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Hearing Findings, Decision & Sanction

March 2016: Colin Plaskett, Reference No: 675799, Somerset BA16

The complaint against the above individual member was taken to Adjudication in line with the Professional Conduct Procedure.

The complaint was heard under the BACP Professional Conduct Procedure and the Panel considered the alleged breaches of the BACP Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy.

The focus of the complaint, as summarised by the Pre-Hearing Assessment Panel, was as follows:

The Complainant attended one session of counselling with Mr Plaskett, on 1 July 2014.  At the end of the session, Mr Plaskett allegedly said "same time next week".  However, the Complainant, dissatisfied with the session, allegedly responded that she would get in touch if she wanted another session.

On 8 July 2014, Mr Plaskett contacted the Complainant via Facebook, telling her that she had missed the appointment and that she therefore owed him payment for that session.  Mr Plaskett allegedly attempted to contact the Complainant via other Social Media sites.

When the Complainant did not respond, Mr Plaskett wrote to her home address requesting payment, and also posted a comment about the Complainant on the [ . . . ] Website.

The Complainant alleged that Mr Plaskett's behaviour amounted to harassment, that he was chasing her for a debt for an appointment that she never made, and that his messages on Social Media Sites breached her confidentiality.

The Panel, in accepting this complaint, was concerned with the allegations made within the complaint suggesting contravention of the Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy, and those in particular as follows:

1.    Mr Plaskett allegedly failed to honour the trust of the Complainant in that in pursuing the alleged missed appointment debt, through the [ . . . ] social media comment page, which was publically accessible, Mr Plaskett failed to pay adequate attention to the Complainant's right to privacy and dignity or her confidentiality.  It is also alleged that the contents of the comments on social media were discourteous.

2.    Mr Plaskett allegedly failed to honour the trust of the Complainant in that his letter dated 6 August 2014, written with the purpose of pursuing the alleged missed appointment debt, was discourteous.  It is also alleged that some of the comments contained within the written communication failed to demonstrate respect for the Complainant's dignity.

3.    Mr Plaskett allegedly failed to adequately inform the Complainant of the nature of the services being offered in that, whilst the Complainant had signed a contract which indicated there would be a charge for missed appointments, at the end of the first session she had indicated to him that she would be in touch if she required a further appointment.  It is alleged that in pursuing a debt for an appointment which had not been confirmed, Mr Plaskett failed to respect the client's right to choose whether to continue or withdraw from the counselling relationship.

4.    Mr Plaskett allegedly abused the Complainant's trust in order to gain an emotional and financial advantage over her, in that the letter dated 6 August 2014 was worded in a way which undermined her and made inappropriate comments about the reasons the Complainant sought the services  of Mr Plaskett in the first place.  It is alleged that Mr Plaskett made such remarks in order to coerce the Complainant to pay the alleged missed appointment debt.

5.    Mr Plaskett allegedly abused the Complainant's trust in order to gain an emotional and/or financial advantage over her, in that his comment posted on the [ . . . ] forum was allegedly a way in which to publically undermine her ability to pursue a [ . . . ] career because of an alleged unpaid debt and the possibility of legal action.  It is alleged that Mr Plaskett made such comments in order to receive the debt from the alleged missed appointment. 

6.    Mr Plaskett allegedly failed to respect the Complainant's confidentiality in that by posting comments on a publically accessible forum, namely that of the [ . . . ], Mr Plaskett failed to protect the unauthorised disclosure of personally sensitive information.  It is alleged that any person, accessing the forum could make the link that the Complainant was receiving counselling services from Mr Plaskett.

7.    Mr Plaskett's alleged behaviour, as experienced by the Complainant and as identified in the numbered paragraphs referred to above, suggests a contravention in particular of paragraphs 11, 12, 17 and 20 the Ethical Principles of Being Trustworthy, Autonomy, Beneficence, Non-Maleficence of the Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling & Psychotherapy (2013), and showed a lack of the personal moral qualities of Wisdom, Integrity, Respect and Empathy to which counsellors are strongly encouraged to aspire. 

Both the Complainant and the Member Complained Against chose not to attend the hearing.  Therefore, the matter was referred under paragraph 4.9 of the Professional Conduct Procedure, which states: 

Where a Complainant or Member Complained Against fails or refuses to attend a Professional Conduct Hearing, the Registrar has the power to decide to either: 

a)   Proceed with the Hearing in the absence of one or both of the parties; or

b)   Adjourn the Hearing to a date not less than 28 days in advance; or

c)    Terminate the proceedings; or 

d)   Refer the matter for consideration under Article 12.6 of the Memorandum & Articles of Association. 

The options were carefully considered, and in light of the circumstances, a decision was made to go ahead with the hearing in the absence of Mr Plaskett and the Complainant.  The Panel noted the absence of the ability to question Mr Plaskett and the Complainant in relation to the complaint and the allegations, and with the absence of the parties could only consider the written evidence presented to it.    

Findings 

On balance, having fully considered the above, the Panel made the following findings: 

1.    The Panel was satisfied, on the evidence, that the posting made by Mr Plaskett on the [ . . . ] website was publically available and it noted that Mr Plaskett had a professional relationship with the Complainant as his client.  The Panel was satisfied that the information about the alleged debt arose from that professional relationship.  The Panel was further satisfied that it was inappropriate and discourteous for Mr Plaskett to publish, what was a matter of dispute between him and the Complainant arising from the professional relationship, on a public forum.  As such, the Panel found that Mr Plaskett failed to pay adequate attention to the Complainant's right to privacy and dignity or her confidentiality.  The Panel scrutinised the exchange of communication that took place between Mr Plaskett and the Complainant on Facebook, and was not satisfied that the contents of the comments on Facebook were discourteous.  The Panel also scrutinised the content of the posting on the [ . . . ] website.  It noted the posting opened by stating "before you all get too excited [Complainant's first name] ..." and that the posting went on to speak about the alleged debt in an inappropriate manner. The Panel noted that there had been a professional relationship between Mr Plaskett and the Complainant and that, in such circumstance, the Panel was satisfied that the content was lacking in respect and was discourteous towards the Complainant.  The Panel found that Mr Plaskett failed to honour the trust of the Complainant and concluded that the allegation was upheld.      

2.    The Panel accepted that the letter of 6 August 2014, was written with the purpose of pursuing the alleged missed appointment debt.  The Panel, on the evidence, accepted that Mr Plaskett believed there was an unpaid debt.  Having previously made unsuccessful efforts to contact the Complainant, the Panel did not find it unreasonable for Mr Plaskett to write a letter to the Complainant.  However, the Panel noted that the letter went beyond just the pursuit of the alleged debt.  The Panel found that within the letter Mr Plaskett made inappropriate comment drawing an analogy
between the alleged debt and the Complainant's counselling issues, which did not respect the Complainant's dignity and was discourteous towards the Complainant.  Therefore, the Panel was satisfied that Mr Plaskett failed to honour the trust of the Complainant and found the allegation to be upheld.  

3.    The Panel accepted that there was a signed contract which addressed the issue of missed appointments.  Whilst there was evidence that a conversation took place with regard to a second appointment, both the Complainant and Mr Plaskett appeared to have had a different understanding of any arrangements arising from that conversation.  The Complainant was of the belief that she had left the first session on the basis that she would only contact Mr Plaskett if she wanted another appointment, and that she did not make another appointment.  Mr Plaskett was of the belief that the Complainant was due to attend another appointment and that she had failed to attend the appointment.  The Panel noted the sharp difference in the
evidence as between the position of the Complainant and Mr Plaskett and was not satisfied that there was sufficient evidence to favour one account over the other.  As such, the Panel was not satisfied that it was proven that Mr Plaskett failed to adequately inform the Complainant of the nature of the services being offered.  Whilst the Panel was satisfied that Mr Plaskett was pursuing an alleged debt, it was not satisfied that it was proven that it was for an appointment that had not been confirmed.  It further did not find any evidence that Mr Plaskett failed to respect the client's right to choose whether to continue or withdraw from the counselling relationship. As such the Panel did not find the allegation proven and the allegation was not upheld.  

4.    Mr Plaskett, in writing his letter, was seeking payment for what he perceived as a debt.  The Panel was not satisfied that it was proven that it was worded in a way which undermined the Complainant.  The Panel was further not satisfied on the evidence that it was proven that Mr Plaskett made inappropriate remarks in order to coerce the Complainant to pay the alleged missed appointment debt.  Whilst the Panel accepted that Mr Plaskett had made inappropriate comment, it was not satisfied that this constituted an abuse of the Complainant's trust in order to gain an emotional and financial advantage over her.  The Panel was not satisfied the allegation was proven and as such it was not upheld.  

5.    The Panel, on the evidence, accepted that Mr Plaskett believed he was owed a debt in relation to an appointment with the Complainant.  The Panel was not satisfied that there was sufficient evidence to prove that Mr Plaskett made a posting on the [ . . . ] website in order to publically undermine the Complainant's ability to pursue a [ . . . ] career.  The Panel was further not satisfied that there was sufficient evidence to prove that Mr Plaskett made the comment in order to receive the alleged debt from the alleged missed appointment.  As such, the Panel did not find that it was proven that Mr Plaskett abused the Complainant's trust in order to gain an emotional and financial advantage over her.  The Panel was not satisfied the allegation was proven and as such it was not upheld.  

6.    The Panel was satisfied that the information about the alleged debt arose from their professional relationship and that in making the posting on the [ . . . ] website, a publically accessible forum, Mr Plaskett failed to protect the unauthorised disclosure of the Complainant's personally sensitive information.  The Panel was satisfied that Mr Plaskett failed to respect the complainant's confidentiality in making the posting.  As such the Panel upheld this part of the allegation.  The Panel was not satisfied that it was proven, on the evidence, that any person accessing the posting could make  the link that the Complainant was receiving counselling services from Mr Plaskett.  As such this part of the allegation is not upheld.  The Panel
concluded that the allegation was upheld in part.   

7.    In light of the above findings, the Panel was satisfied that paragraphs 11 and 20 and the Ethical Principles of Being Trustworthy and Beneficence of the Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling & Psychotherapy (2013) had been breached.  The Panel also found that Mr Plaskett's behaviour in this case showed a lack of the personal moral qualities of Wisdom, Integrity, Respect and Empathy to which counsellors are strongly  encouraged to aspire.   

The Panel did not find a contravention of paragraphs 12 and 17 nor the ethical principles of Autonomy and Non-Maleficence.

Decision 

Accordingly, the Panel was unanimous in its decision that these findings amounted to Professional Malpractice in that the service for which Mr Plaskett was responsible fell below the standards that would reasonably be expected of a practitioner exercising reasonable skill in that he had provided an inadequate professional service.  

Mitigation 

The Panel found no evidence of mitigation.

Sanction

One of the aims of the Professional Conduct Procedure is to protect members of the public.  The Panel, in considering what sanction may be appropriate in the circumstances of this case, has taken into account the interests of public protection.   

Within three months from the date of imposition of this sanction, which will run from the expiration of the appeal deadline, Mr Plaskett should provide a comprehensive and detailed written report which evidences: 

1. His reflection on the need to maintain personal and professional boundaries in the context of a professional relationship with particular regard to the use of social media and the risks associated with it, together with his understanding of its impact upon professional practice; 

2. The learning and insight Mr Plaskett has gained in relation to the allegations that were upheld in this complaint, including an account of what he would do differently if a similar situation were to arise again. 

Mr Plaskett's report should be countersigned by his current supervisor verifying that the content of the report has been discussed in supervision.

The written submission must be sent to the Registrar by the given deadlines and will be independently considered by a Sanction Panel. 

(Where ellipses [ . . . ] are displayed, they indicate an omission of text)  



       

March 2016: Patricia Day, Reference No: 529791, London N8 

The complaint against the above individual member/registrant was taken to Adjudication in line with the Professional Conduct Procedure. 

The complaint was heard under the BACP Professional Conduct Procedure and the Panel considered the alleged breaches of the BACP Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy. 

The focus of the complaint, as summarised by the Pre-Hearing Assessment Panel, was that the Complainant was in therapy with Ms Day for three years, ending in September 2012.  For the first year therapy took place once a week, changing to twice weekly in the second year, and three times a week for the final six months.   

Prior to a five-week summer break in 2012, the Complainant stated that therapy was particularly difficult and painful for her.  At times, the Complainant stated that Ms Day allegedly shouted at her and appeared unable to hold the sessions, which left the Complainant feeling shamed and also feeling that she was responsible for the change in the situation.  When the Complainant expressed feelings of despair about her capacity for intimate relationships, Ms Day allegedly reassured and encouraged her so that the Complainant, whilst relieved to be taking a break over the summer, felt committed to continuing the process. 

In the session on 6 September, immediately following the break, Ms Day allegedly commenced the session by suggesting that despite the  reassurance she had given in the last session, she now felt that the therapy was not working and that they should move toward an ending.  Having
previously told the Complainant that her personal belief was that only psychoanalytical psychotherapy achieved deep changes, Ms Day now allegedly suggested that other therapies such as CBT may be more appropriate for the Complainant.  At the end of the session, Ms Day offered the Complainant a list of alternative therapists, which the Complainant refused as she believed that whilst ending was being discussed, Ms Day was still open to continuing to work with her.   

Two days later Ms Day's supervisor, Ms X, rang the Complainant to inform her that Ms Day was unwell and unable to resume their therapeutic work.  Ms X stated that she believed that Ms Day and the Complainant were in the process of ending, and had been for some time, which was contrary to the Complainant's understanding of the situation.  In a second telephone conversation with the Complainant, Ms X reported that Ms Day was acting on medical advice to reduce her workload, and was therefore terminating her work with Ms Day.  Ms Day's perception, as allegedly reported by Ms X, is that an ending was intended and had been discussed, and the Complainant's best interests would be served by referring her for further therapy.  Ms X stated that Ms Day accepted that terminating therapy at such short notice was unusual and that she regretted the circumstances leading to this decision.  

The Complainant alleged that therapy ending in this way, particularly with no direct communication from Ms Day, has left her with a decreased capacity for intimacy and trust and deeper feelings of abandonment and unworthiness.  

The Panel, in accepting this complaint, was concerned with the allegations made within the complaint suggesting contravention of the Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy, and in particular these are as follows:  

1.    Ms Day allegedly failed to provide the Complainant with a good quality of care and competently delivered services which met her needs, in not giving sufficient notice to the Complainant of the ending of the therapeutic relationship, not being clear about when the ending would take place and the reasons for this, in not notifying the Complainant herself that she was cutting back on her client work, and raising her voice at the Complainant during the therapy session. 

2.    Ms Day allegedly failed to clarify and agree the rights and responsibilities of both her as a practitioner and the Complainant as a client, in that she did not make it clear how and when the ending would take place. 

3.    Ms Day allegedly failed to provide the Complainant with competently delivered services that were periodically reviewed by her, in that after approximately three years of therapy, Ms Day suggested during what turned out to be the final session that the type of therapy she was providing to the Complainant was not working, and the Complainant was unaware that the therapy was not working for her. 

4.    Ms Day allegedly failed to be attentive to the respect offered to the Complainant and communicate with her in a way which was courteous, in that during a session she raised her voice at the Complainant, did most of the talking during the session and did not give the Complainant sufficient notice of the ending of the therapeutic relationship.  

5.    Ms Day allegedly failed to be clear about any commitment to be available to the Complainant, in that she did not make it clear, until what turned out to be the final session when and how the ending would take place. 

6.    Ms Day allegedly failed to respond promptly and appropriately to the complaint the Complainant made to Ms Day's supervisor.  

7.    Ms Day allegedly failed to endeavour to remedy any harm she may have caused to the Complainant and prevent any further harm with regard to the ending of the therapeutic relationship and the Complainant's concerns over this. 

8.    Ms Day's alleged behaviour, as experienced by the Complainant and as identified in the numbered paragraphs referred to above, suggests a contravention in particular of paragraphs 1, 3, 6, 11, 19, 40 and 41 and the ethical principles of Being Trustworthy, Beneficence and Non-Maleficence of the Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling & Psychotherapy (2013), and showed a lack of the personal moral qualities of Empathy, Integrity, Respect, Competence, Wisdom and Courage to which counsellors are strongly encouraged to aspire. 

Preliminary Issue 

At the outset of the hearing, the Panel consulted both parties prior to amending the allegation on its own volition, by deleting reference to paragraph 40 (monitor and maintain fitness to practise) of the Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling & Psychotherapy 2013, on the basis that this was a typographical error and replacing it with a reference to paragraph 42 (endeavour to remedy any harm).  There were no objections to this  mendment from either side. 

Admissions  

At the conclusion of the oral hearing, Ms Day, through her solicitor, admitted allegations 1, 2, and 5.  Ms Day partially admitted allegation 4, in respect of failing to give the Complainant sufficient notice of the ending of the therapeutic relationship. 

Findings 

The Panel noted that a ‘failure', could only be proved if there was a duty to do something, which without good reason, was not done.  On balance, having fully considered the above, the Panel made the following findings:   

1.   In both her written and oral evidence, the Complainant explained that she was not given sufficient notice of the ending of the therapeutic  relationship.  Although at various times during her evidence Ms Day indicated there had been some discussion of an ending, in response to Panel questions, she informed the Panel, that after three years of therapy, she would expect a three month ending.  She also informed the Panel that it must have been ‘shocking and undermining' for the Complainant to be presented with a list of organisations to contact at the conclusion of what turned out to be their last therapy session on 6 September 2012, following the 5 week summer break.  In light of this evidence and Ms Day's admission at the conclusion of the oral hearing, the Panel was satisfied that by not giving sufficient notice of the ending of the therapeutic relationship, Ms Day failed to provide the Complainant with a good quality of care and competently delivered services which met her needs. 

In both her written and oral evidence, the Complainant explained that Ms Day did not make it clear when the ending would take place, nor did she provide reasons for ending the therapeutic relationship.  Ms Day accepted during her oral evidence, that despite her intention to work towards a
managed ending, she had not made this clear.  She informed the Panel that the ending of a therapeutic relationship is very important and needs to be handled very carefully.  Ms Day stated that she recognised that the Complainant's therapy had not been handled carefully.  In light of this evidence  and Ms Day's admission at the conclusion of the oral hearing, the Panel was satisfied that by not making it clear when the therapy would end and the reasons for bringing the therapeutic relationship to an end, Ms Day failed to provide the Complainant with a good quality of care and competently delivered services which met her needs.  

The Complainant in her written and oral evidence, explained that Ms Day did not personally notify her that she was cutting back on her client work.  Instead, the Complainant found this out from Ms Day's supervisor.  Whilst the Panel accepted that Ms Day felt unable to continue the therapeutic relationship with the Complainant, due to anxiety, panic attacks and the advice of her GP that she should reduce any work that was causing stress and anxiety, this was not communicated to the Complainant, who was entitled to a proper explanation.  Although Ms Day had health problems, the
Panel concluded that her actions in failing to notify the Complainant that she was cutting back on her client work was an abdication of her responsibilities.  In light of this evidence, and Ms Day's admission at the conclusion of the oral hearing, the Panel was satisfied that by not personally notifying the Complainant that she was cutting back on her client work, Ms Day failed to provide the Complainant with a good quality of care and competently delivered services which met her needs.  

In her written and oral evidence the Complainant described how Ms Day had raised her voice to a shouting pitch and became ‘red in the face' during a therapy session.  The Complainant went on to explain that she was alarmed at Ms Day's anger and at one point wanted to put her hands over her
ears and shout ‘stop'.  Ms Day accepted during her oral evidence that she had modified her voice and may have spoken more loudly.  In her written response to the allegation Ms Day stated that she had not displayed ‘anger beyond an appropriate level'.  In light of this evidence and Ms Day's admission at the conclusion of the oral hearing, the Panel was satisfied that by raising her voice during the therapy session Ms Day failed to provide the Complainant with a good quality of care and competently delivered services which met her needs. 

For the reasons stated above, the Panel upheld the entirety of this allegation. 

2.   The Complainant in her written and oral evidence explained to the Panel that Ms Day did not clarify or agree the rights and responsibilities of the
practitioner/client relationship in that she did not make it clear how and when an ending would be effected.  During her oral evidence, Ms Day stated that it was ‘hard to remember', but she thought she had covered confidentiality, trust and commitment during the initial therapeutic conversation and that it was her normal practice to cover holiday and pay at the start of therapy.  However, she confirmed that it was not her normal practice to issue a
contract and conceded that she did not discuss how the therapeutic relationship would end.  In accepting the evidence of the Complainant and in light of the admissions made by Ms Day both during and at the conclusion of the oral hearing, the Panel was satisfied that whatever discussion there had been at the outset of the therapeutic relationship, it did not include an agreement as to how the therapeutic relationship would end. 

For the reasons stated above the Panel upheld this allegation.

3.   The Complainant in her written and oral evidence explained to the Panel that she was unaware, until what turned out to be the final therapy session, that Ms Day was of the view that the therapy was not working.  In her written and oral evidence, Ms Day informed the Panel that she had reviewed the Complainant's therapy.  She stated in response to Panel questions that the efficacy of the therapy had been discussed as part of the therapeutic exchange not as part of a formal periodic review.  However, Ms Day conceded that a formal review was important and that in future she would conduct a formal review.  The Panel was satisfied that a formal review in these circumstances was required and that had such a review taken  place, a proper assessment could have been made as to the efficacy of the therapy.  A periodic review would have provided the opportunity to communicate the effectiveness or otherwise, of the therapy to the Complainant.  In failing to conduct a periodic formal review the Panel concluded that Ms Day failed to provide the Complainant with a good quality of care and competently delivered services which met her needs.  

For the reasons stated above the Panel upheld this allegation.

4.   The Complainant in her written and oral evidence, explained to the Panel that during a therapy session Ms Day raised her voice.  The Panel referred to its finding at paragraph 1 above.  In light of that finding, the Panel was satisfied that Ms Day had raised her voice and that this demonstrated a failure to treat the Complainant with respect and communicate with her in a courteous manner.  

Although the Complainant stated in her written evidence, that Ms Day did most of the talking during the last therapy session in September 2012, the Panel was not satisfied that sufficient evidence had been adduced to find this aspect of the allegation proved. 

The Complainant emphasised throughout her evidence that Ms Day did not give her sufficient notice that the therapeutic relationship was to be brought to an end.  The Panel referred to its finding at paragraph 1 above and the admissions made by Ms Day.  The Panel concluded that Ms Day failed to provide the Complainant with sufficient notice and that this demonstrated a failure to treat the Complainant with respect and communicate with her in a courteous manner.  

For the reasons stated above this allegation is partially upheld. 

5.   The Complainant's evidence was that Ms Day did not make clear when and how the therapeutic relationship would end.  The Panel referred to its finding at paragraph 1 above and the admissions made by Ms Day.  The Panel concluded that in not making it clear to the Complainant when and how the therapy would end, Ms Day failed to be clear about her commitment to be available to her.    

For the reasons stated above the Panel upheld this allegation.

6.   During her oral evidence the Complainant confirmed that her complaint to Ms Day's supervisor was not a formal complaint.  Although the Complainant informed the Panel that she expected Ms Day to be notified of her concerns, the Panel could not be satisfied, due to the informal nature of the complaint, that the supervisor had done so.  In her oral evidence, Ms Day denied being notified of an informal complaint.  As the complaint was informal, the Panel was not satisfied that any duty existed to respond to it, even if it had been communicated to Ms Day.  Therefore the Panel  concluded that there was insufficient evidence to find this allegation proved.  

