A 6 month suspension for sleeping with a client: Rob Waygood and the UKCP

A few days ago I commented on this recent decision by the UK Council for Psychotherapy to give a Jungian therapist, Rob Waygood, a 6 month suspension rather than a striking-off. Waygood admitted to starting a sexual relationship with a client shortly after the therapy ended. There is no statutory regulator for counselling or psychotherapy, but the UKCP recently became an “accredited voluntary register” with the Professional Standards Authority.

Before exploring this case further, I’m going to put something out there. When I’ve discussed similar cases in the past on this blog, I’ve subsequently wound up getting e-mails from people who know more about those particular cases. I’ve no idea if there’s anyone out there in a similar situation who happens to be reading, but if they are, my e-mail address is thus_spake_z at hushmail dot com.

For my own regulator, the Nursing and Midwifery Council, the indicative sanctions guidance is very clear.

In all cases of serious sexual misconduct, it will be highly likely that the only proportionate sanction will be a striking-off order. If panels decide to impose a sanction other than a striking-off order, then they will need to be particularly careful in explaining clearly and fully the reasons why they made such a determination, so that it can be understood by those who have not heard all of the evidence in the case.

Not only did the UKCP not strike Waygood off, but the original sanction was ridiculously lenient. A warning letter, plus an order to spend two years attending supervision. Such slaps on the wrist used to be absolutely typical of some psychotherapy organisations, particularly those of a psychoanalytic persuasion. There’s numerous past cases where serious boundary breaches were written off as transference gone wrong rather than abuse, and the therapist got sent on his way with nothing worse than a ticking-off.

In this day and age, and particularly now that the UKCP is an assured voluntary register, such token sanctions simply won’t do. The UKCP appealed the decision as unduly lenient, arguing that his behaviour “was fundamentally incompatible with the Registrant remaining on UKCP’s Register.” On appeal the sanction was increased to a 6 month suspension.

Given that the UKCP haven’t struck Waygood off, have they been particularly careful in explaining their reasons for such a determination?

I e-mailed the Professional Standards Authority to ask what they thought of the case. It’s the PSA’s policy not to comment on individual cases, but they did state that, “We expect all AVRs to take sexual misconduct seriously.” They also kindly provided me with a link to the relevant guidance.

I’ve been browsing the PSA’s, Clear sexual boundaries between healthcare professionals and patients: guidance for fitness to practise panels to see how it compares with the UKCP’s decision for Rob Waygood.

The PSA guidance doesn’t state anything along the lines of “for x misconduct, issue y sanction”. However, it does give some suggestions of what might be considered aggravating and mitigating factors.

Some of the aggravating factors they list include:

the vulnerability of the patient. Research shows that abusers often target vulnerable groups of patients, including those seeking help for mental health or emotional problems

The UKCP decision doesn’t give any indication of whether the client had any mental health issues or other vulnerabilities. That said, one could argue that anyone undergoing therapy is in a vulnerable position, particularly in a piece of psychodynamic therapy where you’re opening up your deepest thoughts to a stranger. We do know from the decision that the client suffered harm as a result of the relationship.

whether the healthcare professional took deliberate steps to facilitate abuse, for example scheduling the appointment as the last of the day, working without a chaperone being present, making inappropriate house calls, dissuading the patient from seeking a second opinion

In the Waygood decision, “Visiting the client’s house sometime between 18 and 21 April 2011 and acting in an affectionate manner” certainly reads like an inappropriate house call to me.

whether there was any grooming of the patient, ie did the healthcare professional deliberately cultivate an empathetic relationship with the patient over a period of time?

“Making a number of personal disclosures to the client regarding his sexuality and sexual history”? “Commenting on the client’s femininity during a therapy session”? “Hugging and kissing his client on the hair or neck on either 14 or 28 March 2011”? That sounds suspiciously like grooming.

whether the healthcare professional used confidential information obtained in the course of treatment to their advantage, for example by encouraging the patient to discuss marital problems whilst providing ‘a shoulder to cry on’

Yep. The decision accuses Waygood of, “Using material discussed in therapy to attempt to convince the client to pursue a relationship.”

Waygood was represented at his hearing by a Mr Glyn Oldfield of Brookfields Professional Conduct Services. This is a company that provides what looks to me like Tesco Value representation at misconduct hearings by non-lawyers, presumably for people who can’t afford a lawyer – though they don’t view it that way. They say, “You do not need a lawyer!  Most disciplinary processes are not legalistic and what counts is detailed knowledge of your profession, the relevant procedures and how best to respond, not a general knowledge of the law!” I’d be interested to hear what an actual law firm would say about that – particularly a firm that specialises in representing professionals at fitness-for-practice hearings.

Waygood and Mr Oldfield presented a number of mitigating factors – he made an early admission, and demonstrated some insight into what he had done wrong.

