Therapist who sexually abused clients returns to practice

A Jungian psychotherapist who was found to have sexually abused a mentally ill client in his care has put up a new website advertising his services.

Stuart Macfarlane was previously registered with the Guild of Analytical Psychologists, a member organisation of the UK Council for Psychotherapy. In 2012 the Guild of Analytical Psychoanalysts found allegations proved that he had committed serious breaches of boundaries with a vulnerable client. Unsafe Spaces learned that these breaches were of a sexual nature, and the client experienced severe trauma as a result of his behaviour.

The case was controversial, because the Guild of Analytical Psychologists chose not to strike him off, but instead gave him a suspension. However, Macfarlane resigned from the GAP during his suspension period. UKCP member organisations are now no longer allowed to handle complaints in-house, which instead go through the UKCP complaints process.

In 2014 a second ex-client came forward to the Daily Mail, accusing him of abusing her in a very similar way to the first.

Macfarlane has now put up a blog, describing himself as a “seasoned and well-respected therapist with over 30 years of experience”. It also states that he “still resides in London and continues to delve into the world of psychology, helping many people along the way.”

This sort of behaviour is sadly not unusual. Our Unsafe Spaces report found that one in four counsellors or psychotherapists struck off by professional bodies continue to practice. This is legal because neither “counsellor” nor “psychotherapist” are protected titles, and anybody can use these titles.

Unsafe Spaces has also issued guidance on keeping safe from abuse when accessing counselling or psychotherapy. We strongly recommend that clients check their therapist’s registration before beginning therapy.

 

 

Keeping safe from abuse during therapy – Unsafe Spaces publishes free resource

Today we publish our free guide, Keeping Safe During Counselling or Psychotherapy. It highlights some of the warning signs that a therapeutic relationship may be turning abusive. It also gives suggestions on how you can take action if you’ve experienced misconduct or abuse.

The guide is based on some of the misconduct cases that have been highlighted by this website, as well as from consultation and feedback kindly provided by a number of professionals and service users.

The guide is free to download, and comes in two versions – full and easy read. The full version is for people who want a detailed explanation for the thinking behind the advice. The easy read version is for those who just want the main points, given with as little jargon as possible.

Go here to download either version.

Outrage at failure to prosecute sex abuse of mentally ill woman

In 2013 I reported on the case of Geoffrey Pick, a psychotherapist who was found to have committed serious sexual misconduct with a mentally ill client. The allegations were found proven by the Arbours Association of Psychotherapists, a member organisation of the UK Council for Psychotherapy, and he was dismissed from his NHS post. Disgracefully, Arbours gave him a one-year suspension instead of a striking off, and then he was allowed to re-register as a psychotherapist. He subsequently resigned his registration after being contacted by a broadsheet journalist. The UKCP has since changed its rules so that member organisations are no longer allowed to investigate complaints themselves. All complaints now have to go through a centralised Complaints and Conduct Process.

I’ve since been told that a criminal prosecution of Mr Pick has been dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service, for reasons that seem both shocking and farcical.

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When does sexual attraction turn into sexual misconduct?

Given that I’ve blogged about serious sexual misconduct cases in counselling and psychotherapy, @sameihuda on Twitter drew my attention to this article in BPS Research Digest. It deals with the tricky topic of when therapists develop a sense of sexual attraction to their clients.

The article refers only to when therapists have sexual feelings, not when this turns into actual sexual acts (fortunately, none of the therapists surveyed in the research cited had done this). I’ll give some thoughts on when this could happen.

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Book Review: Sex in the Forbidden Zone by Peter Rutter

Having blogged about therapy abuse for several years, I recently made the decision to start work on a book on the topic. For that reason I’ve begun reading through the published literature, which isn’t as large as one might think. I have to thank Amanda Williamson (who has personal experience of therapy abuse) for pointing me in the direction of one of the seminal texts – Sex in the Forbidden Zone: When Men in Power – Therapists, Doctors, Clergy, Teachers and Others – Betray Women’s Trust, by Peter Rutter. As well as this review, you can also read Amanda’s own review here.

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Exeter church plays Pontius Pilate over Palace Gate abuse case

In recent months I’ve covered the Palace Gate abuse case, in which the two directors of Palace Gate Counselling Service, Exeter, were struck off by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy. John Clapham was found to have taken sexual advantage of two women during therapy sessions. His co-director Lindsey Talbott then aided him in a lengthy campaign of harassment and defamation against the complainants.

Palace Gate Counselling Service rents its premises in the Palace Gate Centre from South Street Baptist Church. Because counselling has only voluntary self-regulation rather than state regulation, Clapham and Talbott have been able to continue running their firm despite the striking-off order. Which is not to say their business hasn’t been impeded. Outside agencies have stopped referring clients there. Fundraisers have pulled their support. Even so, they’re still there at the Palace Gate Centre.

Which begs the question, why haven’t South Street Baptist Church evicted them from the premises? I now have a statement from the church.

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A 6 month suspension for sleeping with a client: Rob Waygood and the UKCP

A few days ago I commented on this recent decision by the UK Council for Psychotherapy to give a Jungian therapist, Rob Waygood, a 6 month suspension rather than a striking-off. Waygood admitted to starting a sexual relationship with a client shortly after the therapy ended. There is no statutory regulator for counselling or psychotherapy, but the UKCP recently became an “accredited voluntary register” with the Professional Standards Authority.

