Thanks to Client1588 in the comments threads for pointing out to me an interesting page that appeared on the website of the British Psychoanalytic Council. The page suggests that they’re revising their complaints procedures, and this is due to BPC registrants taking legal action in response to the way complaints were handled.
According to the BPC document,
The Ethics Committee and Executive of the BPC recently made the decision to carefully revise the present BPC Complaints Procedure. This decision follows substantial changes in the general climate of professional regulation, and recent legal action taken by registrants, who are subject to complaints, against the BPC.
I’m not entirely surprised by this development. I’ve had complainants privately tell me that they were extremely dissatisfied with the way the BPC handled their concerns. If anything my only real surprise is that the litigation has come from registrants rather than complainants.
The document goes to on to describe some of the problems with the BPC’s current procedures.
The BPC Complaints Procedure was drawn up in 2007 in consultation with the Member Institutions and then revised in 2011. The Complaints Procedure was a collegial, professional, self-regulation procedure which did not permit legal representation in hearings and which served us well to date. Explicitly, it regarded the regulation of psychoanalytic psychotherapists as being the proper responsibility of psychotherapists themselves.
However, the regulators of all professional bodies have over the last few years become subject to substantial changes in regulatory case-law, in data protection and freedom of information legislation, and in Human Rights law, in particular the European Convention on Human Rights, Article 6 (‘the right to a fair trial’). The main implication of this is the requirement to allow legal representation in hearings.
Currently the BPC is now the only senior regulatory body in the psychotherapy / counselling sector which does not allow legal representation in disciplinary hearings. The BPC is, in the opinion of our legal advisers, vulnerable to continuing legal challenge about these matters. In particular the BPC is subject to judicial review, which is extremely costly. Bodies that have a public facing role with responsibilities in civil society can be subject to judicial review; the BPC, as a confirmed regulator under the Professional Standards Authority’s Accredited Registers Programme, can no longer claim exemption.
Personally, I don’t agree with “the regulation of psychoanalytic psychotherapists as being the proper responsibility of psychotherapists themselves.” It’s a clear conflict of interest if psychotherapists are being regulated purely by their peers. This reminds me of the bad old days before the UK Council for Psychotherapy brought in their centralised Complaints and Conduct Procedure. Complaints were heard by UKCP member organisations, often with no legal representation or lay members on the panel. Unsurprisingly, complainants went away feeling that they simply weren’t believed by the registrant’s colleagues.
It looks like the BPC is proposing a similar system to that currently used by the UKCP. If a complaint is accepted, the registrant will be advised to instruct a legal team. Meanwhile, the BPC will instruct a legal team to prosecute the complaint, with the complainant becoming a witness to the BPC’s prosecution.
This system is likely to be an improvement, but can also come with its own problems. UKCP complainants have reported a sense of losing control over their own complaint, due to being relegated to the status of witness. By contrast the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy has the opposite problem. The complainant is the one prosecuting the case, so they retain control, but they also have to do most of the work.
Despite these reservations, I’m pleased that the BPC is carrying out a much-needed overhaul of its complaints system.