For the reasons stated above the Panel did not uphold this allegation. 

7.   In her written and oral evidence the Complainant explained that Ms Day did not endeavour to remedy any harm or prevent any further harm as a result of the ending of the therapeutic relationship.  Although the Panel accepted that Ms Day felt unable to continue the therapeutic relationship with the Complainant for health reasons, there were appropriate steps that she could have taken to reduce the risk of harm or further harm.  The Panel noted that Ms Day's supervisor took over the management of the case as an ‘executor'.  However, the Panel took the view that this did not absolve Ms Day of responsibility. In response to Panel questions, Ms Day expressed regret, accepted that she remained responsible and also accepted that the way in which her supervisor took over was ‘not the right thing.'  Ms Day stated that she recognised that she should have been supported in working towards an ending with the Complainant and conceded that she should have had some further contact with the Complainant after the last session in September 2012.  Ms Day also conceded that at the very least she could have written to the Complainant and accepted that harm may
have been caused to her.  In light of this evidence, the Panel concluded that Ms Day failed to take appropriate steps to remedy any harm or further harm with regard to the ending of the therapeutic relationship and the Complainant's concerns about the ending of the relationship. 

For the reasons stated above the Panel upheld this allegation. 

8.   In light of the above findings, the Panel was satisfied that paragraphs 1, 3, 6, 11, 19 and 42 of the Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy (2013 edition) and the ethical principles of Being Trustworthy, Beneficence and Non-Maleficence had been breached.  It also found that Ms Day demonstrated a lack of the personal moral qualities of Empathy, Integrity, Respect, Competence, Wisdom, and Courage to which all practitioners are strongly urged to aspire.   

The Panel was satisfied that paragraph 41 of the Ethical Framework had not been breached. 

Decision

Accordingly, the Panel was unanimous in its decision that these findings amounted to Professional Malpractice in that the service for which Ms Day was responsible fell below the standards that would reasonably be expected of a practitioner exercising reasonable skill.  The Panel found that Ms  Day was incompetent, negligent and provided inadequate professional services. 

Mitigation 

The Panel took into account Ms Day's apology, expressions of regret, insight, health and formal admissions made through her solicitor.   

Sanction 

One of the aims of the Professional Conduct Procedure is to protect members of the public.  The Panel, in considering what sanction may be appropriate in the circumstances of this case, has taken into account the interests of public protection.   

The Panel therefore required Ms Day, within two months from the date of imposition of this sanction, which will run from the expiration of the appeal deadline, to provide a written submission, which evidences her immediate reflection on, learning from and understanding of, the issues raised in this complaint and pay particular attention to the following areas: 

- Endings 

- Contracting 

- Formal Reviews

- Remedying Harm (including the appropriate response to unforeseen circumstances, a sudden inability to work and the potential impact on clients). 

These written submissions must be sent to the Registrar by the given deadlines and will be independently considered by a Sanction Panel.

March 2016: Alex Fergusson, Reference No: 697681, London N16

The complaint against the above individual member/registrant was taken to Adjudication in line with the Professional Conduct Procedure.

The complaint was heard under the BACP Professional Conduct Procedure and the Panel considered the alleged breaches of the BACP Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy.

The focus of the complaint, as summarised by the Independent Appeal Assessor, was as follows: 

The Complainant made contact with organisation X services some months before the date of her complaint and, having undergone an assessment interview with Ms X1, the manager of the service, was emailed shortly afterwards with the information that a psychotherapist was available and would contact her shortly.  She was contacted by Mr Alex Fergusson on 18 September 2014, offering an appointment on 22 September 2014, which she could not attend.  She suggested 29 September 2014, at 1pm, which was acceptable to Mr Fergusson who arranged to meet her at organisation
X in the entrance hallway.  The Complainant arrived at the appointed time but Mr Fergusson did not.  By 1.15pm, Mr Fergusson had not attended  and, feeling anxious, the Complainant found Ms X1, who equally did not know why Mr Fergusson had not attended.  The Complainant stated she left the centre in a state of extreme distress.

Having heard nothing further from either Ms X1 or Mr Fergusson, on 1 October 2014, the Complainant emailed Mr Fergusson with just two question marks.  On 4 October 2014, Mr Fergusson replied, apologising for not attending their session on 29 September, and indicating that, since he only arranged sessions by email, he would be willing to talk to her the following Monday at organisation X at 1.00pm.

The Complainant declined to have anything further to do with Mr Fergusson given what she considered to be his failure to attended their arranged meeting, his failure to apologise and explain his non-attendance and his insistence that, if she wanted to talk to him that she attend at organisation X again.  She stated that she has been considerably damaged by this experience, such that she has been too burned to seek low cost therapy elsewhere, being clinically depressed and having suicidal thoughts all the time.

The Independent Appeal Assessor considered the appeal against the decision of the Pre-Hearing Assessment Panel to reject the complaint.  The Appeal Assessor upheld the appeal and the Appeal Assessor set out that part of which, in their opinion, constituted a breach of the Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy.  The Appeal Assessor was concerned with the allegations made within the complaint suggesting contravention of the Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy, and those in particular as follows: 

1.    Mr Fergusson allegedly did not offer a good quality of care or competently delivered services to the Complainant, by failing to attend the session on 29 September without warning or offering an explanation. 

2.    Mr Fergusson allegedly did not offer a good quality of care to the Complainant, in that he did not ensure that the centre manager knew where he was such that she could assist the Complainant with her query. 

3.    Mr Fergusson allegedly did not honour his commitment to be available to the Complainant for that first meeting when he clearly stated he would be. 

4.    Mr Fergusson allegedly did not respond promptly or appropriately to the Complainant's complaint in that he refused to offer an explanation for his
non-attendance at the session on 29 September, unless the Complainant attended the centre in person to discuss it with him.  

5.    Mr Fergusson allegedly did not endeavour to remedy any harm which his non-attendance or his failure to explain that non-attendance may have caused the Complainant. 

6.    Mr Fergusson's alleged behaviour, as experienced by the Complainant and as identified in the numbered paragraphs referred to above, suggests a contravention in particular of paragraphs 1, 19, 41 & 42 and the ethical principles of Being Trustworthy and non-maleficence of the Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling & Psychotherapy (2013), and showed a lack of the personal moral qualities of integrity, respect and wisdom to which counsellors are strongly encouraged to aspire. 

Findings

On balance, having fully considered the above, the Panel made the following findings: 

1. Mr Fergusson accepted both in his written response to the complaint and in his evidence to the Panel, that he had failed to attend the session without warning or offering an explanation.  He said he had not offered an explanation for his failure to attend because he was unclear how to interpret the email he had received from the Complainant, containing just two questions marks, and thought it best to resolve the issue in person rather than via email. The Panel was not satisfied that this was a sound reason. 

Mr Ferguson also accepted, and the Panel found, that as a consequence of his failures to attend a pre-arranged appointment and not provide an explanation, he had not offered a good quality of care or competently delivered service to the Complainant.  The Panel therefore upheld this allegation.

2. Whilst the centre manager may not have known Mr Fergusson's whereabouts, the Panel found that the centre manager had his telephone number and had the means available to contact him.  In those circumstances, the Panel was not satisfied that it was necessary for the centre manager to know Mr Fergusson's whereabouts to ensure that he offered a good quality of care to the Complainant.  Therefore, the Panel did not uphold this allegation.

3. The Panel was satisfied that Mr Fergusson arranged to meet the Complainant for an appointment at 1pm on 29 September 2014.  Mr Fergusson did not meet with the Complainant at the appointed time, and he admitted to the allegation.  The Panel therefore found the allegation was upheld.

4. The appointment between Mr Fergusson and the Complainant was arranged for 29 September 2014.  Mr Fergusson accepted that he had received an email from the Complainant on 1 October 2014, containing only two question marks, but did not sufficiently consider its possible significance for the Complainant. Mr Fergusson accepted in questioning that he knew the Complainant was unhappy as a result of his failure to attend the appointment, yet he did not respond to the Complainant until 4 October 2014, some five days after the missed appointment, and three days after the email from the Complainant.  The Panel found that this was not a prompt response. 

The Panel also considered the content of the email sent by Mr Fergusson to the Complainant on 4 October 2014.  It found that he had been unwilling to offer her any explanation for his non-attendance either in his reply to her email, or by any other method except a face to face meeting with her at organisation X Office.  The Panel construed this unwillingness as a refusal to offer an explanation unless she attended the organisation X Office. 
The Panel found that this response was not appropriate, both because it did not contain an explanation, and because it excluded the possibility of an
explanation unless the Complainant met him as suggested.  Having determined that Mr Fergusson did not respond promptly or appropriately, the Panel upheld this allegation. 

5. In reaching its decision on this allegation, the Panel again considered the email of 4 October 2014.  It noted that Mr Fergusson had apologised to the Complainant for his non-attendance.  He had also offered to meet her at the organisation X Office if she would "like to talk".  The Panel found that this amounted to an endeavour by Mr Fergusson to remedy any harm which his non-attendance may have caused to the Complainant.  This allegation was therefore not upheld. 

6. In light of the above findings, the Panel was satisfied that paragraphs 1, 19 and 41 of the Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy (2013 edition) and the ethical principle of being trustworthy had been breached.  It also found that Mr Fergusson demonstrated a lack of the personal moral qualities of respect and wisdom to which all practitioners are strongly urged to aspire.  

The Panel did not find that paragraph 42 of the Ethical Framework had been breached nor the ethical principle of non-maleficence or that Mr Fergusson lacked the personal moral quality of integrity.

Decision

Accordingly, the Panel was unanimous in its decision that these findings amounted to professional malpractice.  The service provided by Mr Fergusson had fallen below the standards reasonably expected of a practitioner exercising reasonable care and skill.  Mr Fergusson had been negligent in not attending the appointment with the Complainant.  He had also demonstrated incompetence in his failures both to keep the appointment and to respond appropriately and promptly thereafter. 

Mitigation

The Panel found the following mitigating factors:

- Mr Fergusson believed that he had a genuine therapeutic reason for not offering the Complainant an explanation. He had thought that to do so might cause more harm in that in the immediate aftermath he believed that she did not wish to hear from him.

- Mr Fergusson's inexperience made him too reliant on what he had been told in training as a final year student on placement. He now acknowledges that he was overly rigid in following a strict personal practice of limiting his communication with clients by email.

- Mr Fergusson has used supervision and therapy to reflect on this experience.

- Mr Fergusson acknowledged there were other ways he could have handled this situation.

- Mr Fergusson again apologised to the Complainant at the hearing.

Sanction

One of the aims of the Professional Conduct Procedure is to protect members of the public.  The Panel, in considering what sanction may be appropriate in the circumstances of this case, has taken into account the interests of public protection.  

Within three months from the date of imposition of this sanction, which will run from the expiration of the appeal deadline, Alex Fergusson is required to provide a written submission, which evidences his reflection on, learning from and understanding of, the issues raised in this complaintIn particular, this reflection must address:

- The ways in which failure to honour commitments can impact upon clients.

- What he has learned from this process and how he has changed his practice as a result of this experience, including how he manages appointments.

- What he would do differently if in the same or a similar situation 

- His reflections and insight into client/counsellor communication and its management. 

These written submissions must be sent to the Registrar of BACP Registers by the given deadlines and will be independently considered by a Sanction Panel.

                                                       

February 2016: Michael Worrall, Reference No: 510405,  London W13

The complaint against the above individual member was taken to Adjudication in line with the Professional Conduct Procedure.

The complaint was heard under the BACP Professional Conduct Procedure and the Panel considered the alleged breaches of the BACP Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy.

The focus of the complaint, as summarised by the Pre-Hearing Assessment Panel, is that on 9 June 2014 an allegation of inappropriate behaviour with a student was made to the Complainant, against Mr Worrall, who at the time was a tutor at the [ . . . ].

A student/supervisee of [ . . . ], a fellow tutor at the [ . . .], had reported hearing a rumour/gossip that the reason why Mr Worrall's marriage had broken down was because he had had an affair with a student.  [ . . . ] called Mr Worrall to discuss the rumour and Mr Worrall allegedly categorically assured her that he was not, and never had had a romantic/sexual relationship with a current supervisee.  However, allegedly after questioning and with hesitation, Mr Worrall informed [ . . .] in confidence that, in the preceding 2 weeks, he had become involved with someone that he referred to as an ex-student. 

[ . . . ] asked Mr Worrall to disclose the relationship he had been engaged in to [ . . . ] the Head of the Person Centred Department, or to the Person-Centred Team Meeting, failing which she would. On 9 June 2014, [ . . . ], allegedly on realising that Mr Worrall was not going to disclose the rumour, raised the allegation of Mr Worrall's inappropriate behaviour with a student, at the Person-Centred Tutor Team Meeting.

Mr Worrall was suspended pending a full investigation.

Mr Worrall stated that as far as he was concerned, the student concerned was an ex-student and was not planning to return to the [ . . . ].  [ . . . ] advised that the student was taking required time-out from training to attend to personal development needs and that the student's vulnerability, and reasons for required time-out from training, had been discussed regularly at the Person-Centred debriefing meetings, at which Mr Worrall was present.

Following the investigation, the Complainant's Disciplinary Process was invoked and Mr Worrall was dismissed for unsatisfactory conduct, following a disciplinary hearing on 10 July 2014, for the following reasons:

1. Mr Worrall admitted entering into a sexual relationship with a [ . . . ] student.

2. Mr Worrall failed to abide by [ . . . ]'s Codes and Procedures Handbook (sections 4a and 4b).

3. Mr Worrall breached the terms of his Contract of Employment as a result of failing to abide by [ . . . ]'s Codes of Ethics and Professional Practice.

Mr Worrall submitted an appeal against the decision to dismiss him and the hearing was held on 8 August 2014. The Appeal Panel decided to uphold the decision of the Disciplinary Panel. 

In accepting this complaint, the Pre-Hearing Assessment Panel was concerned with the following: 

1. Mr Worrall allegedly failed to ensure that his professional relationship with the Complainant was conducted in the spirit of mutual respect, in that he engaged in a relationship with an individual the Complainant still regarded as a student, against the written guidelines of the Complainant.

2. Mr Worrall allegedly failed to ensure that his professional relationship with the Complainant was conducted in the spirit of mutual respect, in that, prior to engaging in the relationship, he did not make sufficient enquiries at the [ . . . ] to verify whether or not the individual was a student.

3. Mr Worrall allegedly failed to ensure that his professional relationship with the Complainant was conducted in the spirit of mutual respect, in that he engaged in a relationship with a student, whom the Complainant deemed to be vulnerable.

4. Mr Worrall allegedly failed to ensure that his relationship with the Complainant was conducted in the spirit of mutual respect, in that he did not voluntarily disclose to them his relationship with the student.

5. Mr Worrall's alleged behaviour, as experienced by the Complainant, and as identified in the numbered paragraphs referred to above, suggests a contravention in particular of paragraph 51 and the ethical principles of Being Trustworthy, of showing Respect and Beneficence of the Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling & Psychotherapy (2013), and showed a lack of the personal moral qualities of Integrity, Respect, Humility and Wisdom, to which counsellors are strongly encouraged to aspire.

Preliminary Issue

The Panel, during deliberations, agreed that ‘Respect' had been included in the Pre-Hearing Assessment Panel's report as an Ethical Principle, which it deemed to be an error, and therefore only considered Being Trustworthy and Beneficence when considering the Ethical Principles.

Findings

On the balance of probabilities, the Panel made the following findings:

1.   [. . . ], on behalf of the Complainant, provided oral evidence that students registered at the [ . . . ], remain students until they graduate or formally
withdraw. Her evidence was supported by the Complainant's Code of Ethics for Tutors, which clearly states that:

‘Tutors are reminded that the training status of students continues until graduation and/or formal withdrawal from the course'

Mr Worrall confirmed during his oral evidence that he was aware of the Complainant's definition of ‘student'. He informed the Panel that it was his belief that the Ms X had formally withdrawn from the course, was no longer in training, had abandoned her plans to train as a therapist, had sought advice on recovering some or all of her fees and intended to move to Australia for 2 years. However, he accepted that he had not confirmed the position with the Complainant because he believed what he had been told and had no reason to disbelieve Ms X. The Panel noted that Mr Worrall did not dispute that he embarked on a relationship with Ms X and confirmed that it commenced in mid-late April 2014.

The Panel accepted that Ms X was therefore a student and remained a student at the relevant time, even though she was not permitted to return to training in April 2014, but instead was required to take time out with conditions to fulfil, with a view to returning to training in October 2014.

The Panel found that Mr Worrall had a duty to ensure that his professional relationship with the Complainant was conducted in the spirit of mutual
respect, which he failed to do, by breaching the Complainant's Code of Ethics, without good reason. The Panel therefore found that Mr Worrall's behaviour amounted to a failure to ensure that his professional relationship with the Complainant was conducted in the spirit of mutual respect.

For these reasons this allegation is upheld.

2.   As mentioned in Finding 1 above, Mr Worrall informed the Panel that he believed Ms X when she told him that she was no longer a student at the [ . . . ] and did not take any action to verify what he had been told. In his written evidence, Mr Worrall stated that to have checked Ms X's status with the Complainant would have been disrespectful and would have compromised the principles of Autonomy and Self-Respect commensurate with a mature student.

The Complainant submitted that as an experienced tutor and supervisor, Mr Worrall had a duty to make sufficient enquiries as to the status of Ms X.

The Panel was satisfied that Mr Worrall had a duty to ensure that his professional relationship with the Complainant was conducted in the spirit of mutual respect and that duty required enquiries to be made with regards to the status of Ms X, before engaging in a relationship with her. On his own admission, Mr Worrall made no enquiries. The Panel did not accept that the absence of any enquiry was for good reason. The Panel found that the boundary between student and tutors, including tutors who have no direct supervision of an individual student, must be maintained at all times in accordance with the Complainant's Code of Ethics. To ensure compliance with the ethical code Mr Worrall should have made sufficient enquiries prior to embarking on a relationship with Ms X.  The Panel therefore found that Mr Worrall's behaviour amounts to a failure to ensure that his professional relationship with the Complainant was conducted in the spirit of mutual respect.

For these reasons this allegation is upheld.

3.   The oral and documentary evidence, submitted on behalf of the Complainant, suggested that Ms X was deemed to be a vulnerable student. 

Mr Worrall's evidence was that if a student was not in the training group, they would not be discussed during the Sunday evening debriefing meetings and these meetings are not minuted. Mr Worrall stated that he was not aware that Ms X was deemed vulnerable and had no reason to be made aware.

There was no evidence before the Panel that Mr Worrall was present at any meetings where Ms X's alleged vulnerability was discussed. Therefore, in the absence of any evidence that Mr Worrall was present at any such meetings, the Panel could not be satisfied that Mr Worrall failed to ensure that his professional relationship with the Complainant was conducted in the spirit of mutual respect.

For these reasons this allegation is not upheld.

4.   The Panel accepted the oral and documentary evidence, submitted on behalf of the Complainant, that Mr Worrall did not voluntarily disclose to them his relationship with Ms X.

Mr Worrall asserted in his oral and written evidence that he voluntarily disclosed his relationship with Ms X to his colleague, [ . . . ], to his supervisor and one other colleague at the [ . . . ]. He also stated that he did not believe that he had to disclose his relationship ‘in any formal sense'.

The Panel was satisfied that Mr Worrall had a duty to ensure that his professional relationship with the Complainant was conducted in the spirit of mutual respect and that duty required formal disclosure of his relationship with Ms X. The Panel did not accept that Mr Worrall's disclosure to colleagues or to his supervisor met the requirements for disclosure. As formal disclosure to the Complainant was required, Mr Worrall should have declared the relationship with Ms X to his line manager or some other person in an official capacity of equivalent standing. The Panel therefore found that Mr Worrall's failure to disclose his relationship with Ms X, amounts to a failure to ensure that his professional relationship with the Complainant was conducted in the spirit of mutual respect.

For these reasons this allegation is upheld.

5.   In light of the above findings, the Panel was satisfied that Mr Worrall's alleged behaviour as experienced by the Complainant and as identified in the numbered paragraphs referred to above, suggests a contravention of paragraph 51 of the Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy (2013 edition) and the ethical principle of Being Trustworthy, had been breached.   It also found that Mr Worrall's conduct and
behaviour demonstrated a lack of the personal moral qualities of Integrity, Respect and Wisdom to which all practitioners are strongly urged to
aspire.  The Panel was satisfied that the Ethical Principle of Beneficence had not been breached. The Panel was satisfied that the personal moral quality of Humility had not been breached.

Decision

Accordingly, the Panel was unanimous in its decision that these findings amounted to professional misconduct.

The Panel was satisfied that Mr Worrall's ethical conduct and behaviour, fell below the standards that would reasonably be expected of a member of the profession.

Mitigation

The Panel accepted that Mr Worrall genuinely believed that Ms X, was no longer a student at the [ . . . ] and that his acts and omissions were in accordance with that belief.

Sanction

One of the aims of the Professional Conduct Procedure is to protect members of the public.  The Panel, in considering what sanction may be appropriate in the circumstances of this case, has taken into account the interests of public protection.

Within one calendar month from the date of the imposition of this sanction, which will run from the expiration of the Appeal deadline, Mr Worrall is required to provide a written submission, which evidences his immediate reflection on, learning from and understanding of, the elements of the complaint upheld by the Professional Conduct Panel.

In addition, in not less than 3 months and no more than 6 months, from the approval of the first sanction, Mr Worrall is required to:

(a) Attend a minimum of 3 sessions with a BACP or UKCP accredited supervisor or therapist, outside his current network.

(b) Within the above sessions, at para (a) above, Mr Worrall is to explore his learning and understanding in relation to the elements of the complaint upheld by the Professional Conduct Panel.

(c) Obtain a signed and dated statement from the BACP or UKCP accredited supervisor or therapist (referred to in paragraph (a) above) confirming that they: are outside his current network, have no prior direct knowledge of him and that Mr Worrall has undertaken a minimum of 3 sessions.

(d) Provide the statement, from the BACP or UKCP accredited supervisor or therapist (referred to in paragraph (c) above), to BACP.

These written submissions must be sent to the Registrar of BACP Registers by the given deadlines and will be independently considered by a Sanction Panel.

(Where ellipses [ . . . ] are displayed, they indicate an omission of text)

  

  

November 2015: Yvonne Builth, Reference No: 541446, Staffordshire DE13

The complaint against the above individual member/registrant was taken to Adjudication in line with the Professional Conduct Procedure.

The complaint was heard under the BACP Professional Conduct Procedure and the Panel considered the alleged breaches of the BACP Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy.

The focus of the complaint, as summarised by the Pre-Hearing Assessment Panel, is that the Complainant was referred for counselling via her GP, following the still-birth [ . . . ].  Following two
assessment sessions at Organisation A, she was referred to Ms Yvonne Builth.  The Complainant was told that Ms Builth was an expert in infertility, and had worked on labour wards and was therefore, an
appropriate counsellor for her.

The first and only session took place on [ . . . ] 2013.  Ms Builth allegedly limped into the counselling room and explained that she had broken her leg whilst on holiday.  The Complainant was sitting next to a digital clock and was therefore allegedly able to time the discussion relating to Ms Builth's injuries, which allegedly continued for 16 minutes.