Before exploring this case further, I’m going to put something out there. When I’ve discussed similar cases in the past on this blog, I’ve subsequently wound up getting e-mails from people who know more about those particular cases. I’ve no idea if there’s anyone out there in a similar situation who happens to be reading, but if they are, my e-mail address is thus_spake_z at hushmail dot com.

For my own regulator, the Nursing and Midwifery Council, the indicative sanctions guidance is very clear.

In all cases of serious sexual misconduct, it will be highly likely that the only proportionate sanction will be a striking-off order. If panels decide to impose a sanction other than a striking-off order, then they will need to be particularly careful in explaining clearly and fully the reasons why they made such a determination, so that it can be understood by those who have not heard all of the evidence in the case.

Not only did the UKCP not strike Waygood off, but the original sanction was ridiculously lenient. A warning letter, plus an order to spend two years attending supervision. Such slaps on the wrist used to be absolutely typical of some psychotherapy organisations, particularly those of a psychoanalytic persuasion. There’s numerous past cases where serious boundary breaches were written off as transference gone wrong rather than abuse, and the therapist got sent on his way with nothing worse than a ticking-off.

In this day and age, and particularly now that the UKCP is an assured voluntary register, such token sanctions simply won’t do. The UKCP appealed the decision as unduly lenient, arguing that his behaviour “was fundamentally incompatible with the Registrant remaining on UKCP’s Register.” On appeal the sanction was increased to a 6 month suspension.

Given that the UKCP haven’t struck Waygood off, have they been particularly careful in explaining their reasons for such a determination?

I e-mailed the Professional Standards Authority to ask what they thought of the case. It’s the PSA’s policy not to comment on individual cases, but they did state that, “We expect all AVRs to take sexual misconduct seriously.” They also kindly provided me with a link to the relevant guidance.

I’ve been browsing the PSA’s, Clear sexual boundaries between healthcare professionals and patients: guidance for fitness to practise panels to see how it compares with the UKCP’s decision for Rob Waygood.

The PSA guidance doesn’t state anything along the lines of “for x misconduct, issue y sanction”. However, it does give some suggestions of what might be considered aggravating and mitigating factors.

Some of the aggravating factors they list include:

the vulnerability of the patient. Research shows that abusers often target vulnerable groups of patients, including those seeking help for mental health or emotional problems

The UKCP decision doesn’t give any indication of whether the client had any mental health issues or other vulnerabilities. That said, one could argue that anyone undergoing therapy is in a vulnerable position, particularly in a piece of psychodynamic therapy where you’re opening up your deepest thoughts to a stranger. We do know from the decision that the client suffered harm as a result of the relationship.

whether the healthcare professional took deliberate steps to facilitate abuse, for example scheduling the appointment as the last of the day, working without a chaperone being present, making inappropriate house calls, dissuading the patient from seeking a second opinion

In the Waygood decision, “Visiting the client’s house sometime between 18 and 21 April 2011 and acting in an affectionate manner” certainly reads like an inappropriate house call to me.

whether there was any grooming of the patient, ie did the healthcare professional deliberately cultivate an empathetic relationship with the patient over a period of time?

“Making a number of personal disclosures to the client regarding his sexuality and sexual history”? “Commenting on the client’s femininity during a therapy session”? “Hugging and kissing his client on the hair or neck on either 14 or 28 March 2011”? That sounds suspiciously like grooming.

whether the healthcare professional used confidential information obtained in the course of treatment to their advantage, for example by encouraging the patient to discuss marital problems whilst providing ‘a shoulder to cry on’

Yep. The decision accuses Waygood of, “Using material discussed in therapy to attempt to convince the client to pursue a relationship.”

Waygood was represented at his hearing by a Mr Glyn Oldfield of Brookfields Professional Conduct Services. This is a company that provides what looks to me like Tesco Value representation at misconduct hearings by non-lawyers, presumably for people who can’t afford a lawyer – though they don’t view it that way. They say, “You do not need a lawyer!  Most disciplinary processes are not legalistic and what counts is detailed knowledge of your profession, the relevant procedures and how best to respond, not a general knowledge of the law!” I’d be interested to hear what an actual law firm would say about that – particularly a firm that specialises in representing professionals at fitness-for-practice hearings.

Waygood and Mr Oldfield presented a number of mitigating factors – he made an early admission, and demonstrated some insight into what he had done wrong.

The Panel was satisfied that that the Registrant had made early admissions in respect of these allegations and had not sought to deny the allegations, nor indeed to put the aggrieved party to the task of giving evidence at the earlier hearing, or at the Appeal.

Fair enough, he confessed his wrongdoing, and spared his client the ordeal of having to testify. But this results in something that rings an alarm bell for me.

Both Mr Oldfield and the Registrant submitted that the harm to the complainant had not fallen into the category of serious harm, and further that the complainant had not been present at the previous hearing and both her account and some matters of fact that were in dispute had not been tested (by cross-examination).

Was the complainant asked whether she thought the harm she incurred was serious or not? And besides, where does one draw the line between what is “harm” and what is “serious harm”? And even if she didn’t suffer serious harm, was consideration also given to the potential harm that could have been incurred by Waygood’s behaviour? As the PSA makes clear, the trauma from these kinds of boundary breaches has the potential to be absolutely huge and life-changing.

So, going back to that quote I found in the NMC Indicative Sanctions Guidance,

If panels decide to impose a sanction other than a striking-off order, then they will need to be particularly careful in explaining clearly and fully the reasons why they made such a determination, so that it can be understood by those who have not heard all of the evidence in the case.

Has the UKCP been particularly careful in that regard? As a personal opinion, I’d say not.