Stuart Macfarlane, the Daily Mail and therapy abuse

Back in September, I broke the news of Stuart Macfarlane, a Jungian psychotherapist who committed serious sexual misconduct with a vulnerable client, causing huge psychological trauma to her. Outrageously, he was not struck off by the Guild of Analytical Psychologists, but merely given a two year suspension. He could be practising again in September.

Today, the Daily Mail has broken the news that he had a second victim, Flora McEvedy has clearly shown a great deal of courage in stepping forward to tell her account. Sadly, the Mail’s presentation of the story is dreadful.

A word of advice to the Mail. When reporting the exploitation of a vulnerable adult by a professional, here’s a few pitfalls you really should try to avoid.

– Don’t make the victim’s name more prominent than that of the perpetrator. e.g. by putting the victims name in the headline rather than the perp’s, or by having four photos of her and one of him.

– Don’t dress it up like it’s a saucy kiss’n’tell. “Seduced”? “Affair”? This is an abuse case, for crying out loud.

– Don’t use titillating language. “I felt I might collapse with terror and excitement”? “Sexually charged”?

– Also don’t use tropes straight out of a Mills and Boon. “He was not unattractive, a little like an older version of Colin Firth”?

Despite the godawful tone of the article, there’s some insights into what happened. Sadly, Ms McEvedy was suffering from a bereavement after the suicide of her father. Her view is that this created a longing for a replacement paternal figure which Macfarlane was able to exploit.

She also describes some of his behaviour during the therapy – giving her a copy of The Talking Cure by Christopher Hampton, depicting a sexual relationship between Carl Jung and his patient Sabina Speilrein. On another occasion, he suddenly gave her a hug during therapy. Such behaviour looks suspiciously like grooming.

We also learn that Macfarlane’s then partner was also a former patient. Add this to the already-existing finding against Macfarlane that got him suspended in 2012, and this looks like a pattern of behaviour.

In 2010 I resolved to report him to his professional body, the Guild of Analytical Psychologists (GAP), but discovered that he was its chair at the time. So I did nothing until 2012, when he was no longer chair. But when I made my complaint, they said I had left it too late.

They declined to even consider my complaint because it was six years old, and the complaints process they had invented for themselves stated they were only obliged to investigate complaints brought within four years.

They referred me to the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP), who said it was GAP’s responsibility. I felt GAP was more interested in protecting him than hearing my case.

So, both the GAP and the UKCP know about this case. The GAP knew about it when they told me this in September 2013.

The decision reached was in accordance with the complaints process set out under the G.A.P. Complaints Procedure Code, which emphasises the confidentiality of the proceedings. We are unable to comment on an individual’s possibility of being allowed to re-register until the suspension period has ended, and such matters as compliance with the sanctions have been considered.

Also, the UKCP knew about it when they told me this:

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.

To be fair to the UKCP, I notice a slight difference between their wording and the GAP’s. The GAP say,

We are unable to comment on an individual’s possibility of being allowed to re-register until the suspension period has ended, and such matters as compliance with the sanctions have been considered.

Whereas the UKCP say,

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.

I may be reading too much into that, but I can’t help but wonder whether the “other factors” mentioned refers to Ms McEvedy’s complaint.

Time will tell, come September when Mr Macfarlane’s suspension ends.

In the meantime, I would like to commend Ms McEvedy for reporting what happened to her. This was an extremely brave thing to do, and she deserves respect for it.

 

 

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15 thoughts on “Stuart Macfarlane, the Daily Mail and therapy abuse

  1. Stuart Mcfarlane was my therapist in London for over 3 years. He helped me a great deal. I recommended him to my friends and he helped them tremendously. He was professional, patient, and I credit our therapy to changing my life and the destructive patterns I had in place. I still of him fondly and I can absolutely vouch that nothing ever improper took place.
    I do not know everything about this case, but think the ‘witch-hunt-burning’ thing might going too far. I read the articles and seriously I between the change of outfits and the “Harlequin collection” text all I see is the pathetic need to be photographed like a model and placed into the victims light.
    Something is wrong allright, but I am not sure where the blame should be placed.

    • I absolutely stand by this report. Flora is not the the only woman to report Macfarlane taking sexual advantage of her when she was vulnerable. Indeed, another case went through a full disciplinary hearing with the Guild of Analytical Psychologists, and the allegations were found proved.

      https://notsobigsociety.wordpress.com/2013/09/26/a-second-therapist-commits-serious-sexual-misconduct-is-not-struck-off/

      As for the tone of the article, Flora reported it as having been groomed while she was grieving of the suicide of her Dad, the reporter wrote the story that way, and then the Mail editor rewrote it into a saucy kiss’n’tell.