The Complainant, aware that she had been allocated an hour for her counselling, and wishing to discuss her feelings regarding the still-birth [ . . . ], then moved the conversation on to a discussion of her reasons for coming to counselling and her experiences of the hospital.  Allegedly, Ms Builth changed the topic of conversation back to her own experiences of the hospital relating to her leg, and complained about the treatment she had received.  This left the Complainant feeling uncomfortable.

Ms Builth allegedly then discussed a woman who had given birth prematurely in the hospital, giving enough personal details for the Complainant to be able to accurately identify the woman.  Ms Builth,
when asked, confirmed the identity of the woman and allegedly showed the Complainant a picture of the baby.  The Complainant believed this to be insensitive and inappropriate behaviour that was not helpful to her.

The session ended at this time and although the Complainant was offered another appointment, she did not take it up.  The Complainant stated that she left thinking that she would never seek counselling
again.

The Panel, in accepting this complaint, was concerned with the allegations made within the complaint suggesting contravention of the Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy, and those in particular as follows:

1.    Ms Builth allegedly failed to provide the Complainant with a good quality of care and competently delivered services which met her needs, in that she did not focus on the Complainant's needs within the session and instead discussed her own issues.

2.    Ms Builth allegedly failed to provide the Complainant with a good quality of care and competently delivered services which met her needs, in that she disclosed to the Complainant, information relating to another person, whom based upon the information Ms Builth had provided, the Complainant was able to identify.

3.    Ms Builth allegedly failed to clarify and agree the rights and responsibilities of her as a practitioner and the Complainant as a client, in that Ms Builth discussed her own issues within the session rather
than the specific issues for which the Complainant believed she was receiving counselling.

4.    Ms Builth allegedly failed to provide the Complainant with competently delivered services, in that she spent time during the session talking about her own issues.

5.    Ms Builth allegedly failed to gain and honour the trust of the Complainant and be attentive to the quality of listening and respect offered to the Complainant, in that during the session when the Complainant attempted to discuss the reasons she had come for counselling, Ms Builth brought the conversation back to her own issues.

6.    Ms Builth allegedly failed to have respect for the Complainant's privacy and dignity, in that she disclosed to the Complainant, information relating to a third party, whom the Complainant was able to
identify and this identity was allegedly confirmed by Ms Builth.

7.    Ms Builth allegedly failed to monitor and maintain her fitness to practise at a level which enabled her to provide an effective service, in that she discussed her own state of health during the Complainant's
session and continued to work when she was not fit to do so.

8.    Ms Builth allegedly failed to remedy any harm which may have been caused to the Complainant as a result of the self- disclosures she made to the Complainant during her session.

9.    Ms Builth allegedly failed to ensure that her work did not become detrimental to her health and well-being, in that during the Complainant's session, she discussed her own experiences and complained about the treatment that she had received at the same hospital that the Complainant had also attended. 

10.  Ms Builth's alleged behaviour, as experienced by the Complainant and as identified in the numbered paragraphs referred to above,  suggests a contravention in particular of paragraphs 1, 3, 6, 11, 40, 42 and 64 and the ethical principles of Being trustworthy, Autonomy, Beneficence, Non Maleficence and Self-respect of the Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling & Psychotherapy (2013) and showed a lack of the personal moral qualities of Empathy, Resilience, Respect, Humility, Competence and Wisdom to which counsellors are strongly encouraged to aspire.

Findings

On balance, having fully considered the above, the Panel made the following findings:

1.    A referral form regarding the Complainant was passed to Ms Builth on [ . . . ] 2013, with the counselling session taking place on [ . . . ] 2013.  The referral form provided a brief description of the Complainant's issues.  On questioning, Ms Builth informed the Panel that she identified the client's needs from reading the referral form.  Ms Builth further informed the Panel that she read out the content of the form to the client and asked her if it was correct.  During the Hearing, Ms Builth admitted to the Panel that she felt that there was no need for her to have a discussion with the Complainant about her needs as they were evident to her from the referral form.  Ms Builth did not make enquiry of, nor have a discussion with the Complainant about her needs from the counselling.  The Panel was not satisfied that Ms Builth had taken the opportunity to listen to her client and establish the nature of the Complainant's needs, and as such Ms Builth would not have been able to focus upon those needs.  Ms Builth expressed her view that the first session was a 'get to know you session'" which was not intended to deal with the Complainant's issues in any depth.  However, this had not been shared with the Complainant.  Ms Builth
discussed at some length the injury to her leg and her negative experience of treatment at the hospital.  That Panel accepted that in doing so she had sought to be empathic with the Complainant.  However, The Panel found that in talking about these issues Ms Builth brought her own issues into the counselling session and it was not satisfied that her intervention had been helpful or appropriate.  It did not place
the Complainant at the centre of the therapy, as the client, leaving her feeling uncomfortable and took away from her autonomy to talk about her feelings relating to the loss of her child.  The Panel was not satisfied that in respect to this allegation that Ms Builth had provided the Complaint with a good quality of care and competently delivered service that met her needs.  The Panel therefore upheld this allegation. 

2.    The account of events narrated both by Ms Builth and the Complainant referred to Ms Builth having disclosed to the Complainant, information relating to a Ms X.  The information disclosed was about Ms X and her baby, including an email image of the baby.  The details of the disclosure were such that the Complainant recognised the individual and when the Complainant broached the name in the session, Ms Builth chose to confirm the identity of Ms X.  Ms Builth stated that Ms X was a friend and not a client, and whilst she had consent to show the image to colleagues, she indicated that she did not have  permission from Ms X to show it to the Complainant.  Ms Builth asked the Complainant if she wanted to see the picture and she agreed.  Nevertheless, the Panel found that the information disclosed to the Complainant, a client who had lost her baby, was highly inappropriate especially given that the information related to a premature baby that had survived.  It was also satisfied that this had a negative impact upon the Complainant.  Ms Builth acknowledged that disclosing the email image of the baby to the Complainant was inappropriate and apologised for her action.  The Panel was not satisfied that Ms Builth could provide any cogent reason for disclosing the email image to the Complainant.  The Panel was further not satisfied that Ms Builth had given thought to her action and its potential impact upon a vulnerable client.  Whilst Ms Builth indicated that this has only happened once and that she would never repeat this, the Panel considered that Ms Builth had been reckless in disclosing the email image to the Complainant in the circumstances in which she went for counselling.  The Panel concluded that with regard to this allegation, Ms Builth had failed to provide the Complainant with a good quality of care and competently delivered service which met her needs.  Therefore it upheld the allegation. 

3.    Ms Builth provided, in evidence, a counselling contract.  The contract was not complete nor signed.  Whilst Ms Builth spoke about confidentiality and note taking during the session, she did not go through the contract with the Complainant.  Ms Builth advised the Complainant that it can be difficult to digest the content of the contract in session and thus gave her a copy of the contract to take away, read and return when signed and agreed.  On questioning, Ms Builth indicated that she did not discuss the aims and objectives of the counselling with the Complainant. Ms Builth viewed the first session as a "get to know you session" which was not intended to deal with the Complainant's issues in any depth.  Ms Builth had not informed the Complainant that this was the intention of the first session and had not established the nature of her specific needs.  The Complainant had had two assessment sessions and her expectation was to receive bereavement counselling and talk about the death of her child when she went for her counselling session with Ms Builth.  During the session, the Complainant was left wondering when they would talk about her and the death of her child.  There was no agreement between Ms Builth and the Complainant as to what the first session would entail and there was no explicit contracting in that regard.   It was accepted by both Ms Builth and the Complainant that Ms Builth made self-disclosures during the session.  The Complainant stated that Ms Builth spoke about issues relating to her broken leg for 16 minutes at the start of the session.  Ms Builth denied this, initially indicating that she had spent a few minutes discussing her leg, but on further questioning, admitted it was possible that she had discussed her leg for between five and ten minutes.  The Complainant, however, was adamant that it was for a period of 16 minutes, as she recalled sitting next to a digital clock and noting the passage of time because she was mindful of the length of the session being an hour, and wished to speak about what she had come to counselling to discuss.  The Complainant also stated that Ms Builth later in the session returned to her self-disclosure, discussing her experiences of the treatment she received from hospital.  Ms Builth admitted that later in the session she did discuss her own unsatisfactory experience in hospital.  The Panel observed that a large amount of information had been disclosed by Ms Builth about her own issues during the session and noted that Ms Builth had made reference to self-disclosures in her counselling notes.  The session was scheduled to last one hour and the Panel was satisfied on the evidence that a significant proportion of the counselling session would have been taken up on Ms Builth's issues, even if she had spent 10 minutes at the start of the counselling and revisited her issues later in the session.  The Panel viewed the extent to which Ms Builth had discussed her issues to have been inappropriate, and was satisfied with regard to this allegation that Ms Builth had failed to clarify and agree the rights and responsibilities of herself as a practitioner and the Complainant as a client and therefore upheld the allegation.

4.    The Panel was satisfied that Ms Builth failed to provide the Complainant with a competently delivered service in that she spent time during the session talking about her own issues.  The Panel has  provided its reasoning in findings 1 & 3, to which the reader is referred.  As such, this allegation is upheld.  

5.    The Panel viewed the creation of trust as one of the primary tasks of a counsellor on the first counselling session and that a client should be made comfortable and put at ease.  Ms Builth initially spoke about her own issues when the Complainant wished to speak about her feelings related to the loss of her child.  As the session progressed, Ms Builth did not engage her listening skills to hear her client,
but instead revisited her own issues later in the session.  Ms Builth spoke about her issues at some length and in some depth.  In so doing, Ms Builth did not allow space to be given to the client to discuss her own issues, and made the Complainant feel uncomfortable when Ms Builth was critical of the medical treatment she [Ms Builth] had received in relation to her leg.  The issues that the Complainant wished
to discuss were more serious than the issues Ms Builth introduced into the session.  In introducing and discussing her own issues, Ms Builth diminished the Complainant's issues and failed to hear and respect her client.  The Complainant left the session thinking that she would never want to seek counselling again.  The Panel was thus satisfied that Ms Builth failed to gain and honour the trust of the Complainant
and be attentive to the quality of listening and respect offered to her.  The Panel therefore, concluded that the allegation was upheld. 

6.    Ms Builth disclosed information relating to a Ms X and her baby.  The information was sufficient for the Complainant to identify Ms X and her identity was confirmed by Ms Builth.  As part of that
disclosure, Ms Builth showed the Complainant an email image of Ms X's baby.  The information disclosed to the Complainant, a client who had lost her baby, was highly inappropriate and not respectful, especially given that the information related to a premature baby that had survived.  In making this disclosure, Ms Builth diminished the client's issues.  The Complainant had knowledge of Ms X in settings outside of the counselling sessions.  In making this disclosure, Ms Builth brought those settings into the counselling room.  This impacted negatively on the Complainant, in that as a result, she stated she would not be comfortable to be in the same environment as Ms X and continues to avoid situations where she may come in to contact with Ms X.  The Panel was thus satisfied that Ms Builth failed to have respect for the Complainant's privacy and dignity and upheld the allegation. 

7.    Ms Builth had discussed her broken leg during the counselling session.  On questioning by the Panel, she disclosed how she manages and monitors her fitness to practise in relation to health issues.  The Panel also noted the statements from her supervisor which indicated the accident was to her leg and not her mind and supported the notion that Ms Builth's fitness to practise had been monitored and managed.  The Panel was not satisfied that there was sufficient evidence to prove that Ms Builth had failed to monitor and maintain her fitness to practise and concluded that the allegation was not upheld.  

8.    The Panel was satisfied that Ms Builth had made self-disclosures to the Complainant and that these were unhelpful to her.  Only at the Hearing did Ms Builth appear to realise that her self-disclosures had been unhelpful.  The Complainant confirmed that she had been upset at the counselling session, but acknowledged that she did not say anything to Ms Builth about it at the time.  She further indicated that she would not have appeared visibly upset to Ms Builth.  Furthermore, the Complainant did not return for any further counselling sessions with Ms Builth.  As such, Ms Builth would not have known she had caused any upset or harm to the Complainant and no opportunity would have existed for Ms Builth during or after the session to remedy any harm caused to the Complainant, as she would not have been aware that harm needed to be remedied.  Therefore the allegation was not upheld. 

9.    The Panel was satisfied that Ms Builth did discuss her own experiences about the treatment she had received in hospital and expressed her dissatisfaction about that treatment during the counselling
session.  However, the Panel was also satisfied that Ms Builth had demonstrated to the Panel a level of awareness regarding monitoring her own health and well-being.  This was strongly supported by the written statements of her supervisor.  The Panel further did not see evidence that the work with the Complainant had become detrimental to Ms Builth's health and well-being.  Therefore the allegation was not upheld. 

10.  In light of the above findings, the Panel was satisfied that paragraphs 1, 3, and 11 and the ethical principles of Being trustworthy, Autonomy and Beneficence of the Ethical Framework for Good
Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy had been breached.  The Panel also found that Ms Builth's conduct in this case demonstrated a lack of the personal moral qualities of Empathy, Respect, Humility, Competence and Wisdom to which counsellors are strongly encouraged to aspire.

The Panel did not find a contravention of paragraphs 6, 40, 42 and 64 nor the ethical principles of Non-Maleficence and Self-Respect.  Nor did the Panel find a lack of the personal moral quality of Resilience. 

Decision

Accordingly, the Panel was unanimous in its decision that these findings amounted to Professional Malpractice in that the service for which Ms Builth was responsible fell below the standards that would reasonably be expected of a practitioner exercising reasonable skill in that she was incompetent, reckless and provided an inadequate professional service. 

Mitigation

Ms Builth made an apology for her behaviour in relation to showing the client an email image of the baby.  She indicated that she no longer uses self-disclosure as an intervention and has attended a
child bereavement course.  

Sanction

One of the aims of the Professional Conduct Procedure is to protect members of the public.  The Panel, in considering what sanction may be appropriate in the circumstances of this case, has taken into account the interests of public protection.  

Within one month from the date of the imposition of this sanction, which will run from the expiration of the Appeal deadline, Ms Builth is required to provide a written submission which evidences her reflection on, learning from and understanding of, the issues raised in the findings upheld against her. 

In addition, in not less than 6 months and no more than 12 months from the date of approval of the first sanction, Ms Builth is required to provide a written report and case study, demonstrating her insight and understanding of, and integration into her to practice, including, but not restricted to, the following areas demonstrating those changes to practice: 

a)   The use of self-disclosure, when it may be used appropriately and when it should not be used and the risks associated with its use. 

b)   The use of empathy and active listening, and the differences between sympathy and empathy. 

c)   The use of third party material in session, when it may be used appropriately and when it should not be used and the risks associated with its use. 

d)   Contracting with a client and creating the environment in which the client is allowed to explore their issues  

Ms Builth is required to have the report and case study countersigned by her supervisor as having been discussed in supervision, and the report and case study should be between 2000 and 5000 words in length (Ms Builth being responsible for adding the final word count at the end of the submission). 

This written submission must be sent to the Interim Registrar by the given deadline and will be independently considered by a Sanction Panel.

(Where ellipses [ . . . ] are displayed, they indicate an omission of text)

November 2015: Stephen Hockett, Reference No: 624046, Essex SS9


The complaint against the above individual member was taken to Adjudication in line with the Professional Conduct Procedure. 

The complaint was heard under the BACP Professional Conduct Procedure and the Panel considered the alleged breaches of the BACP Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy.

The focus of the complaint, as summarised by the Pre-Hearing Assessment Panel, was that the Complainant received counselling from Steve Hockett from June 2013 until August 2014.  Sessions were
originally twice a week, but at some point, Mr Hockett, allegedly against the expressed wishes of the Complainant, changed this to one session a week, at 7:30pm on Wednesdays, apart from one Wednesday a month when they had an 8:30pm appointment.

Originally the sessions were held at Mr Hockett's clinic, but they moved to the Complainant's home by mutual consent.  This was because the Complainant stated that she was allegedly left in such a bad place and state of mind following the sessions at the clinic that she could not function or drive home safely. 

The Complainant alleged that their relationship deteriorated from this point as allegedly Mr Hockett's original commitment to her had diminished.  The Complainant alleged that Mr Hockett was out of his depth and that over time sessions were doing her more harm than good. 

The Complainant alleged that Mr Hockett would change the times of appointments as and when it suited him, and that this left her feeling that she was not important, was at the bottom of the pile, and that her appointment would only stand if no-one else wanted an appointment. 

The Complainant alleged that on one occasion when Mr Hockett changed their appointment, he told her that he would always put his family before her.  The Complainant said that whilst she accepted this, to be told so was uncomfortable and belittling.  The Complainant stated that she had wished to have a conversation with Mr Hockett about the fact that he had cancelled another appointment but stated that Mr Hockett took her remarks out of context. 

The Complainant stated that she was aware that Mr Hockett would report things if he felt that she was in danger or at risk.  Therefore, when she disclosed in a session in July 2014, that she wanted to act upon her suicidal thoughts, she expected him take action.  However, Mr Hockett allegedly went home, leaving the Complainant's partner to look after her.  The Complainant alleged that it was wrong of Mr Hockett to leave it for her partner to take care of her, without him taking action himself 

At some stage in their counselling relationship Mr Hockett allegedly expressed concern for the Complainant.  They wrote, and together delivered, a letter to the GP, dated 16 July 2014.  The Complainant alleged that Mr Hockett had no sense of urgency in writing the letter and that by the time he did so it was a little too late. 

Following the presentation of the letter to the GP, Mr Hockett informed the Complainant that he could only work with her if additional support was in place.  The Complainant alleged that this was blackmail as she had tried on many occasions to get support outside of her counselling with Mr Hockett but had not been able to get any.  However, the Complainant did go to see her GP, allegedly with Mr Hockett and also tried to get help from other sources. 

On 6 August 2014, the Complainant received a text from Mr Hockett confirming their appointment time for that evening's session.  The Complainant stated that the time of the appointment was wrong and
she therefore contacted Mr Hockett by text.  Mr Hockett responded by saying that whilst the appointment should have been at 7:30pm, he was changing it as he had a 7pm clinic appointment.  Whilst the Complainant did attempt to change her arrangements in order to meet with Mr Hockett she was unable to do so.  The Complainant stated that she then telephoned Mr Hockett to challenge him in relation to the change in appointment time as she was distressed.  Mr Hockett allegedly told the Complainant that he had made it clear to her that when it was his clinic night if he got a request for a 7pm appointment, he would book it.  The Complainant denied that she was ever made aware of this.  

The Complainant stated that Mr Hockett began to adopt more of a supportive role within the counselling sessions, which left her not knowing what to expect from him or what she was paying him to do.   

The Complainant stated that Mr Hockett discussed her with her partner, including giving details of session material, and also discussed with her partner, texts and calls that had been exchanged between the Complainant and Mr Hockett.  Mr Hockett also allegedly discussed a particular issue with the Complainant's partner, despite the fact that she had asked him not to. 

The Complainant alleged that by the end of counselling she did not know what she was paying for, nor what she could expect from counselling.  Despite Mr Hockett telling her how experienced a therapist he is, she considers him to lack professionalism. 

The Complainant stated that she has tried to resolve the issues with Mr Hockett, including asking for the name of his supervisor, but it has not been possible for a resolution. 

In accepting this complaint, the Pre-Hearing Assessment Panel was concerned with the following areas, and in particular these are: 

1. Mr Hockett allegedly failed to provide the Complainant with a good quality of care and competently delivered services, which met her needs in that:                                            

a)   he allegedly changed the Complainant's appointment time without consultation or consent and in a manner which did not take into account how this would impact upon the Complainant. 

b)   he did not ensure that the Complainant was in a fit state to leave the counselling session, as some of the sessions left the Complainant in such a bad way that she was unable to get herself home. 

c)   he allegedly told the Complainant that he could only continue to counsel her alongside other medical help, which left the Complainant feeling as if she had been given an ultimatum. 

d)   When the Complainant was in distress, he failed to refer her to another professional and instead left the Complainant's partner to deal with her distress. 

2. Mr Hockett allegedly failed to give careful consideration to the limitations of his training and experience and work within these limits, in that he continued to work with the Complainant when he was out of his depth to do so. 

3. Mr Hockett failed to clarify and agree the rights and responsibilities of both him as a practitioner and the Complainant as a client, in that he:

a)   failed to clarify and agree with the Complainant, the appointment times at appropriate points in their relationship and set a clear agreement as to when appointments would take place or the circumstances in which the times of the appointments would change. 

b)   failed to clarify with the Complainant the boundaries of their relationship and accompanied the Complainant to her Doctor's.

c)   did not make clear to the Complainant, the limitations in relation to confidentiality and his responsibilities to the Complainant if she disclosed to him that she was suicidal.  

d)    did not make it clear to the Complainant the circumstances in which therapy would end or the additional support he expected her to have, in that he issued the Complainant with an ultimatum, without discussing the matter with her, that he would only continue to see her if she sought additional medical support. 

4. Mr Hockett allegedly failed to provide the Complainant with competently delivered services which were periodically reviewed, in that he did not carry out any, or any sufficient reviews. 

5. Mr Hockett allegedly failed to monitor and review his own work and respond constructively to the feedback provided by the Complainant and her partner regarding how the changes to the appointment times were affecting her. 

6.   Mr Hockett allegedly failed to gain and honour the trust of the Complainant in that he: 

a)   failed to pay careful attention to the Complainant's consent and confidentiality, in that he discussed the Complainant with her partner without her consent and revealed content from the sessions with the
Complainant to her partner, against her wishes.  

b)   failed to communicate with the Complainant in a way which was courteous and clear, in the manner in which he communicated the change of appointment time to the Complainant. 

c)   failed to show respect for the Complainant's dignity, in that he told the Complainant that his family would always come first. 

d)   failed to be attentive to the quality of listening and respect offered to the Complainant in that he responded defensively to the Complainant when she told him that she felt let down by him. 

7. Mr Hockett allegedly failed to adequately inform the Complainant about the nature of the services being offered to her, in that the Complainant was not adequately informed that she could only continue to see Mr Hockett  if she sought and gained additional support. Mr Hockett allegedly failed to ensure that his services were delivered on the basis of the Complainant's explicit consent in that he overrode her wishes by changing her appointment times without prior consent or discussion, and contacting her partner against her express wishes 

8. Mr Hockett allegedly failed to be alert to the possibility of conflicting responsibilities concerning the Complainant, in that when she disclosed that she was suicidal, Mr Hockett (amended as per Findings below) did not take any, or any sufficient action in relation to this. 

9. Mr Hockett allegedly over-rode the Complainant's expressed wishes by changing the frequency of the sessions from twice a week to once a week. 

10. Mr Hockett allegedly failed to respond to the Complainant' requests for information about the way in which he was working, in that he did not respond to the Complainant request for the name of his supervisor. 

11. Mr Hockett allegedly abused the Complainant's trust in order to gain financial advantage, in that he continued to work with the Complainant when he was no longer capable or competent to do so and adopted a more supportive role within the sessions, which left the Complainant unclear about what service she was paying him to provide to her.  

12. Mr Hockett allegedly failed to be clear about his commitment to be available to The Complainant, in that he changed the appointment times at the last minute without sufficient consultation with the Complainant. 

13. Mr Hockett allegedly failed to respect the Complainant's privacy and confidentiality in that he revealed information from his sessions with the Complainant to her partner, against her express wishes. 

14. Mr Hockett allegedly failed to respond promptly and appropriately to the Complainant's complaint when he became aware of it. 

