I must be spending too much time reading the various hearing outcomes on the UKCP and BACP websites. A year ago I posted about the case of Sue Clancy, where a client had been left traumatised in a therapy session gone badly wrong. I criticised the outcome, because despite finding that Clancy had committed misconduct and harmed the client, the UKCP declined to issue a sanction. Not even a warning.
Earlier this week, another sanction notice went up, this time on the BACP website. There were a lot of similarities between this case and Clancy’s, which seemed seemed to suggest it was the same incident. It gives more information about what has happened here, and it’s a disturbing tale.
First, some relevant details from the UKCP Panel Decision for Sue Clancy. It’s not very detailed as to what happened, but if gives various snippets. It states that, “After being approached by the Complainant to work with her through intensive therapy with LH, the Registrant approached LB to work with the Registrant, herself, LH and the Complainant in an intensive setting when this may not have been appropriate.” It is then alleged that, “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.” Though it seems that later in the hearings, it was decided that “held” was a more appropriate description what happened than “held down.” This allegedly left the complainant “crying daily and not sleeping.” As a side issue, there’s a reference in the decision to Clancy saying, “I do not need to know your story for this kind of therapy to work….”
The UKCP decision doesn’t identify the other two therapists involved beyond the initials LB and LH, However, the BACP have just issued a decision for a Linda Bretherton. Compare the allegations from the BACP’s notice to those details in the UKCP decision. I’ve emboldened a few phrases to show where they tally with the UKCP details.
The focus of the complaint, as summarised by the Pre-Hearing Assessment Panel, is that the Complainant, allegedly as a result of her therapist taking her work with the Complainant for supervision to Ms Bretherton, then was invited to see Ms Bretherton for two three-hour sessions in February and March 2013.
In the first session, where Ms Bretherton was assisted by the Complainant’s therapist and one other therapist, the Complainant alleged that she was physically held by Ms Bretherton, whom it is alleged kept calling the Complainant ‘sweetheart’ and darling’. The Complainant allegedly told Ms Bretherton that she found such loving remarks too much to handle. Ms Bretherton allegedly then asked the second therapist to look into the Complainant’s eyes and show love and compassion, an action which the Complainant states she found extremely difficult. Ms Bretherton allegedly offered the Complainant for all three therapists to bathe the Complainant in another session, an invitation which the Complainant refused. At the second session the Complainant was allegedly kept waiting. In the course of that session Ms Bretherton allegedly made loud breathing noises in close proximity to the Complainant and encouraged the other therapists to make similar sounds, which the Complainant stated made her writhe and shake, since the noises reminded her of the abuse that she had suffered when younger. Ms Bretherton allegedly used the Emotional Freedom Technique, consisting of tapping the Complainant’s face, which again caused her to writhe. The Complainant alleged that Ms Bretherton had not made any effort to take her history as she alluded to incidents of abuse in the Complainant’s past that had not occurred.
Three weeks after these two sessions, the Complainant stated that she suffered from physical effects, which included shock, shame and anxiety, she was crying every day, had nightmares and felt sick. The Complainant stated that as a result of being subjected to a therapy which she considered to be wild, unorthodox and re-traumatising, she experienced what had happened to her in the sessions as extremely damaging, repeating the effects of the abuse she had experienced when younger.
In addition to this, the complainant alleges that she felt pressured by emails from Bretherton to attend a “shamanic weekend” where her own therapist would also be present – the “intensive setting when this may not have been appropriate” from the UKCP decision?
Looks to me like these two decisions are for the same incident.
It’s important to say that not all the allegations against Bretherton were found proved by the BACP. Bretherton denied making loving comments to the complainant when holding her, or inferring facts from her history which were not true. These seem to have come down to a case of one person’s word against another, and as a result those allegations were not upheld.
However, the BACP did uphold 8 allegations against Bretherton. Much of these seem to have come down to dual relationships, with Bretherton acting as supervisor to the complainant’s therapists and also as a co-therapist. These kinds of blurring of roles are generally considered inappropriate in therapy, as it can have unintended consequences. The BACP also found that Bretherton unduly pressured the complainant to attend the shamanic weekend.
