The Strange Family of Derek Gale

[Trigger warnings: abuse, suicide]

A bit of context to the following post. About a year ago I started writing a book on therapy abuse. The project foundered due to, well, my own laziness, quite frankly. However, before procrastination took hold I’d gathered a substantial quantity of research materials about a notorious therapist-turned-cult-leader by the name of Derek Gale. What follows was originally intended to be a chapter in the book. I recently dug it out and finished the chapter, so that an awful tale does not remain untold.

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When therapists become gurus and cult leaders

Earlier this week I posed the question of why such a high proportion of psychotherapists either sanctioned for misconduct or awaiting fitness-to-practice hearings seem to be from the Jungian tradition. I’ve had a couple of interesting responses.

One person pointed out that when I ran through the list of cases I’d actually missed one out. Another Jungian, Stuart Macfarlane, was suspended for two years by the Guild of Analytical Psychologists. The GAP is a member organisation of the UK Council for Psychotherapy, but for some reason the complaint hearing isn’t listed in the UKCP complaints archive. The GAP’s page doesn’t state specifically what he did, but it seems to involve some sort of breach of boundaries. Also, surprisingly, the decision page is undated, though the document properties say the page was created in October 2012.

So, why Jungians? I had the following suggestion by e-mail.

Note that the bad boys are all men (and probably all of a certain age – nearing old age and children of the 60’s).

I think the “mystical and mysterious” Jungian approach appeals to the ego of a certain kind of man who wouldn’t otherwise have ever found himself working as a psychotherapist – having to listen to others talk about many and varied problems when all he wants is a stage for his ‘revere me because I’m a wise man’ act.

Children of the 1960s? That certainly would apply to the age ranges of John Smalley and Geoffrey Pick, two of the more high-profile misconduct cases of the last couple of years. Interestingly Stuart Macfarlane is married to Penelope Tree, a former fashion model who was a high-profile figure in the Swinging Sixties until her modelling career was cut short by acne.

I wonder if we’re seeing something of a hangover from the 60s era of gurus offering enlightenment, in a time when there was a seeker born every minute. This reminds me of the debates around 2009-10, when (now-shelved) plans for psychotherapy to become state-regulated were being virulently opposed by a small but noisy campaign. Many of those leading the opposition struck me as being the worst bunch of malevolent hippies since the Dharma Initiative in Lost.

The same names seem to crop up again and again. When I posed my question about Jungians, I received this feedback from Amanda Williamson, a counsellor based in Exeter.

It may interest you to know that a therapist with whom I suffered an unethical experience involving pressure to be naked (a theme common amongst many of the other complainants in this particular case) hero worships Brian Thorne, in particular for his infamous sessions with Sally, where, lo and behold, he and Sally got naked.

Ah yes, Brian Thorne, Emeritus Professor of Counselling at the University of East Anglia. He was one of those predicting that the sky would fall in if psychotherapy were to be regulated. He’d also published a book chapter  describing how he and a patient called Sally got naked together. Given how dodgy that sounds, did he obtain informed consent from Sally?

Before deciding to take off his own clothes, the professor says “there was no question of checking with Sally for it was only I who could give permission to myself”.

The professor experienced “intuitive promptings” which, he says, “enabled me to encourage Sally to undress, or on occasions to initiate a particular form of physical contact, whether it was simply holding hands or, as in the final stage, joining in a naked embrace”.

That would be a no, then.

Thorne insists that this was a unique situation and not necessarily a model for how other therapists should act. Though from these comments it sounds as though there may be at least one dodgy therapist who views it as a model.

Somebody else was also impressed by Thorne’s naked sessions: Derek Gale, struck off by the Health Professions Council as an arts therapist and by the UKCP as a psychotherapist in 2009. He has the dubious distinction of being the only psychotherapist in recent years that the UKCP has actually struck off.