The Panel was satisfied that that the Registrant had made early admissions in respect of these allegations and had not sought to deny the allegations, nor indeed to put the aggrieved party to the task of giving evidence at the earlier hearing, or at the Appeal.

Fair enough, he confessed his wrongdoing, and spared his client the ordeal of having to testify. But this results in something that rings an alarm bell for me.

Both Mr Oldfield and the Registrant submitted that the harm to the complainant had not fallen into the category of serious harm, and further that the complainant had not been present at the previous hearing and both her account and some matters of fact that were in dispute had not been tested (by cross-examination).

Was the complainant asked whether she thought the harm she incurred was serious or not? And besides, where does one draw the line between what is “harm” and what is “serious harm”? And even if she didn’t suffer serious harm, was consideration also given to the potential harm that could have been incurred by Waygood’s behaviour? As the PSA makes clear, the trauma from these kinds of boundary breaches has the potential to be absolutely huge and life-changing.

So, going back to that quote I found in the NMC Indicative Sanctions Guidance,

If panels decide to impose a sanction other than a striking-off order, then they will need to be particularly careful in explaining clearly and fully the reasons why they made such a determination, so that it can be understood by those who have not heard all of the evidence in the case.

Has the UKCP been particularly careful in that regard? As a personal opinion, I’d say not.

UKCP fails to strike off yet another therapist who committed sexual misconduct

A few months ago I noticed that a Jungian psychotherapist called Rob Waygood had been suspended from the UK Council for Psychotherapy. His suspension noticed briefly disappeared and then reappeared from the UKCP complaints page, and his website also reappeared then disappeared. I took this to mean there had been a ruling and then an appeal.

The ruling has now been published, and it turns out that Waygood had a sexual relationship with a client, which caused the client harm. Concerningly, he hasn’t been struck off but instead has been given a 6 month suspension.

As it happens there was indeed an appeal, though it was the UKCP who appealed rather than Waygood, on the grounds that the original sanction was unduly lenient. Incredibly, the panel simply ordered a warning letter.

The details in the online ruling are fairly scant, but they state that Waygood started a sexual relationship with his client a short time after the therapy ended. It sounds like there were some precursors happening during the therapy, such as Waygood commenting on the client’s femininity during a session.

This isn’t the first time that a UKCP psychotherapist has committed the worst possible breach of boundaries and not been struck off. In May 2011 Geoffrey Pick was suspended for a year after sexually abusing a client. He was then put back on the UKCP register, and later resigned when the media started taking an interest. Stuart Macfarlane is currently serving a two year suspension from the Guild of Analytical Psychologists and UKCP, again for sexually abusing a client. He could be practising again after September. In both the the Pick and Macfarlane cases, their victims suffered massive psychological trauma.

The UKCP seems to have extremely poor timing in making this decision. They’re an “assured voluntary register” with the Professional Standards Authority, and their complaints procedure is due to be audited soon by the PSA to ensure quality control. Meanwhile, Geraint Davies MP has a private members bill before Parliament, calling for statutory rather than voluntary regulation for counsellors and psychotherapists. The second reading is later this month.

The Waygood decision states that, “The Panel determined that the Registrant’s behaviour was so serious that the reputation of both the profession and that of the regulators was at enormous risk.” Those reputations certainly are at risk, not only by his behaviour but by this lenient decision.

Professional Standards Authority condemns gay conversion therapies

Yesterday I posted about how the Association for Christian Counselling has banned so-called “conversion” or “reparative” therapies that aim to turn gay people straight –  (this has also been reported in the Guardian). Lesley Pilkington, a counsellor who practices reparative therapy, had previously joined the ACC after being struck off by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy over the issue.

I’d speculated that this decision may be linked to the ACC’s application to become an “accredited voluntary register” with the Professional Standards Authority. Today, the PSA contacted me to confirm that this is indeed the case.

“The Professional Standards Authority believes gay conversion therapy is inconsistent with our obligations under the Equality Act. As part of the process of assessing its application for accreditation, we raised the issue of conversion therapy and its implications for public protection with the Association of Christian Counsellors. We were pleased to see the unequivocal statement from the Association of Christian Counsellors rejecting conversion therapy. This is an example of the Accredited Voluntary Registers scheme improving standards without the need for regulation.”

 

In addition, Lesley Pilkington has confirmed to me that her membership of the ACC has been revoked over the issue.

Personally, I agree with the PSA that AVR is driving up standards in counselling and psychotherapy – but only up to a point. AVR forced the UK Council for Psychotherapy to radically overhaul their complaints procedures, and now it’s prompted the ACC to ban gay conversion therapy.

But we’re talking about voluntary rather than statutory registers. “Counsellor” and “psychotherapist” are not protected titles. Ms Pilkington can still practice and advertise her services as a counsellor, even though she’s been expelled from two organisations.

While we’re on the subject, in October 2013 Julia Eastwood was struck off by the UK Council for Psychotherapy. She’s still advertising herself for counselling and psychotherapy.

