When therapists become gurus and cult leaders

Earlier this week I posed the question of why such a high proportion of psychotherapists either sanctioned for misconduct or awaiting fitness-to-practice hearings seem to be from the Jungian tradition. I’ve had a couple of interesting responses.

One person pointed out that when I ran through the list of cases I’d actually missed one out. Another Jungian, Stuart Macfarlane, was suspended for two years by the Guild of Analytical Psychologists. The GAP is a member organisation of the UK Council for Psychotherapy, but for some reason the complaint hearing isn’t listed in the UKCP complaints archive. The GAP’s page doesn’t state specifically what he did, but it seems to involve some sort of breach of boundaries. Also, surprisingly, the decision page is undated, though the document properties say the page was created in October 2012.

So, why Jungians? I had the following suggestion by e-mail.

Note that the bad boys are all men (and probably all of a certain age – nearing old age and children of the 60’s).

I think the “mystical and mysterious” Jungian approach appeals to the ego of a certain kind of man who wouldn’t otherwise have ever found himself working as a psychotherapist – having to listen to others talk about many and varied problems when all he wants is a stage for his ‘revere me because I’m a wise man’ act.

Children of the 1960s? That certainly would apply to the age ranges of John Smalley and Geoffrey Pick, two of the more high-profile misconduct cases of the last couple of years. Interestingly Stuart Macfarlane is married to Penelope Tree, a former fashion model who was a high-profile figure in the Swinging Sixties until her modelling career was cut short by acne.

I wonder if we’re seeing something of a hangover from the 60s era of gurus offering enlightenment, in a time when there was a seeker born every minute. This reminds me of the debates around 2009-10, when (now-shelved) plans for psychotherapy to become state-regulated were being virulently opposed by a small but noisy campaign. Many of those leading the opposition struck me as being the worst bunch of malevolent hippies since the Dharma Initiative in Lost.

The same names seem to crop up again and again. When I posed my question about Jungians, I received this feedback from Amanda Williamson, a counsellor based in Exeter.

It may interest you to know that a therapist with whom I suffered an unethical experience involving pressure to be naked (a theme common amongst many of the other complainants in this particular case) hero worships Brian Thorne, in particular for his infamous sessions with Sally, where, lo and behold, he and Sally got naked.

Ah yes, Brian Thorne, Emeritus Professor of Counselling at the University of East Anglia. He was one of those predicting that the sky would fall in if psychotherapy were to be regulated. He’d also published a book chapter  describing how he and a patient called Sally got naked together. Given how dodgy that sounds, did he obtain informed consent from Sally?

Before deciding to take off his own clothes, the professor says “there was no question of checking with Sally for it was only I who could give permission to myself”.

The professor experienced “intuitive promptings” which, he says, “enabled me to encourage Sally to undress, or on occasions to initiate a particular form of physical contact, whether it was simply holding hands or, as in the final stage, joining in a naked embrace”.

That would be a no, then.

Thorne insists that this was a unique situation and not necessarily a model for how other therapists should act. Though from these comments it sounds as though there may be at least one dodgy therapist who views it as a model.

Somebody else was also impressed by Thorne’s naked sessions: Derek Gale, struck off by the Health Professions Council as an arts therapist and by the UKCP as a psychotherapist in 2009. He has the dubious distinction of being the only psychotherapist in recent years that the UKCP has actually struck off.

Gale wasn’t a Jungian, but he fits neatly with the suggestion of throwbacks from the 1960s who view themselves as some of guru. He was also a deeply abusive individual, and the findings against him at the HPC were spectacularly damning. He was found to have called one client a “stupid cunt” and humiliated another in front of a therapy group for having self-harmed. He discussed his sexual fantasies with clients, took clients on holiday with him and got them to do unpaid work for him. At the end of the hearings, this was the impression the HPC formed of him.

Having had an opportunity to observe Mr Gale over a long period of time both as a witness and as a person conducting his case in this hearing, the Panel has come to the firm view that he has a cavalier attitude towards the needs of clients and the requirement to follow clear guidelines.  This is demonstrated by numerous instances, including his evidence in cross-examination that he had never read the HPC’s Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics, the fact that he failed to heed the warning and advice given to him to exercise caution over socialising with clients, and the fact that in stating that he had now modified his practice to accord with prescriptive rules he was doing so only because of the rule and without embracing the rationale for the rule.