Gale wasn’t a Jungian, but he fits neatly with the suggestion of throwbacks from the 1960s who view themselves as some of guru. He was also a deeply abusive individual, and the findings against him at the HPC were spectacularly damning. He was found to have called one client a “stupid cunt” and humiliated another in front of a therapy group for having self-harmed. He discussed his sexual fantasies with clients, took clients on holiday with him and got them to do unpaid work for him. At the end of the hearings, this was the impression the HPC formed of him.

Having had an opportunity to observe Mr Gale over a long period of time both as a witness and as a person conducting his case in this hearing, the Panel has come to the firm view that he has a cavalier attitude towards the needs of clients and the requirement to follow clear guidelines.  This is demonstrated by numerous instances, including his evidence in cross-examination that he had never read the HPC’s Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics, the fact that he failed to heed the warning and advice given to him to exercise caution over socialising with clients, and the fact that in stating that he had now modified his practice to accord with prescriptive rules he was doing so only because of the rule and without embracing the rationale for the rule.

Brian Thorne appears to have formed a different view of Gale. He appeared at the HPC hearing to sing his praises. I have a copy of the transcript (in which for some reason Thorne is referred to as “Professor Robert Thorne”) . He tells Gale,

I have come to respect your honesty and integrity as a person and as a professional, and that for me has considerable meaning; secondly, I’ve come to appreciate you as somebody who is deeply reflective about the work that he does; that he is prepared, as it were, to look at his work with new eyes, fresh perspectives and so on, if that is what is actually clearly being called for.  But to respond quite directly to your last question, I sometimes feel that it may be that it is the very fact that, for goodness knows how many years ago, I think it’s about 30 years, you have been involved in therapeutic work, which is actually rare, which is I think also extremely demanding, but also has within it quite a number of important issues I think which mainstream therapeutic approaches can probably learn from and benefit from. [page 38]

Within the transcript there’s some interesting snippets about Gale’s therapy groups. Skim to pages 56-57 and we learn that one client was allowed to cut Gale’s hair in order to give her extra status in the group from having the privilege to cut the leader’s hair. We also find out that t-shirts were printed with a blown-up picture of Gale and the words “I’m his favourite.” There’s mention in the HPC decision of Gale asking clients to call him “Daddy”.

This isn’t a therapy group. It’s a cult.

Thorne wasn’t the only eminent professor to become involved in the Gale hearings. Gale applied to have his interim suspension lifted, in exchange for having weekly supervision sessions of his practice. But who would act as supervisor?

Andrew Samuels, Professor of Analytical Psychology at the University of Essex – another Jungian, another figure formed in the 1960s, and subsequently to become chair of the UKCP – made an offer to provide supervision. The offer was promptly rejected by the HPC. The allegations against Gale were so serious that simply toddling along once a week for supervision was just not enough to protect the public.

Professor Samuels has strongly denied offering to be Gale’s supervisor, but as it happens one of the complainants obtained his letter to the HPC. Here it is. It’s pretty unambiguous.

Two eminent professors, one of them later going on to become UKCP chair, dancing to the beck and call of a cult leader.

So, what have we learned here? Quite possible the mysticism and idealism of the Flower Power generation may have given impetus to various individuals who liked to inflate their egos by playing the wise man or guru. In some instances such as Gale, the guru became the head of a therapy cult.

Needless to say, such individuals are not suited to the role of therapist.

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What future for the UK Council for Psychotherapy?

Back in January I warned of a potential crisis at the UK Council for Psychotherapy. Unlike doctors, nurses, teachers, social workers or, for that matter, chiropodists, there is no statutory regulator for psychotherapists. There are only self-regulating bodies like the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) or the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP). When the Coalition took office, they shelved plans for state-regulation in favour of “voluntary assured registration”, whereby organisations like the UKCP and BACP could be accredited by the Professional Standards Authority (PSA). But only if they were doing a good job of handling complaints and dealing with rogue therapists.

The BACP has already achieved PSA accreditation. The UKCP has not – and for good reason. The UKCP acts as an umbrella body for 75 psychotherapy organisations. These organisational members (“OMs”) have in the past each had their own separate complaints procedure, some of which are shockingly awful. Patients looking to make a complaint have found that they can’t find out how to make a complaint, or that an organisation might not follow its own procedures, or  they might be greeted with hostility and unhelpfulness. In some organisations, patients have even been told that if their complaint is rejected then they’ll have to pay the cost of the investigation!