Image

 

She’s also advertising herself as a “conscious channel for the Archangel Gabriel”, though to be fair, I doubt there’ll be much call to make that a protected title.

On 24th January there’s a second reading for Geraint Davies MP’s private members bill to bring in statutory regulation of psychotherapy. Personally, I think all counsellors and psychotherapists should support it. The use of AVR has already done a lot to drive up standards in the professional bodies – to the point that I suspect state regulation might not make much difference to the practice of someone registered with the BACP, UKCP or ACC. But giving these professions a statutory backbone would mean that when someone says they’re a counsellor or psychotherapist, then that means something. That has to be good both for the counselling and psychotherapy professions and for the public.

Praying away the gay

As regular readers will know, I’ve covered the UK Council for Psychotherapy’s journey towards being accredited by the Professional Standards Authority. The professions of counselling and psychotherapy have no statutory regulator, though a private members bill by Geraint Davies MP, which calls for state regulation, is approaching its second reading in Parliament. Voluntary registers do exist, such as the the UKCP and the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, and the PSA has introduced a system of “Assured Voluntary Registration” where they will accredit these registers if they meet certain standards. Several counselling and psychotherapy organisations, including the UKCP and BACP, are now accredited.

I recently discovered that another organisation, the Association for Christian Counselling, is applying for accreditation. I then discovered that on their register is a counsellor by the name of Lesley Pilkington, who was struck off by the BACP for offering so-called “reparative therapy”, which aims to turn gay people straight.

Reparative therapy, also known as conversion therapy, is controversial, to put it mildly. The UKCP, the BACP, the British Psychological Society, the British Psychoanalytic Council, the Royal College of Psychiatrists and the Department of Health have all condemned it. They all view it as both unethical and harmful, and argue in favour of promoting inclusivity and respect for gay people rather trying to make them change their orientation.  Geraint Davies’ bill includes a clause specifically banning such therapies.

Due to the voluntary nature of psychotherapy bodies, being struck off by one body doesn’t necessarily mean that a therapist can’t join another one – though if they were two PSA-accredited bodies, the PSA has stated that they “would expect AVRs to work in partnership to protect the public”. Until recently the Association for Christian Counselling was the only major therapy organisation not to ban conversion therapies, which perhaps makes it unsurprising that Ms Pilkington joined the ACC after being struck off by the BACP.

I e-mailed Ms Pilkington, who replied confirming that she’s still an advocate of conversion therapy.

I believe that if anyone is distressed by their unwanted same sex attraction they should have the right to help and therapy. That is the issue essentially for which I have been expelled by BACP, after a complaint was made by a gay journalist posing as a ‘client’ who told me he was distressed by his same sex attraction. It was all a lie as his stated and written intention was to close down people like me and in that he has been very successful. For the moment the agenda is very much with him and people like me form a minority (and persecuted) view. But should we not have this view in a diverse and pluralistic society. It seems not.Human rights exist for some but not for others like real clients who now are to afraid to come for therapy.

The journalist she refers to is the Independent’s Patrick Strudwick. It’s true that Strudwick used subterfuge by going to her posing as a client, though I suspect Mr Strudwick would probably respond that undercover journalism is considered ethical when investigating matters of public interest. He has reported that Pilkington suggested to him that he was sexually abused and could have been exposed to freemasonry as a child (neither of which happened to him.)

Unfortunately for Pilkington, in recent weeks the ACC has also put out a statement banning gay conversion therapies.

Members who are considering using this model of therapy should neither commence nor continue to use it and any advertising or promotional material should be replaced immediately, or at least removed from current use. This includes the ACC “Find a counsellor” facility on our website.

Such instructions are likely to affect Ms Pilkington, as can be seen from this screenshot that I took at the weekend.

Screenshot from 2014-01-11 10:54:01

 

Ms Pilkington doesn’t seem inclined to take it lying down. She told me, “I will be releasing my own statement soon; its all happening right now. Indeed there is a ‘fight’ going on and I will explain why and the implications.”

As well as Ms Pilkington, an evangelical group, the Core Issues Trust is also objecting to the ban. They ask the ACC to “take up with the Professional Standards Authority” their objections. I’m presuming from those words (though I’m currently awaiting confirmation from the PSA) that there’s probably been some discussions between the PSA and the ACC about conversion therapies.

I e-mailed the ACC to ask their view. They sent me the following reply.

You may like to know that over recent months ACC has been conducting a review and a statement sent to all its members last Friday and published on our website today.

The reference to a certain individual named by yourself is not on a register but a ‘find a counsellor facility’ and should at present, due to constant review at this time of year, be checked each day for accuracy. We trust this enables you to complete your article.

That struck me as a little cryptic, so I re-checked their ‘find a counsellor’ facility today. Her name no longer appears on there.

With these new developments, this means that no UK counselling or psychotherapy organisation of any significance endorses conversion therapies. The message is now clear. Praying away the gay is not a valid therapeutic intervention.

