Camila Batmanghelidjh’s dubious psychotherapy credentials

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.

camila

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.

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8 thoughts on “Camila Batmanghelidjh’s dubious psychotherapy credentials

  1. Pingback: Camila Batmanghelidjh reveals not UKCP Member

  2. Shades of “Dr” Gillian McKeith!

  3. There are three sets of questions around Kids Company.

    1. Is Camilla an outrageous narcissist?
    2. Did it fail because of financial irresponsibility or a lack of governance for some other reason?
    3. What now for the very serious questions that Kids Company’s story raises for social care and psychotherapy in our community?

    I’m not sure I have much interest in the first of these questions. The answer seems to be, “Probably, so what?” New initiatives tend to be set up by narcissists. That is how it works. Such initiatives succeed when they are subsequently put on a proper footing by professional managers who would never have set them up in the first place. None of us are experts at everything. Didn’t Alice Miller observe that all therapists are narcissists? It’s pretty much an essential qualification.

    2. It’s obviously important to look at this kind of stuff although I find it hard to be very interested.

    3. Kids Company raises some extraordinary questions about the neglect of young people in our country and the inadequacies of seevices available to them. It challenged many of the fundamentals of our model of therapy extending it in a myriad of ways that need to be understood and thought through. In particular, it got much more involved in the social care of these children as a prerequisite to therapy and was showing interesting results despite this being anathema to most models of practice.

    Personally, I think the third of these sets of questions is worth more of our time than the first two.

    • What a disgraceful article!

      The Mail is all lathered up about the fact that he is not regulated by the HCPC which has nothing to do with hypnotherapists while later having to point out that he is in good standing with the relevant body. If they had cared to look they would have found his name on the CNHC’s register which is accredited by the PSA. The weasel words that he holds no government-recognised qualifications when he is on an accredited register is pathetic. The Mail presents no evidence that these clients were in any way harmed nor even that they did not benefit.

      All we have learned from this article is that the journalism being practiced in certain quarters of this country lacks all integrity.

      • I couldn’t really care whether he is PSA accredited. I don’t find £240 an hour normal or reasonable.

      • Why should we believe that when the rest of the article is such rubbish?

        How much did he charge Kid’s Company? Read the article again. We don’t know. It could have all been pro bono for all it tells us.

        More weasel words in the article say that he is a “£240 hypnotherapist” because that is what his website says he wants to charge Harley Street customers but it is comparable with the headline rates of other Harley Street therapists, unreasonable as that might seem. I doubt he gets that much very often. The Mail avoids saying how much he actually charged the charity, presumably because they don’t actually know and didn’t care to find out.

        The Mail really is a load of bull. Did I say “a load of bull”? I meant “not always entirely reliable”.

      • To be fair to the therapist in question, the “weird” methods referred to sound like EMDR, which does indeed look a bit weird, but also has an evidence base behind it.

        On the other hand, CNHC registration isn’t something that particularly impresses me. There’s a reason they’re jokingly known as OfQuack.

        I have no knowledge of how much he personally charged Kids Company, but on a more general level there are an awful lot of questions being asked about KC in terms of how they spent their money, how many kids they actually worked with, and so forth. The answers to those questions are something that will only really be known at a later date, so I make no presumption of guilt or innocence about those.

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