The disregard for safeguarding has been absolutely appalling. For years, people raised concerns with the UK Association of Humanistic Psychology Practitioners about Derek Gale. He was running a therapy cult in which he sexually, physically, emotionally and financially abused his clients. Their complaints fell on deaf ears. The UKCP eventually struck him off, but only after he was first struck off as an arts therapist by the Health Professions Council.

Or there’s Geoffrey Pick of the Arbours Association. He was found to have committed serious sexual misconduct with an NHS patient. The NHS trust admitted liability and settled out-of-court for five-figure damages and an unreserved apology. The patient remains deeply traumatised by the experience and continues to receive therapy for this. The Arbours Association simply suspended him for a year and then allowed him to re-register with them as a psychotherapist. In any other profession, anything other than a striking-off would have been unthinkable.

Unsurprisingly, the PSA is not going to rubberstamp this. In an attempt to improve standards, the UKCP has developed a new Complaints and Conducts Process (CCP) to take over complaints-handling from the member organisations. The first time it was used for a Jungian analyst called John Smalley. It was an absolute shambles, taking over three years to decide he had committed serious misconduct (his member organisation, the Independent Group of Analytical Psychologists, had simply declared there was “no case to answer”) but they decided not to sanction him anyway. He now seems to have quit psychotherapy.

Since then two psychotherapists have been sanctioned and one suspended under the CCP. These appear to have been handled much more rigorously and professionally than the Smalley case (though Derek Gale remains the only psychotherapist ever struck off by the UKCP in recent years). The trouble is though, not all the member organisations have signed up to it. Back in December 2012, the UKCP chief executive David Pink complained,

I am disappointed that many of our member organisations seem to be reluctant to engage with the central complaints scheme…By this time next year we need everyone to be signed up to the central complaints or in the process to becoming signed up. By then, other leading reputable therapy organisations (including BPC and BACP) are likely to be fully PSA accredited. Employers, referrers, commissioners and clients will begin to expect practitioners to be on  a PSA-accredited register as a minimum requirement. We must not fall behind.

In January I wrote about what would happen if the UKCP organisations failed to sign up, and hence the UKCP couldn’t achieve PSA accreditation.

The UKCP have been failing for years to protect the public from rogue therapists. It now looks like they’re having trouble getting their member organisations to sign up to their new complaint system…No wonder they’re getting worried that rival bodies like the BACP will get the PSA accreditation and they won’t.

If that does happen, the results will be utterly predictable. All the reputable psychotherapists will promptly sign up with the BACP, leaving the UKCP to shrivel into a rump organisation housing the quacks, hucksters and chancers of the therapy world.

So, how’s that going? Again, David Pink gives the answer, in the latest UKCP bulletin.

But there is one area which has attracted [the PSA’s] particular concern – that not all our individual members are covered under UKCP’s complaints and conduct process (CCP). The indication we were given is that our application is at risk because we are unable at present to declare when, or even if, we will have all UKCP registrants covered by CCP…Only one or two organisations have expressed fundamental concerns about CCP in principle. But there are many other organisations who have said they will join, probably, sometime soon – mañana!

I think I know the “mañana” of which he speaks. Back in May 2012 when I was investigating the John Smalley case, I contacted the Independent Group of Analytical Psychologists who had dismissed the subsequently-proved claims of misconduct. I asked them if they planned to join the CCP. This was their reply.

Since the UKCP Central Complaints Process is not yet finalised, it is too early to say if IGAP will sign up to it or not, but is likely to do so if it is felt to match our professional standards and has nothing that contradicts our existing Code of Ethics.

Or, to put it another way, mañana!

Incidentally, if you go to the IGAP website, there’s no information at all about how to make a complaint. When I asked for a copy of their Code of Ethics (which also isn’t on the site) they didn’t send me one. They did however admit that they haven’t sanctioned a therapist for misconduct in years.