Brian Thorne appears to have formed a different view of Gale. He appeared at the HPC hearing to sing his praises. I have a copy of the transcript (in which for some reason Thorne is referred to as “Professor Robert Thorne”) . He tells Gale,

I have come to respect your honesty and integrity as a person and as a professional, and that for me has considerable meaning; secondly, I’ve come to appreciate you as somebody who is deeply reflective about the work that he does; that he is prepared, as it were, to look at his work with new eyes, fresh perspectives and so on, if that is what is actually clearly being called for.  But to respond quite directly to your last question, I sometimes feel that it may be that it is the very fact that, for goodness knows how many years ago, I think it’s about 30 years, you have been involved in therapeutic work, which is actually rare, which is I think also extremely demanding, but also has within it quite a number of important issues I think which mainstream therapeutic approaches can probably learn from and benefit from. [page 38]

Within the transcript there’s some interesting snippets about Gale’s therapy groups. Skim to pages 56-57 and we learn that one client was allowed to cut Gale’s hair in order to give her extra status in the group from having the privilege to cut the leader’s hair. We also find out that t-shirts were printed with a blown-up picture of Gale and the words “I’m his favourite.” There’s mention in the HPC decision of Gale asking clients to call him “Daddy”.

This isn’t a therapy group. It’s a cult.

Thorne wasn’t the only eminent professor to become involved in the Gale hearings. Gale applied to have his interim suspension lifted, in exchange for having weekly supervision sessions of his practice. But who would act as supervisor?

Andrew Samuels, Professor of Analytical Psychology at the University of Essex – another Jungian, another figure formed in the 1960s, and subsequently to become chair of the UKCP – made an offer to provide supervision. The offer was promptly rejected by the HPC. The allegations against Gale were so serious that simply toddling along once a week for supervision was just not enough to protect the public.

Professor Samuels has strongly denied offering to be Gale’s supervisor, but as it happens one of the complainants obtained his letter to the HPC. Here it is. It’s pretty unambiguous.

Two eminent professors, one of them later going on to become UKCP chair, dancing to the beck and call of a cult leader.

So, what have we learned here? Quite possible the mysticism and idealism of the Flower Power generation may have given impetus to various individuals who liked to inflate their egos by playing the wise man or guru. In some instances such as Gale, the guru became the head of a therapy cult.

Needless to say, such individuals are not suited to the role of therapist.

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What future for the UK Council for Psychotherapy?

Back in January I warned of a potential crisis at the UK Council for Psychotherapy. Unlike doctors, nurses, teachers, social workers or, for that matter, chiropodists, there is no statutory regulator for psychotherapists. There are only self-regulating bodies like the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) or the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP). When the Coalition took office, they shelved plans for state-regulation in favour of “voluntary assured registration”, whereby organisations like the UKCP and BACP could be accredited by the Professional Standards Authority (PSA). But only if they were doing a good job of handling complaints and dealing with rogue therapists.

The BACP has already achieved PSA accreditation. The UKCP has not – and for good reason. The UKCP acts as an umbrella body for 75 psychotherapy organisations. These organisational members (“OMs”) have in the past each had their own separate complaints procedure, some of which are shockingly awful. Patients looking to make a complaint have found that they can’t find out how to make a complaint, or that an organisation might not follow its own procedures, or  they might be greeted with hostility and unhelpfulness. In some organisations, patients have even been told that if their complaint is rejected then they’ll have to pay the cost of the investigation!

The disregard for safeguarding has been absolutely appalling. For years, people raised concerns with the UK Association of Humanistic Psychology Practitioners about Derek Gale. He was running a therapy cult in which he sexually, physically, emotionally and financially abused his clients. Their complaints fell on deaf ears. The UKCP eventually struck him off, but only after he was first struck off as an arts therapist by the Health Professions Council.