15. Mr Hockett allegedly failed to endeavour to remedy any harm he may have caused to the Complainant and prevent any further harm, in that he did not issue an apology to the Complainant. 

16. Mr Hockett allegedly failed to offer or suggest the use of mediation or conciliation to resolve the Complainant's complaint. 

17. Mr Hockett allegedly failed to clarify the terms on which his services were being offered to the Complainant, in that he changed the appointment times at the last minute.  

18. Mr Hockett allegedly failed to foresee or avoid the conflict of interest arising in him agreeing to see another client at the same time that he had agreed to see the Complainant. 

19. Mr Hockett's alleged behaviour, as experienced by the Complainant, and as identified in the numbered paragraphs referred to above, suggests a contravention in particular of paragraphs 1, 2, 3, 6, 8
(Added as per Finding below) 11, 12, 13, 14, 16, 17, 19, 20, 41, 42, 45, 59 and 63 and the ethical principles of Being Trustworthy, Autonomy, Beneficence and Non-Maleficence and Justice of the Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling & Psychotherapy (2013), and showed a lack of the personal moral qualities of Empathy, Sincerity, Integrity, Respect, Humility, Competence, Fairness, Wisdom and courage to which counsellors are strongly encouraged to aspire. 

The Complainant did not attend the hearing and the matter was referred under paragraph 4.9 of the Professional Conduct Procedure, which states: 

Where a Complainant or Member Complained Against fails or refuses to attend a Professional Conduct Hearing, the Registrar has the power to decide to either: 

a)   Proceed with the Hearing in the absence of one or both of the parties; or 

b)   Adjourn the Hearing to a date not less than 28 days in advance; or 

c)   Terminate the proceedings; or   

d)   Refer the matter for consideration under Article 12.6 of the Memorandum & Articles of Association. 

The options were carefully considered, and in light of the circumstances, a decision was made to go ahead with the hearing in the absence of the Complainant.   

The Panel would have liked the opportunity to question the Complainant in relation to the complaint and the allegations but in her absence, the Panel was able to question the Member Complained Against and examine the written evidence.   

Findings  

On balance, having fully considered the above, the Panel made the following findings:  

Two preliminary issues, were addressed by the Panel, the first being with respect to allegation 5, which related to a contravention of paragraph 8 of the Ethical Framework for Counselling and Psychotherapy 2013.  It was noted that this was not referred to in the relevant paragraph at 19.  The parties present at the hearing agreed that this was a genuine omission and it was therefore inserted at paragraph 19
of the allegations.  The second issue related to allegation 8, in which there was a typographical error, the sentence referred to ‘X' when it should have stated ‘Mr Hockett'.  The parties present at the hearing agreed that this was an error, and it was therefore amended. 

1. (a) In both his written and oral evidence, Mr Hockett explained that the time of the Wednesday evening appointment at the Complainant's home was discussed and agreed with her.  The agreement was that the appointment was provisionally fixed for 7.30pm.  The Complainant was made aware and agreed that on one in every four Wednesdays, her appointment would be scheduled at 8.30pm. The Complainant was also advised that if on any other Wednesday, Mr Hockett had a 7.00pm appointment at his clinic her ppointment would be moved back an hour. The Panel also noted that Mr Hockett's written schedule supported this.  The Panel considered all the evidence presented by both parties and found that there was insufficient evidence, on the balance of probabilities, to substantiate the allegation that Mr Hockett failed to provide the Complainant with a good quality of care and competently delivered services, which met her needs, in changing appointment times without consultation or consent or that he did so in a manner which negatively impacted the Complainant. This part of the allegation is therefore not upheld. 

(b) In his oral evidence, Mr Hockett described how long his sessions lasted and how he would pace a session before it came to a close, to ensure that the Complainant was brought back to the ‘here and now' and was in a ‘safe place'.  The Panel had insufficient evidence to substantiate the allegation that on the one occasion described in the Complainant's written evidence that she felt unable to drive home safely,
was as a result of Mr Hockett failing to ensure that she left sessions in a calm manner.  The Panel noted that the Complainant, did in fact arrive home safely and this is uncontested.  The Panel therefore did not uphold this part of the allegation. 

(c) In his oral evidence, Mr Hockett stated that he did not give the Complainant an ultimatum, however, he admitted stating to the Complainant, that he would only continue counselling her, alongside other medical help, and stated that this was communicated to her in a letter, which was handed to her.  Mr Hockett also stated that the issue of additional sup ort was discussed with her in a session.  He did concede that in hindsight, the letter could have been better worded.  The Panel considered that Mr Hockett's communication with the Complainant in the circumstances presented did not amount to an ultimatum, but was a reasoned decision, which was explained to the Complainant.  The Panel considered all the evidence presented by both parties and found that there was insufficient evidence, on
the balance of probabilities, to substantiate this part of the allegation.  

(d) Whilst the Panel accepted that the issues that the Complainant was dealing with within counselling were distressing per se, in the absence of the Complainant, the Panel was unclear as to what specific distress she was referring and could not explore this element further. The Panel also noted that in both his written and oral evidence, Mr Hockett stated that he made a decision to suggest that she seek additional medical support.  In the circumstances, the Panel had insufficient evidence to substantiate the allegation that Mr Hockett failed to provide the Complainant with a good quality of care and competently delivered services, which met her needs, by failing to refer her to another professional, when she was in distress, leaving her partner to deal with her distress.  The Panel therefore did not uphold this part of the allegation.

In conclusion, the Panel did not uphold any of the elements of allegation 1.  

2. The Panel questioned Mr Hockett about whether he had given sufficient consideration to his training and experience when assessing his capacity to work with the Complainant over the whole course of the counselling relationship as it developed. Mr Hockett stated that he had not attended any training specifically relating to mental health issues or suicidal ideation but had practical experience acquired within the care system, bolstered by his own personal experience from within his family and he felt confident in his capacity.  However, Mr Hockett accepted that that Complainant had complex issues that were very challenging to deal with and that he changed his normal practice to accommodate her needs, by seeing her at her home. The Panel noted that despite the complexities of the Complainant's issues, Mr Hockett relied solely on the oversight and support of her husband to keep her safe and liaised with him when there were concerns about her safety and that this arrangement, although agreed, was problematic for the Complainant's husband. Mr Hockett submitted in evidence a report from his supervisor but this provided no information about what systematic monitoring of this case took place in supervision, how often he brought this case specifically to supervision or how he worked on the presenting issues within the supervisory sessions. It was not until June 2014, after 79  counselling sessions, that Mr Hockett persuaded the Complainant to contact her GP, when he accepted that he felt "stuck" and the Complainant's mental health was deteriorating.  Taking all these factors into account and the demands upon him of managing his counselling work with his family issues, the Panel was not satisfied that Mr Hockett gave sufficient thought to whether he was working within his capabilities and had sufficient support given the Complainant's history and mental health issues.  To that extent the Panel found that he failed to give careful consideration to the limitations of his training and experience and work within these limits, in that he continued to work with the Complainant when he was out of his depth to do so. This allegation is therefore upheld.

3. (a) The Panel referred to its' findings in paragraph 1(a) above.  In the absence of evidence to the contrary, the allegation that Mr Hockett failed to clarify and agree with the Complainant, the appointment times at appropriate points in their relationship and set a clear agreement as to when appointments would take place or the circumstances in which the times of the appointments would change, is not upheld.

b) The Panel considered the written evidence from Mr Hockett, as to the reasons why he went with the Complainant to deliver the letter, which he had written to her Doctor.  The Panel also heard convincing oral evidence from Mr Hockett as to why he felt it necessary to accompany the Complainant to deliver the letter to her GP Surgery.  Mr Hockett stated that he considered it was crucial to her wellbeing to do so.  The Panel found, in the circumstances presented and in the absence of oral evidence from the Complainant that she had any issues with this arrangement; or that it was to her detriment, that Mr Hockett did not fail to clarify the boundaries of their relationship in this regard. The Panel therefore did not uphold this part of the allegation. 

(c) The Panel accepted Mr Hockett's written and oral evidence that he had explained to the Complainant, the responsibilities he had with regard to confidentiality, and in what circumstances he would override the duty.  The Panel noted that Mr Hockett had an agreement in place, which he had consulted on with the Complainant.  The agreement was that if she posed a danger to herself he would act regardless of
confidentiality.  The Complainant, in her written evidence, confirmed that Mr Hockett had explained to her that he was ethically bound to report if he felt she was in danger or at risk.  The Panel found, on the balance of probabilities, that Mr Hockett had explained the limitations in relation to confidentiality. Therefore this part of the allegation is not upheld. 

(d) The Panel referred to its findings in paragraph 1(c) and in the absence of evidence to the contrary, the Panel did not uphold the allegation that Mr Hockett failed to clarify the circumstances in which therapy would end or the additional support he expected the Complainant to have. 

4. In his oral evidence, Mr Hockett stated that he did review his work.  The Panel also noted that Mr Hockett provided written evidence of the reviews he had carried out with regard to the work he did with the Complainant.  The Panel therefore did not uphold this allegation. 

5. Whilst the Panel noted that Mr Hockett, was not bound to consider feedback from the Complainant, in monitoring and reviewing his own work, the Panel, nevertheless noted that Mr Hockett's in his oral and written evidence, stated that he had attempted to meet the Complainant's needs regarding the location and timing of appointments.  The Panel also noted that when Mr Hockett agreed to see the Complainant at home, he had explained to her and her partner why some flexibility about appointments was necessary.  The Panel further noted Mr Hockett's did review his practice.  The Panel therefore did not uphold this allegation. 

6. (a) In the absence of the Complainant, the Panel was unclear as to what content she considered that Mr Hockett had communicated to her partner, against her wishes.  The Panel heard oral evidence from Mr Hockett, that the Complainant's partner had, on occasions, by agreement attended counselling sessions with the Complainant and therefore would have been aware of some content; however, the Panel did not have specific information as to the particulars of the content to which the Complainant was referring in her written evidence.  The Panel considered all the evidence presented by both parties and found that there was insufficient evidence, on the balance of probabilities, to substantiate the allegation.

(b) The Panel noted from the written evidence that the Complainant had expressed her upset at the change of appointment times.  The communications that took place about the appointment times were by text.  The Panel found that the use of text messages to communicate about these important issues about the changing of appointment times and the style and content of the messages was not sufficiently courteous, clear or professional and that as a result he failed to gain and honour the Complainant's trust in him.  This part of the allegation is therefore upheld.

(c) In oral evidence, Mr Hockett stated that he had told the Complainant that his family would come first, and did so in the context of explaining how the [ . . . ] could necessitate the changing of appointments.  Mr Hockett denied that he communicated this information in a way, which was disrespectful to the Complainant.  The Panel considered all the evidence presented by both parties and found that there was
insufficient evidence, on the balance of probabilities, to substantiate this part of the allegation. 

(d) In his oral evidence, Mr Hockett stated that he always listened respectfully to the Complainant.  The Panel was unable to question the Complainant further in her absence and having considered the evidence presented by both parties found that there was insufficient evidence, on the balance of probabilities, to substantiate this part of the allegation. 

7. With respect to the part of the allegation that referred to Mr Hockett failing to inform the Complainant that he would only continue to see her if she sought additional support, the Panel referred to its findings in 1(c) above and did not find that Mr Hockett had failed to adequately inform the Complainant of the nature of the services in this regard.  With respect to the part of the allegation which referred to Mr Hockett changing appointment times without the Complainant's explicit consent, the Panel referred to its findings in 1(a), and was satisfied that there was already an agreement in place with respect to changing appointment times and therefore the Complainant's consent would not have been required.  With respect to the part of the allegation which referred to Mr Hockett, failing to gain the Complainant's explicit consent to contact her partner when she had expressly asked him not to do so, the Panel noted that in oral evidence Mr Hockett stated that there was a ‘no harm' contract in place, which had been
agreed with the Complainant.  In the Complainant's written statement she confirmed that it was explained to her that Mr Hockett was ethically bound to report if he felt she was in danger or at risk.  The Panel noted that Mr Hockett had provided written evidence, which confirmed a ‘Not to Commit Suicide Contract', was put in place in 2013.  The Panel also noted that Mr Hockett had stated in his written evidence that there was an agreement that in circumstances where he considered the Complainant would self-harm, that he would first contact her partner.  The Panel therefore found, on the balance of probabilities, that there was insufficient evidence to substantiate this part of the allegation.  

In conclusion allegation 7 is not upheld in its totality. 

8. In considering the allegation the Panel noted that in both his oral and written evidence, Mr Hockett stated that he did take action when the Complainant disclosed that she was suicidal.  The Panel referred to its findings in paragraph 7 above and noted in particular, that when the Complainant expressed what she was going to do on a particular occasion, Mr Hockett did what had been previously agreed and notified her partner.  The evidence was not contradicted and therefore, on the balance of probabilities, the Panel found that there was insufficient evidence to substantiate the allegation that Mr Hockett failed to take any or insufficient action in the circumstances stated.  This allegation is therefore not upheld. 

9. The Panel noted from the Complainant's written evidence, that Mr Hockett told her that he would be unable to see her on Friday evenings going forward as he wished to spend more time with his family.  He also informed her that he had no other evening appointments available.  In oral evidence, Mr Hockett stated that whilst he could not see the Complainant on a Friday, he did try to accommodate her wish to see him twice a week, and offered a number of alternative days, including a Saturday.  In the absence of evidence to the contrary, the Panel considered that Mr Hockett had offered suitable alternatives to the
Complainant, and therefore found that, on the balance of probabilities, Mr Hockett had not overridden the Complainant's wishes by changing the frequency of sessions, but had attempted to give the Complainant, alternative dates in order to retain the twice weekly sessions.  This allegation is therefore not upheld. 

10. Mr Hockett stated in both his written and oral evidence, that he had asked his Supervisor whether she would be willing to have her name disclosed, but he was not given permission to do so.  Notwithstanding the attempt made to facilitate the Complainant's enquiry, the Panel considered that Mr Hockett did not have an obligation to tell the Complainant the name of his Supervisor and was therefore able to refuse the request for this information.  This allegation is therefore not upheld.

11. The Complainant in her written evidence stated that Mr Hockett adopted a supportive role, after he had advised her that he would only continue to counsel her alongside medical help.  In his oral evidence, Mr Hockett clarified that he continued to work with the Complainant as before in a counselling role.  There was a disagreement of fact between the parties and in the circumstances the Panel was unable to conclude either way, that Mr Hockett had abused the Complainant's trust in order to gain financial advantage. This allegation was not substantiated and therefore not upheld. 

12. The Panel referred to its findings in paragraphs 1(a) and 3(a).  In conclusion the Panel did not find that Mr Hockett had failed to be clear about his commitment to be available to the Complainant by changing appointment times at the last minute without consultation.  

13. The Panel referred to its findings in paragraph 6(a) above.  In the circumstances the Panel found that there was insufficient evidence to substantiate the allegation that Mr Hockett failed to respect the Complainant's privacy and confidentiality.  This allegation is therefore not upheld. 

14. In oral evidence, Mr Hockett explained that he did not respond to the Complainant, as she had expressly stated that she did not want any further communication from him.  Specifically, she stated she did not want any letters, texts or calls and that she would be writing to the BACP.  Mr Hockett stated that he exercised his judgement not to respond and respected her wishes and her autonomy.  The Panel found that Mr Hockett did think carefully about whether or not he should respond in any way to acknowledge the complaint, and gave considered reasons why he decided not to do so.  This allegation is therefore not upheld.  

15. The Panel noted, notwithstanding Mr Hockett was specifically asked not to make any response to the Complainant, that she subsequently referred the complaint to the BACP and it was thereafter dealt
with through the Professional Conduct Procedure.  The Panel therefore found that Mr Hockett was not in a position to endeavor to remedy harm.  This allegation is therefore not upheld. 

16. The Panel referred to its findings in paragraph 15 above, and for the same reasons, did not uphold the allegation that Mr Hockett had failed to offer or suggest the use of mediation or conciliation.  This allegation is therefore not upheld. 

17. The Panel referred to its findings in paragraph 1(a) and 3(a) and for the same reasons, did not find that Mr Hockett had failed to clarify the terms on which his services were being offered.  This allegation is therefore not upheld. 

18. The Panel referred to its findings in 1(a) and 3(a) above.  In addition the Panel noted that whilst Mr Hockett had a prior appointment with the Complainant which had to be changed as it conflicted with another client appointment on his clinic day, there was an agreement in place, with the Complainant, that Mr Hockett could prioritise the times of appointments for clinic clients over the Complainant.  The Panel therefore found that having the agreement with the Complainant in place had reasonably guarded against any conflict that might occur.  This allegation is therefore not upheld.  

19. Mr Hockett's alleged behavior, as experienced by the Complainant, and as identified in the numbered paragraphs referred to above, suggests a contravention in particular of paragraphs 2, and 11 and the Ethical Principle of Beneficence of the Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling & Psychotherapy (2013), and showed a lack of the personal moral qualities of Respect, Competence and Wisdom to which counsellors are strongly encouraged to aspire. The Panel found that Mr Hockett had not contravened paragraphs 1, 3, 6, 8, 1 2, 13, 14, 16, 17, 19, 20, 41, 42, 45, 59 or 63 of the Ethical Framework, nor had he acted in contravention of the Ethical Principles of Being Trustworthy, Autonomy or Non-Maleficence.  Nor had Mr Hockett shown a lack of the personal moral qualities of Empathy, Sincerity, Integrity,
Humility, Fairness or Courage.  

Decision 

Accordingly, the Panel was unanimous in its decision that these findings amounted to Professional Malpractice in that the service for which Mr Hockett was responsible fell below the standards that would reasonably be expected of a practitioner exercising reasonable skill.  The Panel found that Mr Hockett was incompetent and provided inadequate professional services. 

Mitigation 

Mr Hockett has now changed his practice regarding the use of text messaging as a way of communicating professionally with clients. 

Sanction 

One of the aims of the Professional Conduct Procedure is to protect members of the public.  The Panel, in considering what sanction may be appropriate in the circumstances of this case, has taken into account the interests of public protection.  

Within one month from the date of imposition of this sanction, which will run from the expiration of the appeal deadline, Mr Hockett is required to provide a written submission, which evidences his immediate reflection on, learning from and understanding of, the issues raised in this complaint. 

In addition, in no less than three months and no more than six months from the date of approval of the first sanction, Mr Hockett is required to provide a written case study based on the issues upheld which demonstrates his learning.  The report should cover, but not necessarily be restricted, to the following: 

- Communicating and managing arrangements for counselling appointments.

- How Mr Hockett is taking advantage of professional support to ensure he is working within the limits of his training and experience.

- Any changes to practice and/or written documentation relating to the counselling service to be clearly identified. 

This written submission must be sent to the Interim Registrar by the given deadline and will be independently considered by a Sanction Panel.

(Where ellipses [. . . ] are displayed, they indicate an omission of text)

  

  

November 2015: Jillian Walker, Reference No: 509755, Hertfordshire HP3

The complaint against the above individual member/registrant was taken to Adjudication in line with the Professional Conduct Procedure.

The complaint was heard under the BACP Professional Conduct Procedure and the Panel considered the alleged breaches of the BACP Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy.

The focus of the complaint, as summarised by the Pre-Hearing Assessment Panel, is that Complainant A and Complainant B began couples therapy with Jillian Walker on 13 December 2012. This first session went well and they made a second appointment for 20 December 2012. Ms Walker allegedly suggested that they do a profiling questionnaire in this session.

However in this second session, the couple allegedly experienced Ms Walker as lacking in warmth and appearing to be uninterested in them. Complainant A and Complainant B stated that around 15 minutes into the session they began on the profiling questionnaire. Complainant B finished first, and whilst Complainant A was still completing it, Ms Walker allegedly began giving him instructions on how to score it. Allegedly these instructions were not clear to Complainant B and they were distracting to Complainant A who was trying to catch up and finish her own questionnaire.

Ms Walker then allegedly moved to sit with the couple whilst she added up scores. Whilst she did so, she allegedly made comments such as, "I have never seen a profile like that before! You are
both very incompatible". In addition, she allegedly shook her head and raised her eyebrows.

Allegedly the process was rushed and disjointed, particularly as Ms Walker realised that they were running out of time and she allegedly did not finish the session properly, leaving the couple stunned.

Despite the couple believing that Ms Walker thought them incompatible and should not be together, a third session was arranged for 10 January 2013.

Whilst they were on their way to this session, Complainant A stated that she and Complainant B had a row and only Complainant A attended the session. Complainant A alleged that Ms Walker was reluctant to see her on her own, barely looked at her and sneered at what she said. Complainant A alleged that Ms Walker, 'abandoned all her counselling skills' and that she verbally attacked Complainant A during the session.

When Complainant A stated that she and her partner had been hoping for a set of tools that they could use to improve their relationship, Ms Walker allegedly snarled that they would have used the tools as weapons against each other.

In this session Ms Walker allegedly made it clear that by his non-attendance, Complainant B had broken the contract and that therefore the couple were "fired."

Complainant A alleged that in this session, Ms Walker demonstrated a lack of interest in what she was saying in that she sighed with disgust, laughed offensively, missed parts of what Complainant A was saying, and allegedly gave indications of disliking Complainant A.

Further, Ms Walker was allegedly derogatory, judgemental and nasty in her approach to the couple.

The Pre-Hearing Assessment Panel, in accepting this complaint, was concerned with the allegations made within the complaint suggesting a contravention of the Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy, and those in particular are as follows:

1. Ms Walker allegedly failed to provide Complainant A and Complainant B with a good quality of care and competently delivered services which met both their needs, in that during the second session when Complainant A and Complainant B were completing the profiling questionnaire, Ms Walker allegedly gave instructions on how to score the profile which were unclear and failed to close down the second session appropriately after she stated that they were incompatible as a couple.

2. Ms Walker allegedly failed to clarify and agree the rights and responsibilities of the Counsellor, Complainant A and Complainant B at appropriate points in their relationship, in that she did not provide a written contract or provide sufficient information in the verbal contract and allowed Complainant A to be seen on an individual basis in the third session when she was contracted to provide couples therapy, and then having agreed to see Complainant A alone, terminated the therapy as Complainant B did not attend.

3. Ms Walker allegedly did not keep appropriate records of her work with Complainant A and Complainant B without a good and sufficient reason.

4. Ms Walker was allegedly not attentive to the quality of respect offered to both Complainant A and Complainant B, in that in the second session she allegedly appeared uninterested and behaved in a way which was offensive and commented that their relationship was incompatible and in the third session allegedly failed to make eye contact, was aloof and commented unfavourably when Complainant A explained the reason that they had pursued couples counselling.

5. Ms Walker allegedly failed to be attentive to the quality of listening in that in the third session, she missed parts of what Complainant A was saying regarding an incident which had taken place seven months prior and mistook it for an incident which had occurred recently.

6. Ms Walker allegedly showed a lack of empathy towards Complainant A and Complainant B in the second session in that she failed to offer a smile or any warmth and commented negatively when they asked for tools to stop repeating certain patterns and further in the third session when Complainant A discussed an argument that she had had with Complainant B some months prior accused Complainant
A of causing a scene, leaving her to feel verbally attacked.

7. Ms Walker's alleged behaviour, as experienced by Complainant A and Complainant B, suggests a contravention in particular of paragraphs 1, 3, 5 and 11 and of the ethical principles of Being Trustworthy, Beneficence and Non-maleficence of the Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling & Psychotherapy (2013), and showed a lack of the personal moral qualities of Empathy, Respect Competence
and Wisdom to which counsellors are strongly encouraged to aspire.