I’ve been harshly critical of the UKCP in the past couple of years, and I don’t apologise for that. However, to be fair to them they do now have a system in place for dealing with misconduct. and which after a dreadful start now seems to be getting results. But it can only truly work if everyone is signed up to it.

Clearly, there are now two possible futures for the UKCP. There are those who see a future in which its practitioners are accountable and where a UKCP registration is a stamp of reassurance for the public. However, there seems to be also those who may be happy for the quacks, incompetent, cultists and outright abusers of the therapy world to carry on with free rein, even if this means that the UKCP becomes officially second-rate to rival bodies like the BACP.

Of course, of these two possible futures, in only one outcome could the UKCP genuinely expect to have a future.

Reading a charlatan writing about charlatans

This week I was up at my local university doing a bit of training. While I was browsing the bookshelves, I randomly made an interesting find. What is Psychotherapy? A Personal and Practical Guide by Derek Gale. That name immediately rung a bell. He was struck off by the Health Professions Council and by the UK Council for Psychotherapy for a horrific litany of abuse against his patients. I was curious to see what such a character would say about psychotherapy, so I got the book out on loan.

Gale’s story is a pretty nasty one. He groped his patients, discussed sexual fantasies with them, called one a “stupid cunt”, got them to do unpaid work for him, smoked cannabis in front of them and in some cases went on holiday with them. The list of allegations put before the HPC reads more like the behaviour of a cult leader than a therapist. Tragically one of his victims, Gena Dry, later took her own life. Despite this he had some surprising connections. His in-house book company, Gale Centre Publications, listed Windy Dryden, Professor of Psychotherapeutic Studies at Goldsmiths, among its authors.

His saga was also something of a test case in the regulation of psychotherapy. He was registered as an arts therapist with the Health Professions Council (now the Health and Care Professions Council) and as a psychotherapist with the UKCP. At the time, proposals were underway for psychotherapists to also be state-regulated by the HPC rather than the current system of voluntary self-regulating bodies like the UKCP. Although these proposals were subsequently shelved, it’s worth noting that the UKCP ignored complaints about him for years until the HPC took action.

Ironically, his book actually has a chapter on “Charlatans well intentioned and otherwise”. I browsed to it to see what he had to say.

I do not intend to dwell on the proliferation of cranks and charlatans, some of whom are out to make a quick buck. Fortunately the public do not seem to be as gullible as it is sometimes assumed to be and these people do not stay in business long, unless they have some genuine service to offer…

Wow, that took some gall for him to state.

…I find more seriously worrying the practices of people who have a recognised qualification in one of the caring professions and a job which puts them in a position of trust. These professional qualifications are not a qualification in psychotherapy and a doctor, social worker or educator who claims to practise psychotherapy while remaining blissfully ignorant of what psychotherapy is, trades on the public’s confidence in his profession and is therefore as great a charlatan as the person who holds a bogus diploma.

Though perhaps not as great a charlatan as someone who urges their patients to strip naked during group therapy.

Gale isn’t the person to make this point, but there is a valid point in here about who is or isn’t a psychotherapist. A large number of professionals, myself included, are involved in providing psychological therapies but don’t have a formal qualification in the field. You might hear of a doctor or nurse doing, say, cognitive-behaviour therapy, without being a qualified cognitive therapist. In many cases those involved – again, including me – have to acquire training and supervision on the hoof, as and when we can.

Interestingly enough, there isn’t a fixed definition of who is a psychotherapist. If a psychotherapist wants work from the NHS or social services, they’d need to have some sort of recognised qualification and usually be registered with either British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy or the UKCP. However, if they’re practising independently they could vary from having completed an arduous post-graduate training to being just some hippy with no qualifications at all.

Then, of course, there’s the thorny question of what’s the difference between a counsellor and a psychotherapist.

Thinking about my own nursing practice, I’m heavily influenced by cognitive-behaviour therapy and family therapy. Interestingly enough, I tend in daily practice to be more willing to saying I’m “doing CBT” than “doing family therapy”. Perhaps due to a perception that CBT is more straightforward and less complex than family therapy – though I’m sure there’s people who’d be more than happy to dispute that.