Or there’s Geoffrey Pick of the Arbours Association. He was found to have committed serious sexual misconduct with an NHS patient. The NHS trust admitted liability and settled out-of-court for five-figure damages and an unreserved apology. The patient remains deeply traumatised by the experience and continues to receive therapy for this. The Arbours Association simply suspended him for a year and then allowed him to re-register with them as a psychotherapist. In any other profession, anything other than a striking-off would have been unthinkable.

Unsurprisingly, the PSA is not going to rubberstamp this. In an attempt to improve standards, the UKCP has developed a new Complaints and Conducts Process (CCP) to take over complaints-handling from the member organisations. The first time it was used for a Jungian analyst called John Smalley. It was an absolute shambles, taking over three years to decide he had committed serious misconduct (his member organisation, the Independent Group of Analytical Psychologists, had simply declared there was “no case to answer”) but they decided not to sanction him anyway. He now seems to have quit psychotherapy.

Since then two psychotherapists have been sanctioned and one suspended under the CCP. These appear to have been handled much more rigorously and professionally than the Smalley case (though Derek Gale remains the only psychotherapist ever struck off by the UKCP in recent years). The trouble is though, not all the member organisations have signed up to it. Back in December 2012, the UKCP chief executive David Pink complained,

I am disappointed that many of our member organisations seem to be reluctant to engage with the central complaints scheme…By this time next year we need everyone to be signed up to the central complaints or in the process to becoming signed up. By then, other leading reputable therapy organisations (including BPC and BACP) are likely to be fully PSA accredited. Employers, referrers, commissioners and clients will begin to expect practitioners to be on  a PSA-accredited register as a minimum requirement. We must not fall behind.

In January I wrote about what would happen if the UKCP organisations failed to sign up, and hence the UKCP couldn’t achieve PSA accreditation.

The UKCP have been failing for years to protect the public from rogue therapists. It now looks like they’re having trouble getting their member organisations to sign up to their new complaint system…No wonder they’re getting worried that rival bodies like the BACP will get the PSA accreditation and they won’t.

If that does happen, the results will be utterly predictable. All the reputable psychotherapists will promptly sign up with the BACP, leaving the UKCP to shrivel into a rump organisation housing the quacks, hucksters and chancers of the therapy world.

So, how’s that going? Again, David Pink gives the answer, in the latest UKCP bulletin.

But there is one area which has attracted [the PSA’s] particular concern – that not all our individual members are covered under UKCP’s complaints and conduct process (CCP). The indication we were given is that our application is at risk because we are unable at present to declare when, or even if, we will have all UKCP registrants covered by CCP…Only one or two organisations have expressed fundamental concerns about CCP in principle. But there are many other organisations who have said they will join, probably, sometime soon – mañana!

I think I know the “mañana” of which he speaks. Back in May 2012 when I was investigating the John Smalley case, I contacted the Independent Group of Analytical Psychologists who had dismissed the subsequently-proved claims of misconduct. I asked them if they planned to join the CCP. This was their reply.

Since the UKCP Central Complaints Process is not yet finalised, it is too early to say if IGAP will sign up to it or not, but is likely to do so if it is felt to match our professional standards and has nothing that contradicts our existing Code of Ethics.

Or, to put it another way, mañana!

Incidentally, if you go to the IGAP website, there’s no information at all about how to make a complaint. When I asked for a copy of their Code of Ethics (which also isn’t on the site) they didn’t send me one. They did however admit that they haven’t sanctioned a therapist for misconduct in years.

I’ve been harshly critical of the UKCP in the past couple of years, and I don’t apologise for that. However, to be fair to them they do now have a system in place for dealing with misconduct. and which after a dreadful start now seems to be getting results. But it can only truly work if everyone is signed up to it.

Clearly, there are now two possible futures for the UKCP. There are those who see a future in which its practitioners are accountable and where a UKCP registration is a stamp of reassurance for the public. However, there seems to be also those who may be happy for the quacks, incompetent, cultists and outright abusers of the therapy world to carry on with free rein, even if this means that the UKCP becomes officially second-rate to rival bodies like the BACP.

Of course, of these two possible futures, in only one outcome could the UKCP genuinely expect to have a future.

