I’ve regularly covered the saga around John Clapham and Lindsey Talbott, the two Devon counsellors struck off by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy for 30 proven allegations, including serious sexual misconduct by Clapham. They’re still in the counselling business, despite being booted out of the BACP and shamed in the Mail on Sunday.
Talbott has always taken a “stand by your man” approach to Clapham, sending threatening e-mails to the complainants and making online threats to sue them under Britain’s much-misused libel laws. Since then she’s been posting online again. Naturally, her latest burblings show every bit as much insight, reflection and remorse as she’s shown all along. None at all.
She’s recently made a blog post on LinkedIn, in which she talks about the therapeutic power of touch, which is a bit rich given that she’s repeatedly stated her loyalty to a man described by the Mail on Sunday as a “groping psychotherapist”. She talks about a therapist making a home visit to a client who also receives support for physical disabilities.
Fiona said that for most of the day, she had been “going crazy” because of a strong itch on her shoulder. Because of the position of the itch, and her unusable arm, she could not scratch it herself.
She had asked the first helper to do it for her. The conversation went something like this:-
Fiona: “I have a dreadful itch on my shoulder. Please, please will you scratch it for me?”
Helper: “Oh, no, I couldn’t do that. It might break the skin or cause an abrasion, and get infected. Sorry.”
She point blank refused to do it.
So did the second helper, giving similar reasons.
Yep, it’s one of those “health and safety gawwwn mad” rants.
Again, this is about external locus. The helpers have handed over the standing to make this decision to perceived external authorities. Maybe their agencies have a “no touch” rule (clearly not the case for the dressing-changer). Lots do. Maybe it’s not a specific handing over, more a general perception about our culture and about “risk”.
i.e. We have created a society in which these helpers experience it as potentially dangerous to offer Fiona what she has asked for. A simple consensual physical act between competent adults to relieve discomfort is perceived as too risky.
I’m guessing this is prompted by her colleague Clapham being found to have touched clients inappropriately, though she doesn’t say so explicitly. What follows reads like a not-very-subtle dig at the BACP and the women who complained.
I have heard the viewpoint expressed by a therapist that injustice and mistakes are no reason to “abolish” rules or systems (she rather skated over the possibility of re-examination or revision, rather than abolition, because polarization suits her argument). She suggested this would amount to “throwing out the baby with the bathwater”. Actually, I think injustice and mistakes are A VERY GOOD REASON for throwing out the rules/systems which allow and perpetuate them – and indeed any rule/system-based approach to the world, because everything is always specific, and can be understood and meaningfully responded to only in context.
This “baby” needs to go. Indeed, I think it might be time for it to grow up and take some responsibility for itself……….
Trouble is, there isn’t so much a baby in the bathwater, more an elephant in the room. Here’s what the BACP hearing said about the aftermath of Clapham’s “therapeutic touch”.
Although Phoenix Counselling Services denied there was any bodywork therapy session with the complainant, the Panel accepted the complainant’s recollection of a single bodywork session in which she became very distressed and left the session prematurely. Her recollection was convincing and the Panel found that she experienced emotional advantage being taken of her of a sexual nature which amounted to an abuse of her trust. This was compounded by the fact, which the Panel accepted, that the complainant owned to having sexual difficulties at the time which had been discussed with the Director who was her supervisor. The complainant said that both during and following the incident “she had switched off”, which the Panel considered to be consistent with the experience of perceived abuse.
Call me a cheerleader for the Health and Safety Brigade, but this really doesn’t sound like the result of a scratch on the back.
Talbott’s listing on the Counselling Directory seems to have disappeared in the last 24 hours, but here’s a screenshot.
She “resigned her membership” of the BACP? Well, yes, she did. But she omits to mention that her resignation didn’t prevent a complaint hearing going ahead, in which Clapham and Talbott (under the trading name Phoenix Counselling Services) had their membership formally withdrawn. As for the BACP acting as a “self-appointed policeman”, does she really think professional bodies shouldn’t look into allegations of serious sexual misconduct?
But then, what can you expect from someone who publicly nails her colours to a self-evident predator like Clapham?