 

How much therapy abuse is out there?

I recently had a question posted in the comments thread to one of my blog posts, by ‘Reading Enquirer’.

Is there actual evidence that a community of statutorily regulated health professionals commit fewer abuses on average than the unregulated? Does this cure depend only on supposition and faith or is there an actual peer-reviewed evidence base? Is there evidence that statutorily regulated health professionals have greater efficacy in the relief of human suffering than the unregulated?

This is an important question, and one which raises a further question – how can we know how much abuse by psychotherapists is out there?

Abuse, by its very nature, is something that happens behind closed doors, without records being kept. No practitioner – regulated or unregulated, is likely to be auditing how much people they’ve abused. Not everyone who has been abused reports it. Still less of those who report it have their allegations proven in a fitness-to-practise hearing and/or a court of law.

If we’re talking about unregulated professionals, then that does beg the question of who they can report it to. Historically, even being a member of a professional body has not necessarily been a guarantee that a complaint will be heard properly. Until recently, complaints-handling at the UK Council for Psychotherapy was dominated by “crony-ism and amateurism” (not my words, but the words of the then UKCP chair). To give an idea what this “crony-ism and amateurism” looks like, one can read the decision letter for the UKCP’s application to be accredited by the Professional Standards Authority.

The Panel considered a summary of the main themes identified in the Call for Information, and the UKCP’s response to these submissions. It observed that many were related to UKCP’s previous complaints processes, involving the handling of complaints by itself and its OMs. It was felt that the former complaints system was characterised by lengthy times from initial complaint to completion, poor communication from the UKCP and OMs and a lack of support for complainants. There were suggestions of conflicts of interest and procedural failures that appeared not to consider public protection.

The UKCP has now instituted a series of reforms to address these issues, with the result that they’ve now achieved PSA accreditation, though the PSA is insisting on auditing their complaints-handling after 6 months. To be fair to the UKCP, they’re now publishing a growing number of complaints decisions, which appear to have been handled in a considerably improved way.

But…what psychotherapy has at the moment is only regulation-lite, not full statutory regulation. “Psychotherapist” and “counsellor” are not protected titles and you don’t have to belong to a professional body to call yourself one. Indeed, the UKCP recently struck off a psychotherapist called Julia Eastwood. She’s still advertising herself for coaching and counselling.

And then there’s all those people who use other titles similar to psychotherapists and counsellors. Even if those professions became protected titles, there’d still be all the Jungian analysts, life coaches, shamanic therapists…did I mention Ms Eastwood also advertises herself as a “conscious channel of the Archangel Gabriel”? Good luck finding someone to complain to if your conscious channel engages in misconduct.

Still, even if you can’t find anyone to complain to, you could always sue them, though that can be hugely expensive, and you’ll only get no-win no-fee if you have a strong case. So presumably we could find out how much misconduct is out there by looking at the number of lawsuits?

I spoke to somebody who sued their psychotherapist. According to them, their solicitor knew of about 30 ongoing cases, which sounds like a worryingly high number. However, we don’t get to hear about many of these cases, for the reason that most of them end in a civil settlement. These settlements tend to include a confidentiality clause, effectively stuffing the complainant’s mouth with gold.

If it’s a serious form of abuse, say, if someone was sexually exploited, there’s also the police route. But conviction rates for sexual assault are shockingly low. No guarantee there’ll even be a prosecution, never mind a conviction.

One could simply try to publicise one’s case. But that carries the risk of being clobbered by our notoriously draconian libel laws, which have a well-documented “chilling effect” on free speech in the UK. Even with the recent reforms to defamation law, the risk of being hit by a lawsuit would make a lot of people think twice.

So, to answer Enquiring Reader’s question as to whether there’s evidence that unregulated professionals commit more abuse than regulated ones – the simple answer is we don’t know. The reason for that is that without regulation we can’t know the extent of the problem, because there’s nobody to complain to.

On a more pragmatic level, I think it’s important that people have the confidence that if something goes wrong, they have access to a robust complaints procedure. For that reason, my advice to anyone seeking a therapist is to ensure that they use someone either in a state-regulated profession (e.g. clinical psychologists or arts therapists, which are regulated by the Health and Care Professions Council), or belong to a PSA-accredited body (e.g. the BACP, the UKCP or the National Counselling Society). If they don’t fulfil those basic criteria, don’t use them.

 

Professional Standards Authority formally announces UKCP Accreditation.

The PSA have sent me the following press release:

Independent quality mark for The UK Council for Psychotherapy

The UK Council for Psychotherapy’s (UKCP) voluntary register has been accredited by the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care an independent statutory body, accountable to Parliament.

Psychotherapists on UKCP’s register will be able to display the Accredited Voluntary Register quality mark, a sign that they belong to a register which meets the Professional Standards Authority’s robust standards.