When a breach of ethics is not misconduct: The Kafka-esque language of the UK Council for Psychotherapy

In the past few months I’ve been exploring the John Smalley case, a series of cock-ups and calamities befalling a fitness-to-practice hearing with the UK Council for Psychotherapy. The sheer scale of ineptitude has been absolutely mind-boggling, and would be hilarious if the UKCP weren’t trying to regulate a profession that works with vulnerable people. In the past couple of weeks the UKCP have deployed an impressive piece of semantic gymnastics. They now state that Mr Smalley committed several breaches of his Code of Ethics; he just didn’t commit any misconduct.

Got that? Perfectly clear and reasonable? No? Me neither.

Before elaborating, further, it’s time once again to take a quick run-through….

The story so far…The UKCP took over three years to investigate complaints about John Smalley, a Jungian analyst with the Independent Group of Analytical Psychologists. At the end of a long sequence of delays, they decided that seven allegations had been proven. These included smoking during therapy, inappropriately setting two clients up in a business relationship with each other, and making a sexual suggestion about one client to another. Despite this they decided not to sanction him. The fact that he admitted in the hearing that he destroyed his notes doesn’t seem to have prompted a sanction. The UKCP’s laughable response to this is that they didn’t sanction him for destroying his notes because there wasn’t a complaint about destroying his notes.

I last discussed this case in a post on 14th January 2013. In that post I made the following observation about the UKCP’s online complaints archive.

There’s only one entry on it! It’s for Derek Gale, a notorious abuser who was registered with the UKCP as a psychotherapist and with the Health Professions Council as an arts therapist. The UKCP stuck him off in 2009, but only after the HPC struck him off first.

Until recently there were two entries – the other being for Geoffrey Pick, suspended from the register in 2011 for an unspecified breach of boundaries. He’s now back on the UKCP register and his entry in the complaints archive removed. As for John Smalley, the UKCP don’t intend to publish the hearing outcome until Spring 2013, a year after the final ruling.

In the past day or so I looked at the complaints archive again. Since my previous post on 14th January, the page has changed, and the Smalley case is now up online.

Well, it only took them ten months to put it on their website. So, what do they have to say about the case?

Decision regarding John Smalley

Mr John Smalley [Manchester/Leeds] six allegations of breach of the Independent Group of Analytical Psychologists (IGAP) Code of Ethics found proved. No finding of any misconduct and therefore no sanction.

Please find the Decision of the Panel and the Determination of the Panel here

So….six breaches of a Code of Ethics (including smoking in therapy and making sexual suggestions about one client to another) doesn’t constitute misconduct?

Also, there were actually seven breaches found proved, not six.

In fact, from reading the Determination of the Panel that the page links to, it doesn’t even say that he didn’t commit misconduct. Quite the opposite in fact.

Take a look at page 3 of the Determination.

The Panel is of the view that your conduct in relation to the instances of wrong-doing that have been found proven against you did amount to misconduct. Your attitude and behaviour regarding smoking during treatments sessions was indicative of a failure on your part to have due regard to the dependant nature of the therapeutic relationship. Your behaviour in making remarks that were capable of being interpreted as derogatory with reference to other analysands and that were liable to be overheard represented a failure to have due regard to professional boundaries. You demonstrated a further failure to have regard to professional boundaries in the context of your promotion of a gallery at which you were an exhibitor. That failure to have regard to professional boundaries or to the dependant nature of the analytic relationship was further exemplified by your conduct in introducing one analysand to another. The Panel has concluded that the nature and extent of these failures on your part amounted to misconduct which, taken as a whole, could properly be described as serious. [Emphasis added]

So, he did commit misconduct, and serious misconduct at that. But why was there no sanction?

The following pages basically describe the Panel bending over backwards to believe that this was all some time ago (not least because they dragged out the complaint process for three and a half years), that it was probably a one-off series of lapses (if that’s not a complete contradiction in terms) and that he’s reflected on the matter and the world is now lovely and filled with Disney-style bluebirds.

Okay, I’ve started to exaggerate towards the end of that last sentence, but not by much. Anyway, they conclude,

In all the circumstances, the Panel has determined that your fitness to practise is not impaired by reason of your misconduct.

So, in fact it’s not correct for the UKCP website to declare that Mr Smalley breached the Code of Ethics, but did not commit misconduct.

It’s actually correct to say that he committed serious misconduct, but his fitness to practise was not impaired by this.