Following this, the BACP ordered Bretherton to submit a report detailing her reflections on the incident. As with Clancy she seems to have gotten off light, although her name no longer appears on the BACP register.
I emailed Clancy and Bretherton to ask if the two decisions were for the same case. So far I haven’t had a reply from Clancy, but Bretherton sent me the following email.
You might forgive me for being cautious in my response to you, having read your comments regarding Sue Clancy’s case.
I appreciate that you do not have the full details regarding the case and therefore your comments do not allow for the possibility that some people may actually say things that are absolutely untrue.
This past 2 years have been traumatic to say the least and it does not end there, now with a claim for damages and recently the complainant has warned me not to post true facts on my Facebook page about what actually happened.
The truth that is conclusive is that the complainant was happy with her TWO sessions and wanted to continue our work together, as she had benefited from them. These are her words in an email to myself.
I am currently seeking advice regarding the contents of libel, and when I am clear about this I will be ensuring that the full contents and details of the complainants case are fully published.
I resigned from the BACP in 2014 because I had decided to reduce my practice and spend more time teaching.
Unfortunately almost at the same time I foolishly offered to help two friends who asked me to provide some alternatives to what they were experienced in, to help the complainant.
I intend to be as clear and as transparent as I am able to be, under these circumstances and would be happy to meet/speak openly , should you be willing to see a different perspective on this case.
As I have said at the tribunal , I am clear that there were some boundary protocols that I could have done better, however I have absolutely no shame or guilt in the quality and content of the sessions with the complainant.
The BACP findings show that they upheld issues relating to these boundary and dual relationship issues, nothing was up held on the accusations that the complainant states about what happened in the TWO sessions.
Someone of reasonable thinking would wonder why the complainant came back after a 6 week break and then emailed requesting further sessions.
I can assure you that this case has far more complicated background issues that are not seen nor understood.
Should you wish to discuss this further, let me know.
My Facebook page is Linda Bretherton MA where you may, should you choose, read my posts.
I had a few thoughts on reading her email. The first of which was, “She posted on her Facebook about what happened?” As a nurse, I know exactly what would happen if I talked about my patients on Facebook, because my employers and the Nursing and Midwifery Council have told me in no uncertain terms.
Also, quitting the BACP in 2014 to “spend more time teaching”? Given that a misconduct hearing was underway at the time, that sounds rather like MPs who quit Parliament “to spend more time with my family” right around the time they’re embroiled in an expenses scandal. As for, “Unfortunately almost at the same time I foolishly offered to help two friends who asked me to provide some alternatives to what they were experienced in, to help the complainant.” Almost at the same time? Even though by her own admission this case has been ongoing for two years?
I had a look at her Facebook page, as well as her business page for what she calls PsychoVeda, a blend of psychotherapy and Ayurvedic mysticism. She posts a lot of New Agey content on both pages. I’ve since had another email from Bretherton in which she states she’s going to publish details of the case online, and that she has no intention of undertaking the BACP sanctions.
Mostly what stuns me about this case is the sheer level of ignorance about how to handle trauma issues in therapy. Psychotherapy for post-abuse trauma is by no means risk-free, and if you do it badly you run a significant risk of doing more harm than good. If a trauma is disclosed, you approach it slowly and carefully, and only at a pace that the client is ready and able to go at. If the client isn’t ready to face a past trauma, you leave that trauma well alone. As for placing your hands on someone who has post-abuse issues, the risks there should be obvious.
I’m also observing something else about this case. The complainant reports feeling emotionally blackmailed into attending a shamanic workshop due to expressions of love from Bretherton. If you’re love-bombing people into joining something with mystical features and a lax approach to boundaries, you have to consider whether what you’re running is a therapy group or a cult.
If, as Bretherton says, she’s being sued by the complainant, I really wouldn’t want to be in her shoes if it goes to court. She might want to settle that case quickly before she gets taken to the cleaners.