      I’m pleased to hear that you didn’t come to any grief from Macfarlane, but that doesn’t alter the fact that there’s considerable evidence that he’s a very dangerous man.

      Incidentally, I note that that Macfarlane’s suspension has come to an end. However, on checking both the GAP and UKCP registers, his name hasn’t reappeared on either. Good.

  2. Hi Zarathustra
    I think we’ve been in contact before ?I just saw what the above comment had written and i commend her for her bravery. Whilst in no way do i mean to take away from the wrongness of the case above reported by the Daily Mail , I would like to add this; following three years of therapy from this therapist I recommended him to many people because of the extraordinary benefit I had received.Since these cases I have made efforts to contact the women I recommended and every one of them told a story such as that from Ms Bonheur above. Not one, reports any impropriety. This in no way is meant to demean or obstruct the other misconducts or to imply anything other than they were very wrong abuses of trust -but is ‘a very dangerous man’ appropriate ? Maybe he is and i cant see it or maybe there is co conflict of belief between us. I do believe in rehabilitation….do you ? Do you favour the death penalty ? I dont mean to be flippant but this is the only therapist who ever helped me …I was profoundly let down by his actions …but I do believe in rehabilitation…am i naive ?

    • The simple answer is that yes, I believe in rehabilitation, but only to a degree. In just about any profession that works with vulnerable people – nursing, medicine, teaching etc – then professionals who commit serious sexual misconduct are struck off, not suspended. That’s not for reasons of punishment, but for safeguarding reasons.

      You have to ask, if he did it to Flora and to the woman who triggered the complaint to GAP, who else did he do it to? And the fact that there were others who didn’t get abused doesn’t change that, because there are people who were.

      I don’t believe in the death penalty either, but I do believe in preventing people who have committed abuse from working with vulnerable people.

    • Just because the burglar didn’t raid every house in the street doesn’t in any way minimise the impact on the inhabitants of the house that he did intrude upon and steal from.

      The Professional Standards Authority has some useful documentation regarding the impact of sexual transgression by health professionals. Please read it.

      http://www.professionalstandards.org.uk/library/document-detail?id=35f0ef3a-e42d-49e0-8be0-07f340d5f51b

      Also, Sex in the Forbidden Zone by Peter Rutter which Zarathustra has reviewed recently on this blog.

      I believe that sexually exploitative therapists are dangerous, regardless of how many women they successfully treat without violating their trust, particularly if they show no sign of regret, reflection or remorse.

    • Rowan, I hear you and trust your experience. My therapist/supervisor (the one who transgressed) was a very skilled therapist and many have described him as transforming their lives. It was a real wake up call when I found out there were others and the police, having spoken to several women, described him as a sexual predator. It is tricky at times but I can see that he has most Iikely had therapeutic relationships that have been powerful and positive without transgressions. It doesn’t make it any easier though and hearing people say that he couldn’t have done it because he didn’t do it to them has at times felt like a huge disappointment in the humanity and the ways humans think about and respond to abuse. In fact, it is attitudes like that which are exactly how abuse flourishes.

      I have had clients say similar, wonderful things about our work together, which is sometimes cited as some kind of brilliance on my part. I have saved lives apparently, although my interpretation is different. I believe that the transformation comes from within and a skilled therapist simply facilitates that. I do not believe it is because I am an amazing therapist, I believe that it is because I provide a healthy relationship and hold appropriate boundaries. My unconditional positive regard may be the first experience of such for some. Many therapists are able to provide this and most (hopefully most) would also be able to maintain the boundaries so that therapy remains as therapy and does not become a place for the therapist to respond to their sexual urges (or other ego-driven impulses such as wanting to be omnipotent).

      It is my understanding that the purpose of this blog is public protection given the lack of regulation so that people can be aware of therapists that have been found to be sexually exploitative. Given some of the experiences I hear in the therapy room I believe it would be unethical to send a client or friend to somebody who had been proven to transgress sexual boundaries. This does not negate the positive experiences that other clients may have had and which in your case, you clearly experienced. But I commend Zarathusta for having a deep understanding of just how devastating and dangerous sexual transgressions within therapy are, regardless of how wonderful that therapist is regarded by others.

      It’s not a witch hunt, it’s about protecting the vulnerable in an unregulated profession where there is so much ignorance about the damage of which we speak.

  3. I appreciate both your replies.
    I am totally against sexual transgression by health officials and I sincerely hope Amanda that there is nothing in what i am writing that could be interpreted as seeking to minimise the impact of such behaviour. I was trying to understand the difference in view between the person at the top of these comments Gabrielle and myself, and your pov and that of Zarathustra…maybe its that we have spent hours and hours in the same room as this man who is being so thoroughly damned. You see a judgement made up of words before you – and we see a man who has through his expertise and hard work profoundly helped us (I dont know Gabrielle so maybe she doesnt see him in this way) In my own case, when I was out of work for a long time he brought his fees down to almost nothing. He has been punished, his professional life destroyed, he has – I understand , accepted what he has done and expressed remorse -yes this isnt going to help those two people who in his (30 ?year)career had consensual sexual relations with him …but does this make him beyond salvatioin, this ‘dangerous man’ you describe ?

