3 June 2014

Proven Unethical Therapists Can Carry On Regardless


[UPDATE 19th August 2014: The issues covered in this post regarding the lack of regulation and the shocking Palace Gate scandal have now been published by The Mail on Sunday as a matter of public interest. Please click here to read more about this important piece with a link to the Mail on Sunday article.] 


I wrote extensively about my stance on regulation around a year ago. I was so fed up of hearing therapists argue the toss about whether it was a good or bad thing.


STOP!

What about clients? What about the public? What do the people that come and spend time and/or money on our professional services want? Well, I do care deeply about what my clients want so I went out and asked the public and hey presto! Guess what? The majority WANT counsellors and psychotherapists regulated and MOST OF THOSE ASSUMED WE WERE ALREADY REGULATED.


Why is this a problem? Well, like a lot of things that lead to big changes in priority, the real push for me was experiential learning; witnessing serious misconduct in a fellow professional. This was so bad that I resigned from the agency I was working in, that he owns and runs as a private business.


Cutting a long, almost two year horror story short, Palace Gate Counselling Service, the agency I worked at for two years, was taken to two separate complaints hearing by the BACP (British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy) and each individual complaint warranted removal of the agency's membership. Yes, this agency acted so disgracefully in the eyes of the regulating body that their membership was removed twice.



The Panel at the BACP Professional Conduct Procedure found that the Phoenix Director at (…) took "emotional advantage .. of a sexual nature", used the "power imbalance" and "abused the trust put in him".

The Panel found that the Co-Director at (…) sent "threatening emails", "exacerbated that harm”, was "aggressive and accusatory" and breached client confidentiality on a public blog. 


The BACP Professional Conduct Panel found that the company were in breach of thirty aspects of the BACP Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy. This meant the panel believed that they had been unwise, unfair, untrustworthy, unjust, incompetent and harmfully malicious. 

The BACP are generally quite forgiving and lenient to therapists who have acted in contravention to The Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy. Their monthly publication Therapy Today sees a summary of the latest sanctions which usually amount to writing a self-reflective essay and submitting to the BACP, and ramping up supervision. It takes a lot for the BACP to withdraw membership and if the complaint amounts to the therapist's word against the client's then it is my understanding that it is particularly difficult for the BACP to uphold, unless they have a LOT of evidence. 

So the practitioner at the centre of these complaints, who is not and I assume never will be a member of a regulatory organisation, was able to "hide" behind the organisation. 



Now he and his co-director, who is also not a member of a regulatory organisation, are able to carry on their proven unethical practice unimpeded. He owns and runs a counselling agency in Exeter and a counselling agency in Taunton (Taunton Counselling Service).

Because it is not illegal to get struck off for misconduct and to carry on.

A blogger who write extensively about the uses and abuses of therapy, and in particular the problem with the lack of regulation is Phil Dore aka Zarathustra. He followed the story after the agency posted a rather bizarre blog regarding the complaints against them. He wrote an interesting piece about the BACP findings here.

Jemima, who writes on Sometimes it's Just a Cigar,  picked up the story here. A commenter on that particular post writes a lot of sense:


"That we have a system where people who are quite possibly vulnerable and traumatised can be ‘treated’ by totally unregulated counsellors is not just wrong it’s dangerous. Every industry needs rigorous, enforceable guidelines and penalties for those who infringe them. There’s nothing to stop me putting a sign up at my door and offering ‘counselling’, just like that awful woman who tried to ‘cure’ someone of their homosexuality. Change is long overdue and any decent therapist or counsellor would welcome it."


What frightens me is that trainee counsellors who work for these organisations are being taught how to practice by owners, directors and supervisors who not only refuse to be held accountable, but have been twice struck off their professional body.



Is it just me or do you find that scary?



UPDATE 12th June 2014

A number of concerned professionals have prepared a statement for referring agencies and counselling training institutions regarding their concerns in light of the BACP findings against Phoenix Counselling Service (the business name for Palace Gate Counselling Service). More about this can be read here:

http://notsobigsociety.wordpress.com/2014/06/10/concerned-counsellors-raise-alarm-over-palace-gate/

NB If you would like to ensure that your therapist is on the BACP register follow the link below to search by name. Or use the search tool to search for local registered therapists.












10 comments:

Hazel said...

I agree it is scary that a therapist struck off by BACP can still practice. Future clients will have no protection and are at risk at receiving the same abuse. Regulation is needed and I am a firm supporter of it.

Laura Griffin said...

It is scary but what also scares me is the fact that mental health services are non existent and so people are forced to go searching for something or someone who might help. Right now I know that the desperation and lack of understanding about how to find a counsellor could lead a vulnerable person down a dangerous road.

Amanda Williamson said...

Thanks Laura, good point. I have heard clients say that the last thing they're thinking off when they're often desperately searching for a counsellor is whether they are regulated or not. The onus simply should not be on the client.

Amanda Williamson said...

Exactly, and as Graham Baldwin of Catalyst Counselling told me that abusive therapists are usually repeat offenders.

Lesley Gent said...

I totally agree that the industry should be regulated and if an individual within the industry is "struck off" they should be unable to continue practising. I am just about to undertake training to become a counsellor myself and find it incredible that this is not actually the case. I would like to be regulated myself as it would give myself confidence and hopefully potential future clients as there would be a regulatory body there for them to approach should they need to.......

Lesley Gent said...

I totally agree that the industry should be regulated and if an individual within the industry is "struck off" they should be unable to continue practising. I am just about to undertake training to become a counsellor myself and find it incredible that this is not actually the case. I would like to be regulated myself as it would give myself confidence and hopefully potential future clients as there would be a regulatory body there for them to approach should they need to.......

Clareyg said...

Yes very scary. Is it the only profession where struck off doesn't actually mean anything?

Kate Wilson said...

This just seems crazy to me given that counsellors work with vulnerable people. Think of all the checks and systems in place for those who work with children for instance - why is the same not true for counsellors? If I ever require counselling I will be making sure I check that they're part of a membership body.

Justine Picken said...

I am a qualified Counsellor MBACP registered. I think that the whole system needs an overhaul. I am sick to death of coming across trainee counsellors who will go on to practice who clearly should never be allowed to pass their course. That said, as we know, anyone can call themselves a counsellor. Why this area of therapy is not treated with the same level of governance as other medical professions is beyond me. Dangerous territory to be playing around in.

Anonymous said...

As a MBACP counsellor, when this all came to light I was saddened and horrified.
Sometimes I am in a position to refer people on, now I always say "don't go anywhere near Palace Gate"
....no qualms whatsoever. This is people's lives!

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