I’ve covered various cases where psychotherapy bodies have dealt with therapists who’ve committed serious sexual misconduct by temporarily suspending them rather than permanently striking them off. These have included shocking cases such as Geoffrey Pick, Stuart Macfarlane and Rob Waygood.
There’s a new name to add to this rogue’s gallery, but this time there’s a difference. I’ve argued that such cases mean that counselling and psychotherapy needs to dispense with voluntary self-regulation in favour of a statutory regulator such as the Health and Care Professions Council. However, on this occasion it’s the HCPC themselves who have decided that having sex with a client is not a reason to strike somebody off.
John McCarron, a practitioner psychologist, was found to have on two occasions had sex with a client, the first time less than a month after the therapeutic relationship ended. According to the Lancashire Telegraph, the client is “traumatised and embarrassed” by the incidents. McCarron has been given a one-year suspension. The full determination has not yet been published, but I’m struggling to see how this sort of breach can justify such a lenient decision.
Incredibly, this isn’t the first time that McCarron has faced misconduct hearings. In 2007 he was disciplined by the British Psychological Society.
The British Psychological Society’s conduct committee heard that two of Dr McCarron’s patients were unhappy with their treatment and distressed by his ‘demeaning’ approach.
One 52-year-old man, a mechanic who had suffered from anxiety for nine years and was unable to work because of severe depression, had been referred to him by his GP.
He told the committee that Dr McCarron had called him, among other things, a ‘w***er’, a ‘waste of space’ and ‘an idiot’ during sessions, adding that he had felt bullied.
Another patient complained that the psychologist was judgmental and had said words to the effect of: “Pull yourself together, you’re pathetic.”
I’m stunned by this. Clearly the HCPC has questions to answer as to how it came to this outcome.