Does striking off a counsellor or psychotherapist stop them from working?

I’ve just been handed a pretty scary set of data-crunching. Jo D Baker is a regular commenter on this blog. He looked at this page which lists all the people struck off by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy since October 2005. He then did web searches to see if there was any evidence of them advertising their services as counsellors and psychotherapists. He collated the results into a spreadsheet which I’ve uploaded here – Copy of BACP Sinners & Outcomes 06032014.

The results were startling. Of the 53 counsellors and psychotherapists struck off in that period, 22% gave positive hits to websites that appeared to be advertising their services. Even more concerningly, three of them seem to be still registered with Britain’s other major psychotherapy organisation, the UK Council for Psychotherapy.

Here’s a few highlights from Jo’s spreadsheet.

In November 2013 Andrea Scherzer was struck off by the BACP for turning up to a therapy session drunk. Here she is on the UKCP register. The postcode on her striking-off notice and the UKCP register are identical. A search of her name also returns a result for a position lecturing in psychotherapy at Regents University London. The university page lists her as registered with both the UKCP and BACP, and doesn’t state that she is struck off by the BACP. The page states that it was last updated on the 6 November 2013. The BACP striking-off notice states that “The disciplinary panel also noted that Ms Scherzer had continued to work as a teacher in psychotherapy at [ . . . ] despite being advised in her suspension letter dated 22 November 2011, that she was not permitted to work.”

In July 2013 Helen Castang was struck off by the BACP for failing to comply with a sanction. Here’s a UKCP register entry for Helen Castang. Her striking-off notice gives her an Enfield postcode. A UKCP search doesn’t give her postcode, but lists her location as “Middlesex”.

In July 2009 Sandra Black was struck off by the BACP for a breach of confidentiality. Here she is on the UKCP register. The postcode on the BACP striking-off and on the UKCP register are identical. Oh, and here’s her business website advertising her services as a psychotherapist. Again, the postcode is identical.

There’s other people who claim membership of other organisations. In August 2011 Danielle Douglas was struck off by the BACP for failing to comply with a sanction. Her website advertises her as a counsellor and psychotherapist. She states, “I am a member of BAPCA, the AHPB and the European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC) and work to their Code of Ethics.” – whoever that lot are. Both the striking-off order and her business website give a BN26 postcode.

Others have just carried on working without claiming membership of any organisation. In October 2010 Colin Senior was struck off by the BACP for harassing four female colleagues. Here’s his counselling website. The postcode on the striking-off order and on his business website are identical.

Scary. Truly scary.

Edited on 12/3/14 at 17:40 to add: As both the BACP and UKCP are accredited voluntary registers with the Professional Standards Authority, I asked the PSA for comment. They reply:

When deciding if a person should be admitted, kept on or removed from its register, the Professional Standards Authority requires that an AVR recognises any prior decisions to remove that person from another accredited register, or from the register of a regulatory body.

This requirement provides an important layer of protection for the public, who may avoid poor practice by choosing someone on an accredited register.

The Authority does not have the power to apply this requirement retrospectively, but it would expect an AVR to investigate and respond to any concerns about a person’s suitability for registration. The Authority has drawn this information to UKCP’s attention.

 

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44 thoughts on “Does striking off a counsellor or psychotherapist stop them from working?

  1. Light Touch Regulation – does exactly what it says on the Writ.

  2. Nice one, and I reckon it all understates the problem: some will practise anonymously within a group others will simply change their name. just a case of setting up a new brass plaque…

  3. Most of those still practising are listed under your “no details given” category. This is not entirely true, since the website states that these people were struck of because they did not comply with sanctions imposed, rather than for the original, presumably lesser, issue. We have, in fact, no idea whether these people have committed an offence grave enough to stop them working from the data you have provided.

    • I think you’ll find the answer is that failing to comply with a sanction is in itself an act of misconduct that calls someone’s fitness for practice into question.

      • That is your opinion, of course, but it is not evidenced by any facts. The BACP only has the right to remove somebody from their register, not to stop them practising so these people may have made the decision to forego their registration rather than comply and continue practising as a non-registered psychotherapist. I appreciate that you think that this should not be an option, but the coalition disagree and have not given anyone such a power, so it is a completely legal option and taking it is potentially not evidence of anything other than a desire not to continue with BACP membership. They may have made a different decision were the title protected. It is thus a circular argument to say that because they did not they are practising unethically. It may have just been the cost of complying was not worth the benefit of registration.

