The latest bulletin of the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy describes improvements they’re working to make on their new Central Complaints Process (CCP) to take over from the (frequently atrocious) complaints procedures implemented by the UKCP’s various member organisations.
The CCP is in dire need of improvement. In recent months I’ve documented the John Smalley case, in which their shiny new complaints procedure took three years to find seven allegations proven against a Jungian analyst. The sanction imposed on the therapist? Absolutely nothing. He was just sent on his way. This was made all the more shocking by the revelation that he admitted destroying his notes, an action that would normally be considered a fitness for practice issue in itself.
The bulletin states:
Of course there are cases where serious professional misconduct is alleged. Those are the cases where UKCP should accept that a much more formal process is needed, including a formal hearing before an independent panel. Serious misconduct needs to be dealt with fairly, but more swiftly than has been the case in the past. And if there are psychotherapists who are unsafe to practice and a danger to the public, we need to remove them from the UKCP register. There are very few complaints cases that are about outright abuse, but our systems need to be ready to respond appropriately.
“More swiftly than has been the case in the past”? A reference to the Smalley case perhaps? Oh well, at least they’re recognising that this is an issue that needs to be addressed. They also need to look at the decision-making in relation to sanctions given, as well as what action to take if a fitness to practice issue such as destroying of notes emerges as part of the hearings.
There’s also an emphasis on use of negotation for less serious allegations.
We want to make sure that our complaints system is not cold and alienating for clients with a concern, or terrifying for the therapist. We will devote resources to resolving more complaints in a non-adversarial fashion – in many cases UKCP should be encouraging the two parties to address their issues without needing to declare victor of one over the other through legalistic jousting.
I’m a little dubious about this one, to be honest. Fair enough if it simply seems to be a matter of falling-out in the therapeutic relationship, but when does one draw the line that it’s actually a fitness for practice issue, and who draws it? It would be concerning if complainants were expected to engage in negotiation before they could raise a concern about misconduct. What if the complainant tells the inquiry to stick their negotiation, as a lot of aggrieved parties may well do? I would have thought if it’s got as far as a formal complaints procedure then the therapeutic relationship is likely to be pretty thorough wrecked, with neither side keen to go back into therapy with each other. What exactly are these negotiations trying to save?
Also, should a fitness to practice inquiry really be about “declaring victor” through “legalistic jousting” anyway? The point isn’t to win like a lawsuit. It’s supposed to be a thorough investigation into whether a practitioner is, well, fit to practice. Exactly what it says on the tin. Statements like this leave me wondering whether the UKCP has truly understood and embraced the principles of fitness to practice.