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.