        Those on other registers and those struck off for clear cause are a different issue but they are a small minority of those in the spreadsheet.

    • Thank you Skeptical Reader for your educated response to this thread.

      I happen to be one of those people on the list who is under the “no details given category”. I do not want to give my name to a website that seems to be promoting a witch hunt but I can give an account of why I am on that list.

      Basically I followed the advice of my supervisor and line manager when working with people, and I thought that I was working within BACP ethics. A complaint was made about my practice and I was subsequently fired from my position despite the evidence showing that this wasn’t necessary. After a year of waiting it went to the BACP and my agency was largely criticized for their actions and I was found to have made only a minor infringement of BACP ethics. My sanction was simple, one supervision session to discuss how I would change my practice and a small essay to explain the changes I would make. I also took my employer to court and won an unfair dismissal case.

      I “failed to comply” because, after the way I was made to feel through the process, I never wanted to work in counselling again. I have moved on to another, completely different career and did not feel it necessary to complete the sanction as I will never return to the profession. However, had I remained in the profession, the lenient sanction shows that I would not have been a risk to my clients.

      Zarathustra, while I completely agree with your drive to move Counselling into being an officially recognised profession which can stop dangerous persons from practicing, I do not believe that your and this websites aggressive, vigilante like approach to this is in keeping with the basic constitutions of the profession and that the “naming and shaming” of people who’s hearings you have no details of is quite a poor reflection on yourselves. Please look at the basic teachings of counselling and see if you are applying them here because I don’t think you will be able to say that you are.

      • Hi John/Jane

        Thanks for your reply, but I’m a little confused by it. This post isn’t so much about people who’ve been removed from the register per se as people who’ve been removed and then continued to practice.

        If, as you say, you didn’t comply with the sanction because you’d no intention of returning to counselling, what’s your problem?

      • In answer to your question as to whether I think i’m adhering to the principles of counselling, I do not. I think i’m adhering to the principles of journalism.

      • I thought the point was quite clear, naming people on this list and claiming that those who are still practicing pose a possible danger to clients is quite simply wrong, if the BACP have given no details about the case. My lenient sanction shows that the BACP didn’t see me as a danger, had I chosen to carry on practicing but leave the BACP by not completing the sanction then I still wouldn’t have posed a danger, but, I chose to move to a profession I had greater enjoyment of.

        Saying that these ‘no details given’ people pose a danger to clients is irresponsible and seems like a witch hunt.

        And if you follow the principles of journalism I believe that ethics have no place in your work. Journalists prove that point day in day out.

      • You think there’s something unethical about taking two pieces of information that are in the public domain (a BACP withdrawal of membership notice and a practitioner’s business website) and joining the dots between the two? Really?

        I don’t dispute that there are journalists who act unethically, but ethical investigative journalism is the very lifeblood of democracy. To quote George Orwell, “Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations.”

        Tell you, since you seem convinced I’ve acted unethically, here’s my NMC number – 07G0116W. Feel free to write to the Nursing and Midwifery Council and tell them what a terrible, terrible thing I’ve done. I seriously doubt they’ll be interested though.

      • Unethical actions do not necessarily have to be covered by this or that council or society. Just to help you out I will explain my point again.

        You have acted in a way, by your agreement with this post, that attempts to ‘name and shame’ people who you believe pose a risk to their clients, despite clearly having no evidence about what went on in a large proportion of these cases.
        While you have no reason to believe my story, if you do believe it as true, my minor sanction and wrongful dismissal payout would prove that, if I choose to work with people again then I’d pose no obvious risk.

        I find the support of naming and shaming people despite a lack of evidence to be unethical, if you can’t understand that point of view then you clearly have a very narrow view of the world.

        And please, quote Orwell all you want but I believe that he would take a dim view of the directions journalism has gone in since his death. Basing stories on personal opinion or incorrectly joining dots together is dangerous and can cause great harm to the wrong people, as the documentary on baby P showed this week.