David Pink, UKCP Chief Executive, said:

“The quality mark will give extra peace of mind for anyone looking for a psychotherapist, letting them know that anyone who holds the mark is committed to high standards. UKCP is pleased to offer the quality mark to psychotherapists that meet the far reaching standards of our register, as approved by the Professional Standards Authority.”

Harry Cayton, Chief Executive of the Professional Standards Authority, said:

“We are very pleased to accredit UKCP’s register of psychotherapists. Bringing psychotherapists into a broad framework of assurance is good for patients, service users and the public and is the best way to promote quality. The scheme offers enhanced protection to anyone looking for health and social care services, and gives psychotherapists the opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to good practice.”

Accreditation does not imply that the Authority has assessed the merits of individuals on the register. This remains the responsibility of UKCP. It does not mean that the Authority has endorsed a particular therapy, people will need to consider the information provided and decide if it is suitable for them. Accreditation means that UKCP’s register meets the Professional Standards Authority’s high standards in governance, standard-setting, education and training, management, complaints and information.

As the scheme develops, accredited registers will encompass a growing range of occupations and organisations, and the Professional Standards Authority may accredit more than one register in any particular occupation. Further information on the accredited voluntary register scheme is available atwww.professionalstandards.org.uk/voluntary-registers

UKCP finally achieves PSA accreditation

It seems to be a big week for news involving the UK Council for Psychotherapy. Having recently struck off a therapist for the first time since 2009, the UKCP have, after a long process, finally achieved accreditation by the Professional Standards Authority.

The decision letter is up online at the PSA website. The UKCP is now one of five organisations offering psychological therapies (the others are the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, Play Therapy UK, the National Counselling Society and the National Hypnotherapy Society) to have so far achieved “assured voluntary regististration” status with the PSA.

The decision letter makes for an interesting read. This may not be an entirely scientific measure but comparing it to the outcome letters for other AVR bodies, something that stands out is that the UKCP’s is the longest. It’s 19 pages long, compared to 11 pages for Play Therapy UK, 13 pages for the National Counselling Society and National Hypnotherapy Society and 10 pages compared to the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy. This is speculation on my part, but that leaves me wondering about the amount of reform that was needed compared to other bodies. Certainly the letter strikes me as pretty packed with recommendations.

One thing that the letter does confirm is that – finally – the new Complaints and Conduct Process covers 100% of the UKCP membership.

The section on the Call for Information – where the PSA had asked the public to write in with any feedback about the application – is particularly interesting. Various people (me included, but I was by no means the only one) leapt at the chance to send the PSA some of the horrific stories that have been discussed on this website and elsewhere. This seems to be alluded to by the PSA.

The Panel considered a summary of the main themes identified in the Call for Information, and the UKCP’s response to these submissions. It observed that many were related to UKCP’s previous complaints processes, involving the handling of complaints by itself and its OMs. It was felt that the former complaints system was characterised by lengthy times from initial complaint to completion, poor communication from the UKCP and OMs and a lack of support for complainants. There were suggestions of conflicts of interest and procedural failures that appeared not to consider public protection.

Regular readers of this blog will have a good idea of what’s being referred to here.

The Panel reviewed the summary and noted that the new Complaints and Conduct Process has been developed to address such concerns. As quality assurance for the new procedure the Panel instructed UKCP to allow the AVR team to review a sample of CCP outcomes in six months’ time to ensure that it is achieving its objectives, as discussed in Standard 11.

So, they’re getting the accreditation, but the CCP is going to be audited in 6 months.

Comparing the UKCP letter to the Call for Information in the letters for other organisations, what stands out is that in most of the other letters it’s a much briefer section. It reads like the only other organisation to have had a similar public response is the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (scathingly referred to as “OfQuack” by its critics). Concerns with the CNHC seem to have been mostly around how they deal with complaints alleging false advertising. As in, “Sticking this candle in your ear will help your diabetes.”

It looks like the PSA process has resulted in considerable reform at the UKCP. I hope that our efforts have provided some impetus to that process. It certainly looks like the PSA has taken notice when giving instructions to the UKCP.

Although it’s me who’s written these blog posts, I think I should state that I’ve only been able to do so because of a variety of people who have gathered information and passed it to me. Some of them have shown considerable courage in doing so. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank them, even though I can’t name them.

Sadly, these changes come too late for people who were not properly listened to or supported when they tried to speak out about a rogue’s gallery of unethical therapists – Derek Gale, John Smalley, Geoffrey Pick, Stuart Macfarlane – and that’s just the names in the public domain.

I don’t doubt there are likely to be other rogues out there among the UKCP membership. However, they should no longer be able to rely on “cronyism and amateurism” (to quote the former UKCP chair) to protect them from accountability. Those rogues may now have to shape up or ship out of the UKCP.

 

UKCP strikes off first psychotherapist in four years

In the past the UK Council for Psychotherapy has had a pretty dreadful record for complaints-handling. Up until recently the only person they’d ever struck off in recent years was the notorious cult leader Derek Gale, booted off the register in 2009 for sexually, emotionally, physically and financially abusing his clients.

