We’re all familiar with the sorry tale of the collapse of Kids Company. While there’s been plenty of criticism of its founder Camila Batmanghelidjh, there’s one aspect of her story that hasn’t received much attention – her self-description as a psychotherapist.
In amongst all the drama from her appearance before a House of Commons public administration and constitutional affairs committee, there’s an exchange which was noticed by Exeter counsellor James Banyard. He’s transcribed the conversation and posted it on his blog.
Chair: You’re a psychotherapist yourself?
CB: I’m a psychotherapist myself.
Chair: What were your qualifications?
CB: My qualifications are I have a four year psychotherapy training, I’ve had eighteen years of psychoanalysis, I did one year of arts psychotherapy at Goldsmiths and I’ve had..I’ve now got some thirty years of work experience behind me. Kids Company wasn’t the first thing. I founded Place2be, prior to that I worked in women’s aid…
Chair: …and what professional bodies are you a member of?
CB: I am accountable to UKCP, but I just haven’t organised my membership.
Chair: you’re accountable to?
CB: …to UKCP . United Kingdom Psychotherapy Association (sic)
Chair: But you’re not a member
CB Not I’m not a member (shakes head)
Chair So you’re not a member of any professional body?
CB I’m not a member of any professional body because when I trained it wasn’t an absolute requirement that you became a member, but I have been speaking to UKCP before all this happened about them organising a membership.
I haven’t contacted the UKCP to ask if they think Batmanghelidjh is accountable to them, though that’s mainly because I don’t want to waste their time. I know exactly what they’d say – that if she isn’t a member then obviously she isn’t accountable to them.
Banyard states that when he heard this his “jaw dropped”. I’m not surprised. He’s MBACP Accredited, which takes a huge amount of work, therapy and supervision. By contrast here was Batmanghelidjh, claiming to be part of the same profession as him, despite having no professional registration at all.
It’s legal to do this, because neither “counsellor” nor “psychotherapist” are protected titles in the same way as “nurse”, “social worker” or even “podiatrist” (mess with people’s heads all you want, just don’t mess with their feet). But just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it won’t rightly stick in the craw of people like Banyard, who have worked their socks off to make themselves accountable.
A while back I was Wikipedia-surfing, and noticed that Batmanghelidjh was described as having done her psychotherapy training at Regents University in London. That stuck in my mind, because I’ve previously criticised Regents on this blog. After reading Banyard’s article, I went back to Wikipedia. The reference to Regents had gone.
I was confused by that, so had a look at the Talk section for her Wikipedia page. This would appear to be the reason why Regents was no longer mentioned.
A bit more Googling turned up this news article. Yes, yes, I know it’s the Daily Mail, but the authors seem to have done a pretty thorough job. This is what they had to say about Batmanghelidjh and Regents.
A few months ago, for example, Glamour Magazine quoted her saying: ‘I started my masters in psychotherapy at Regent’s University in London as their youngest ever masters intake, aged 21. I’d read so much, had obtained a first-class degree from Warwick, and had done a lot of experience in the field. So they let me in.’
All very impressive. Except for one key fact: Regent’s University did not exist in 1984, when Ms Batmanghelidjh was 21. Indeed, it only began life in the Nineties, when it was called Regent’s College.
As for Warwick University, Ms Batmanghelidjh did not complete her undergraduate career there until 1985 (she has a BA in Theatre Studies). She therefore cannot have been the ‘youngest ever’ person to study for a Masters at Regent’s University, aged 21.
In fact, Ms Batmanghelidjh studied for her MA at a private, American establishment called Antioch University, which in the Eighties operated an overseas campus at an ‘educational industrial park’ in London, on the site of what is now Regent’s University. A spokesman for Antioch says she began its MA course in ‘Psychology of Therapy and Counselling’ in the autumn of 1986, aged 23, and graduated five years later.
The Mail article also reports multiple other apparent inconsistencies in her biography.
So, here we have a charismatic figure who seems able to convince multiple people that she’s some sort of saviour to thousands of children, got those people to part with their cash, makes dubious statements about her supposed qualifications, and then turns out to have built a house of cards. It’s a portrait that reeks of narcissism.
Batmanghelidjh seems to be blaming just about everyone in sight for the failure of Kids Company. From her public statements, I’m finding it increasingly hard to believe she has anyone to blame but herself.