The Complainants were not in attendance at the hearing, Complainant A having indicated that neither she nor Complainant B would attend this hearing, or any other hearing set. Complainant B did not respond to BACP's letter asking for confirmation of his attendance at the hearing. The matter was, therefore, referred for consideration under paragraph 4.9 of the Professional Conduct Procedure, which
states:

Where a Complainant or Member/Registrant Complained Against fails or refuses to attend a Professional Conduct Hearing, the Registrar has the power to decide to either:

a) proceed with the Hearing in the absence of one or both of the parties; or

b) adjourn the Hearing to a date not less than 28 days in advance; or

c) terminate the proceedings; or

d) refer the matter for consideration under Article 12.6 of the Memorandum & Articles of Association

The options were carefully considered and a decision was made by the Registrar to go ahead with the hearing in the absence of the Complainants in accordance with paragraph 4.9a) of the Professional Conduct Procedure.

Findings

On balance, having fully considered the above, the Panel made the following findings:

1. Ms Walker in her evidence stated that at the start of the second session, the Complainants were arguing. Approximately 15-20 minutes into the 50 minute session, Ms Walker states that she suggested that they complete the Parent Adult Child profile (PAC) in order to get the couple into a safer place. Ms Walker stated that one of the Complainants completed the profile before the other and asked for instructions on how to score the profile. Ms Walker stated that she gave brief instructions to one of the Complainants whilst the other Complainant was still completing the profile. Ms Walker stated that she had made an assumption based on one Complainant's previous experience of counselling, that she had an understanding of Transactional Analysis and would therefore, know how to complete the profile. Ms Walker accepted that the process of scoring the profile felt rushed as they were nearing the end of the session and whilst she believed that she gave the Complainants clear instructions on how to score the profile, she accepted that given that the Complainants were arguing, it was likely that they did not hear the instructions she was giving them. Having heard Ms Walker's description of the procedure for scoring the profile, the Panel found that it was unclear. The Panel therefore found that whilst Ms Walker may have given instructions to the Complainants on how to score the profile, those instructions were not useful to the Complainants. This was particularly so given the emotive state of the Complainants as described by Ms Walker in her evidence, and the fact that these instructions were given at a point when the time left for the Complainants to score the profile was curtailed. The Panel found that this resulted in the Complainants having insufficient time to adequately score the profile and for Ms Walker to check their understanding of their scores. The Panel therefore found that Ms Walker did not provide the Complainants with a good quality of care in that the instructions she gave on how to score the profile were unclear. This part of the allegation is upheld.

In relation to the second part of the allegation, Ms Walker in both her written and oral evidence accepted that she had said that the Complainants were incompatible. Ms Walker stated that this comment was made using what she referred to as the 'Critical Parent voice', which was based on the PAC profile. Ms Walker stated that this voice was used to demonstrate how each of the ego states would respond. Ms Walker accepted that the Complainants may have interpreted this comment as negative. The Panel found that in making such a comment towards the end of the session, which was to be their last before the Christmas break, without ensuring that the Complainants fully understood its meaning, was unwise and amounted to a failure to close down the second session appropriately and further a failure to provide the Complainants with a good quality of care and competently delivered services which met their needs. This part of the allegation is therefore upheld.

For the reasons stated above, this allegation is upheld.

2. Ms Walker accepted that she did not provide the Complainants with a written contract but stated that she did have an oral contract. On questioning, Ms Walker accepted that her verbal contract did not cover; what contact was permitted outside of the counselling session, confidentiality, whether, or in what circumstances, either Complainant could be seen without the other, or the circumstances in which counselling would be terminated. The Panel therefore, found that Ms Walker failed to provide sufficient information in the oral contract to enable the Complainants to be sufficiently aware of the rights and responsibilities of any of the parties concerned. Further, Ms Walker accepted that she did see one of the Complainants on her own when she arrived at the third session in distress, when she was engaged to provide couples counselling to both Complainants. Ms Walker also admitted that she told one of the Complainants that, 'she was fired' when she attended the session alone, but stated that she did so to get the Complainant to understand that it would be untenable to continue with the therapy. The Panel found that Ms Walker terminated counselling without negotiation or discussion with either Complainant and did so without clarifying and agreeing the rights and responsibilities of her as a practitioner and the Complainants as clients. This allegation is therefore upheld.

3. Ms Walker accepted in both her written and oral evidence that she did not keep records of her work with the Complainants. Ms Walker stated that she suffered from [ . . . ] and, as a result, was unable to remember and record content. Whilst the Panel accepted that Ms Walker's [ . . . ] made it difficult for her to keep extensive handwritten notes, the Panel did note that in working for other organisations Ms Walker was required to keep process notes of her work with these clients but that no such notes were kept for the Complainants. The Panel also noted that Ms Walker was able to make handwritten notes on the back of the PAC profile, which she gave to one of the Complainants to take away. The Panel therefore found that there was no good and sufficient reason for Ms Walker not to keep any record of her work with the Complainants, even if because of her [ . . . ], those records were merely process notes. The Panel therefore found that Ms Walker failed to keep appropriate records of her work with the Complainants without good and sufficient reason. This allegation is therefore upheld.

4. Ms Walker denied that she appeared uninterested during the session and in the absence of the Complainants' oral evidence, there was insufficient evidence available to the Panel to demonstrate this. This part of the allegation is therefore not upheld.

Whilst the Panel accepted that Ms Walker made a comment to the Complainants, which was likely to cause offence, there was insufficient evidence to suggest that Ms Walker's behaviour was offensive. This part of the allegation is therefore not upheld.

Ms Walker admitted that she did make a comment to the Complainants that they were incompatible, but did so using the Complainants' own words in the voice of 'critical parent'. The Panel found that given the emotive state of the Complainants, they were unlikely to understand that Ms Walker was using the critical parent voice in accordance with the PAC profile and that in making such a comment, without ensuring that the Complainants understood why the comments were being made, it resulted in Ms Walker not being attentive to the respect that she offered to the Complainants. This part of the allegation is therefore upheld.

With regard to the third session, the Panel found that there was insufficient evidence to demonstrate that Ms Walker was aloof and failed to make eye contact. Ms Walker stated that she could not fully
recollect what comment she had made in response to the explanation given for the purpose in the Complainants seeking therapy. In the absence of any oral evidence from the Complainants to assist the Panel, the Panel were unable to conclude that Ms Walker failed to be attentive to the quality of respect offered during the third session. This part of the allegation is therefore not upheld.

For the reasons stated above, this allegation is partially upheld.

5. Ms Walker in her evidence described one of the Complainants as highly emotive and distressed. As a result Ms Walker stated that she was paying close attention to what was being said. Ms Walker stated that she was confused by the information that the Complainant had brought to the session as it differed from the account given in the previous session. The Panel accepted that Ms Walker sought to clarify her understanding of what was being said with the Complainant and did not find that Ms Walker failed to be attentive to the quality of listening offered in the third session. This allegation is therefore not upheld.

6. Ms Walker denied that she failed to offer any warmth in the second session. In the absence of the Complainants' presence and the Panel's opportunity to question the Complainants in relation to this, the Panel found that there was insufficient evidence to suggest that in not smiling or offering any warmth, which was denied by Ms Walker, this demonstrated that Ms Walker lacked empathy. This part of the allegation is therefore not upheld.

Ms Walker accepted on questioning that in the third session she did say that because of the dynamic between the Complainants, they may use the tools she gave them destructively and did sometimes say to clients that she did not have a magic wand. The Panel found that Ms Walker was unwise in making such negative comments without explaining the meaning of such comments and checking to ensure that the Complainants understood why it had been made and how they had received it. Further it found that such comments were unhelpful and demonstrated Ms Walker lacked the ability to communicate understanding of the Complainants' experience from their perspective and therefore lacked empathy. This part of the allegation is therefore upheld.

Ms Walker was unable to recall accusing the Complainant of causing a scene and in the absence of further evidence from the Complainant as to how she felt verbally attacked, there was insufficient evidence to demonstrate that Ms Walker showed a lack of empathy in this regard. This part of the allegation is therefore not upheld.

For the reasons stated above this allegation is partially upheld.

7. In light of the above findings, the Panel was satisfied that paragraphs 1, 3, 5 and 11 of the Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy (2013 edition) and the ethical principles of Being Trustworthy and Beneficence had been breached. It also found that Ms Walker lacked the personal moral qualities of Empathy, Respect, Competence and Wisdom to which all practitioners are strongly urged to aspire. The Panel did not find that the ethical principle of Non-Maleficence had been breached.

Decision

Accordingly, the Panel was unanimous in its decision that these findings amounted to professional malpractice on the grounds of Incompetence in that the services which Ms Walker provided to the
Complainants fell below the standard reasonably expected of a practitioner exercising reasonable care and skill.

Mitigation

The Panel was aware of Ms Walker's [ . . .] and how this impacted upon her ability to make full notes. The Panel noted that Ms Walker had now hanged her practise and had introduced a Statement of Understanding clarifying the rights and responsibilities of the practitioner and client.

Ms Walker demonstrated remorse and regret for the comments that she made to the Complainants, which were taken negatively, and apologised to the Complainants in her written evidence. Ms Walker was also willing to accept the ways in which she could have handled things differently with the Complainants.

Sanction

Within one month from the date of imposition of this sanction, which will run from the expiration of the appeal deadline, Ms Walker is required to provide a written submission, which evidences her immediate reflection on, learning from and understanding of, the issues raised in this complaint.

Additionally, within no less than 6 months and no more than 12 months from the date of imposition of the sanction, Ms Walker is required to provide the following:

  • A detailed written report in which Ms Walker should explain:

- The rights and responsibilities that should be set at the commencement of the counselling relationship and re-set throughout the counselling relationship; which should include boundaries, out of session contact, termination of therapy and whether it is permissible to see one half of a couple without the other;

- The importance of providing clear instructions to clients in the completion and scoring of the PAC profile and checking the clients' understanding of the instructions together with details of the method that Ms Walker would employ to ensure that her clients sufficiently understood those instructions.

- How comments made during the therapy session could impact upon the client and the importance of ensuring that the client clearly understands the meaning of any comments made and the context in which it was made and how Ms Walker would assess the appropriateness of making such comments.

- The importance of keeping appropriate records and the different methods of record keeping which Ms Walker could utilise to assist her in keeping appropriate records.

Ms Walker's private practice supervisor should confirm that the report has been read and discussed in supervision by countersigning the report as such.

Within the same period of time, Ms Walker is also required to provide a written contract, which sets out the rights and responsibilities of practitioner and client, which should include informationon the following areas:

- communication outside of sessions;

- Ms Walker's procedure around note taking

- termination of the counselling relationship

- in relation to couple counselling, whether or in what circumstances, one client could be seen for individual counselling without the presence of the other person

These written submissions must be sent to the Interim Registrar by the given deadlines and will be independently considered by a Sanction Panel.

(Where ellipses [ . . . ] are displayed, they indicate an omission of text)

 
 

August 2015: Sally Ann Beale, Reference No: 583065, Kent ME3 8FB

The complaint against the above individual member/registrant was taken to Adjudication in line with the Professional Conduct Procedure.

The complaint was heard under the BACP Professional Conduct Procedure and the Panel considered the alleged breaches of the BACP Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy.

The focus of the complaint, as summarised by the Pre-Hearing Assessment Panel, is that between February 2008 and mid-2010, Ms Beale provided couples counselling to the Complainants. The couple saw Ms Beale both separately and together for issues they were having, both individually and in their relationship together as a couple. The counselling ended in mid-2010. The complaint is about the joint work with Ms Beale.

In February 2014, the Complainants had a holiday in [ . . . ] together with Ms Beale's former husband. It is alleged that on this holiday Ms Beale's former husband made it clear to the couple that he knew things about their personal and sexual relationship. Ms Beale's former husband allegedly revealed to the Complainants that Ms Beale had discussed with him private matters about the Complainants' relationship. The couple alleged that this was a breach of both confidentiality and trust.

The Complainants stated that they do business with Ms Beale's former husband and his business partner, A. One of the Complainants alleged that in discussions with A, it became apparent that Ms Beale had further broken client confidentiality and trust by talking to A about some of her other clients.

One of the Complainants stated that once aware, he raised concerns with Ms Beale both verbally and in writing and that, as a couple they sought a meeting with Ms Beale to address their concerns and to request the return of notes belonging to them. A meeting took place on 9 April 2014, and one of the Complainants states that their notes were returned to them.

Between April and June 2014 one of the Complainants and Ms Beale entered into an email correspondence. On 13 April 2014, Ms Beale, in an email to one of the Complainants, accepted that she broke
confidentiality and broke the confidence that the couple had in her as a counsellor, by speaking about them to her then husband. In this email she also offered an apology to the couple.

One of the Complainants alleged that even after the couple raised their concerns with Ms Beale, about confidentiality, her further response indicated a further breach of confidentiality.

One of the complainants alleged particularly, that the standard of writing, punctuation, grammar and spelling in the email of 13 April 2014, and in Ms Beale's entry in the Counselling Directory, was different from her email response of 18 April 2014. One of the Complainants alleged that the email of 18 April 2014, appeared to be logical, well written, structured, grammatically correct and literate. This he alleged, indicated that Ms Beale had involved another person in the response to the details of his complaint and in so doing had further broken confidentiality.

The Panel had to consider whether the complaint fell within the deadline for receipt of a complaint. It considered the explanation submitted by the Complainants and was satisfied with the explanation provided as to why the complaint was not provided sooner and therefore accepted that it met the requirements of paragraph 1.5 of the Professional Conduct Procedure.

The Panel, in accepting this complaint noted the issues the Complainants raised as their complaint. It was concerned with the allegations made within the complaint suggesting contravention of the Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy, and those in particular as follows:

- Ms Beale allegedly failed to respect the Complainants' privacy and confidentiality in that she disclosed private matters about the Complainants to her then husband, without consent and, further, in that subsequent to raising their concerns with Ms Beale she involved someone else in the responses to the details of their complaint, and in so doing by making unauthorised disclosures, Ms Beale allegedly failed to honour the trust of the Complainants.

- Ms Beale allegedly failed to honour the Complainants' trust, in that she had broken confidentiality with regard to other clients by making disclosures to another person known to the Complainants, which negatively impacted upon the Complainants.

- Ms Beale's alleged behaviour as experienced by the Complainants suggests a contravention of paragraphs 11 and 20 of the Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy (2010, 2013); and the ethical principles of Being Trustworthy, Autonomy, Beneficence and Non-Maleficence and further suggests a lack of the personal moral qualities of Empathy, Integrity, Respect, Humility, Competence and Wisdom to which all practitioners are strongly urged to aspire and suggests a contravention of paragraphs 11 and 16 of the Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy (2009); and the ethical principles of Fidelity, Autonomy, Beneficence and Non-Maleficence and further suggests a lack of the personal moral qualities of Empathy, Integrity, Respect, Humility, Competence and Wisdom to which all practitioners are strongly urged to aspire.

Findings

On balance, having fully considered the above, the Panel made the following findings:

1. On questioning during the hearing, Ms Beale accepted that she had discussed the private matters of the Complainants with her then husband, admitting that she had done so on more than one occasion. She stated that she did not talk to her husband about their therapy all the time, but whenever he enquired about the Complainants, she, "spoke with him freely", regarding their personal life and information discussed in their private therapy sessions. She said that sometimes those discussions took place following counselling sessions which took place at her house and sometimes they took place while she and her husband were on holiday. The Complainants stated that at the outset, Ms Beale had assured them that she would not discuss anything regarding their therapy with her husband. In fact, all parties agreed that Ms Beale had contracted from the outset not to discuss the Complainants with her husband but had then proceeded to do so. When asked why she had disclosed information about the Complainants' very personal circumstances to other people, Ms Beale stated that she wasn't talking to other people, she was talking to her then, life-long partner, who was the closest person in her world, and who also had a relationship with the Complainants. Further, Ms Beale stated that she discussed the Complainants with her husband, because she was a human being and that because her husband knew them as friends, it just seemed a natural thing to do.

In response to questions as to how Ms Beale had been guided in supervision in taking on friends of herself and her husband as clients, Ms Beale said that her supervisor at the time had expressed the view that she had known of such cases but that they were complex and difficult to manage. Ms Beale said that other than mentioning to her supervisor that she was planning to go on holiday with the Complainants she could not remember the detail of any discussion with her supervisor.

The Panel found that Ms Beale had failed to respect the Complainants' privacy and confidentiality because she had discussed information gained from their therapy sessions with her then husband, without
their consent, and accordingly upheld this part of the allegation. The Panel further found that the Complainants were entitled to rely on a practitioner's adherence to the Ethical Framework and to comply with a fundamental principle of professional practice, namely maintaining client confidentiality. Nevertheless by way of further reassurance, Ms Beale also gave assurances to the Complainants, that she would not discuss the contents of their therapy with her husband, and therefore, not only had Ms Beale failed to honour the Ethical Framework, she had failed to honour the oral undertaking she had given to the Complainants.

With regard to the second part of the allegation, Ms Beale strongly denied that she had involved someone else in writing or checking the response to the complaint, which she had sent to the Complainants
on 18 April 2014. The Panel questioned Ms Beale at length on this point and concluded that the evidence was insufficient to support the complaint. Accordingly this part of the allegation was not upheld.

2. Ms Beale accepted that she had talked, on occasions, about other clients to a third party. This third party was a senior mental health nurse, who was also a friend, and known to the Complainants. Ms Beale described the exchanges as being peer to peer conversations and said that she had not disclosed individual names. However, she accepted in her written and oral evidence that even though no names were mentioned, the clients could be identified by the third party due to the close knit community in which she and the third party were working. The Complainants stated in their evidence that they had been concerned to realise from the third party, that Ms Beale had discussed the affairs of her clients without protecting their confidentiality. Ms Beale stated in her written evidence that she accepted this had added to the Complainants' distress and further accepted that it was a breach of trust. The Complainants stated in their evidence that part of the impact for them was that they did not know how far the details of their personal life had spread as a result of Ms Beale's failures to keep client information confidential. They said this uncertainty was a continuing and deep source of worry for them. They also explained that any benefit they had received from the counselling had been impaired because the counselling process had been undermined by Ms Beale's failure to maintain confidentiality in respect of themselves and other clients. In addition, the Complainants also stated that because of these events they had lost confidence in the profession as a whole and in BACP in particular, as a key professional ethic had been flouted by a practitioner member of the Association.

Accordingly, in light of Ms Beale's admission, and for the reasons stated above, the Panel found that Ms Beale had made disclosures about clients, other than the Complainants, to a third party known to the
Complainants and that these breaches of confidentiality had negatively impacted on the Complainants and breached their trust. This allegation is therefore upheld.

3. In light of the above findings, the Panel was satisfied that paragraphs 11 and 20 of the Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy (2010) and the ethical principles of Being Trustworthy, Autonomy, Beneficence and Non Maleficence had been breached. It also found that Ms Beale had demonstrated a lack of the personal moral qualities of Integrity, Respect, Humility, Competence and Wisdom to which all practitioners are strongly urged to aspire. The Panel did not find a lack of the personal moral quality of empathy.

The Panel was also satisfied that 11 and 16 of the Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy (2009) had been breached and the ethical principles of Fidelity, Beneficence and Non-Maleficence. It also found that Ms Beale had demonstrated a lack of the personal moral qualities of Integrity, Respect, Humility, Competence and Wisdom to which all practitioners are strongly urged to aspire. The Panel did not find a lack of the personal moral quality of Empathy.

The Panel was not satisfied that there had been a breach of the Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy (2013), as none of the breaches occurred in this period.

Decision

The Panel was unanimous in its decision that these findings amounted to serious professional misconduct.

Mitigation

Ms Beale stated that she had changed her practice in the last four years. Last year she changed her supervisor in order to get more rigorous supervision. She said that she understands herself better and had come to an appreciation that she had behaved naively and also arrogantly in believing she could safely manage working with clients who were also family friends. Ms Beale said she was sorry in her written and oral evidence.

Sanction

One of the aims of the Professional Conduct Procedure is to protect members of the public. The Panel, in considering what sanction may be appropriate in the circumstances of this case, has taken into account the interests of public protection.

In looking at the evidence in this case, it was apparent that Ms Beale's failure to protect client confidentiality was not an isolated incident or the result of an oversight or error. She had spoken about the Complainants to her husband over many months and she had also spoken about other clients to a third party.

The Panel accepted that these events had happened some years ago. In her written and oral evidence Ms Beale stated that she had learned about ethical behaviour during her counselling training and she invited the Panel to infer that her training would help her to practise better and with a far better awareness of counselling ethics. The Panel noted, however, that her training had occurred during the time in which she had been working with the Complainants, and it had not changed her behaviour in relation to discussing her clients with her then husband.

Despite Ms Beale's stated assurances that she had improved as an ethical counsellor since the events in question, the Panel was concerned that one of her current practices does not illustrate an adequate appreciation of the fundamental importance of client confidentiality and how important it is to protect it. The practice in question is that Ms Beale displays "thank you" cards from clients in a therapy room, which is shared both with another counsellor and attended by clients of them both. Therefore, third parties may view information that would potentially breach client confidentiality. The Panel considered this raised questions about the effectiveness of her stated learning as when questioned about this practice, Ms Beale stated that she, "had not thought about it".

Finally, according to Ms Beale's own evidence, she had sought to manage the challenging situation of acting as professional counsellor to friends, with little or no support through supervision.

For the reasons set out above, the Panel was of the view that Ms Beale's disregard for a fundamental tenet of the counselling relationship meant that she posed a serious risk to clients. Given the BACP's remit of public protection, the Panel was unanimous that Ms Beale's membership of BACP should be withdrawn.

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July 15: Karen Grant Reference No: 534043 Brighton BN1

The complaint against the above individual member was taken to Adjudication in line with the Professional Conduct Procedure.

The complaint was heard under the BACP Professional Conduct Procedure and the Panel considered the alleged breaches of the BACP Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy.

The focus of the complaint, as summarised by the Pre-Hearing Assessment Panel, is that the Complainant joined Karen Grant's College, KGA, in September 2011. She successfully completed levels two and three of the Counselling and Psychotherapy Central Awarding Body (CPCAB). In September 2012, she enrolled on Level Four (the first year of the Diploma Course). The course collapsed in July 2013, due to Ms Grant's health issues.

The course consisted of a weekend a month held at Ms Grant's house. Whilst Ms Grant was the course leader, there was a second tutor who taught on Sunday afternoons, plus associates who taught various different theories.

In January 2013, Ms Grant emailed her students to tell them that she was having financial difficulties. She explained that this was due to her having broken her foot the previous year, which led to a loss of financial resources and because of non-payment of student fees. The Complainant alleged that having discussed the matter with her fellow students, she realised that half of them had fully paid their fees and the remaining students were making monthly payments towards their fees. Ms Grant stated that because of these financial difficulties, she would no longer be able to employ other tutors. The Complainant stated that by March 2013, there were new tutors on the course.

The Complainant alleged that during the training weekend in February 2013, Ms Grant allegedly appeared agitated, complaining that the students were too demanding of her. In May 2013, Ms Grant disclosed to the group that she had been suicidal and was suffering from PTSD. At the June weekend, the Complainant alleged that Ms Grant wrongly praised a student for her counselling skills.