        And I’ve never been a huge fan of democracy, it has many failings, add a bit of Marxism to it and we might get a better society as a result.

      • No need to explain your point again. I understood it fully the first time. I just don’t agree with it.

        If somebody ignores a sanction and allows their membership to be withdrawn because they’re leaving the profession, fair enough (though if they don’t like the withdrawal of membership notice going online, then they should have done the sanction). If they ignore the sanction, trigger a withdrawal of membership notice and then carry on practising, then that in and of itself raises serious questions about their fitness to practice. Such behaviour strongly implies a lack of reflection, an unwillingness to change and an unwillingness to adhere to a set of standards other than their own.

        Frankly, if someone is in a profession that does difficult, sensitive work with vulnerable people, the onus shouldn’t be on me to prove they’re unsafe to do so. The onus should be on them to prove they’re safe. Not allowing themselves to get struck off might be a good start.

        I’m sorry to hear that you don’t like democracy, but if someone triggers a public notice about their behaviour, then creates a public website, I have a right to publicly criticise their actions.

      • I feel that your belief that you have the right to publicly criticize people’s actions based on very little evidence is poor. My experience of the whole hearing process would have pushed me to not adhere to the sanction, or at least adhere to it but not forward the information onto the BACP, had I carried on practicing. This is due to the fact that I felt the BACP treated me with very little respect during the process.
        This action would not have reflected an unwillingness to change or lack of reflection but instead an apathy towards a society that treated it’s member with a lack of respect, despite the outcome showing that all but one minor allegation of those made, were false.

        Unfortunately your “right to criticize” is something that damages society when done in a public forum, this, as I said was highlighted by the Baby P documentary this week and is highlighted by many other cases. Unfortunately people believe that they can freely criticize while never fully thinking through their actions. What I have tried to do here is open your mind to thinking your actions through a little more, unfortunately you have proven my view that society is poorly educated when it comes to seeing the bigger picture and that society in general has a very narrow view that holds it back.

        Anyway, I was fortunate enough to see the huge negatives of this profession and move on to another, far more fulfilling profession, away from vulnerable people and the narrow minded people who choose to work with them. So, as my attempt to enlighten you failed, which I always believed it would do, I am now bored of the pointless back and forth. Quite clearly you have a wholly black and white view of a world that is full of greys. Hopefully some other readers will read mine and Skeptical Reader’s points of view and and open their minds a little, that is all I really hope to achieve.

      • I fully agree that people will read SR’s comments and yours and draw their own conclusions.

      • In Phil’s defence I would like to say that in respect of the complaint I was involved in (as complainant) he did see all of the evidence from *both* sides as I wanted him to see it. I don’t think he would have published anything about the Palace Gate scandal without feeling confident that it wasn’t some deranged witch hunt. It is my understanding that I am not the only complainant who has shared such documentation with Phil.

        When I felt alone in my ‘abused by a therapist’ place, it was reassuring and refreshing for somebody to be aware and not in denial that sometimes, there are therapists who are abusive and or reckless or incompetent. Just blaming the client for not being to handle inevitable relationship ruptures or transference doesn’t always cut it and can be downright insulting.

    • I think that’s a very interesting thesis. There’s some things I would disagree with. For one thing, as one reader has pointed out to me, it incorrectly states that the Clinic for Boundaries Studies isn’t offering much services at the moment. That isn’t the case, and I regularly signpost people to the CBS if they’ve e-mailed me.

      That said, it raises a lot of valid points that I might make a more detailed response to once I’ve had more time to read it thoroughly.

  4. Regarding the thesis I think it is clear that complaints systems are less than satisfactory for all concerned and add to the trauma of what has happened. It seems that mediation or similar would be far more appropriate in many cases. As mentioned above it is implied in the thesis that the Clinic for Boundaries Studies doesn’t offer much of a service to victims when actually they provide a wide range of services – including mediation and facilitated dialogue.

    The idea that the area of complaints and abuse continues to be ‘too hot to handle’ for therapists is very disappointing to me – of course therapists expect clients to open up, become vulnerable, take responsibility and make changes but when it comes to looking to their own personal or organisational failings many seem to shy away in fear. Try practicing what you preach! Some training in the use of the word ‘sorry’ seems vital too. As small children I would hope that most of us been taught to say sorry for causing pain even if we ‘didn’t mean to’?