Riiiiiiiiiiiight.

 

[EDIT: Since this post was published, the wording on the page has changed. It now reads, “The Panel concluded there was a finding of serious misconduct but no sanction was enforced.”]

The Looming Crisis at the UK Council for Psychotherapy

In recent months I’ve covered the way in which complaints are dealt with (or not!) against psychotherapists, with the result that misconduct or even abuse can continue unrestrained. In particular I’ve looked at the John Smalley case, in which the UK Council for Psychotherapy, after three years of delay, found seven allegations proven against a Jungian analyst, but failed to issue any sanction.

Complaints handling at the UKCP has for years been dominated by “crony-ism and amateurism” – not my words, but those of the former UKCP chair Andrew Samuels. But I’ve just noticed some interesting developments that may well send the UKCP sleepwalking into a crisis. It could even threaten the existence of the organisation itself.

Psychotherapists, unlike doctors, nurses, social workers or teachers, have no statutory regulator. “Psychotherapist” is not a protected title and anyone can call themselves one. However, in practice most are registered with self-regulating bodies like the UK Council for Psychotherapy, the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, or the British Psychoanalytic Council.

The UKCP is an umbrella body for 75 separate member organisations. Until recently, if you wanted to make a complaint against a UKCP-registered therapist, you first had to complain to their member organisation, and could then appeal to the UKCP if your complaint was rejected.

These 75 organisations have a wide variety of complaints processes. Some of them are absolutely shocking. The way to make a complaint can be very opaque. You may find that complaints panels have no lay members, so that the case is being heard only by the therapist’s colleagues. In some cases complaints have to be proven to the criminal standard of “beyond reasonable doubt” (the usual standard of proof is the civil one of “on the balance of probabilities”). For some organisations, if your complaint is rejected, you can be expected to pay legal costs!

To give an example, when I looked into the Smalley case, I contacted his UKCP member organisation, the Independent Group of Analytical Psychologists. Their website contains no information about how to make a complaint. Their Code of Ethics isn’t published on the site – I asked for a copy months ago and still haven’t got it. Oh, and if you’re wondering why they don’t publish an online list of fitness-to-practise outcomes on the site (in the way that bodies like the General Medical Council or Nursing and Midwifery Council do) it’s because they freely admitted that they haven’t sanctioned a member for years. I can’t imagine why not.

The UKCP is currently moving towards a new Central Complaints Process (CCP) that will handle all complaints instead of the member organisations. After the IGAP found “no case to answer” in the complaint against Mr Smalley, the complainant appealled to the UKCP, who found that the IGAP’s decision had been “perverse and incorrect”. They then ordered a new hearing under the CCP.

The new CCP turned out to be a shambles from beginning to end. It took three years of delays to reach a conclusion. At the end of it, the panel found that Mr Smalley had smoked in therapy sessions, he had made derogatory remarks about one client to another, and he had breached professional boundaries by inappropriately setting up two clients in a business relationship with each other. Along the way, he freely admitted that he had destroyed his notes – an act that would be considered serious misconduct if a doctor or nurse did it.

The UKCP’s sanction? Nothing. Not even a caution. Although he resigned from the UKCP during the proceedings, he’s still registered to this day on the IGAP website.

 The introduction of the UKCP’s Central Complaints Process comes in the wake of plans to properly regulate the psychotherapy profession. Under the previous Labour government, proposals were made for plans to register counsellors and psychotherapists with the Health Professionals Council (now the Health and Care Professions Council) which currently regulates occupational therapists, arts therapists, clinical psychologists and social workers. Although many psychotherapists welcomed this, a noisy campaign was launched, claiming that the sky would fall in if psychotherapists had to be accountable for their actions in the same way as just about every other helping profession.

After Labour gave way to the Coalition, plans for state-regulation were shelved, and the anti-regulation campaigners cheered a victory. However, the Coalition then proposed a new systems of “assured voluntary registration”. The Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence (the uber-regulator that oversees bodies like the GMC, NMC, HCPC etc) was renamed the Professional Standards Authority and given the power to issue an official rubberstamp to self-regulating bodies like the UKCP…..if they were deemed to be doing a good enough job. 