Since then there’s been ongoing, but painfully slow work to improve their procedures, not least due to the need to obtain accreditation from the Professional Standards Authority. Hopefully it’s a sign of this improvement that the UKCP has now, for the first time since the Gale case, struck off a therapist.

The dubious honour goes to a Leeds-based therapist by the name of Julia Eastwood. The reason why she’s been struck off are pretty straightforward.

It has come to UKCP’s attention that the respondent has and continues to advertise and offer services as a psychotherapist. The FTPT were provided with links of websites (listed below) which demonstrated non-compliance of the suspension order of 26 June 2013.

www.juliaeastwood.co.uk
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wRzryzvfqw4
http://www.julia-eastwood.com/#!stayslimforever/c1jox
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S2SfLH0ZSDU
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NLzLhjT0T1w

UKCP invited the respondent to address the evidence in relation to her continuing practise. The respondent did not refute nor address the allegations. She stated that she is no longer a member of UKCP and that UKCP are not to write to her again.
The FTPT were particularly concerned that the respondent’s website shows unequivocally that she is offering psychotherapy services despite being advised by UKCP that she should not be practising or offering psychotherapy services whilst she has a suspension order in place.

So, she hasn’t complied with her suspension, is therefore struck off. I’ve been heavily critical of the UKCP in the past, but I think it’s only fair to state that this is an entirely correct decision.

Sadly, the fact that “psychotherapist” and “counsellor” aren’t protected titles means this happens fairly regularly. I’ve come across several examples of suspended or even struck off therapists who have just carried on practicing regardless. Ms Eastwood’s website certainly continues to advertise her services.

As it happens, there’s another psychotherapist, Rob Waygood, who is currently on an interim suspension order with the UKCP, pending a hearing for gross professional misconduct…

…and as it also happens, he’s continuing to advertise his services online too.

robwaygood

Screenshot taken at roughly 8.30pm on 14th November 2013.

BACP closes regulatory loophole

A few weeks ago I wrote about a loophole that could enable an unscrupulous psychotherapist to evade a misconduct hearing. Of the various professional bodies, it usually isn’t possible to bring a complaint against a practitioner who has resigned their registration prior to the complaint being made. Admittedly this is true for other professions such as nursing. But there’s a difference in that “nurse” is a protected title and in order to practice you have to be registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council. Any nurse who resigns in anticipation of a complaint is effectively striking themselves off.

This isn’t true of psychotherapy. “Psychotherapist” and “counsellor” are not protected titles, and although various professional bodies exist (the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, the UK Council for Psychotherapy, the British Psychoanalytic Council etc) there’s no legal obligation to belong to one of them. So, if a counsellor or psychotherapist gets wind that a complaint of misconduct is about to be made, they can just resign from their professional body and carry on practising. No complaint can then be made, therefore there’s no record of any safeguarding concerns that could put vulnerable adults or children at risk.

Just so people know why I mentioned this particular loophole, it’s because the above scenario isn’t a hypothetical one. It’s happened. On more than one occasion by the sound of it.

I previously had an e-mail from the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, which is the UK’s largest psychotherapy body. They said they were “currently engaged in the process of changing this procedure.” It now appears they’ve done exactly that.

The BACP have published the following amendment to their Professional Conduct Procedure.

1. Page 1, paragraph 1.3 ‘Complaints against non-members’ is now replaced with:

1.3 Complaints against non-members / former members

a) The Association cannot deal with complaints against individuals or organisations that were not member/registrants of the Association at the time of the alleged misconduct.

b) The Association can deal with complaints made against a former member/registrant if that former member/registrant was a member at the time to which the complaint relates, subject to the provisions of paragraph 1.5.

c) Members/registrants of the Association referred to herein will be deemed to include former members/registrants.

d) Paragraph 1.3 b) only applies to members/registrants whose membership was current at the time of the adoption of this revised paragraph 1.3 by the Association by resolution of its Board of Governors pursuant to 5.1 of the Standing Orders of the Association on the 20th day of September 2013.n [emphasis added]

That should prevent any unethical practitioners from thinking they can avoid a BACP hearing through a just-in-the-nick-of-time resignation. This is welcome news, and I hope the other professional bodies will follow suit.

There’s been a couple of other developments recently with regard to professional regulation in psychotherapy. Under the previous Labour government there were plans to make counselling and and psychotherapy state-regulated professions under the auspices of the Health Professions Council (now the Health and Care Professions Council) which already regulates clinical psychologists and arts therapists. This was shelved by the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition in favour of regulation-lite or “assured voluntary registration” where the existing professional bodies could apply to be accredited by the Professional Standards Authority. So far only the BACP has achieved this accreditation.

In July Geraint Davies MP tabled an early day motion, calling for the previous plan to be reinstated.