On the evening before the July weekend, the Complainant received a phone-call from a colleague, warning her that Ms Grant had been behaving erratically, in that she had allegedly thrown some students off a course and had been found on the floor in tears.

When the Complainant and some of her colleagues saw Ms Grant the next day, they realised that Ms Grant was ill, and suggested that she cancel the weekend course. The Complainant allegedly told her she needed support but Ms Grant responded that she was being supported by her supervisor and that was enough. Between them, the group members contacted [ . . . ] and a person whom they refer to as [ . . . ]. The Complainant stated that both [ . . . ] and [ . . . ] agreed that Ms Grant was not fit to practise and [ . . . ] allegedly talked about the unacceptable level of Ms Grant's drinking.

The Complainant alleged that on the course weekends, she witnessed Ms Grant sharing confidential information with a trainee who had also been her client in counselling, and that Ms Grant shared other confidential information inappropriately. As an example, Ms Grant allegedly recruited a student to help with marketing which caused a distance between this student and her peers. The same student was allegedly called on to support [ . . . ] and also witnessed the suicide attempt.

KGA went into liquidation, but arrangements were made for the students to transfer to another course, if they wished, for their second year. Ms Grant insisted that in order to pass their first year and thus be able to enter the second year with the different providers, the students would have to pay the full fee despite having missed the last two weekends of the course. Ms Grant also told the students in an email dated 27 August 2014, that their reaction to her disclosure that she was struggling had made things worse for her.

The Complainant has raised complaints with both Ms Grant and with CPCAB.

In accepting this complaint, the Pre-Hearing Assessment Panel was concerned with the following areas, and in particular these are:

1. Ms Grant allegedly failed to provide the Complainant with a good quality of care and competently delivered services which met her needs, in that Ms Grant disclosed details of her personal problems with the student group, of which the Complainant was a member.

2. Ms Grant allegedly failed to provide the Complainant with a good quality of care and competently delivered services that met her needs, in that she recruited a member of the student group to do her marketing, which was to the Complainant's detriment.

3. Ms Grant allegedly failed to provide the Complainant with a good quality of care and competently delivered services which met her needs, in that when the Complainant was left feeling frustrated and embarrassed following a group exercise, Ms Grant failed to recognise this, and therefore deal with it appropriately.

4. Ms Grant allegedly failed to provide the Complainant with a good quality of care and competently delivered services which met her needs, in that one evening Ms Grant attended the course when she was unfit to do so, resulting in the Complainant and other students having to intervene to assist Ms Grant.

5. Ms Grant allegedly failed to respond constructively to feedback received from the Complainant and her fellow students, in that in response to the feedback given by the students, including the Complainant, Ms Grant stated that the feedback made things worse for her.

6. Ms Grant allegedly failed to be attentive to the quality of listening and respect offered to the Complainant, in that she failed to respond adequately to the Complainant's query regarding the overpayment she had made to Ms Grant in respect of her course fees.

7. Ms Grant allegedly failed to ensure that all training in counselling and psychotherapy modelled standards and practice consistent with that expected of practitioners, in that Ms Grant continued to practise when she was unfit to do so.

8. Ms Grant allegedly failed in her responsibility to protect the standards of the profession, in that she cancelled two weekends of training without putting any alternative arrangements in place for the students.

9. Ms Grant allegedly failed in her responsibility to protect the standards of the profession in that it was necessary for students, including the Complainant, to take action to assist Ms Grant when she attended the course whilst she was unfit to do so.

10. Ms Grant allegedly failed in her responsibility to protect the standards of the profession, in that Ms Grant demanded full fees from her students, including the Complainant, to mark their course work, when KGA had gone or was going into administration.

11. Ms Grant allegedly failed to ensure that she monitored and maintained her fitness to practise at a level which enabled her to provide an effective service, in that after she had allegedly attempted to commit suicide, Ms Grant did not withdraw from practice and cancel her teaching engagements until her fitness to practise returned.

12. Ms Grant allegedly failed to ensure that she maintained her fitness to practise at an appropriate level, in that she interpreted the feedback that had been given by the students to be demanding and in receiving such feedback, did not seek appropriate support.

13. Ms Grant allegedly failed to ensure that she had suitable arrangements in place for the Complainant and the students who were adversely affected by her failure to monitor and maintain her fitness to practise.

14. Ms Grant allegedly failed to respond promptly and appropriately to the Complainant's complaint regarding the overpayment of her fees.

15. Ms Grant allegedly failed to be honest and straightforward and accountable in all financial matters concerning the Complainant, in that Ms Grant requested full payment of the student fees when she had cancelled the last two weekends of the course.

16. Ms Grant allegedly failed to be honest, straightforward and accountable to the Complainant in relation to financial matters, in that she failed to notice that the Complainant had overpaid her student fees and issue a refund in respect of this overpayment.

17. Ms Grant allegedly failed to ensure that her work did not become detrimental to her health and well-being by ensuring that the way in which she undertook her work was as safe as possible and that she sought appropriate professional support, in that she continued to teach whilst she was unfit to do so.

18. Ms Grant's alleged behaviour, as experienced by the Complainant and as identified in the numbered paragraphs referred to above, suggests a contravention in particular of paragraphs 1, 8, 11, 29, 30, 40, 41, 62 & 64 and the ethical principles of Being trustworthy, Non Maleficence and Beneficence & Self Respect of the Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling & Psychotherapy 2013 and showed a lack of the personal moral qualities of Integrity, Resilience and Wisdom, Competence, Empathy, Sincerity, Respect & Humility to which counsellors are strongly encouraged to aspire.

The Member Complained Against notified BACP that she would not be attending the scheduled hearing. The matter was therefore referred under paragraph 4.9 of the Professional Conduct Procedure, which states:

Where a Complainant or Member Complained Against fails or refuses to attend a Professional Conduct Hearing, the Registrar has the power to decide to either:

a) Proceed with the Hearing in the absence of one or both of the parties; or

b) Adjourn the Hearing to a date not less than 28 days in advance; or

c) Terminate the proceedings; or

d) Refer the matter for consideration under Article 12.6 of the Memorandum & Articles of Association.

The options were carefully considered, and in light of the circumstances, a decision was made to proceed with the hearing in the absence of the Member Complained Against.

Findings

On balance, having fully considered the above, the Panel made the following findings:

1. The Panel found that Ms Grant had, orally and by email, disclosed details of personal problems to the student group of which the Complainant was a member over the period of the course and this amounted to failing to provide the Complainant with a good quality of care and competently delivered services which met her needs. The information shared related to Ms Grant's and her company's financial difficulties and related to Ms Grant's serious health problems including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In her written evidence, Ms Grant confirmed that she had disclosed some details of her personal problems and stated that this was in the spirit of openness and honesty. In an email to members of the student group, Ms Grant wrote that "I was completely honest with you that I was struggling". Whilst the Panel accepted that trainers draw on personal experiences, the Panel explored with the Complainant at some length if in fact the disclosures had been appropriate. The Complainant said that she had no sense at the time or subsequently that the sharing was designed to contribute to the learning experience. In her oral evidence the Complainant stated that she had variously been left shocked and worried by the information. The Panel considered that some emails from Ms Grant, by their tone and content, demonstrated that personal information Ms Grant had shared was not for the benefit of the Complainant and other students and the emails were inappropriate and unprofessional. For the reasons given above this allegation is upheld.

2. It was undisputed that a member of the student group to which the Complainant belonged (X) had been employed or remunerated by Ms Grant to assist with the
marketing of KGA courses, such as improving the website, and that this was common knowledge. The Complainant stated that this had been detrimental to her because the relationship between her and X had been adversely affected. The Panel did not accept that the evidence, written and oral, showed that the arrangements between Ms Grant and X caused a detriment to the Complainant or affected the climate of the learning experience. Accordingly this allegation is not upheld.

3. In oral evidence the Complainant confirmed that the exercise in question was a "goldfish bowl" exercise which took place in June 2013. In that exercise, the Complainant had played the role of the client and another group member (X1) had role played the counsellor. The Panel considered in detail the group exercise as experienced by the Complainant. The Complainant clarified that she had not objected to Ms Grant's spontaneous interruption but did object to Ms Grant's analysis of the role play which she considered poor and inaccurate and left her feeling unheard. It could not be clearly established whether Ms Grant had acknowledged the Complainant's embarrassment and frustration. Firstly, at the point when the Complainant had, in her own words had to stop Ms Grant and "put her straight" rather bluntly, Ms Grant had only given feedback to the "counsellor" at that stage. Secondly, none of the written submissions from the other group members referred to the session and so did not corroborate the Complainant's version. Moreover, in oral evidence the Complainant stated that she could not remember what feedback (X1) got from the others. Finally, the Complainant maintained that Ms Grant's written evidence in response apparently to this point related to a different incident. The Panel found that the evidence was inconclusive and accordingly this allegation is not upheld.

4. The Panel established through oral questioning of the Complainant that this allegation related to the early evening training session on Saturday, 9 February 2013, when the Complainant had alleged that Ms Grant was unfit to practise due to drink. The Panel explored in detail with the Complainant the final session of the evening in question. The Complainant reported that she and some other group members wished to finish early but that Ms Grant insisted on their completing the final exercise. The Complainant described Ms Grant as becoming aggressive towards her and another student. The Complainant accepted under questioning that she was at some distance from Ms Grant and neither saw nor smelt any physical symptoms which would support her suspicion of alcohol abuse. The Complainant said she had not recorded her concern in her journal because Ms Grant might see it. The Panel concluded that the evidence was insufficient to support a finding and this allegation is not upheld.

5. This allegation related to feedback and had been raised having regard to paragraph 8 of the Ethical Framework. However, the Panel concluded that paragraph 8 did not apply to this scenario as it was restricted to "feedback from colleagues, appraisals and assessments". The Complainant was not a colleague, nor did the matters relate to appraisal or assessments. Accordingly the allegation is not upheld.

6. The Panel carefully considered the email trail in relation to an overpayment of fees by the Complainant. It noted a query about fees had been raised initially by KGA's bookkeeper on 11 March 2013 to which the Complainant responded the same day pointing out an overpayment of £200. The bookkeeper replied promptly the following day saying that she would look into it. No action appeared to have been taken and so the Complainant chased matters on 6 June and sent an email to Ms Grant on 12 June repeating the details, which Ms Grant then acknowledged on 17 June. The Complainant emailed again on 5 July, to which Ms Grant promptly replied stating she had not yet had chance to check the figures. The issue had also been raised in person at a tutorial with Ms Grant in May. The matter remained unresolved. The Panel noted that in her written submission Ms Grant stated that the overpayment had been "rectified in a short time" but the evidence did not support either that it had been rectified or that it had been dealt with in a short time. The Panel found that Ms Grant had taken a casual and unprofessional approach and had failed to deal adequately with the matter. Accordingly this allegation is upheld.

7. The Complainant presented written and oral evidence that on a number of occasions in 2013, Ms Grant appeared to show signs that she was not well and her fitness to practise was impaired. Ms Grant denied that she had practised whilst unfit, however did not deny that she had heath issues. In addition to her own statements, the Complainant had submitted written statements from other members of the student group. Although those statements did not always specify dates or always identify clearly a particular training session, the Panel was satisfied that the weight of evidence served to corroborate that there were grounds for concern. Matters culminated on the morning of 13 July 2013, when Ms Grant was too ill to run the training weekend and had to be assisted by students who had attended. After that date the course in effect collapsed. The Panel was satisfied from the Complainant's oral evidence and from Ms Grant's reference to her training plan for the July weekend that Ms Grant intended to teach that weekend despite not being fit to do so. The Panel upheld the allegation that Ms Grant had failed to ensure that all training modelled standards and practice consistent with that expected of practitioners.

8. The Panel found that the final two weekends of the course had not been cancelled by Ms Grant. The Panel noted that the July weekend had not run due to her illness and the Complainant and others withdrew because of concerns about her fitness to practise and the August weekend had not run because of the company going into liquidation. The Panel therefore found that on a literal reading of the allegation it could not be upheld.

9. The Panel found that Ms Grant had failed in her responsibility to protect the standards of the profession because there was conclusive evidence that on the morning of 13 July 2013, it was necessary for her students, including the Complainant, to take action to assist Ms Grant when she was unfit to run the training course. This assistance included but was not confined to helping Ms Grant lie down, offering her nourishment, calling in a family member and an associate tutor. The evidence on this point included Ms Grant's email of the same date in which she apologised for the morning's events and referred to her ill health; an exchange of emails between Ms Grant and another student dated 14 July 2013, and the oral and written evidence of the Complainant in which she detailed the events and which were corroborated by statements from other students. Accordingly this allegation is upheld.

10. The allegation relates to emails from Ms Grant dated 6 and 15 August 2013, in which the Complainant alleges that Ms Grant demanded full fees from the students, including the Complainant, to mark their course work when KGA had gone or was going into liquidation and as such Ms Grant failed to protect the standards of the profession. The Panel noted and the Complainant confirmed in her oral evidence that she had paid her fees in full and therefore the demand, if it could be construed as such, did not relate to the Complainant personally. She had received the emails because they had been sent to all the students because they addressed a number of administrative matters. The Panel therefore found this allegation is not upheld.

11. The Panel found that Ms Grant had failed to ensure that she maintained her fitness to practise at a level which enabled her to provide an effective service because she had attempted to commit suicide and did not withdraw from practice and cease teaching until she was fit to do so. The Panel was not able to fix with certainty the date of the attempt but was satisfied on the evidence that it was at some point during the course attended by the Complainant in 2013. The Panel paid careful regard to Ms Grant's written submission that she was "stunned by the allegation" and that she "could not understand how someone would suggest that I would try to commit suicide and teach at the same time", however in the Panel's view this did not amount to a clear denial. For her part the Complainant stated that she believed Ms Grant had attempted to commit suicide in February 2013, and Ms Grant disclosed this to the student group in May. The Panel considered the written evidence of four other students, three of whom said they had witnessed Ms Grant saying she had attempted suicide. The remaining student, referred to as (X) had written that she had been called to Ms Grant's home by a family member shortly after the attempt and had witnessed the aftermath. There was also evidence in relation to a psychiatric nurse attending at Ms Grant's home in February, although the reason for the visit was not stated. On balance, the Panel found that the evidence supported the allegation and therefore this allegation is upheld.

12. The Panel considered there were two aspects to this allegation in that Ms Grant had interpreted student feedback to be demanding and despite it being demanding did not seek appropriate support and therefore failed to ensure that she maintained her fitness to practise at an appropriate level. In her oral evidence, the Complainant accepted that Ms Grant had responded appropriately to her request for a sofa and had addressed her concerns about the state of the garden (which was used by the student group). The Panel, not being able to question Ms Grant, could not determine whether she had sought support in respect of student demands. The Panel did, however, note that Ms Grant had a supervisor in 2013, and was also seeing a counsellor as evidenced by supporting statements both had sent in. The Panel found that the evidence was not conclusive and this allegation is not upheld.

13. As recorded above, the Panel found that Ms Grant had failed to monitor and maintain her fitness to practise and for the reasons recorded here the Panel found that Ms Grant had failed to ensure she had suitable arrangements in place for the Complainant and other students to mitigate adverse effects. The Panel considered it not simply good practice but essential that a practitioner have contingency arrangements for all aspects of practice and administration in the event of illness, accidents, emergencies and absences. According to Ms Grant's written submission her only contingency was to be able to call upon another tutor (no name or details of the tutor were given). In the event, Ms Grant was unable to call upon that tutor because they had had a family bereavement (date unspecified). There was no evidence from Ms Grant of any risk assessment or practical plans. This was despite a number of troubling issues running in parallel to her practice including her physical and mental health issues, the strain of the death of a student during the course, and financial problems. In July 2013, Ms Grant was undisputedly unable to teach. She emailed at the time: "This has all got too personal and not professional enough and is effecting (sic) the teaching...". She had continued to the point where she had a breakdown and it was too late to make alternative arrangements for the July training weekend. Accordingly this allegation is upheld.

14. Although the Panel found above (at 6) that Ms Grant had dealt inadequately with the issue of overpayment of fees, it found that the Complainant had not made a complaint as such about the fees, this was confirmed by the Complainant in oral evidence, and accordingly it could not be said that Ms Grant had failed to respond appropriately to a complaint. Therefore this allegation is not upheld.

15. The Panel found, firstly, that the Complainant had paid her fees in advance and so was not the subject of any demand for payment in July 2013, or subsequently and secondly, that Ms Grant had not in fact cancelled the final two weekends of the course (although the weekend training did not take place in July or August). This allegation is not upheld.

16. Although the Panel found above (at 6) that Ms Grant had dealt inadequately with the issue of overpayment of fees, the Panel did not consider her actions in this respect amounted to failure to be honest, straightforward and accountable to the Complainant. Therefore this allegation is not upheld.

17. The Panel noted that Ms Grant was counselling, training, running a business and employing staff all of which is demanding and imposes a responsibility on her for her clients, students, staff and associates. Ms Grant also had health issues. In emails there was reference to her acknowledging that she found it difficult to cope. The Panel noted that in her written submission Ms Grant said that she had measures such as yoga, CPCAB monitoring, a suggestion box for students and there was clear evidence by way of supporting statements that she had a clinical supervisor and a personal counsellor. Nevertheless the Panel found that Ms Grant had limited awareness of her impact on the Complainant and in addition her responses reflected a low level of accountability. This, together with the findings above, indicated to the Panel that Ms Grant had failed to reflect adequately on her situation and consider if her support system was effective. The Panel found that Ms Grant had failed to ensure that her work was not detrimental to her health and well-being. Accordingly this allegation is upheld.

18. In light of the above findings, the Panel was satisfied that paragraphs 1, 11, 29, 30, 40 and 64 of the Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy (2013 edition) and the Ethical Principles of Being Trustworthy, Non-Maleficence, Beneficence and Self Respect had been breached. The Panel also found that Ms Grant demonstrated a lack of the personal moral qualities of Resilience, Wisdom, Competence, Sincerity and Humility to which all counsellors are strongly encouraged to aspire.

The Panel was satisfied that paragraphs 8, 41 and 62 of the Ethical Framework had not been breached. Nor did it find a lack of the personal moral
qualities of Integrity, Empathy or Respect.

Decision

Accordingly, the Panel was unanimous in its decision that these findings amounted to Professional Malpractice on the grounds of incompetence and the provision of inadequate professional services, in that the service for which Ms Grant was responsible fell below the standards that would reasonably be expected of a practitioner exercising reasonable care and skill.

Mitigation

Ms Grant had offered no mitigation in her written responses and had not attended to offer mitigation in person.

Sanction

The Panel was informed that Ms Grant's membership had been withdrawn under a separate disciplinary matter. Had Ms Grant's membership not been previously withdrawn, the Panel having considered the most appropriate sanction to be imposed, agreed that the following sanction would have been as follows:

One of the aims of the Professional Conduct Procedure is to protect members of the public. The Panel, in considering what sanction may be appropriate in the circumstances of this case, has taken into account the interests of public protection.

Within one month from the date of imposition of this sanction, which will run from the expiration of the Appeal deadline, Ms Grant is required to provide a written submission, which evidences her immediate reflection on, learning from and understanding of, the issues raised in this complaint.

In addition, in not less than 6 months and no more than 18 months from the date of imposition of this sanction, Ms Grant is required to provide an in-depth case study which evidences the following:

1. Managing her professional responsibility to monitor and maintain her fitness, particular reference should be made to the circumstances relating to the issues arising in this complaint and,

2. Managing and running a counselling business effectively, including effective contingency planning.

3. Ms Grant should present evidence that the issues detailed in paragraphs 1 and 2 above have been discussed in supervision and the reports should be counter-signed by her supervisor.

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July 2015: Karen Woodall, Reference No: 704956, London E14

The complaint against the above individual member was taken to Adjudication in line with the Professional Conduct Procedure.

The complaint was heard under the BACP Professional Conduct Procedure and the Panel considered the alleged breaches of the BACP Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy.

The focus of the complaint, as summarised by the Pre-Hearing Assessment Panel, is that the Complainant stated that she engaged in family therapy for her ex-husband and daughter with a family therapist, Ms Woodall between 7 October 2012 and 6 January 2013. The Complainant alleged that whilst engaging with the therapy, issues arose regarding Ms Woodall's reliability, working methods, confidentiality and fees. In addition, the Complainant complained to the organisation known as [ . . . ], the employer of Ms Woodall, regarding these issues on the 26 March 2013, but was unsatisfied with its response.

The Complainant stated that when she started to work with Ms Woodall on 7 October 2012, she expected to engage weekly with her. The Complainant alleged that Ms Woodall did not engage in weekly sessions, but relied on email and planned telephone conversations that on occasion did not take place, leaving the Complainant waiting for the call. The Complainant also alleged that she arrived for an appointment with Ms Woodall, and waited for 45 minutes before leaving because Ms Woodall did not arrive.

The Complainant alleged that she was concerned about the working methods of Ms Woodall when Ms Woodall produced an assessment of the family situation without meeting her daughter. The Complainant also alleged that Ms Woodall was communicating with her daughter by email without obtaining her parents' consent.

The Complainant further alleged that confidentiality was breached by Ms Woodall in her email of 27 November 2012, when she discussed her communications with the Complainant's ex-husband and asked her to keep 'secrets'.

The Complainant also alleged that the system of charging fees by Ms Woodall was unclear and misleading and led to confusions regarding how much was charged. The Complainant alleged that different fees were discussed at different times leading to confusion regarding unexpected double charging for joint sessions.

The Pre-Hearing Assessment Panel, in accepting this complaint, was concerned with the allegations made within the complaint suggesting contravention of the Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy, and those in particular as follows:

1. Ms Woodall allegedly failed to provide the Complainant with a good quality of care by failing to provide the weekly sessions that had been agreed between her and the Complainant at the outset, instead giving advice by email, postponing or cancelling face to face and telephone appointments, failing to return telephone calls and keeping the Complainant waiting for 45 minutes for a pre-arranged appointment, which in the end Ms Woodall did not attend.

2. Ms Woodall allegedly failed to clarify and agree the rights and responsibilities of both parties, by not being sufficiently clear regarding the fees that should be paid and not stating that she would be communicating with the Complainant's daughter before they had met or seeking consent from the Complainant prior to initiating this contact.

3. Ms Woodall allegedly failed to provide the Complainant with a competently delivered service in that she frequently cancelled appointments or failed to show up and conducted an assessment of the Complainant's family without meeting her daughter.

4. Ms Woodall allegedly did not adequately inform the Complainant about the nature of the service that she was offering or respect the Complainant's right to choose to withdraw, by continuing to contact the Complainant's daughter, after the Complainant had terminated the therapy.

5. Ms Woodall allegedly failed to respect the Complainant's confidentiality by revealing to the Complainant, details relating to her ex-husband and asking the Complainant to keep the information that she (Ms Woodall) had obtained from her ex-husband a secret from him.

6. Ms Woodall allegedly failed to clarify the terms on which her services were being offered to the Complainant in that she charged the Complainant double rate for a joint session when the contract did not make it sufficiently clear that this would be the case.

7. Ms Woodall allegedly did not ensure that information about her services was honest, accurate and avoided unjustifiable claims in that she did not provide weekly therapy sessions as she had offered or clarify the fees for joint counselling.

8. Ms Woodall allegedly was not honest, straight forward and accountable in financial matters concerning the Complainant, in that she did not make clear what the cost of the initial assessment would be, or future costs of joint sessions.

