British Psychoanalytic Council to review its complaints procedures

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.

15 thoughts on “British Psychoanalytic Council to review its complaints procedures

  1. Thank you for bringing this to the public’s attention. Unfortunately the public had only a month to send in feedback about this new CP but I didnt see it advertised anywhere other than their website only just today.

    My concerns are about the following:

    “Allowing legal representation and the other provisions we are proposing will serve to enhance the protection of our registrants who are subject to a complaint. The new procedure will bring additional safeguards to our registrants’ ability to practise and to engage in professional life.”

    Where is the complainant in this?

    “It also affords additional support for complainants, who will no longer have to bear the anxiety and burden of speaking out on their own” This is leading away from the actual fact that this new CP is written to protect the therapist as the complaintant already has a chance to have a supporter with him/her on the day of the hearing with this old version of the CP.
    Also, I would rather be in control of my own complaint than give it over to someone who has no idea about the therapy process, no idea about the dynamics of the individual relationship and certainly no idea about psychoanalytic processes. The therapist should be disciplined based on errors in working therapeutically, not legally!! The court room is there for the legal side.
    Also, many times a complaint is a way for the client finding his/her voice and stand up for him/herself. It can be a huge part of healing for the client. And important learning for the therapist. I doubt the therapist will learn anything at all about his/her unethical behaviour this way.

    “We are proposing to introduce an alternative route for ‘consensual disposal’ of complaints.A separate section of the Complaints Procedure will set out the steps that aim to resolve complaints which the Screening Committee determines may involve a demonstrable failureto maintain good professional standards, but do not constitute a serious breach of the BPC Code of Ethics. […] A hearing under this procedure would not be a disciplinary hearing, and the Panel would not be empowered to suspend or strike off a registrant”

    So The BPC will decide, without a HEaring, what is and isnt serious. Again, this is an easy way to close ranks and protect the therapist especially as the therapist will not be disiplined.

    “However, given that there could, following a hearing, be a finding against a registrant that could have a profound significance for their ongoing professional practice and thus livelihood, the BPC has been advised that it must follow a fair process which at a minimum requires the registrant to have the right to challenge the evidence of the complainant by way of cross-examination, and for the registrants to have legal representation”

    The registrant already has the chance to cross examine and call witnesses in the hearing. What has changed is that s/he can do it now with a laywer giving them advice. And we all know what lawyers can be like when they are “interviewing” a witness, who in this case is the CLIENT!

    Again, this is all about the registrant and the BPC, the client is unprotected

    No learning can come from this procedure. It is purely in the interest of BPC and registrant’s safety.
    What does the complainant gain from this change?

  2. Another thing I have noticed is the BPC’s lack of update of sanctions on their website. The BACP regularly updates their findings and sanctions section yet the BPC has not updated this section since 2012, the last case being “still in process”

    Taken from


    8 formal complaints received; of these, 2 dismissed by Screening Committee, 1 withdrawn by complainant, 3 still in process.

    1 complaint upheld and sanction applied. The sanction comprised an admonishment and further supervision/reporting stipulations.


    12 formal complaints received; of these, 7 dismissed by Screening Committee, 1 unable to proceed as not valid.

    2 complaints upheld and sanctions applied. The sanctions comprised additional supervision/reporting stipulations; and additional supervision/reporting stipulations for one year, regular ongoing clinical/theoretical seminars, and optional but recommended analysis with a senior member for a minimum of two years.


    10 formal complaints received; of these, 5 dismissed by Screening Committee, 1 not upheld.

    2 complaints upheld and sanctions applied. The sanctions comprised ongoing supervision for at least 9 months; and to refund a fee paid and to apologise appropriately to the patient.


    3 formal complaints received; of these, 1 not upheld.

    2 complaints upheld and sanctions applied. The sanctions comprised suspension from the register and cessation of patient treatment for one year, with reinstatement subject to psychiatric assessment and reports (in a fitness to practise and not an ethical complaint); and cessation of training, supervision and teaching functions, and supervision with two supervisors, for at least 3 years.


    4 formal complaints received; of these, 1 dismissed by Screening Committee, 2 not upheld.

    1 complaint upheld and sanction applied. The sanction comprised an admonishment with no conditions attached.


    1 formal complaint received; dismissed by Screening Committee as complainant withdrew from process.