That this House notes that anyone can set themselves up as a counsellor or psychotherapist without training or experience with no recourse for the patient if something goes wrong; further notes that there are more than 50,000 registered counsellors or psychotherapists and an unknown number unregistered; further notes that millions of people, often with mental health problems who are therefore vulnerable and at risk, are being given therapy in an unregulated industry with no uniform code of conduct or ethics; and calls on the Government to regulate counsellors and psychotherapists by bringing them into the jurisdiction of the Health and Care Professions Council.

So far 53 MPs have signed it: mostly Labour, though with a fair sprinkling of MPs from the other parties.

Back when HPC regulation was first mooted, there was a small but very noisy campaign by certain psychotherapists who predicted that the sky would fall in if psychotherapists had to be accountable for their actions in the same way as doctors, nurses, social workers or just about any other profession that routinely works with vulnerable people.  I’ve previously (and only semi-jokingly) referred to those campaigners as “the worst bunch of malevolent hippies since the Dharma Initiative in Lost.”

Their argument was essentialy that state regulation would bring in “market values” to psychotherapy. If that argument sounds oxymoronic, then…well, that’s because it is. They used a lot of left-wing language to argue against regulation, but essentially what they were saying was that psychotherapists should be left to regulate themselves, much in the same way financial services and the tabloid media were. And we all know how well that ended.

If you’re wondering about the commitment of these anti-regulation campaigners to protecting the public from abuse, take a look at this beyond-parody article by Denis Postle, reporting on the hearings for Derek Gale, struck off by the HPC as an arts therapist for running a nasty therapy cult.

The imaginal universe of the human condition is ubiquitous. Since the Vedic traditions, Buddha, and Freud, we know we can’t turn it off. It runs. It leaps. We may hide from it but we can’t escape. We resonate with the world, the world reverberates through us. As practitioners we know that grasping the ‘real’ is matter of navigating multiple transferences and embodied foregone conclusions, this article included. The HPC as it seems to me stands in defiance, studied intentional defiance of this. The HPC has spectacles through which it sees only categories. Health. Standards. Competence. Treatment. Note-keeping. Effectiveness. This is a ‘hearing’ and in this room, as we were repeatedly reminded, what matters are ‘particularized facts’.

Also in defiance but of another order, from another paradigm, is Mr Gale, who for almost thirty years has had a private practice of individual psychotherapy and groupwork.

His defiance, as was apparent from the first three days proceedings, has its roots in Humanistic Psychology and the Human Potential movement, personal development traditions that stand outside the HPC’s medicalised models of healthcare.

I guess it was the HPC’s “medicalised models” that decided that Gale was sexually, physically, emotionally and financially abusing his clients. I’d attempt to deconstruct Postle’s article, but at this point we’re not talking about oxymoronic arguments. Just plain moronic.

Postle is a leading figure in the Alliance for Counselling and Psychotherapy, which helped coordinate the anti-regulation campaign. What are they doing now? Among other things, they’re crying foul about another development, in which the BACP has apparently applied for a royal charter. If they’re successful, this could mean that the BACP might bestow such titles as “chartered counsellor” or “chartered psychotherapist”.

The Alliance has written an open letter objecting to this.

We do not believe that BACP’s desire to bestow chartered status on its members will do anything for the field as a whole, nor do we think it in the interests of service users or of the public generally. On the contrary, we consider BACP’s move to be a potentially divisive and retrograde step which could be construed as a predatory attempt to steal a march on other organisations at a time when the government’s new voluntary register system, under the PSA, is just beginning to find its feet.

In due course, we will be writing to the Privy Council, the Department of Health, MPs and Peers, asking them to join with us in resisting this move by BACP. But we feel that the major membership organisations of counselling and psychotherapy should
join with us and we invite you to allow us to mention your names in whatever further communications we send out.

Or, to put it another way….

 

The BACP are of course entitled to apply for a royal charter. If other bodies feel that’s giving the BACP an unfair competitive advantage, then they could apply for one too, and take their place among such august organisations as Marylebone Cricket Club and the Worshipful Company of Lightmongers. Unless of course, such bodies simply aren’t good enough to meet the criteria for a royal charter.

If the BACP are successful, then that would be very good news for them indeed. It would mean that they’re the only psychotherapy body that could give a practitioner both chartered status and PSA accreditation. In other words they’d be the gold standard that any respectable counsellor or psychotherapist would be expected to be registered with.

These anti-regulation campaigners wanted to be free from the shackles of a single state regulator, so they could be left to set their own standards. Well, they got that. Now, for all their anti-market rhetoric they could well be about to discover exactly what happens in the marketplace when your product is visibly inferior to that of your competitor.

I can’t say I feel sorry for them.

The Stuart Macfarlane case – the UKCP responds

Today I published the story that Stuart Macfarlane, a psychotherapist registered with the Guild of Analytical Psychologists and UK Council for Psychotherapy, had been suspended for two years due to serious sexual misconduct with a mentally ill patient. The normal sanction for this kind of misconduct is a striking-off, not a suspension.

