[Trigger warning: sexual exploitation]
Last year I noticed that the UK Council for Psychotherapy had this listing on its online complaints archive.
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.
There wasn’t any more detail than that, which left me wondering what he did.
At the end of his suspension period the above entry disappeared from the UKCP website, and Mr Pick’s name was put back on the UKCP’s online register of therapists. He was free to practice again.
I can now reveal that Pick was having a sexual relationship with one of his patients, a vulnerable adult under the care of mental health services.
I have a media statement from Surrey and Borders NHS Foundation Trust, which reads.
“Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust dismissed Geoffrey Pick from his role as a psychotherapist with the organisation on 27 January 2011 following an inappropriate relationship he had conducted with a client.
“We take our duty to protect the people that we serve very seriously and reported Geoffrey Pick to the local authorities, the Independent Safeguarding Authority and to the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapists. We also undertook an investigation into the practice of Geoffrey Pick which included talking to his manager and other team members to identify any lessons to be learnt.
“We have spoken directly with the client and continue to offer her our sincere apologies.”
The patient in question reports having been severely traumatised by the episode. She suffered a catastrophic deterioration in her mental health, spent several months under the care of a Home Treatment Team and took two overdoses. She subsequently sued Surrey and Borders for the damage inflicted upon her. The NHS trust admitted liability and paid a significant sum in an out-of-court settlement. She continues to receive mental health treatment, but does so from a neighbouring NHS trust, and is still in psychotherapy to come to terms with what happened.
The UKCP sent me this press statement.
In January 2011 Mr Pick was dismissed by his employer for gross professional misconduct. Following on from this his UKCP organisation, the Arbours Association of Psychotherapists (AAP) considered the matter in relation to his fitness to practise, and found Mr Pick to be in breach of Article 6 of the AAP Code of Practice, and Mr Pick was suspended from the membership of AAP and UKCP for a period of one year from 16 May 2011.
AAP notified us of the decision and this was published on the UKCP website.
At the end of the suspension period AAP confirmed that Mr Pick had complied with the conditions imposed during his suspension and that it was now permissible for Mr Pick to resume membership of AAP and UKCP.
In April 2013 Mr Pick informed us that he was resigning from AAP and UKCP with immediate effect. In compliance with this notification his name was removed from the UKCP Register.
I’m absolutely shocked that the Arbours Association, and by extension the UKCP, didn’t strike him off. I was curious to see what my own regulator, the Nursing and Midwifery Council, has to say about such acts of misconduct. I looked up their Indicative Sanctions Guidance.
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.
Well, this was certainly within the category of serious sexual misconduct. Even worse, it was sexual misconduct with a vulnerable adult. Worse still, the patient endured significant harm as a result of his misconduct, and her life was endangered due to the overdoses. I don’t have any doubt that if this was heard by the NMC instead of the UKCP this guy would have been struck off.
I decided to find out whether Pick was still accepting patients, so I created a bogus e-mail account under the name “Clare Stiller”. On 21st March 2013 I sent him an e-mail posing as a vulnerable adult looking for a therapist.
Dear Mr Pick
I found your details from the UKCP website.
I have a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder, though I feel that my main issue is a period of sexual abuse that happened when I was a child. I don’t think think I’ve ever properly come to terms with it, and this is what I’d like to work on in therapy.
Do you work with these sorts of issues? If so, in what way do you do so?
I’m still “shopping around” and trying to work out what sort of therapist I want, so it would be helpful if you could send me some information on your qualifications and experience, and in what ways you tend to work.
On 23rd March I received a reply:
Dear Ms Stiller
I do have experience of working with the issues you describe but, unfortunately I do not have a vacancy now until the end of May. If you are still looking for a therapist then contact me again . In the meantime if you let me have your address I will post details of my practice to you.
In late March 2013 Pick was contacted by a journalist from a national newspaper. He responded by announcing his resignation from both Arbours and the UKCP, and stated that he would now retire from psychotherapy.
On 3rd April 2013 I took this screenshot from the UKCP online register.
The day after I took the screenshot, Pick’s details were removed from the register. On 6th April I sent Pick another e-mail from “Clare Stiller” asking for further details of his practice. I received a reply back stating that he has now retired from psychotherapy.
I’ve previously covered the ways in which the UKCP’s fitness-to-practice procedures are utterly failing to deal with complaints effectively. The John Smalley case, which I’ve covered extensively, wasn’t so much shocking for what he did, but for the myriad ways in which the UKCP procedures failed.
This case is of a different order altogether. The misconduct involved is far more serious. Mr Pick was found to have abused his position of trust in the worst possible way. Terrifyingly, he was allowed to return to practice. It would seem that the only reason he has now retired is because the media started taking an interest.
Unbelievable. Utterly unbelievable.