Today the David Cronenberg film, A Dangerous Method, was released. It depicts the pioneering psychoanalyst Carl Jung (played by Michael Fassbender) engaging in what would now be considered serious professional misconduct.
In a chilling parallel, The Not So Big Society has obtained court documents showing a Jungian psychotherapist has been under investigation for alleged misconduct for over three years, apparently with no conclusion reached. Throughout this period he has been able to continue advertising his services with no warning that his fitness to practice may be impaired.
The case is likely to raise serious questions about the way psychotherapy is regulated in the UK.
Unlike doctors, nurses, social workers and teachers, there is no statutory regulator for psychotherapists in the UK. However, there are a number of self-regulating professional bodies. The United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy acts as an umbrella body for nearly 80 psychotherapy organisations. A complaint against a psychotherapist must first be heard by their member organisation. If unsuccessful, the complainant can then appeal to the UKCP.
John Smalley is a Jungian analyst with the Independent Group of Analytical Psychologists (IGAP), a UKCP member organisation. He trained at the CG Jung Institute in Switzerland and practises in Manchester and West Yorkshire. On 1st December 2011, Leeds Administrative Court refused permission for a judicial review of his UKCP fitness to practice investigation. I was able to obtain the court documents, which show very worrying concerns about the ability of the UKCP to regulate its members.
Links to the documents are at the end of this post. The following points emerged from scrutinising these documents and looking up the IGAP and UKCP websites.
– Mr Smalley applied for a judicial review on the basis of significant delays in the investigation of his conduct. IGAP first received a complaint in August 2008. After the complaint was rejected by IGAP, on 1st February 2009 an appeal was submitted to the UKCP. To quote Smalley’s barrister in the Grounds for the Claim, the UKCP, “took 5 months to decide if it could accept [the complainant’s] appeal and almost 10 months more to bring that appeal on for hearing. 21 months will have elapsed since the decision that the complaint should proceed to the proposed substantive hearing date in December 2011.”
– Throughout this period, Smalley’s practice continues to be advertised on the IGAP website, with no warning that his fitness to practice may be impaired.
– Appended to the Grounds for the Defence is a detailed chronology of the case. In the chronology, it is stated that the UKCP panel found IGAP’s decision that there was no case to answer to be “perverse”.
– The chronology states that the complainant initially made 11 points of complaint, which were later followed by another 7, leading to a whopping 18 concerns.
– Unfortunately these 18 concerns are not listed in the documents. However, in the Grounds for Renewal Smalley’s barrister mentions that one of them is that Smalley “is accused of pursuing a therapeutic approach that is not indicated for the treatment of” the complainant’s condition.
– In the chronology, the UKCP panel is quoted as saying, “That it did not occur to Mr Smalley that some of his behaviours at the time might have been a cause for concern, troubles the Panel.” The ability to reflect upon one’s actions is considered a key element of fitness to practice – not only in psychotherapy but in many other disciplines such as medicine, nursing and social work.
– The Grounds for Renewal contains some bizarre comments by Smalley’s barrister. “If this were a clinical case, one would examine the medical records, the medical correspondence and obtain expert reports. Psychotherapy is an oral therapy. There is no record of the therapy.” No record? Where are Smalley’s notes of the therapy? What about his supervisor’s notes?
– According to the court documents, a UKCP hearing was due to take place in December 2011. The UKCP complaints archive lists only two hearings in the past two-and-a-half years. One of them is for Derek Gale, a notorious abuser who was struck off by the Health Professions Council as an arts therapist and by the UKCP as a psychotherapist. The other is for an Arbours Association therapist called Geoffrey Pick. No mention at all of John Smalley.
– A search of the UKCP register finds no listing for John Smalley. There is no information as to whether he has been suspended, struck off or simply left the register.
So, what we have here is a psychotherapist whose fitness to practice may or may not be impaired, but where over three years have elapsed in trying to investigate the issue. All the while he’s carried on advertising his services. If he’s innocent of what’s been alleged, then he’s been strung out for an inordinate and unfair amount of time. If he’s not innocent, then the UKCP may have failed to protect the public.
Now that’s a dangerous method.