Earlier in the week I’d e-mailed the UKCP. This is what I asked them.

Thanks for your e-mail. I was just about to contact you as it happens. The story is regarding Stuart Macfarlane, who is currently suspended for two years by the Guild of Analytical Psychologists (formerly the Guild for Analytical Psychology and Spirituality).

Can you confirm that this was for serious sexual misconduct with a patient (a vulnerable adult with mental health issues)? 

Does the UKCP have an opinion on GAP’s decision to suspend rather than strike off Mr Macfarlane?

Is there a reason why Mr Macfarlane’s case is not on the UKCP complaints archive?

Will Mr Macfarlane be allowed to re-register with the GAP/UKCP at the end of his suspension?

I’ll be aiming to publish on this story on Friday, so I’d appreciate any response from the UKCP before then.

The UKCP’s response arrived Friday lunchtime, so wasn’t included in my original post. That said, it’s quite a long response, so it’s probably worth giving it a post of its own.

The complaint against Stuart MacFarlane was handled by a UKCP member organisation. I am sure you will address your questions about the detail of the case to that organisation. We are unable to comment on their complaints process or details of the case because we are an appeals body.

We do not publish decisions made by other organisations because this falls outside our policy on the publication of decisions. This policy is available on our website:http://www.psychotherapy.org.uk/ukcp_standards_and_policy_statements.html

We are unable to make speculative comments on whether a named individual would be allowed to re-register. We have a proper process for cases to be considered. What we can say is that for any member wishing to re-register at the end of a sanction, UKCP’s Registrar would consider the possibility in light of whether the sanctions were complied with, along with other factors.

The UKCP member organisation that has made decisions about Mr Stuart MacFarlane, has issued public statements about the case which you can find here:

http://www.analyticalpsychology.org/simpleblog/upload/file/Decision%20regarding%20Stuart%20MacFarlane%282%29.pdf

We are utterly in favour of strong regulation. We have regulatory systems to protect the public and the privacy of those involved. Those systems include controls on qualifications, entry to our register and fair systems for dealing with those cases where there is reason to question whether someone should be allowed to continue on the register. And within these strict processes we have lay and professional involvement, and access to appeals where someone feels a case has not been handled properly. For that reason we can’t engage in speculation about cases or trial over the internet.

So, if a UKCP-registered therapist is disciplined by a UKCP member organisation, this doesn’t get published by the UKCP? That’s surprising, to say the least. I looked up their publications policy for fitness to practise decisions, and there it indeed is.

Decisions of Member Organisations
22. UKCP will not publish the determination of an organisational member, where complaints had originated from the organisational member complaints process.

The policy is dated 29th November 2012. I presume this must be a change in policy, because they’d previously published the determination for Geoffrey Pick, suspended by the Arbours Association in May 2011, also for serious sexual misconduct (he was subsequently allowed to re-register both with Arbours and UKCP, and then resigned when the media started to take an interest).

Admittedly this is an issue that eventually should become moot for future cases as all the member organisations sign up with the UKCP’s new centralised Complaints and Conduct Process. However, that doesn’t protect the public in this particular case.

I think I’ll address their final comment about “trial over the internet”. I’m not a fan of trial by internet either. I’m a fan of trial by…well, trials. Or at least trial by fitness to practice hearing. And Mr Macfarlane has indeed had a hearing where there was a finding of fact. I’ve e-mailed the GAP, the UKCP and Macfarlane, and so far none of them have disputed the facts that I’ve queried. Admittedly that’s partly because they didn’t tell me much anyway. Even so, none of them have e-mailed me back saying, “No, no, it definitely wasn’t serious sexual misconduct!”

What concerns me here isn’t so much the fact finding as the way it was published (or wasn’t), and the kind of sanction imposed. At the risk of repeating myself from previous posts, here is the indicative sanctions guidance that the Nursing and Midwifery Council uses.

 In all cases of serious sexual misconduct, it will be highly likely that the only proportionate sanction will be a striking-off order. If panels decide to impose a sanction other than a striking-off order, then they will need to be particularly careful in explaining clearly and fully the reasons why they made such a determination, so that it can be understood by those who have not heard all of the evidence in the case.

Given that this is not only a case of serious sexual misconduct, but one in which significant harm was inflicted on a vulnerable adult, it seems inconceivable that this wouldn’t have resulted in a striking-off anywhere else. And even if it was conceivable, there’s that line about how panels should be “particularly careful in explaining clearly and fully the reasons why they made such a determination.” The GAP’s statement is clearly not particularly careful to explain this. If anything, it’s particularly vague. If I hadn’t gone digging, it wouldn’t be clear at all that it was a case of this severity.

For that reason, what I’m engaging in here is not trial by internet, but the use of Google as safeguarding by other means.