Back in March 2014 blog reader Jo D Baker sent me an alarming bit of number-crunching. He downloaded all the striking-off orders issued by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy from October 2005 onwards. He then did Google searches to see how many of them had online business websites still advertising themselves as counsellors or psychotherapists. He found positive results for 22% of them, which shows that self-regulation isn’t effective at removing struck-off therapists from the workplace. Scary.
I decided to update the data to the present day, and also add data from the UK Council for Psychotherapy. The new results are, well, still scary.
A few words on methodology. As when Jo compiled the original data, I haven’t included results from social networking sites such as LinkedIn, because a lot of people (me included) don’t update theirs regularly. I also added a cut-off date of August 2015, to give people a fair amount of time to take down their websites. I decided not to include any results from the Counselling Directory that were less than a year old, because some people pay their subscription annually. Though that didn’t turn out to be an issue in practice, because I didn’t find any results from there.
The striking-off orders on both the BACP and UKCP websites give both the name and location of the therapist (or in some cases with the BACP, therapy business), so when searching online for them I was able to check the location matched too, to give a high degree of confidence I hadn’t found simply a different therapist with the same name. When searching for business websites, I specifically looked for those that advertise counselling and/or psychotherapy, and not any other professional roles (e.g. life coach, complementary therapist, etc).
So, the results…
In updating Jo’s data, I found that a further 15 counsellors, psychotherapists or businesses had been struck off by the BACP since March 2014. That brings the total number of strikings-off by the BACP to 68 over the last ten years.
When I added the numbers from the UKCP, I only found four strikings-off from the same time period, the earliest being Derek Gale in 2009. If that sounds alarmingly low, it may be worth mentioning that their Complaints and Conduct Process is a relatively recent procedure. Previously complaints were handled by UKCP member organisations rather than the UKCP themselves. The UKCP would only get involved if there was an appeal following this, through their (now-defunct) Central Final Appeals Procedure. Strikings-off by the UKCP are published in their magazine The Psychotherapist. However, the UKCP have confirmed to me that there are no such notices from 2005 up to Gale’s striking-off in 2009. It’s possible that some notices aren’t there because they were struck off by a member organisation rather than the UKCP themselves. That said, there’s also plenty of evidence that at least some of those organisations were handling complaints in a godawful fashion prior to the UKCP centralising their complaints procedure. See cases such as Geoffrey Pick or Stuart Macfarlane for therapists who committed serious sexual misconduct and still weren’t struck off.
It may also be worth noting that 3 of the 4 strikings-off by the UKCP were in the last couple of years. If three still sounds like a low number, it may be worth pointing out that the UKCP is much smaller than the BACP. The UKCP has 7,800 registrants, whereas the BACP has 41,000. I did a bit more number-crunching, and worked out that if one takes the BACP as a benchmark, and factors in the size difference of the two organisations, one would expect the UKCP to have struck off 5 or 6 therapists over a two year period. Given the very small sample sizes, I wouldn’t really call that a statistically significant difference. I’d say the UKCP numbers suggest their complaints procedure used to be rubbish, but has recently improved.
So, 68 struck off by BACP, 4 struck off by UKCP. That gives a total of 72 supposedly ex-counsellors or psychotherapists. What happened when I Googled around for them?
I was able to find online evidence that 17 of them were still practising as counsellors or psychotherapists after being struck off. That equates to 23.6% of the total, very close to Jo’s original result.
The results were also eye-opening when breaking them down between the two organisations. Of the 68 struck off by the BACP, 14 were still found to be still practising, or 20.6%. Of the four struck off by the UKCP, only one – that godawful charlatan and cult leader Derek Gale – doesn’t appear to be still advertising his services online. His Twitter profile says he’s retired.
So, that’s a one in four risk that a counsellor or psychotherapist will continue to practise after they’re struck off. If they’re from the BACP, it’s a one in five risk. For the UKCP it’s a three in four risk. If I’d only based my results from the last five years, the risk level for UKCP would have been 100%.
If anything, these results are likely to be an underestimate. It doesn’t include people who may be practising but don’t have a website. It also doesn’t include people who may have changed their name or location, perhaps due to reputational damage.
On a slightly self-congratulatory note, I can say that I didn’t find any recent results that haven’t already come to the attention of this blog. The new results from the BACP were people like Palace Gate Counselling Services or Linda Bretherton, who have previously been discussed here.
As for the three from the UKCP, they’ve also been highlighted on this blog. Julia Eastwood, struck off for failing to comply with a sanction, as well as Charles Davison and Ray Holland, both of whom were struck off for serious sexual misconduct. Incidentally, if Ray Holland (or Ray Bott-Holland, or whatever else he’ll be calling himself next week) is reading this and wants to send me another one of his spurious legal threats – Ray, feel free to send it to the usual address.
So, the take-home message from this is, if you’re seeing a counsellor or psychotherapist always, always check their registration.