    • I don’t think that anybody has expressed that MacFarlane is against salvation. He has demonstrated a pattern of transgression (one transgression would be enough for most other health professionals to stop practising). Whilst I appreciate that your experience of therapy was profound and life changing it is exactly by being very gifted at therapy that those who exploit some of their clients manage to get themselves into a position where they can sexually exploit them. The power dynamic between therapist and client is ripe for such transgression. You are beholden enough to write here defending this man and commending the commentor above for her bravery (I’m afraid I don’t see the harsh judgments and victim blaming of Flora McEvedy as brave, personally).

      I was on the receiving end of a transgression of trust regarding sexual boundaries with another therapist. I found out over time that there were 7 other women who had similar experiences although only 2 came forward for a formal complaints process, therefore only 2 victims have been recorded. There are also a number of his supporters who vehemently deny our experiences because it wasn’t the same as theirs. I can tell you that it is frustrating, disappointing and mainly very upsetting to have one’s experience denied especially as it is one of the scariest things to speak out against a powerful, intelligent, influential man when it’s your word against his. It is especially difficult when that man knows all your deepest secrets and vulnerabilities.

      As a therapist who has publicised my experience I have also seen clients who have been abused by their therapist (and a sexual transgression against a client is abusive as the power dynamic means that consent is not the same as outside of the therapy room, indeed, Rutter says it is tantamount to incest in Sex in the Forbidden Zone. The damage is deeply profound. I see the damage inflicted and it is only because they believe I am unlikely to be a perpetrator and that theres a chance I might believe them that they have come back to therapy

      For me, ultimately I said no, but there were other women who didn’t. One of the reasons for this I believe is that I wasn’t sexually abused in my childhood. The literature indicates that transgressions are more likely with those who have been abused as children in which case abuse by a therapist is retraumatising. This is one reason why I would describe the actions of Macfarlane and other therapists who transgress in this way as dangerous. I would also say that transgression does occur in those who haven’t suffered from childhood abuse but am citing this to try and inform you of one clear way in that this behaviour is dangerous and has no place in this profession. I would also like to say that it is usually men but female therapists do also sexually exploit and it is just as devastating.

      • Thank you for your reply.
        “Beholden” suggests bound. I do not feel bound to the therapist in any way. If I was bound to anything it was my own history which therapy with this particular therapist helped loosen. I had seen many therapists before who, whilst ready to accept fees, were unable to help me effect change. His transgressions are serious. The implication of your comment is that there re many more of such actions committed by him that went undetected -this is why I made efforts to contact the (many) people I had recommended to him. Not one had anything but the highest praise for him and one young vulnerable woman (as she was then) who i know very well, revealed to me that she had developed a crush on him and attempted to seduce him and he had done what a decent therapist has a moral and professional obligation to do and affirmed proper boundaries. Look, we know why people project all sorts of powerful things onto their therapist…it can be part of the therapeutic process and all the more reason why the boundaries have to be there. I was beyond disappointed by the actions you speak of, horrified …especially as the context of my history was that you mention in your last paragraph, but if there is a way of standing up and saying – I know this man -and without denying the dark shadow witnessed by these other women -I would like, as someone who spent hndreds and hundreds of hours with him, to attest to other parts of him.

  4. So men were not predated on by a male hetrosexual abuser, and they think this means he cant be an abuser, sometimes I despair.

  5. Reading this last comment its clear Rural Rover either did not read what I write, did not understand, or chose to misinterpret for her own arguments. Just to reiterate – I did not suggest or imply that because he didnt abuse me he cant be an abuser…read through before you despair .

  6. By the way -thanks Amanda for your wise and considered reply.

  7. I was a client of Stuart’s for six years and he saved my marriage and helped me work through the suicide of my father as well as preventing me from ending my own life. He was a huge influence on me and I have so much to thank him for in so many ways. I have two lovely daughters and a wife now, all of which I could have walked away from if it wasn’t for him. He helped me deal with so many difficult situations at work and in my personal life.

    I also worked with him in group therapy and saw the confidence and benefit he gave to others around him.

    • I’m glad that the therapy you had with Stuart MacFarlane was beneficial to you. I do not believe that this negates the harm inflicted by his acting out sexual transference with clients.

      • As Amanda says, although it’s good that you benefited from his therapy, this in no way alters the fact that extremely serious allegations were found proven against Macfarlane.

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