If a psychotherapist is someone’s registered with the UKCP or BACP, then it’s worth noting that Derek Gale was accused of continuing to practice after being struck off. Though according to his Twitter profile he appears to have now retired to write books and send tweets to Ricky Gervais.

Who is a psychotherapist? Ultimately the only thing I can say for certain is that it isn’t Derek Gale.

UKCP takes 3 years to find therapist guilty of misconduct, another year to publish its findings

Over the last few months I’ve been chronicling the series of mishaps and cock-ups over the John Smalley case. This was a fitness to practice investigation by the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy. The hearings found him guilty of seven allegations. I can now reveal that this won’t be published until a year after the ruling.

The story so far…The UKCP took over three years to investigate complaints about Mr Smalley, a Jungian analyst with the Independent Group of Analytical Psychologists. At the end of a long sequence of delays, they decided that seven allegations had been proven. This included smoking during therapy, inappropriately setting two clients up in a business relationship with each other, and making a sexual suggestion about one client to another. Despite this they decided not to sanction him. The fact that he admitted in the hearing that he destroyed his notes doesn’t seem to have prompted a sanction. The UKCP’s laughable response to this is that they didn’t sanction him for destroying his notes because there wasn’t a complaint about destroying his notes.

The final ruling was in March 2012. The outcomes of fitness to practice rulings are supposed to be published in the UKCP’s magazine, The Psychotherapist, which comes out three times a year. The Smalley ruling hasn’t been published yet. I have since been informed that it’s currently scheduled to appear in the Spring 2013 edition.

Seriously, Spring 2013? That’s a year after the final ruling! I e-mailed the UKCP to ask them why there’s such a long delay, and also to ask if there are any other fitness-to-practice outcomes that haven’t been published yet. They declined to comment.

John Smalley is no longer a UKCP member, as he resigned his registration during the hearings. However, he’s still registered with the Independent Group of Analytical Psychologists, and continues to advertise his therapy services on their website. To date, the only place where you can find out that he’s had allegations proven against him is on this blog. There’s nothing on either the UKCP or IGAP websites to suggest there’s anything wrong with his practice.

For comparison purposes, the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy has hearing outcomes up on its website, the most recent of which are from last month. Or, if you look at the Nursing and Midwifery Council website, they get hearing outcomes up within days.

The UKCP also has an online complaints archive. It looks pretty lonely. In fact, there’s only two decisions on it, neither of which are for John Smalley. One of them is Derek Gale. He was a notorious abuser who emotionally, sexually and financially exploited his patients, and was struck off by the Health Professions Council as well as by UKCP.

The details on the UKCP archive are also pretty scanty by the standards of regulators. For comparison, have a look at the HPC ruling for Derek Gale, which gives a long and detailed account of why you wouldn’t trust him to look after your cat, never mind a vulnerable adult. Meanwhile, the other decision on the UKCP website is for an Arbours Association therapist called Geoffrey Pick. It simply says:

Geoffrey Pick of The Association of Arbours Psychotherapists (AAP) has been found to be in breach of Article 6 of the AAP Code of Practice. Article 6 of AAP’s Code of Practice provides that ‘a member should maintain appropriate boundaries with their patients and take care not exploit their patients in any way, financially or sexually’.

In view of the above decision Mr Pick is:

1) suspended from the membership of AAP (and UKCP) for a period of one year from 16 May 2011;

2) required to enter therapy at least once a week with a therapist approved by AAP’s Ethics Committee and reports from the therapist are to be submitted to the AAP’s Ethics Committee once a quarter;

3) required to engage in further professional development as agreed between him and the AAP’s Ethics Committee liaison; and

4) required to meet a member of AAP’s Ethics Committee once a quarter.


Really not a very clear account of what he the misconduct was. Incidentally,  if anyone out there is reading this and knows what he did, my e-mail address is thus_spake_z at hushmail dot com.