    Perhaps regulation would allow BACP to support their members in the way that this thesis shows they currently do not. I can see what a shock it would be for a therapist to get a complaint then get so little support from their membership organisation. Also with supervisors having no input to the complaint, therapists really are on their own. As usual prevention is better than cure and training to prevent therapy breakdown and boundary transgressions needs to be improved. Therapists definitely need to be made more aware of the profound damage caused by sexual boundary violations both to help prevent it happening in the first place but also so that therapists know how to deal with victims appropriately after it has happened.

    I am shocked that BACP have now made their conduct notices member log-in only. What’s that all about?

    • Though only those sanctions that don’t involve a striking-off. Withdrawal of membership/registration, re-registration and sanctions compliance are all still publicly available.

      Not sure why they’ve made this particular category members only.

  5. One issue here is that being a psychotherapist is not like being a nurse or a chiropodist or even a psychologist in a number of key ways.

    To take a single but crucial difference, a psychotherapist enters into a personal relationship with a client. This is also a professional relationship, obviously, but is of a quite different quality to the professional relationship that other practitioners might engage in. Obviously, there are lots of different ways of thinking about this personal relationship, but one simple approach is to look at it as an opportunity for clients to play-out the difficulties they have in personal relationships in a live situation. Invariably, then, these personal relationships become fraught to some extent and it is in jointly handling this fraughtness that a psychotherapist can work with the client to understand and gradually learn to come to terms with their internal difficulties that cause difficulties in the relationship and in their interpersonal relationships in general. There are some more technical descriptions of this idea in the writings of Freud, Bion, Winnicott, Perls, Rogers and many others, but this quick summary will do for now. It can be thought of as a re-parenting process, perhaps.

    There is an important role for failure on the part of the psychotherapist, also. No person, however skilled, can meet, hold, understand and care for the internal process of another 100% of the time. It is often at moments of awkward and painful misunderstanding and failure on the part of the ‘good-enough’ psychotherapist to stay alongside the client, that the client is forced into reaccepting and handling their projections and self-delusions and re-evaluating themselves. These are often the moments that engender growth and healing. Casement writes especially eloquently on this.

    These inevitable difficulties and failures are the stuff of relationship. The psychotherapist should hold the space adequately to allow these ruptures and then work towards their repair in a personal and vulnerable way with the client. It is this process that allows the client to trust that repair is possible and to review their approach to themselves and others more widely.

    These ruptures can feel very extreme, particularly with very disturbed clients, and in order to provide a good opportunity to explore them, a deep and personal relationship needs to be created between client and psychotherapist.

    I am obviously not trying to suggest that this is the only thing going on in therapy and lots of therapies are different, just that this is one aspect of most contemporary psychotherapies with a contemporary psychodynamic or humanistic bias.

    This, then, it seems to me, presents a number of considerations for ethics and complaints processes that make it wise to pause before assuming that the legalistic approach used by bodies such as HPC or NMC will translate directly. (It seems sadly necessary to have to point this out, but I will because of some of the comments that have previously appeared on this blog. I am completely against all kinds of abuse by therapists. Such things are intolerable. I am looking here at how to deal with complaints effectively in a very subtle field, not defending immoral practice.)

    Firstly, there is an additional ethic that needs to be considered. A psychotherapist must have enough personal depth and/or supervisory support to ensure that they are not personally knocked over into unworkable distress by whatever arises. This is why such schools insist that students undertake their own therapy and why all psychotherapists have supervision. It is not enough to simply avoid abuse by following a set of rules. A lack of risk-taking will often be counter-productive.

    Secondly, it is important to ensure that supervisors are integral to any process of complaint.

    Thirdly, it is important not to create an additional route by which these ruptures can be escalated by the client in order to avoid the work involved in examining them by creating public witch-hunt trials against a therapist. Rupture and repair is the essence of this work. (It is worth noting that therapists are very wary of taking on clients who have recently suddenly broken off working with a previous therapist, for this reason.) The importance of an early consideration of mediation here is important for both sides.

