements about BACP?

    I don’t know how BACP go about their processes of determining whether an individual or an organisation has behaved in such a reprehensible way as to lead to being struck off. However, I would imagine that they would have to have sound processes to ensure that people were treated fairly. I suppose it may be possible, as suggested previously, that the organisation BACP struck off did behave in such a reprehensible manner that no other sanction was appropriate. If this is the case (and given the evidence I have seen in these blogs, I would favour this explanation), then would it not be better for them to take a good, hard look at their behaviour instead of trying to blame everyone else?

  4. Only a pedantic yet important note. BACP is British Association FOR Counselling and Psychotherapy, not OF. Always important to get the detail right.

  5. BACP have put up the PG decisions (two of them!) in the last hour.

    May I be the first to say on this blog what dirty manipulative bastards they are.

    Palace Gate, good riddance you trash.


    • Thank you JoDBaker, made my day. I would like to point out that the individuals concerned are John Clapham, who is the owner/supervisor/director and Lindsey Talbott who have both acted in the most vile, toxic way imaginable as far as I can see. And these are therapists! (Who, surprise surprise, are anti-regulation YET saw fit to abuse the complaints system by raising vexatious complaints against those who dared to bring this disgraceful behaviour to the attention of the BACP – those complaints were discarded btw).
      Throughout the process they have demonstrated a complete lack of person-centredness, and yet use (abuse) person-centredness as their excuse for trying to dodge accountability, having zero policies or procedures and for pissing off a huge chunk of the Exeter therapeutic community.
      They are dangerous and yet they can legally carry on acting in just the same way, abusing clients and trying to destroy anybody who gets in their demented way. A perfect example of why statutory regulation is needed. Who knows, perhaps this will be the final straw!

      • I’d just like to say well done to the two women who have shown a great deal of persistence and courage in the face of abuse, harassment and defamation. Also well done to the BACP for a thorough and fair investigation.

    • You may indeed be the first to say so, but I seriously doubt you will be the last.

      I need to make a supermarket run in a minute, but when I get back, I have a blog post to write that’s been a long time coming.

  6. I have just been reading up on this. Palace Gate are now claiming that they left the BACP voluntarily.
    I am currently studying counselling, and am a fan of Carl Rogers, I am think he would hate his name being associated with these people. State register counselling, make people safe.

    • It is technically true that they did resign from the BACP during the investigation. However, the BACP (rightly, in my view) didn’t halt the hearings just because they’d resigned.

  7. Yes Palace Gate Counselling resigned after themselves lodging 4 BACP complaints against people involved in the complaints against them, which were all thrown out because the BACP could see no grounds for complaint. Instead of reflecting on the issues raised in the complaints against them they have demonised the complainants and they have chosen to demonise the BACP for evaluating the (large quantity of) evidence and believing the complainants. It’s all a big witch hunt, apparently. People went through great personal cost and emotional hell for 2 years because of a bit of a (motivationless) grudge. And the BACP are in on it too.

  8. Palace Gate are still operational, I contacted them about a student placement a couple of weeks ago, and then read the horrors of this case. Utterly terrifying that they can still be practising.

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