Key to getting this rubberstamp from the Professional Standards Authority is the UKCP’s new Central Complaints Process, even though it failed abysmally in the Smalley case. However, the most recent UKCP bulletin suggests their strategy may be running into trouble.

The UKCP chief executive, David Pink, issues a stark warning.

I can understand that organisational members might be nervous about handing over their complaints work to a team in the UKCP office, but it is vital that we take this decisive step. However diligently and carefully a member organisation handles complaints, they can never been seen to have sufficient independence to be free from accusations of bias…I am disappointed that many of our member organisations seem to be reluctant to engage with the central complaints scheme.

I’m really not surprised that there’s a lack of engagement from member organisations. Last May I e-mailed the Independent Group of Analytical Psychologists to ask them if they would be signing up to the CCP. I got this reply.

Since the UKCP Central Complaints Process is not yet finalised, it is too early to say if IGAP will sign up to it or not, but is likely to do so if it is felt to match our professional standards and has nothing that contradicts our existing Code of Ethics.

Hardly a ringing endorsement. And given the gasps of horror from some member organisations at the possibility of state regulation, it wouldn’t be surprising if some of them started dragging their heels over signing up to the CCP.

Pink gives a stark warning of what this might mean.

By this time next year we need everyone to be signed up to the central complaints or in the process to becoming signed up. By then, other leading reputable therapy organisations (including BPC and BACP) are likely to be fully PSA accredited. Employers, referrers, commissioners and clients will begin to expect practitioners to be on  a PSA-accredited register as a minimum requirement. We must not fall behind.

And indeed they may well fall behind. To give an idea of how the UKCP compares to its rival organisations, here’s the hearings page for the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy. It gives detailed accounts of hearing outcomes and sanctions against therapists who’ve committed misconduct.

Now have a look at the equivalent page for the UKCP. There’s only one entry on it! It’s for Derek Gale, a notorious abuser who was registered with the UKCP as a psychotherapist and with the Health Professions Council as an arts therapist. The UKCP stuck him off in 2009, but only after the HPC struck him off first.

Until recently there were two entries – the other being for Geoffrey Pick, suspended from the register in 2011 for an unspecified breach of boundaries. He’s now back on the UKCP register and his entry in the complaints archive removed. As for John Smalley, the UKCP don’t intend to publish the hearing outcome until Spring 2013, a year after the final ruling.

The UKCP have been failing for years to protect the public from rogue therapists. It now looks like they’re having trouble getting their member organisations to sign up to their new complaint system, which is a shambles anyway. No wonder they’re getting worried that rival bodies like the BACP will get the PSA accreditation and they won’t.

If that does happen, the results will be utterly predictable. All the reputable psychotherapists will promptly sign up with the BACP, leaving the UKCP to shrivel into a rump organisation housing the quacks, hucksters and chancers of the therapy world. I can’t say I feel the least bit sorry for them.

The UKCP and the Smalley Case – A failure of representation

Time for instalment number……sorry, lost count…..in my ongoing analysis of the Smalley case, a long series of calamities and cock-ups in a fitness-for-practice hearing before the UK Council for Psychotherapy.

Time for me to take a deep breath as I once again run through….

The story so far…The UKCP took over three years to investigate complaints about John Smalley, a Jungian analyst with the Independent Group of Analytical Psychologists. At the end of a long sequence of delays, they decided that seven allegations had been proven. These included smoking during therapy, inappropriately setting two clients up in a business relationship with each other, and making a sexual suggestion about one client to another. Despite this they decided not to sanction him. The fact that he admitted in the hearing that he destroyed his notes doesn’t seem to have prompted a sanction. The UKCP’s laughable response to this is that they didn’t sanction him for destroying his notes because there wasn’t a complaint about destroying his notes. Just as laughably, the UKCP still hasn’t published the hearing outcome, and doesn’t intend to until Spring 2013, a year after the hearings were concluded.

Now let’s look at the manner in which the complainant was represented during the hearings.

Until recently people wanting to complain against a UKCP-registered psychotherapist had to go through a “two-tier” system. First, they would  have to complain to the therapist’s member organisation. If the complaint was rejected, they could then appeal to the UKCP’s Central Final Appeals Panel (CFAP). At present the UKCP is trying to replace this with a “single-tier” Central Complaints Procedure (CCP).