9. Ms Woodall's alleged behaviour, as experienced by the Complainant, suggests a contravention in particular of paragraphs 1, 3, 6, 12, 20, 59, 60 and 62 and the ethical principles of Being Trustworthy, Autonomy, Beneficence, Non-Maleficence and Justice of the Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling & Psychotherapy (2013), and showed a lack of the personal moral qualities of Sincerity, Integrity, Fairness, Competence and Wisdom to which counsellors are strongly encouraged to aspire.

Findings

On balance, having fully considered the above, the Panel made the following findings:

1. In an email sent to the Complainant on 7 October 2013, Ms Woodall described the work that would be undertaken, which included six sessions on a weekly basis to be held with the Complainant. Ms Woodall requested that the Complainant email her to confirm that she wanted to proceed on the basis of what she had set out in her email. Whilst the Panel accepted Ms Woodall's evidence that the Complainant did not explicitly email Ms Woodall in the terms that she had requested, it agreed that work between the Complainant and Ms Woodall did commence, albeit not the work that had been set out in Ms Woodall's email. The Panel therefore found that there was an implicit agreement between the parties for the work which took place, largely electronically. Further, the Panel noted that whilst Ms Woodall stated that she required the Complainant to email her to explicitly confirm that she wanted to proceed with the work as it had been set out in her email, there was no evidence in any of the communications from Ms Woodall to the Complainant, to make clear that until Ms Woodall received the explicit confirmation referred to above, she could not work with the Complainant in accordance with the terms which she had set out in her email. As the parties continued to work together, the Panel agreed that it was reasonable for the Complainant to believe that she would be receiving the service that had been set out by Ms Woodall, particularly as Ms Woodall did not tell the Complainant that she would not be receiving this service. As a result of the above, the Panel found that Ms Woodall failed to provide the Complainant with a good quality of care by failing to provide the weekly sessions that had been agreed between her and the Complainant at the outset, instead giving advice by email. This part of the allegation is therefore upheld.

Ms Woodall accepted that she missed one appointment with the Complainant due to a misunderstanding and when she was stuck on the train, which resulted in the Complainant having to wait at her offices for 45 minutes. There was insufficient evidence to demonstrate that with the exception of this appointment, Ms Woodall had postponed or cancelled face to face and telephone appointments or failed to return telephone calls. The Panel accepted that it was not unreasonable for Ms Woodall to have missed one appointment given the circumstances which she had set out. The Panel found that there was insufficient evidence to demonstrate that Ms Woodall had failed to provide the Complainant with a good quality of care in this regard. This part of the allegation is therefore not upheld.

For the reasons stated above, this allegation is upheld in part.

2. Ms Woodall accepted in her evidence that the fees were unclear and stated that recompense was offered to the Complainant by the organisation for whom she worked, which the Complainant did not accept. Ms Woodall stated that she undertook work with the Complainant on an "informal" basis from 7 October 2012, until the Joint Working Agreement was signed by the Complainant on 12 November 2012. The Panel noted that invoices were submitted to the Complainant for payment before the Joint Working Agreement had been signed. There was no evidence that Ms Woodall had notified the Complainant that she would be charged for these "informal" sessions or what those charges would be. The Panel therefore found that Ms Woodall failed to clarify and agree the rights and responsibilities of both parties, by not being sufficiently clear regarding the fees that should be paid. This part of the allegation is therefore upheld.

The Panel noted from the written evidence that the Complainant was aware from her joint session that Ms Woodall would be communicating with her daughter and there was no evidence that the Complainant had explicitly told Ms Woodall that she did not want her to communicate with her daughter. The Panel was therefore satisfied that Ms Woodall had consent to communicate with the Complainant's daughter. The Panel therefore did not find that Ms Woodall failed to clarify and agree the rights and responsibilities of both parties in not stating that she would be communicating with the Complainant's daughter before they had met and not seeking consent to do so. This part of the allegation is therefore not upheld.

For the reasons stated above, this allegation is partially upheld.

3. Ms Woodall in her evidence stated that she did not cancel any appointments, save for the one which she did not attend due to circumstances beyond her control and a misunderstanding between the parties. The Panel therefore did not find that Ms Woodall failed to provide the Complainant with a competently delivered service in frequently cancelling appointments or failing to show up. This part of the allegation is therefore not upheld.

Ms Woodall denied that she had carried out an assessment of the Complainant's daughter. The Panel however noted the contents of the report which Ms Woodall submitted to the Complainant and her ex-husband by email on 7 October 2012, which was headed "About your child" and in which she discussed the child and used words such as "[....] is suffering from", and "...I make this diagnosis" which could reasonably be interpreted by the Complainant as an assessment. The Panel found that the words used by Ms Woodall within her report amounted to an assessment and that this assessment was carried out before Ms Woodall had met the Complainant's daughter. The Panel therefore found that Ms Woodall failed to provide the Complainant with a competently delivered service in conducting an assessment of the Complainant's family without meeting her daughter. This part of the allegation is therefore upheld.

For the reasons stated above, this allegation is partially upheld.

4. Ms Woodall accepted in her evidence that much of the work that she did with the Complainant and her ex-husband was on an "informal" basis which was not contracted and that she did not set out to the Complainant the nature of the "informal" work she was providing. The Panel therefore found that Ms Woodall did not adequately inform the Complainant about the nature of the service that she was offering. This part of the allegation is therefore upheld.

Ms Woodall in her evidence stated that the Complainant terminated the Joint Working Agreement on 31 December 2012, and that after this date, no further work was carried out for the family under this agreement. As such the Panel did not find that Ms Woodall did not respect the Complainant's right to choose to withdraw, by continuing to contact the Complainant's daughter after she had terminated the therapy. This part of the allegation is therefore not upheld.

For the reasons stated above, this allegation is partially upheld.

5. The Complainant in her evidence stated that whilst Ms Woodall provided details to her about her ex-husband and asked her to keep this secret from him, she was not aware that Ms Woodall had breached her own confidentiality. Ms Woodall in her evidence stated that she did not reveal anything to the Complainant that she did not already know. As such, the Panel did not find that Ms Woodall failed to respect the Complainant's confidentiality. This allegation is therefore not upheld.

6. Ms Woodall in her evidence accepted that there was a misunderstanding regarding the fees that were charged to the Complainant, wherein it was stated that joint sessions were £90 but were in fact £90 per person. Ms Woodall however stated that the fees were the responsibility of the finance officer at the organisation where she worked and not hers. The Panel found that it was Ms Woodall's responsibility to ensure that when she was communicating with the Complainant, she was clear with her about what the fees were. The Panel therefore found that Ms Woodall failed to clarify the terms on which her services were being offered, in charging double rate for a joint session when the contract did not make it sufficiently clear that this would be the case. This allegation is therefore upheld.

7. Ms Woodall in her oral evidence stated that whilst she had set out in her email on 7 October 2012 that weekly sessions would be provided to the Complainant, this was not done as the Complainant did not email her to explicitly confirm that she wanted to proceed on the basis of what had been set out in the email. The Panel however found that despite this lack of confirmation, Ms Woodall continued to work with the Complainant and did not make it clear to the Complainant the terms under which this work was being provided or inform her that she would not be working in accordance with the work agreement she had set out. In the absence of this, the Panel found that it was reasonable for the Complainant to expect to receive the service which Ms Woodall had set out within her email. The Panel therefore found that Ms Woodall did not ensure that the information about her services was accurate and avoided unjustifiable claims. Further, the Panel found that Ms Woodall did not clarify the fees for the joint session as found in paragraph 6 above. The Panel therefore found that Ms Woodall also failed to ensure that information about her services was accurate and avoided unjustifiable claims in respect of this part of the allegation. This allegation is therefore upheld.

8. The Panel noted that there were was conflicting information provided in the email sent by Ms Woodall on 7 October 2012 and the information provided in the hand outs, in relation to what the cost of the assessment would be, and the fee for the joint sessions was not made sufficiently clear to the Complainant. The Panel further noted that when the organisation for which Ms Woodall worked became aware of the confusion, it offered a refund to the Complainant that she did not accept. Whilst the Panel found that this information was not straightforward, it did not find that there was any intention to deceive and therefore did not find that Ms Woodall was not honest and accountable in financial matters concerning the Complainant. It did, however, find that Ms Woodall was not straightforward concerning financial matters with the Complainant. This allegation is therefore partially upheld.

9. In light of the above findings, the Panel was satisfied that paragraphs 1, 3, 6, 12, 59, 60 and 62 of the Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy (2013 edition) and the ethical principles of Being Trustworthy and Autonomy had been breached. It also found that Ms Woodall lacked the personal moral qualities of Sincerity, Integrity, Competence and Wisdom to which all practitioners are strongly urged to aspire. The Panel did not find that paragraph 20 of the Ethical Framework had been breached nor had the ethical principles of Beneficence, Non-Maleficence or Justice or the personal moral quality of Fairness.

Decision

Accordingly, the Panel was unanimous in its decision that these findings amounted to professional malpractice on the grounds of recklessness and the provision of inadequate professional services in that the service for which Ms Woodall provided fell below the standard that would reasonably be expected of a practitioner exercising reasonable care and skill.

Mitigation

Ms Woodall did not provide any evidence in mitigation.

Sanction

One of the aims of the Professional Conduct Procedure is to protect members of the public. The Panel, in considering what sanction may be appropriate in the circumstances of this case, has taken into account the interests of public protection.

Within one month from the date of imposition of this sanction, which will run from the expiration of the appeal deadline, Ms Woodall is required to provide a written submission, which evidences her immediate reflections on, learning from and understanding of, the issues raised in this complaint.

In addition, within 6 months from the date of imposition, Ms Woodall is required to attend a CPD course of a minimum of 1 day's duration. The content of the course should cover working within closely contracted and negotiated boundaries. On completion of the course, Ms Woodall is required to provide documentary evidence that she has attended and completed the course.

Having completed the CPD activities, Ms Woodall is required to write a report that demonstrates how the course has allowed her to develop substantial new understanding of her part in the lack of clarity that led to this complaint and how she would now check to ensure that the client understands the service which is being provided and that Ms Woodall has explicit consent to continue.

This report should be completed in not less than three months and not more than six months following the completion of the CPD course and must be signed off by Ms Woodall's supervisor as being an accurate description of her learning.

These written submissions must be sent to the Interim Registrar by the given deadlines and will be independently considered by a Sanction Panel.

(Where ellipses [ . . . ] are displayed, they indicate an omission of text)

June 2015: Roddy Macdonald, Reference No: 598547, Edinburgh EH12

The complaint against the above individual member/registrant was taken to Adjudication in line with the Professional Conduct Procedure.

The complaint was heard under the BACP Professional Conduct Procedure and the Panel considered the alleged breaches of the BACP Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy.

The focus of the complaint, as summarised by the Pre-Hearing Assessment Panel is that the Complainant was in weekly counselling with Mr Macdonald from February to May 2010, and from September 2010 to January 2014. In a session immediately following recovery from a suicide attempt the Complainant stated that she experienced Mr Macdonald as hostile and angry, which for some weeks made it difficult for the Complainant to trust him. Mr Macdonald denied he had been hostile, and explained her perception of him as transference. In February 2013 the Complainant happened to meet Mr Macdonald outside counselling when he was accompanied by a woman whom the Complainant alleged was his client. The Complainant alleged that a negative exchange of looks passed between the couple when she passed them, and that the woman allegedly sent a critical email to the Complainant. The Complainant alleged that the email contained confidential material that the Complainant had shared in her counselling with Mr Macdonald; and further alleged that Mr Macdonald assisted the woman in composing the email. The Complainant alleged that Mr Macdonald made reference to her therapy in front of his wife. She alleged that she and Mr Macdonald were involved in multiple relationships and that these hampered her therapy with him. When Mr Macdonald left the agency through which he had been seeing the Complainant, he allegedly used manipulative language in an email to persuade the Complainant to continue working with him. Whilst Mr Macdonald was trying to find new premises in which to continue counselling, arrangements for their sessions were allegedly haphazard and confusing, and included meeting in the Complainant's home. Allegedly Mr Macdonald shared details of his leaving the agency with the Complainant. Having allegedly encouraged the Complainant to email him when necessary, at a later time Mr Macdonald allegedly rarely responded to her emails, distancing himself from her. The Complainant alleged that in January 2014 Mr Macdonald failed to respond appropriately when she sent an email following a session when she had talked about her experience of sexual abuse, and that her distress at this alleged failure made it too difficult to attend the next session. She alleged that he was then critical of her in an email replying to a text she had sent him. When Mr Macdonald allegedly failed to respond to a further email she terminated the counselling, requesting a copy of his notes on her counselling. Mr Macdonald allegedly told her he had been advised not to give her access to them. The Complainant alleged that Ms Macdonald groomed her into a position of dependency upon him and that he abused her trust.

The Pre-Hearing Assessment Panel, in accepting this complaint, was concerned with the allegations made within the complaint suggesting contravention of the Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy, and those in particular as follows:

A typographical error was identified within allegation 7 and this error has been rectified and reflected within the finding for allegation 7.

1. Mr Macdonald allegedly failed to provide the Complainant with a good quality of care and competently delivered services which met her needs in that the arrangements for appointments following Mr Macdonald's suspension from his place of work were haphazard and unclear leading to confusion for the Complainant.

2. Mr Macdonald allegedly failed to provide the Complainant with a good quality of care and competently delivered services which met her needs in that he manipulated the Complainant into continuing to see him when he left the agency for whom he had previously worked.

3. Mr Macdonald allegedly failed to provide the Complainant with a good quality of care and competently delivered services which met her needs in that whilst he encouraged email contact from the Complainant, he either failed to respond to some of her emails or failed to respond appropriately to them and subsequently distanced himself from the Complainant.

4. Mr Macdonald allegedly failed to give careful consideration to the limitations of his training and experience and work within these limits, in that he continued to offer counselling to the Complainant rather than refer her to another therapist when they entered into a personal relationship and when the Complainant had attempted suicide and expressed that she was suffering from depression.

5. Mr Macdonald allegedly failed to clarify and agree the rights and responsibilities of both him as a practitioner and the Complainant as a client, including the setting and maintaining of appropriate boundaries either whilst he was seeing the Complainant through the agency or when he left the agency.

6. Mr Macdonald allegedly entered into a dual relationship with the Complainant which was to her detriment in that he provided therapy and entered into a personal relationship with the Complainant, which included visiting the Complainant at home socially, meeting her for coffee, and extensive out of session email and text contact.

7. Mr Macdonald allegedly failed to have respect for the Complainant's privacy and confidentiality and pay careful attention to her privacy and dignity in that, without the Complainant's consent, he discussed the Complainant's therapy appointment in front of his wife; revealed confidential information concerning the Complainant to a third party whom he was allegedly involved in a personal relationship with; and allegedly provided counselling to the Complainant at the home of a mutual friend.

8. Mr Macdonald allegedly failed to ensure that the Complainant was adequately informed about the nature of the services being offered to her in that he failed to inform and agree with the Complainant the venue for their counselling sessions or the method by which the therapy would take place as some of the therapy took place via FaceTime instead of face to face as had previously been the case.

9. Mr Macdonald allegedly failed to be clear about any commitment to be available to the Complainant and honour these commitments, in that he cancelled appointments or forgot them and encouraged the Complainant to email him but failed to respond appropriately or at all to some of those emails.

10. Mr Macdonald's alleged behaviour, as experienced by the Complainant and as identified in the numbered paragraphs referred to above, suggests a contravention in particular of paragraphs 1, 2, 3, 4, 11, 12, 19 and 20, and the ethical principles of Being Trustworthy, Autonomy, Beneficence and Non-Maleficence of the Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling & Psychotherapy (2013), and showed a lack of the personal moral qualities of Humility, Competence and Wisdom to which counsellors are strongly encouraged to aspire.

The Member Complained Against notified BACP that he would no longer be participating in the hearing via skype. The matter was therefore referred under paragraph 4.9 of the Professional
Conduct Procedure, which states:

Where a Complainant or Member Complained Against fails or refuses to attend a Professional Conduct Hearing, the Registrar has the power to decide to either:

a) Proceed with the Hearing in the absence of one or both of the parties; or

b) Adjourn the Hearing to a date not less than 28 days in advance; or

c) Terminate the proceedings; or

d) Refer the matter for consideration under Article 12.6 of the Memorandum & Articles of Association.

The options were carefully considered, and in light of the circumstances, a decision was made to proceed with the hearing in the absence of the Member Complained Against.

Findings

On balance, having fully considered the above, the Panel made the following findings:

1. The Complainant in her evidence explained that following Mr Macdonald's suspension from work, there were at least three appointments that were either changed or cancelled. The Complainant explained that the start of one appointment time was delayed because Mr Macdonald was held up at a meeting, another appointment was cancelled because Mr Macdonald had to attend an interview and another appointment took place later than agreed as Mr Macdonald had forgotten that an appointment had been scheduled. There was also written evidence within the bundle that the Complainant was unclear on the arrangement of their appointments. The Panel accepted the Complainant's evidence that these arrangements were haphazard and unclear and whilst it did not cause confusion for her, it did cause her distress. The Panel therefore found that Mr Macdonald failed to provide the Complainant with a good quality of care and competently delivered services which met her needs in the arrangement of appointments following his suspension from work. This allegation is therefore upheld, with the exception that the Panel did not find that these arrangements led to confusion for the Complainant.

2. The Complainant in her oral evidence stated that she felt manipulated into continuing to work with Mr Macdonald following his departure from the agency, as he told her that he was being forced to leave. Whilst the Panel took note of the Complainant's evidence, there was insufficient evidence to demonstrate that Mr Macdonald had made any overt attempt to manipulate the Complainant into continuing to work with him. The Panel therefore did not find that Mr Macdonald failed to provide the Complainant with a good quality of care and competently delivered services which met her needs in manipulating her to continue to see him after he left the agency. This allegation is therefore not upheld.

3. The Panel noted that there was written evidence of a long and detailed correspondence between the parties and the Panel accepted the Complainant's evidence, that these communications were an extension of their therapeutic relationship. The Panel noted that the contract provided to the Complainant whilst she was seeing Mr Macdonald under the auspices of the agency, made it clear that while messages would be responded to, no counselling outside of the agreed counselling time would be in engaged in. The Panel found that in Mr Macdonald responding to the Complainant's emails in the level of detail which he did, he encouraged the Complainant to engage in email contact with him. The Panel also found that following Mr Macdonald's departure from the agency, there was evidence that Mr Macdonald did not respond to some emails sent by the Complainant. In responding to the Complainant's emails in the level of detail that Mr Macdonald did, the Panel found that he did not respond appropriately. In view of the above, the Panel found that Mr Macdonald failed to provide the Complainant with a good quality of care and competently delivered services which met her needs, in that he encouraged email contact from the Complainant and either failed to respond or respond appropriately to some emails. Further, Mr Macdonald in his written evidence stated that he felt overwhelmed by the email correspondence and his supervisor had recommended that he cut back contact from the Complainant. The Panel accepted that the Complainant experienced this as Mr Macdonald distancing himself from her. The Panel therefore also found this part of the allegation upheld. For the reasons stated, this allegation is upheld.

4. The Complainant was clear in her evidence that she was not engaged in a personal relationship with Mr MacDonald. There was no written or oral evidence presented to the Panel which demonstrated that Mr Macdonald failed to give careful consideration to the limitations of his training and experience and work within these limits in continuing to offer counselling to the Complainant, rather than refer her to another counsellor when the Complainant attempted suicide and expressed that she was suffering from depression. This allegation is therefore not upheld.

5. The Complainant in her evidence stated that there was no contract, written or verbal or any other information provided to her after Mr Macdonald left the agency, which set out the rights and responsibilities of Mr Macdonald as a practitioner and her as a client. The Complainant also stated that no boundaries were set. The Panel noted that the contract provided to the Complainant whilst Mr Macdonald was counselling the Complainant through the agency, stated that no counselling outside of the agreed counselling time would take place. The Panel however noted that Mr Macdonald engaged in a voluminous exchange of emails with the Complainant, which the Panel accepted was an extension of the therapeutic relationship. The Panel therefore accepted the Complainant's evidence that Mr Macdonald did not clarify and agree the rights and responsibilities of him as a practitioner and the Complainant as a client, including the setting and maintaining of boundaries either during the time that he was counselling the Complainant through the agency and when he left the agency. This allegation is therefore upheld.

6. In her oral evidence the Complainant stated that the only relationship which existed between her and Mr Macdonald was a therapeutic relationship. The Complainant was clear that she was not engaged in a personal relationship with Mr Macdonald. Further, the Complainant stated that she had never met Mr Macdonald for coffee or met with him socially. The Complainant, in her evidence stated that Mr Macdonald visited her at home on one occasion when she was ill, which was not for counselling purposes, which although unwelcomed by her, was not a social visit. Further, the Complainant in her evidence stated that the email correspondence between her and Mr Macdonald was an extension of their counselling relationship. The Panel therefore did not find that Mr Macdonald entered into a dual relationship with the Complainant which was to her detriment or entered into a personal relationship with the Complainant. This allegation is therefore not upheld.

7. At the hearing, it was noted that there was a typographical error in the wording of this allegation, in that instead of saying privacy and dignity, the first line should read that Mr Macdonald allegedly failed to have respect for the Complainant's privacy and confidentiality, which relates directly to paragraph 20 of the Ethical Framework. The correction to this allegation is reflected within this finding. The remainder of the allegation is correct.

Mr Macdonald in his written evidence accepted that he had mentioned the Complainant's appointment with him in front of his wife, and that this was a mistake. The Panel found that in doing so, Mr Macdonald failed to have respect for the Complainant's privacy and confidentiality and pay careful attention to her privacy and dignity. This part of the allegation is therefore upheld.

The Complainant stated that an appointment did take place at the home of a mutual friend after an offer of an appointment had been made and there was no venue for the session to take place. The Complainant stated that she therefore asked her friend for the use of a room in her house, to which she agreed. The Complainant stated that this session took place in a separate room. Given that the Complainant agreed the session would take place at her friend's house, the Panel found that Mr Macdonald did not fail to have respect for the Complainant's privacy and confidentiality and pay careful attention to her privacy and dignity. This part of the allegation is therefore not upheld.

The Complainant presented written evidence that Mr Macdonald helped a former friend to compose an email to the Complainant. Whilst the Panel had no reason to doubt this evidence, there was no evidence that in assisting this person to compose an email to the Complainant, Mr Macdonald breached the Complainant's confidentiality. This part of the allegation is therefore not upheld.

For the reasons stated above, this allegation is partially upheld.

8. The Complainant in her evidence stated that whilst FaceTime was not her preferred method for the therapy sessions, it was preferable to her not having a session at all, and agreed to this whilst Mr Macdonald sourced a venue for the therapy to take place face to face. Further, the Complainant stated that each time a session was arranged she checked whether it would be by FaceTime and Mr Macdonald confirmed that it would be. The Panel therefore found that the Complainant was aware of the method by which the counselling sessions would be taking place following Mr Macdonald's departure from the agency and was aware that sessions would take place in this manner until Mr Macdonald could find a venue. As such, the Panel did not find that Mr Macdonald failed to ensure that the Complainant was adequately informed about the nature of the services being offered to her. This allegation is therefore not upheld.

