A couple of weeks ago Jo D Baker sent me a spreadsheet of what’s happened to the 53 people struck off by the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy since 2005. Worryingly, 22% of them seemed to be still practising as counsellors or psychotherapists. Even more alarmingly, three of them were still registered with Britain’s other main therapy body, the UK Council for Psychotherapy.
If all that wasn’t concerning enough, one of those struck off by BACP but still with UKCP seemed to be teaching psychotherapy. Andrea Scherzer is a lecturer in the Department of Psychotherapy and Psychotherapy at Regents University London.
I decided to explore further. What happened next wasn’t in the least reassuring.
Ms Scherzer had her membership withdrawn from the BACP in November 2013 following an incident where she turned up drunk to a therapy session, leading to her dismissal for gross misconduct from an NHS trust. From her termination notice, it seems that she has had a problem with alcohol since 2002.
I don’t want to judge Ms Scherzer for having a drink problem. Her university profile page states that she specialises in therapy for self-destructive behaviours. I’m not averse to the idea that Ms Scherzer may fulfil the archetype of the wounded healer. In the past I’ve come across several people working in drug and alcohol services (not among my current colleagues) who candidly admitted to being good at their jobs due to having lived experience of addiction. There’s a lot of talk in mental health circles about lifting the taboo of professionals talking about their own mental health issues. I’d say there’s an even bigger taboo to be explored about lived experience of alcohol or drug problems.
That said, even wounded healers need to be accountable, and they certainly need to be fit to work. From the termination notice, it looks like Ms Scherzer did an effective job of striking herself off. To quote an excerpt,
The Panel gave reasons for its decisions as follows:
- Ms Scherzer demonstrated no personal responsibility for her actions by stating that the client that she saw raised no complaint about her and placing the responsibility on her employer to notify her if they had had any concerns with her when she arrived at work, rather than being self-aware and realising for herself that it was inappropriate for her to be at work when she had had little sleep and had consumed a vast amount of alcohol the previous night. Furthermore, Ms Scherzer appeared to have had no significant understanding of her actions in that she saw a client when her abilities were impaired through her use of alcohol.
- The Panel found that information had to be extracted from Ms Scherzer over a period of time and at times Ms Scherzer appeared to be economical with the truth in the following ways:
– When asked by BACP on 28 November 2011 whether she had an addiction to alcohol, Ms Scherzer responded in writing on 29 November 2011, stating that she did not have a problem with alcohol addiction. However, when asked by her then employer about her alcohol dependency, Ms Scherzer stated that she had had a problem with alcohol since 2002.
– Ms Scherzer told her former employer that she had notified [ . . . ] of her suspension from work but later admitted that this was a lie and she had not notified [ . . . ] of her suspension at that time.
– Ms Scherzer stated in a letter to BACP dated 29 November 2011, as follows; “So as of this time last year I no longer drink any alcohol”. She further stated: “I decided last year to abstain from alcohol altogether”. However, the Panel noted that, by Ms Scherzer’s own admission, on 7 November 2011 she had consumed several bottles of wine.
– Despite Ms Scherzer writing to BACP on 23 November 2011 to notify them of [ . . . ], Ms Scherzer failed to disclose the fact that on 18 November 2011 she had been suspended from her place of work.
There’s plenty more of this sort of thing in the BACP notice, suggesting that this wounded healer simply didn’t display enough insight into her wounds to keep her registration.
And then there’s this, again from the termination notice.
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.
Over two years after that suspension notice, she’s still teaching at Regent’s. Just to compound the concerns, this is on her university profile page.
On Tuesday 25th March 2014 I e-mailed both Ms Scherzer and Regent’s University, asking them for comment on this issue and giving a media deadline of Friday (i.e. today). So far, I haven’t received a reply from either.
The words “She has been a member of the BACP since 1998” remain on her profile page, with no mention of the striking-off. However, one thing has changed. Take a look at the bottom right-hand corner of the page.
Regent’s University don’t seem to be having much luck with their staff and the BACP. One of their other lecturers, Paul McGinley was sanctioned by BACP in March 2014. In his case though, most of the allegations against him were not proved and he has retained his registration, albeit with instructions to write a reflection about the issues.
All this doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in the psychotherapy department at Regent’s.
[Edited at 15:16 on Saturday 29th March to add] I have now received a response from Regents University, which is as follows.
The issues raised in the piece are taken seriously by the University and will be investigated by the Head of the Regent’s School of Psychotherapy & Psychology and the HR department on Monday. In the meantime I have removed the two academic profiles referenced from the University website until the investigation is completed.
You mention in your blog that you had tried to contact the school but had no reply. May I ask which email address was used to do this, as I will be looking into how incoming communications are handled.
If there is any more information I can provide now please let me know, otherwise I aim to get back to you with an update on Monday evening. Thank you.