    Fourthly, there has to be a consideration of how much more vulnerable a therapist might be in a legalistic situation in comparison to another kind of health worker, given that this is a personal relationship that is being evaluated as well as a professional one. The client, also, is in a much more vulnerable place than when receiving other kinds of health care. Good support and consideration should be available to both sides.

    Fifthly, it is important that the subtleties of these methods of working are understood. Transference and counter-transference are tricky in the extreme and are not going to translate well into legalistic language or, heaven forbid, into Daily Mail headlines. Sometimes, for instance, it is necessary to handle and address the erotic as it arises between client and psychotherapist in order to allow the client to work with unresolved sexual issues. This is often the ethical way to work with such clients, since ignoring or shaming someone’s eroticism may in fact be abusive. Clearly, I am not suggesting that this is not the same as acting out anything sexually in the meeting, but that is not a subtlety that can necessarily be easily understood in a confrontational investigation. This is an area that is very different for psychotherapists and for other health practitioners who can afford to draw a hard professional boundary to all erotic and personal matters. A psychotherapist’s boundary is equally important, more important, in fact, but less simple to define. Touch is another complex issue where a less hard line can be drawn.

    Sixthly, trust and confidentiality are so core to this work that the legalistic courtroom hearings are intrusive to clients, therapists and the therapist’s other clients in ways that can be more harmful than beneficial all-round.

    Seventhly, it is in the nature of this work that sometimes a client will transfer unbearable feelings onto the intent of the therapist. This might make it difficult to unpick what is really going on from a client’s impression of the therapist’s intent.

    Eighthly, all a therapist can do is provide a space in relationship where an opportunity for growth can occur. It is largely the client who has to do the work of growth. This is quite different from other health workers who might supply an external cure to an issue.

    Ninethly, different people in therapy need quite different things. There is a world of difference between the level of challenge that would be appropriate for a client who wishes to explore gaining more satisfaction in his life than one who was suffering because of childhood abuse, for instance. Such psychotherapies may look totally different and interventions that would be abusive in one might be liberating for the other. Often clients might arrive with both intentions. How would a legalistic process handle these sometimes subtle and very subjective differences?

    Overall, I guess, I am wondering about how appropriate it is for a system that is used to handle complaints related to the ethics of professional relationships be directly copied to cover a situation where the professional relationship is also a personal one and it is in the skill of handling the personal one where a good psychotherapist can provide a space to enable healing. The UKCP and BACP have now adopted very legalistic complaints processes and these may not be serving anyone well. I am not sure what would need to be done to improve them, but it does need some very careful and well-considered thought. If we reduce a psychotherapists’ options to creating only a professional and not also a personal relationship, much of the efficacy of the work in some very valuable traditions would be destroyed.

  6. I apologise if I gave misleading information about the Clinic for Boundary Studies. I reported what I was told, namely that the funding received by Witness had dried up and that they were no longer able to offer the service as before for would be complainants and that the focus with CfBS was now on providing services for health officials. I am delighted that they still do offer help for people experiencing problems in their therapy. It is still a great pity that what was virtually a free service has disappeared with the loss of funding.

    I would appreciate any comment on other aspects of the research especially around types of complaints and gender, also on the use of ADR.
    Anne Rogers

  7. I have made a complaint against a BACP counsellor after a catastrophic session that resulted in my GP involving the Suicide Crisis team. There is a hearing scheduled. She will have a barrister. I cannot afford such support. Support from the CfBS is beyond my budget I am a vulnerable adult and now fully expect to be trounced by legal expertise. Turning a complaints procedure into a legal hearing risks exposing the client to further harm. It’s not a fair fight.

  8. I would love to get some advice, i have a bacp counsellor moved next door to me four weeks ago, i have not met or spoken to her at all, she lives in a privately owned house which is attached to our rented property almost straight away she started banging on walls loudly at night, using power tools after midnight and shouting things out of the window which i could nt make out because window was closed.she has now started posting complaints about us through are door, if she is going to harrass us in this way is there any thing i can do, i am a sufferer of severe depression and have lived quietly in house for 18 years with my family with no problams.cant believe a professional with a code of ethics to follow can behave in this way.

    • The BACP does not have jurisdiction over disputes between neighbours. You need to talk to the police or a solicitor.