The complainant, a former client of Mr Smalley, made a complaint to his member organisation, the Independent Group of Analytical Psychologists (IGAP) which was promptly rejected as “no case to answer”. The complainant disputed this and took it the Central Final Appeals Panel. Fitness-for-Practice hearings are conducted like a court hearing, with opposing lawyers for the two sides arguing over the case.

Unfortunately this doesn’t seem to have been shared with the complainant. He alleges that he turned up at the CFAP to find Mr Smalley represented by a solicitor and barrister provided by his indemnity insurance. The complainant, on the other hand, states that he quickly realised he was expected to present a case against the opposing barrister.

The complainant is a vulnerable adult with mental health problems. He suddenly, without training or even the opportunity to prepare, found himself in the position of a litigant-in-person, fighting it out with a professional pit bull.

Despite this he seems to have done a good job. The CFAP ruled that IGAP’s rejection of the complaint had been “perverse and incorrect”. They further ordered that a new hearing be scheduled under the UKCP’s new Central Complaints Procedure.

The complainant was, unsurprisingly, pretty angry about the position he’d been put in at the CFAP. He then wrote to the UKCP demanding that this wouldn’t be repeated.

The reply back didn’t assuage his fears.

Sunita Thakore is the Professional Conduct Officer for the UKCP, but as far as I can tell she doesn’t appear to be a lawyer. I searched the online registers of the Solicitors Regulation Authority and the Bar Standards Board, and she doesn’t seem to be registered with either of those. I e-mailed the UKCP asking what qualifies her to present cases against trained lawyers, but the UKCP declined to comment.

The case went before the Central Complaints Procedure. As with the CFAP hearing, Mr Smalley was provided with a solicitor and a barrister by his indemnity insurance. The complainant was not willing to be represented by Ms Thakore and paid for a barrister out of his own pocket, costing him several thousand pounds.

So, the lesson would appear to be that if you want to make a complaint against a UKCP-registered psychotherapist, you’ll be up against a barrister, and you could be representing yourself, or have your case presented by a lay member of UKCP staff, or have to pay for your own lawyer.

Hardly seems fair.

UKCP takes 3 years to find therapist guilty of misconduct, another year to publish its findings

Over the last few months I’ve been chronicling the series of mishaps and cock-ups over the John Smalley case. This was a fitness to practice investigation by the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy. The hearings found him guilty of seven allegations. I can now reveal that this won’t be published until a year after the ruling.

The story so far…The UKCP took over three years to investigate complaints about Mr Smalley, a Jungian analyst with the Independent Group of Analytical Psychologists. At the end of a long sequence of delays, they decided that seven allegations had been proven. This included smoking during therapy, inappropriately setting two clients up in a business relationship with each other, and making a sexual suggestion about one client to another. Despite this they decided not to sanction him. The fact that he admitted in the hearing that he destroyed his notes doesn’t seem to have prompted a sanction. The UKCP’s laughable response to this is that they didn’t sanction him for destroying his notes because there wasn’t a complaint about destroying his notes.

The final ruling was in March 2012. The outcomes of fitness to practice rulings are supposed to be published in the UKCP’s magazine, The Psychotherapist, which comes out three times a year. The Smalley ruling hasn’t been published yet. I have since been informed that it’s currently scheduled to appear in the Spring 2013 edition.

Seriously, Spring 2013? That’s a year after the final ruling! I e-mailed the UKCP to ask them why there’s such a long delay, and also to ask if there are any other fitness-to-practice outcomes that haven’t been published yet. They declined to comment.

John Smalley is no longer a UKCP member, as he resigned his registration during the hearings. However, he’s still registered with the Independent Group of Analytical Psychologists, and continues to advertise his therapy services on their website. To date, the only place where you can find out that he’s had allegations proven against him is on this blog. There’s nothing on either the UKCP or IGAP websites to suggest there’s anything wrong with his practice.

For comparison purposes, the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy has hearing outcomes up on its website, the most recent of which are from last month. Or, if you look at the Nursing and Midwifery Council website, they get hearing outcomes up within days.

