The struck-off therapist teaching psychotherapy – Regent’s University’s horrifying response

Last week I commented that a psychotherapist who has been struck off by the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy was still lecturing in psychotherapy at Regent’s University London. Andrea Scherzer had turned up to a therapy session drunk, leading not only to her striking-off but also dismissal for gross misconduct from an NHS trust. I didn’t get a response from Regent’s prior to publication, but they did promise they’d send me one today.

I’ve now had their response, and it’s….not what I expected. Actually it’s quite spectacularly jaw-dropping. I’ll quote it in full, interspersed with commentary from me. Continue reading

Something rotten in the psychotherapy dept at Regent’s University London?

A couple of weeks ago Jo D Baker sent me a spreadsheet of what’s happened to the 53 people struck off by the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy since 2005. Worryingly, 22% of them seemed to be still practising as counsellors or psychotherapists. Even more alarmingly, three of them were still registered with Britain’s other main therapy body, the UK Council for Psychotherapy.

If all that wasn’t concerning enough, one of those struck off by BACP but still with UKCP seemed to be teaching psychotherapy. Andrea Scherzer is a lecturer in the Department of Psychotherapy and Psychotherapy at Regents University London.

I decided to explore further. What happened next wasn’t in the least reassuring. Continue reading

Exeter counselling “cult” condemns British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy

The story so far…in February an Exeter-based counselling service, Palace Gate Counselling (also trading as Phoenix Counselling) took the unusual step of publishing a lengthy blog post, “The Conflict”. They stated that two other therapists have accused them of running a “therapeutic cult” (which they strongly deny) and that they were close to a disciplinary hearing against their firm. They didn’t state in “The Conflict” who the hearing was with, but it was clear from elsewhere on their blog that it was with the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy.

Today, Palace Gate have published a follow-up post, “Our Service, the BACP and the regulation debate”. As with the original post, it’s rather lengthy, but I’ll attempt to summarise it here: Continue reading

Guilty pleasures time! The Eurovision Song Contest and Me

Those of you who’ve tuned into my Twitter in recent weeks, expecting me to be talking about mental health, politics and therapy abuse, may have been rather disconcerted to find me live-tweeting various national selections from the Eurovision Song Contest. It’s been a fun and at times surreal ride for me, watching all these shows from across Europe and parts of Asia. I’ve seen Belarusians sing about cheesecake, Latvians sing about cake-baking. Electro-swing from Moldova! Irish sea-shanties from Germany! Oh yes, and possibly the most bizarre appeal for peace I’ve seen about the Ukraine crisis (from 2004 winner Ruslana, performing at the Belgian national selections). Continue reading

Does striking off a counsellor or psychotherapist stop them from working?

I’ve just been handed a pretty scary set of data-crunching. Jo D Baker is a regular commenter on this blog. He looked at this page which lists all the people struck off by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy since October 2005. He then did web searches to see if there was any evidence of them advertising their services as counsellors and psychotherapists. He collated the results into a spreadsheet which I’ve uploaded here – Copy of BACP Sinners & Outcomes 06032014.

The results were startling. Of the 53 counsellors and psychotherapists struck off in that period, 22% gave positive hits to websites that appeared to be advertising their services. Even more concerningly, three of them seem to be still registered with Britain’s other major psychotherapy organisation, the UK Council for Psychotherapy.

Here’s a few highlights from Jo’s spreadsheet. Continue reading

The Exeter counselling service denying “cult” allegations – Palace Gate responds

Last week I wrote about Palace Gate Counselling Service (also known as Phoenix Counselling Service), a firm in Exeter which recently made an online announcement that they are facing complaints from two therapists who accuse them of running a “therapeutic cult”. They state that these complainants have (unsuccessfully) reported them to a number of agencies, including the police, Adult Safeguarding, the Employment Tribunal Service and the Advertising Standards Authority.

Palace Gate strongly deny any wrongdoing, and accuse the complainants of acting out of commercial motivations. They state that there is a misconduct hearing pending, but decline to say who with. However, it appears to be with the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP).

The dispute seems to have triggered a decision by Palace Gate not to renew their membership of the BACP.

Since then I’ve had a couple of responses from Palace Gate via the comments threads to various blog posts, so I’ll collate them here. Continue reading

More on the Exeter counselling service fighting “cult” allegations

Here’s a bit further about Palace Gate Counselling Service (also known as Phoenix Counselling) in Exeter. As I commented last week, a long, bizarre post appeared on their blog. They state they are involved in a bitter dispute with two therapists who are accusing them of running a “therapeutic cult”. According to their director Lindsey Talbott, Palace Gate have been reported to a slew of agencies, including the police, Adult Safeguarding, the Employment Tribunal Service and the Advertising Standards Authority.

To date no findings of misconduct have been made against Palace Gate, and they strongly deny any wrongdoing. There remains a forthcoming hearing with a psychotherapy organisation. Palace Gate refuse to say which one, but it appears to be the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy. Continue reading

Exeter counselling service condemns “cult” allegations

This is odd. An Exeter-based counselling firm has published a lengthy blog post claiming to be under attack by certain nefarious individuals who have apparently accused them of running a “therapeutic cult.”