    • You’ll find the governments advice on dealing with nuisance neighbours here:

      https://www.gov.uk/how-to-resolve-neighbour-disputes/overview

      They say that, if possible, possible you should try to resolve the issue by talking to your neighbour first. Failing that you could contact your local council or the police.

      You could complain to the BACP in addition to that, and although the BACP has no power to force her to change her behaviour (that power lies with the police, courts and Council) they could remove her from their register if her behaviour demonstrates that she does not meet the standards of their ethical framework.

    • Also, if you look here http://www.bacp.co.uk/ethical_framework/ETHICAL%20FRAMEWORK%20(BSL%20VERSION)/MakingAComplaint%20.php you can find out if you will be able to meet the criteria for a complaint.

      “The Complainant must provide a detailed account of the practice giving rise to the complaint, together with details of dates when the event(s) occurred. Reference may be made to the standards of practice outlined in the Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy and/or the relevant Codes of Ethics and Practice in force at the time, together with all supporting evidence as appropriate. Reference may also be made to the Ethical guidelines for researching counselling and psychotherapy, as appropriate”

      • I would strongly recommend that you think very carefully indeed before making a complaint if it is not directly relevant to you neighbour’s professional practice.

      • Transitional Object, I suspect the OP probably would get more of a response from the local police and council rather than the BACP, but I also agree with client 1588 that your tone is threatening and unpleasant.

        I would also add that after your, frankly, callous remarks on the Derek Gale thread, you’re already on very thin ice in these comment threads.

      • Im sure the OP is quite capable of determining whether s/he meets the criteria for making a complaint to the therapist’s governing body. Why you would “strongly recommend” to the OP to “think very carefully indeed before making a complaint” is, however, a strange choice of wording. I’ll leave it at that.

  9. Hi Charlie, have you spoken to her yet? The BACP states that they would like the complainant try to solve the problem with the therapist before making a complaint.

  10. Ah re-read it and realised you havent spoken to her yet (Im still on my first cup of tea!)
    I would approach her (with a witness or two) and just ask her kindly to stop. Is there a reason why she is banging at the wall? Perhaps asking her what seems to be distressing her?

  11. My ‘registered’ therapist abused his position and I’m now happily married to him! Elsewhere Dore condemns therapists who do not ‘comply’ to imposed sanctions as monsterous predators. If John/Jane Doe continued to work as a counsellor would he be so described? I agree with John/Jane Doe this blog is often not good investigative journalism (!) but too often plummets into quite obvious vindictiveness with naturally little understanding of the details of any case.

    • Sorry, I’m struggling to understand your point here. Are you saying it was okay for your therapist to abuse his position?

      • My husband is certainly not a ‘monster/preditor’ and nor it seems is John/Jane Doe above, which is the extremist language you use under the banner that you’re an investigative journalist… So where is the sought observational neutrality in such ridiculous statements Mr Dore? It’s simply sensationalist nonsense that I’m sure could cause people who don’t deserve it real pain. Counsellors/therapists who break in all manner of boundaries I suggest are not concomitant with say aggressive peodophiles, but that’s what you assert and clearly encourage others to do the same. Where are your ethics Mr Dore?

      • Actually, I don’t think you are talking about your husband.

        Ray Bott-Holland, next time you decide to start impersonating people, try changing your email address.

  12. Thanks for your interesting comments, i have changed my entire weekly schedule to accomodate my neighbour being able to sleep in past nine every day,i dont really know what else to do, she is obviously unhappy with something as last night we had two hours of drilling hammering and banging and shouting through walls though shes not commiting a crime my point is her behaviour seems to be escalating and surely someone in a position such as her should be able to conduct themselves in a better way. I have read up on the ethical practices and though i may not have grounds for a complaint maybe i could just go to the BACP for advice and to make them aware of the situation, the woman in question is upsetting me to the point where i dont want to leave the house and im sure there is third party clause and bringing the profession into disrepute.she is being paid to help people with their lives and she seems to have her issues she needs to work out.

  13. Why do these questions about governing psychoanalysis etc. create such striking differences of opinion? Neither side can be as wrong as the other side believes it to be. Why is the discussion so polarized?

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