The UKCP also has an online complaints archive. It looks pretty lonely. In fact, there’s only two decisions on it, neither of which are for John Smalley. One of them is Derek Gale. He was a notorious abuser who emotionally, sexually and financially exploited his patients, and was struck off by the Health Professions Council as well as by UKCP.

The details on the UKCP archive are also pretty scanty by the standards of regulators. For comparison, have a look at the HPC ruling for Derek Gale, which gives a long and detailed account of why you wouldn’t trust him to look after your cat, never mind a vulnerable adult. Meanwhile, the other decision on the UKCP website is for an Arbours Association therapist called Geoffrey Pick. It simply says:

Geoffrey Pick of The Association of Arbours Psychotherapists (AAP) has been found to be in breach of Article 6 of the AAP Code of Practice. Article 6 of AAP’s Code of Practice provides that ‘a member should maintain appropriate boundaries with their patients and take care not exploit their patients in any way, financially or sexually’.

In view of the above decision Mr Pick is:

1) suspended from the membership of AAP (and UKCP) for a period of one year from 16 May 2011;

2) required to enter therapy at least once a week with a therapist approved by AAP’s Ethics Committee and reports from the therapist are to be submitted to the AAP’s Ethics Committee once a quarter;

3) required to engage in further professional development as agreed between him and the AAP’s Ethics Committee liaison; and

4) required to meet a member of AAP’s Ethics Committee once a quarter.

 

Really not a very clear account of what he the misconduct was. Incidentally,  if anyone out there is reading this and knows what he did, my e-mail address is thus_spake_z at hushmail dot com.

 

UKCP trying to improve their Central Complaints Process

The latest bulletin of the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy describes improvements they’re working to make on their new Central Complaints Process (CCP) to take over from the (frequently atrocious) complaints procedures implemented by the UKCP’s various member organisations.

The CCP is in dire need of improvement. In recent months I’ve documented the John Smalley case, in which their shiny new complaints procedure took three years to find seven allegations proven against a Jungian analyst. The sanction imposed on the therapist? Absolutely nothing. He was just sent on his way. This was made all the more shocking by the revelation that he admitted destroying his notes, an action that would normally be considered a fitness for practice issue in itself.

The bulletin states:

Of course there are cases where serious professional misconduct is alleged. Those are the cases where UKCP should accept that a much more formal process is needed, including a formal hearing before an independent panel. Serious misconduct needs to be dealt with fairly, but more swiftly than has been the case in the past. And if there are psychotherapists who are unsafe to practice and a danger to the public, we need to remove them from the UKCP register. There are very few complaints cases that are about outright abuse, but our systems need to be ready to respond appropriately.

“More swiftly than has been the case in the past”? A reference to the Smalley case perhaps? Oh well, at least they’re recognising that this is an issue that needs to be addressed. They also need to look at the decision-making in relation to sanctions given, as well as what action to take if a fitness to practice issue such as destroying of notes emerges as part of the hearings.

There’s also an emphasis on use of negotation for less serious allegations.

 We want to make sure that our complaints system is not cold and alienating for clients with a concern, or terrifying for the therapist. We will devote resources to resolving more complaints in a non-adversarial fashion – in many cases UKCP should be encouraging the two parties to address their issues without needing to declare victor of one over the other through legalistic jousting.

I’m a little dubious about this one, to be honest. Fair enough if it simply seems to be a matter of falling-out in the therapeutic relationship, but when does one draw the line that it’s actually a fitness for practice issue, and who draws it? It would be concerning if complainants were expected to engage in negotiation before they could raise a concern about misconduct. What if the complainant tells the inquiry to stick their negotiation, as a lot of aggrieved parties may well do? I would have thought if it’s got as far as a formal complaints procedure then the therapeutic relationship is likely to be pretty thorough wrecked, with neither side keen to go back into therapy with each other. What exactly are these negotiations trying to save?

Also, should a fitness to practice inquiry really be about “declaring victor” through “legalistic jousting” anyway? The point isn’t to win like a lawsuit. It’s supposed to be a thorough investigation into whether a practitioner is, well, fit to practice. Exactly what it says on the tin. Statements like this leave me wondering whether the UKCP has truly understood and embraced the principles of fitness to practice.