  3. “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.”

    I think this is a more significant development than any of the specific changes that the BCP are proposing. They are trying to make the process fair for both the complainant and the registrant because if they don’t they will find themselves in court.

    It’s an interesting twist to the tale of Accredited Registers. If correct then it means that not only are the complaints procedures of, for example, the National Counselling Society subject to annual inspections by the Professional Standards Authority; their decisions are now liable to judicial review as well. Having their register accredited could have cost them a lot of autonomy when it comes to handling complaints.

    • To be honest, I wouldn’t be too heartbroken to hear they’ve lost some autonomy when it comes to complaints handling. If they’re subject to annual inspections by the PSA and the possibility of judicial review, then that would add a layer of accountability.

  4. I have recently filed a complaint with the BPC against a registrant for unfitness to practice, substantiated by written evidence in the form of e-mails.
    The Screening Committee summarily dismissed it out-of-hand, stating that I pointed to no evidence of illness or impairment of ability to practice, in spite of compromising e-mails from the registrant and my williness to provide other written and documented evidence.
    To make matters worse, the registrant filed a complaint with her local police station (during the investigation period) for threatening behaviour on my part, which constituted no more than reprisal on her part for my filing of the complaint. After my complaint was dismissed the registrant sent me an intimidating e-mail informing me of this complaint, for which I had to instruct a solicitor for potential harassment. Is this the way complaints are handled by the BPC and their registrants?
    What to do? Any suggestions would be most appreciated as my good name has now been besmirched on a police register.

  5. I recently filed a substantiated complaint with the BPC against a registrant for unfitness to practice, providing numerous e-mails in support.

    The complaint was dismissed by the Screening Committee on the grounds that I could not substantiate impairment and unfitness to practice whereas I had done so with written evidence and was willing to provide more of same.

    To make matters worse, during the investigation period the registrant filed a complaint against me for “threatening” behaviour, i.e., filing the complaint, and informed me of this only after my complaint was dismissed by the Screening Committee. I had to instruct a solicitor to warn the registrant to take no further contact with me subject to a complaint for harassment on her part, to which she failed to reply. I informed the BPC of this, but they have remained silent.

    What to do? Is this what happens when one legitimately files a complaint with the BPC? My name has now been besmirched on a police register. Any suggestions would be most appreciated.

  6. Hi Jane Im sorry to hear this has happened to you too! It has happened to me too with BPC. If you would like to publish your experience with therapist and governing body feel free to publish it on
    I have also shared my experience with BPC on this blog
    It seems We the public have no means of protecting us and defending us but publishing what has happened to us.

    • The BPC is aware of this intimidating behaviour, but has taken no action against the registrant. Is there no higher body to go to? No judicial action to be taken against the registrant and/or the BPC?

  7. nope. psa are not interested even though they will listen to you but will tell you that they are unable to do anything about individual cases, lawyers and journalists will only consider your case if there are two of you (abused /mistreated) by the same therapist (even in rape cases).
    Once one governing organisation dismisses your complaint the other governing organisation is also very likely to dismiss it. Of course, once dismissed no lawyer will touch you with bargepole unless you have a spare 15.000 or 30.000 if you lose.

    and to top it all of, if you are trying to work through what happened to you with another therapist, once they know that you have complained against another therapist they will either never work with you in the first place, end therapy or stay very suspicious of you throughout therapy.

    The therapist is insured, has top laywers, public has to pay for their own legal support IF they are allowed to have their own lawyer which in the case of the BPC you will not be allowed to. You will have to take their lawyer and become a mere witness to your own complaint.

    But you will be even worse of with the UKCP who will not even give you the therapists reply to your complaint (once the complaint is accepted) which means you will have no way of defending yourself in the hearing and will automatically loose.

    If I got anything wrong or forgot something please correct me.

  8. This happened to me, I sought a second opinion which I naively assumed would be objective, the person I consulted wanted to know who I was seeing, I wouldn’t say but factors about slipped out. It was clear they were thinking about who it could be….so they could make contact behind my back, which it then transpired they did. So much for confidentiality. They started bullying me in the second cons. and putting me down, and then overcharging me. I was upset and made a complaint to BPS which was a joke, even when there were provable inconsistencies between our accounts in my favour this was ignored.
    Sadly people like this are in charge of whole psychotherapy units….

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