The firm in question is called Palace Gate Counselling Service. They have a very professional-looking website, as well as a blog which has a fair amount of somewhat New Agey content. The directors are John Clapham (who also runs Taunton Counselling Service and Phoenix Counselling Services) and Lindsey Talbott, who seems to be writing most of the blog content.

Talbott has a lot to say about this apparent attack. Her blog post, entitled, “The Conflict” is long. Very long, in fact. She must view this as something important, as there’s a link to it on the header bar of the blog’s main page. She states that a “battle between therapists” is taking place. Continue reading

Religious agendas disguised as counselling

Last month I wrote about a counsellor, Lesley Pilkington, who aims to turn gay people straight as part of a thinly-veiled religious agenda. She’d previously been struck off by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy. Until recently she was instead with the Association for Christian Counselling, probably the only professional body that would have her. Now she’s been kicked out by them too.

It turns out Pilkington and her ilk are not the only “counsellors” who are motivated by religious beliefs at the possible expense of the client. This was pointed out to me by Dr Brooke Magnanti, who you all know as Belle de Jour of blog, books and TV series fame, though these days she’s an academic researcher rather than a sex worker. A recent Telegraph investigation recorded counsellors at so-called Crisis Pregnancy Centres telling women that if they have an abortion they’re more likely to become a child sex abuser or to develop cancer. Needless to say, neither of these are true.

Magnanti points out that these counsellors are employed by an organisation with a very clear social agenda.

The vast majority of such ‘clinics’ in the UK (scare quotes because the counsellors are neither medical nor mental health professionals) are run by CareConfidential, an offshoot company originally founded by Christian Action Research and Education (CARE).

What are CARE’s other big interests? Well, they are also the secretariat for the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Prostitution and the Global Sex Trade. This APPG aims to promote the so-called Swedish Model, beloved of both the far right and radical feminists…

They were also deeply involved in supporting Section 28, the law which served to effectively silence any mention of homosexuality in schools and other public institutions until 2003.

A bit of Googling also reveals that they funded interns to 20 MPs and, as with Pilkington, they’ve promoted gay-to-straight conversion therapies. They’ve published research criticising the lack of tax breaks for stay-at-home parents.

This is an organisation that has a very specific idea of how society should be, and is actively campaigning for  it….no gays, no sex workers, no double-income families…and of course, no abortions. And that’s how one ends up at a situation where a “counsellor” is telling someone that if they have an abortion, they could become a child sex abuser.

Counselling is, in theory at least, supposed to be an emancipatory process that enables individuals to understand their own thoughts and feelings, to reflect upon and effectively make life choices. It should be to empower the client in relation to their own self, not to be railroaded along somebody else’s agenda.

But organisations like CARE can still call their staff counsellors because neither “counsellor” nor “psychotherapist” are protected titles, though Geraint Davies MP has a private members bill for regulation of counselling and psychotherapy. I’m aware that if his bill passes then CARE’s staff and the likes of Lesley Pilkington will simply call themselves coaches, advisers, mentors, whatever – and carry on practicing. But they won’t be able to use the word “counsellor” with all that’s assumed to mean by people who seek one out.

In the meantime, if you see a counsellor or psychotherapist, you should only use one who is with an accredited voluntary register such as the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy.

 

In Praise of Mental Health Cop

This morning I woke to the very surprising news that Mental Health Cop (also known as Inspector Michael Brown of the West Midlands Police) has closed down his blog, Twitter and Facebook page. I don’t know the reasons for this, and those who do know seem to be rather tight-lipped about it. I have noticed, however, that several other police tweeters have also closed their accounts.

I had the pleasure of meeting Michael at the Mind Media Awards 2012, where he won the Mark Hanson Award for Digital Media, and interviewed him afterwards. We’ve also conversed online many times, and what’s frequently struck me is how dedicated he is to promoting better understanding of the intersection between mental health and policing. Over time, I’ve come to the view that I was speaking not only with an outstanding police officer, but also a genuinely nice guy. He has certainly challenged my stereotypes of police officers, and has consistently behaved as a credit to the ideals of policing.

Michael has since gone on to win other awards. At the This Week in Mentalists Awards 2012 for mental health blogging, he picked up Best Mental Health Not Otherwise Specified blog. In the #Twentalhealthawards he was runner-up in the Informative category in 2012. Then in 2013 he won Professional Not Otherwise Specified and was a runner-up in the Informative and Helpful categories.

In his online output he has been consistently informed, passionate and articulate. His blog in particular has been a valuable resource not only for frontline police officers and health workers, but also for mental health survivors and activists. If it has to remain offline, the loss will be huge.

As I stated earlier, I don’t know why Mental Health Cop has closed down. However, what I will say is that Inspector Brown has my respect and best wishes.