9. The Complainant in her evidence stated there was at least one appointment that was cancelled because Mr Macdonald had to attend an interview. Tere was also one appointment which Mr Macdonald forgot, and the Complainant had to remind him about, which resulted in the appointment taking place later than planned. The Panel found that in cancelling or forgetting appointments, Mr Macdonald was not clear about his commitment to being available to the Complainant and honour these commitments. This part of the allegation is therefore upheld.

The Panel found that in continuing to engage in email communications with the Complainant, Mr MacDonald was encouraging the Complainant to email him. The Panel accepted that these communications became an extension of the counselling relationship and found that in responding to these emails in the detail which Mr Macdonald did, where the Complainant was raising therapeutic issues, Mr Macdonald failed to respond appropriately to those emails. The Panel also accepted the Complainant's evidence that there were some emails to which Mr Macdonald did not respond. This allegation is therefore upheld.

10. In light of the above findings, the Panel was satisfied that paragraphs 1, 3, 11, 19 and 20 of the Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy (2013 edition) and the ethical principles of Autonomy and Beneficence had been breached. It also found that Mr Macdonald lacked the personal moral qualities of Competence and Wisdom to which all practitioners are strongly urged to aspire.

The Panel found that paragraphs 2, 4 and 12 of the Ethical Framework and the ethical principle of Non-Maleficence had not been breached and did not find a lack of the personal moral quality of
humility.

Decision

Accordingly, the Panel was unanimous in its decision that these findings amounted to Professional Malpractice in the provision of inadequate professional services, and incompetence, in that the service for which Mr Macdonald was responsible fell below the standards that would reasonably be expected of a practitioner exercising reasonable care and skill.

Mitigation

Mr Macdonald in his written evidence accepted that he should not have mentioned the Complainant's appointment with him in front of his wife and that it was a mistake for him to have done so.

Sanction

One of the aims of the Professional Conduct Procedure is to protect members of the public. The Panel, in considering what sanction may be appropriate in the circumstances of this case, has taken into account the interests of public protection.

Within one month from the date of imposition of this sanction, which will run from the expiration of the appeal deadline, Mr Macdonald is required to provide a written submission, which evidences his immediate reflections on, learning from and understanding of, the issues raised in this complaint.

In addition, in no less than three months and no more than nine months from the date of imposition of this sanction, Mr Macdonald is required to attend and successfully complete a CPD course of no less than 6 hours duration on the importance of setting and maintaining boundaries in the therapeutic relationship. Mr Macdonald is required to submit documentary evidence to BACP to evidence that he has attended and successfully completed this course, immediately upon its completion.

Following completion of this course, Mr Macdonald is required to provide a written report detailing his learning on how he sets and maintains boundaries and explains and agrees the rights and responsibilities of him as a practitioner and the client, at appropriate times in the therapeutic relationship, and how he would apply this learning to his practice. This report should be submitted to BACP no later than two weeks after the completion of the course.

These written submissions must be sent to the Interim Registrar by the given deadlines and will be independently considered by a Sanction Panel.

May 2015: Jan Bardua, Reference No: 678116, Essex SS0

The complaint against the above individual member/registrant was taken to Adjudication in line with the Professional Conduct Procedure.

The complaint was heard under the BACP Professional Conduct Procedure and the Panel considered the alleged breaches of the BACP Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy.

The focus of the complaint, as summarised by the Pre-Hearing Assessment Panel, is that in June 2011, the Complainant undertook an addiction assessment at the [ . . . ], which was facilitated by Mr Jan Bardua. Mr Bardua then became the Complainant's group addiction counsellor for the 6 weeks (September-October 2011) that she was an in-patient.

Following her discharge from the [ . . . ] in October 2011, the Complainant stated that she was invited to return to the hospital for several months as an "unofficial peer supporter", by the team of which Mr Bardua was a member.

The Complainant stated that from December 2011, Mr Bardua became her personal counsellor. They met once a week and later twice a week, for two hours each session, at Mr Bardua's home. In addition, from October 2012 to May 2013, the Complainant stated that she and two other clients of Mr Bardua met together for group therapy once a week for one and a half hours per session at Mr Bardua's home. The Complainant alleged that Mr Bardua labelled their relationship as both friendship and also that of client and counsellor and alleged that during the time that she was in therapy with him, she socialised with not only Mr Bardua but with his family as well.

In June 2012, the Complainant stated that she became aware that a complaint had been made against Mr Bardua. However, Mr Bardua and his wife allegedly told her that the complaint was wrong and the Complainant chose to believe Mr Bardua as she had placed so much trust in their relationship.

The counselling relationship ended in May 2013, and allegedly on Mr Bardua's recommendation, the Complainant continued counselling with another counsellor, who was also Mr Bardua's supervisor. The Complainant stated that it was during the course of this work that she realised that Mr Bardua had acted inappropriately towards her. In addition, the Complainant stated that she discovered that Mr Bardua had not discussed his relationship with her, in supervision. As a result, Mr Bardua's supervisor, who was then the Complainant's counsellor allegedly terminated her supervision relationship with Mr Bardua.

Mr Bardua and the Complainant met to discuss what had happened and Mr Bardua allegedly apologised and admitted that he had acted inappropriately and made various promises to the Complainant during this meeting. Mr Bardua also allegedly agreed to cease counselling the Complainant's step-father and offered to and eventually did cease counselling the Complainant's mother.

The Complainant stated that the situation with Mr Bardua has caused her great stress and has had an impact on her family relationships and her college work. The Complainant further stated that she has also suffered depression, anxiety and shame as a result of these incidents.

In accepting this complaint, the Pre-Hearing Assessment Panel was concerned with the following areas, and in particular these are:

1. Mr Bardua allegedly failed to provide the Complainant with a good quality of care and competently delivered services which met her needs in that he:

a) Encouraged, initiated and participated in extensive out of session contact with the Complainant and used language of an inappropriate and intimate nature in the text exchanges between them,

b) Failed to deal with sufficiently or at all, the depression and suicidal ideations expressed by the Complainant,

c) Interrupted his sessions with the Complainant to answer the phone and the door, take cigarette breaks, use the toilet, eat food and talk to one of his children,

d) Embraced the Complainant during their sessions and agreed to see members of the Complainant's family whilst he was still counselling her,

e) Shared personal problems with her in sessions, asking for her advice and perspective.

2. Mr Bardua allegedly failed to give careful consideration to the limitations of his training and experience and work within these limits and take advantage of available professional support, in that he did not deal with appropriately or at all the depression and suicidal ideation exhibited by the Complainant.

3. Mr Bardua allegedly failed to clarify and agree the rights and responsibilities of both him as a practitioner and the Complainant as a client, in that he did not make it clear to the Complainant what his role as a counsellor would be and did not define the boundaries of their relationship.

4. Mr Bardua allegedly entered into a dual relationship with the Complainant, in that he was her counsellor and was involved in a personal relationship with her, which was to her detriment.

5. Mr Bardua allegedly failed to review his need for professional and personal support and obtain appropriate services for himself, in that he did not disclose to his supervisor the full extent of his relationship with the Complainant.

6. Mr Bardua allegedly failed to respect the Complainant's privacy and dignity, in that he entered into late night text exchanges with the Complainant and had telephone contact with her whilst she was on holiday.

7. Mr Bardua allegedly failed to respect the Complainant's privacy and dignity, in that he allowed one of his children to enter the counselling room whilst he was in a counselling session with her.

8. Mr Bardua allegedly failed to pay careful attention to client consent and confidentiality, in that he discussed the Complainant with another client and discussed the Complainant's step-father and mother, who were also his clients, with the Complainant.

9. Mr Bardua allegedly failed to ensure that the Complainant was adequately informed about the nature of the services being offered to her, in that he increased the length and frequency of the sessions without discussing it with the Complainant.

10. Mr Bardua allegedly failed to think carefully about and exercise considerable caution before entering into a personal relationship with the Complainant.

11. Mr Bardua allegedly abused the Complainant's trust in order to gain sexual, emotional, financial or any other kind of personal advantage in that he:

a) Engaged in hugs with the Complainant, one of which was for approximately 15 minutes,

b) Put his tongue in her ear and kissed her,

c) Allowed, encouraged and initiated text contact with the Complainant, which included kisses and inappropriate language such as telling the Complainant that he loved her,

d) Introduced the Complainant to his family and friends and socialised with her,

e) Agreed to provide therapy for the Complainant's family whilst he was still counselling the Complainant, allegedly charging them all a total of approximately £1200 a month for services, thereby abusing the Complainant's trust for financial gain,

f) Told the Complainant that he trusted her with his life.

12. Mr Bardua allegedly failed to respect the Complainant's privacy and confidentiality, in that he discussed her with other clients, permitted one of his children to interrupt their counselling session and discussed her step-father, who was also one of his clients.

13. Mr Bardua allegedly failed to monitor and maintain his fitness to practise at a level which enabled him to provide an effective service, in that he failed to make adequate use of supervision.

14. Mr Bardua allegedly failed to discuss with his supervisor or other experienced practitioner, the circumstances in which he may have harmed the Complainant in order to ensure that the appropriate steps had been taken to mitigate any harm to her and avoid any repetition.

15. Mr Bardua allegedly failed to avoid and foresee the conflict of interest which could arise in counselling the Complainant and members of her family.

16. Mr Bardua's alleged behaviour, as experienced by the Complainant and as identified in the numbered paragraphs referred to above, suggests a contravention in particular of paragraphs 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 11, 12, 17, 20, 40, 43 & 63 and the ethical principles of Being Trustworthy, Autonomy, Beneficence, Non-Maleficence and Self Respect of the Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling & Psychotherapy (2013), and showed a lack of the personal moral qualities of Empathy, Integrity, Respect, Resilience, Humility, Competence and Wisdom to which counsellors are strongly encouraged to aspire.

Findings

On balance, having fully considered the above, the Panel made the following findings:

1. In considering the allegation that Mr Bardua failed to provide the Complainant with a good quality of care and competently delivered services which met her needs, the Panel made the following findings:

(a) In written evidence, the Panel noted the trail of texts that included comments of a very personal nature sent to the Complainant by Mr Bardua, and also heard oral evidence in which Mr Bardua admitted that he had encouraged, at times initiated and participated in extensive out of session contact with the Complainant, and used considerable inappropriate language. The Panel found that this undermined the Therapeutic Relationship and that his conduct at times was rash and impetuous. Therefore this part of the allegation is upheld.

(b) The Panel considered the written and oral evidence from Mr Bardua which addressed the issues of depression and suicidal ideation when working with the Complainant. The Panel accepted that strategies were in place should issues arise about the Complainant's safety if such ideation were to be expressed by her. The Panel was not satisfied, on the evidence presented, that Mr Bardua had failed to deal with, sufficiently or at all, the Complainant's depression and suicidal ideations. This part of the allegation is therefore not upheld.

(c) In both his oral and written evidence Mr Bardua, admitted that he had allowed counselling sessions with the Complainant, to be interrupted, by taking a telephone call, taking breaks and to talk to one of his children. Therefore this part of the allegation is upheld.

(d) (i)In his oral evidence Mr Bardua admitted that he did embrace the Complainant during sessions and assumed it was acceptable to her without discussing his pattern of behaviour with her by way of review. The Panel found that it was Mr Bardua's responsibility to check with the Complainant that she found his actions acceptable and were for her benefit. This he failed to do and therefore this part of the allegation is upheld.

(ii) Both the Complainant and Mr Bardua accepted that Mr Bardua agreed to and then began to see members of her family for counselling whilst still the Complainant's counsellor. In her oral evidence, the Complainant spoke about the negative effect and impact this had on her and continues to have to this day, describing the way that his failure to provide a good quality of care has affected her relationships with her family. She explained that, at the time, she trusted Mr Bardua's judgement about this concurrent work. The Panel noted that whilst Mr Bardua stated that he had discussed with the Complainant, the decision as to whether to also see other members of the Complainant's family whilst counselling the Complainant, and whilst she did not object at the time, he failed to consider the impact that this might have on her. The Panel therefore upheld both elements of allegation 1(d).

(e) The Panel noted that within the text trail there were references to some personal information, but accepted that on the evidence before it, there was insufficient evidence to substantiate the allegation, that Mr Bardua discussed, or sought advice and perspective on his personal issues during therapeutic sessions. This part of the allegation is therefore not upheld.

For the reasons stated above, allegation 1 is upheld in part.

2. The Panel noted that Mr Bardua came from a background of previous experience and knowledge, in particular, in dealing with clients who had experienced depression and suicidal ideation and had systems in place to address such risks. Mr Bardua stated in his oral evidence that on receipt of texts from the Complainant, where she had expressed such thoughts, he would follow up with a call to the Complainant to discuss the issue. There was insufficient evidence presented to the Panel to suggest that Mr Bardua failed to take these issues seriously and therefore this allegation is not upheld.

3. The Panel noted Mr Bardua's written and verbal evidence that the boundaries of their multiple relationships had initially been clarified. However, he admitted that these roles subsequently became blurred, and that this was as a result of his failing to ensure that these boundaries were reviewed and sufficiently clarified throughout. Mr Bardua also accepted that in hindsight, it was unwise to work with the Complainant in his private practice directly after working with her in a different therapeutic setting. Therefore, the Panel upheld this allegation.

4. Mr Bardua accepted, both in his written and oral evidence, that a number of dual relationships existed between himself and the Complainant. Namely as counsellor/client, family friendship, personal friendship and Fellowship friendship. He stated that these were discussed prior to the Complainant becoming his private client and re-discussed at a later stage. Mr Bardua stated that both he and the Complainant believed initially that they would be beneficial to the Complainant if properly managed. The Panel heard evidence from the Complainant as to the detrimental impact that these dual relationships had had on her. The Panel concluded that there was sufficient evidence presented before it to demonstrate that the Complainant did not benefit from the dual relationships, and therefore upheld this allegation.

5. In his oral evidence, Mr Bardua stated that "in his innocence", he never considered the need to disclose to his supervisor the full extent of his relationship(s) with the Complainant. The Panel found that it was Mr Bardua's responsibility to recognise and deal with issues, such as taking on a client from one setting to a private client setting, and that as a professional counsellor, he would be expected to review his need for professional support and use supervision to its fullest. The Panel therefore upheld this allegation.

6. The text trail evidenced that Mr Bardua had entered into late night text exchanges with the Complainant. Whilst the Panel heard evidence presented, that it was the Complainant who requested contact whilst she was on holiday, the Panel considered that the nature of the texts were beyond a client/counsellor relationship and were wholly inappropriate and intrusive. For these reasons, the Panel found that Mr Bardua had failed to respect the Complainant's privacy and dignity and therefore this allegation is upheld.

7. In his written and oral evidence, Mr Bardua accepted that he allowed one of his children to enter the counselling room during a session with the Complainant. The Panel found that regardless of the fact that the Complainant did not object at the time, this interruption was not respectful. The Panel therefore upheld this allegation.

8. The Panel noted that there was some evidence that Mr Bardua had discussed the Complainant's step-father and mother, who were also his clients, with the Complainant. However, the Panel considered that it was not unreasonable in the circumstances and that there was insufficient evidence that the substance of the sessions was discussed such that it would amount to a breach of confidentiality. In respect of
the allegation that Mr Bardua also discussed the Complainant with another client, the Panel noted that there was no evidence presented to it to substantiate that this did occur. This allegation is therefore not upheld.

9. The Panel heard evidence from both parties that the length and frequency of sessions between Mr Bardua and the Complainant was discussed. The Complainant stated that at the time she believed that this was to her benefit and agreed to the increase. This allegation is therefore not upheld.

10. Mr Bardua accepted, both in his written and oral evidence that he did enter into a personal relationship with the Complainant. The Panel heard and accepted the evidence from the Complainant as to the detrimental impact that this had had on her, in that she and her family were still in a state of conflict. The Panel therefore found that Mr Bardua had failed to think carefully and did not exercise considerable caution before becoming the Complainant's counsellor and also entering into a personal friendship with the Complainant. The Panel therefore upheld this allegation.

11. In considering whether Mr Bardua abused the Complainant's trust in order to gain sexual, emotional, financial or any other kind of personal advantage, the Panel examined all aspects of the allegation including that listed from (a) to (f);

(a) Whilst there was a conflict of evidence with regard to the length of time of one of the hugs, Mr Bardua admitted that he engaged in hugs with the Complainant.

(b) In his oral evidence, Mr Bardua conceded that he might have engaged in what he considered as horseplay, which was foolish. The Panel also heard clear evidence from the Complainant with respect to this action and was satisfied on balance that this occurred as described by the Complainant.

(c) Mr Bardua admitted that he engaged in texts of an inappropriate nature and referred to the finding at 1(a) above.

(d) Mr Bardua admitted that he did introduce the Complainant to his family and socialised with her.

(e) There was insufficient evidence presented to the Panel to establish whether the cost of £1200 per month for counselling 3 members of the same family was unreasonable in the circumstances.

(f) Mr Bardua admitted that he did say that he trusted the Complainant with his life. The Panel accepted the evidence of Mr Bardua and his witness that this expression originated in the fellowship context and the reason for its use.

However, in the context of counselling and given her issues, the Panel considered that it was unwise to use such an expression.

The Panel was therefore satisfied, given its findings with regard to the constituent elements of allegation 11, save for (e), were such that Mr Bardua had gained an emotional advantage, by creating a culture of dependency on him and control over the Complainant. The Panel therefore upheld this allegation.

12. The Panel was not satisfied on the evidence presented that Mr Bardua had discussed the Complainant with another client. The Panel heard evidence in respect of what matters were discussed with the Complainant's step-father and was not satisfied that the nature of the conversation was such that it amounted to a breach of confidentiality. This part of the allegation is therefore not upheld. In his written and oral evidence, Mr Bardua accepted that he allowed one of his children to enter the counseling room during a session with the Complainant, thereby failing to respect the privacy and confidentiality of his client. This part of the allegation is therefore upheld.

For the reasons stated above, this allegation is upheld in part.

13. In his oral evidence Mr Bardua admitted that he did not make adequate use of supervision, in that he failed to take issues to supervision, which were linked to his counselling of the Complainant. He also stated that at some point he felt at the edge/limit of his skills in relation to the issues that the Complainant was presenting and that the work had become "stuck". It was after this, that a referral was made and the Complainant began to work with Mr Bardua's supervisor, now his ex supervisor. The Panel found that Mr Bardua failed to monitor and maintain his fitness to practice at a level which enabled him to provide an effective service to the Complainant by discussing fully his work with his supervisor and that it was Mr Bardua's responsibility to have done so. Mr Bardua stated that it was now his practice to discuss all aspects of his work with his current supervisor. The Panel therefore upheld this allegation.

14. When Mr Bardua received a text from the Complainant, in February 2013, requesting he contact his supervisor, he did arrange a meeting for supervision. In his oral and written evidence Mr Bardua spoke of his shock on hearing the concerns, expressed by his supervisor and stated his willingness to address how he might have harmed the Complainant and the steps he would be taking to mitigate that harm. However, having begun the discussion, this was the final supervision session with his supervisor as she ended the supervisory relationship with him at that meeting. The Panel found that whilst Mr Bardua had failed to use supervision adequately as detailed in allegation 13 above, Mr Bardua did, when notified by the Complainant of the harm he had caused, discuss this specific issue in supervision; therefore this allegation is not upheld.

15. The Complainant gave evidence in which she described the issues which arose both during and after the counselling relationship, within her family, and the impact of Mr Bardua's decision to take on three members of the same family. Whilst the Panel also heard evidence from both parties, with respect to the discussions that took place between them, about Mr Bardua's decision to take on as clients the Complainant's mother and step-father, the Panel found that it was Mr Bardua's responsibility to give due consideration to the inherent risks of taking on, as clients, members of the same family. The Panel found that Mr Bardua had failed to avoid and foresee the risk of a conflict of interest and therefore this allegation is upheld.

16. In light of the above, the Panel was satisfied that Mr Bardua's alleged behaviour, as experienced by the Complainant, and as identified in the numbered paragraphs referred to above, suggests a contravention in particular of paragraphs 1, 3, 4, 7, 11, 12, 17, and 40 of the Ethical Framework for Good Practice, and the Ethical Principles of Being Trustworthy, Autonomy, Beneficence, Non-Maleficance and Self-Respect. The Panel also found that Mr Bardua lacked the Personal Moral Qualities of Integrity, Respect, Resilience, Humility, Competence and Wisdom to which counsellors are strongly encouraged to aspire. The Panel did not find a contravention of paragraphs 2, 20 or 43 of the Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling & Psychotherapy.

Decision

Accordingly, the Panel was unanimous in its decision that these findings amounted to Professional Malpractice in that the service for which Mr Bardua was responsible fell below the standards that would reasonably be expected of a practitioner exercising reasonable skill. The Panel found that Mr Bardua was incompetent, reckless and provided inadequate professional services.

Mitigation

Mr Bardua confirmed that he had entered into personal therapy to process and understand the issues raised by the complaint.

He provided evidence of courses he had attended, since the complaint, addressing boundary issues. Mr Bardua had also apologised both in his written and oral evidence, with regard to the failings which he had admitted.

Sanction

One of the aims of the Professional Conduct Procedure is to protect members of the public. The Panel, in considering what sanction may be appropriate in the circumstances of this case, has taken into account the interests of public protection.

Within one month from the date of imposition of this sanction, which will run from the expiration of the appeal deadline, Mr Bardua should provide a written submission, which evidences his immediate reflection on, learning from and understanding of, the issues raised in this complaint.

In addition, in not less than 6 months and no more than 18 months from the date of imposition of this sanction, Mr Bardua is required to provide three separate, written reports based on his current client work, which are as follows:

1. A case study, showing how he contracts with clients and clarifies rights and responsibilities with clients generally. Mr Bardua should present evidence that this has been discussed in supervision.

2. A report demonstrating a profound understanding of dual relationships, the significance of these relationships, their impact and the possible harm to clients that may be caused by them. Mr Bardua should support the study with reference to literature available about dual relationships and present evidence that this has been discussed in supervision.

3. A report evidencing Mr Bardua's reflections on the use of supervision, with examples from his clinical work and how he has used supervision to improve his practice. Mr Bardua should present evidence that this has been discussed in supervision.

His current supervisor should sign off all these three reports and verify that the content of these reports has been discussed in supervision.

Mr Bardua's accreditation is suspended until the sanction above has been considered as satisfactorily completed by a Sanction Panel.

These written submissions must be sent to the Interim Registrar by the given deadlines, and will be independently considered by a Sanction Panel.

(Where ellipses [ . . . ] are displayed, they indicate an omission of text)

  

May 2015: Joseph Cullen, Reference No: 525916, Newcastle Upon Tyne NE15


The complaint against the above individual member/registrant was taken to Adjudication in line with the Professional Conduct Procedure.

The complaint was heard under the BACP Professional Conduct Procedure and the Panel considered the alleged breaches of the BACP Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy.

The focus of the complaint, as summarised by the Pre-Hearing Assessment Panel is that the Complainant was a trainee counsellor at organisation A, a counselling agency registered under the Industrial and Provident Societies Acts 1965-1978, where the Member Complained Against, Joseph Cullen, at that time was the Treasurer and a part of the management team.

The complainant was a trainee counsellor from September 2008 to December 2009, and while she remained at the organisation as a qualified counsellor from January 2010 to June 2010, Mr Cullen was her supervisor. Further from September 2010 to July 2011, Mr Cullen acted as her mentor when she registered on a teaching qualification course until July 2011. Mr Cullen was also simultaneously the complainant's work colleague within the agency from June 2009, when at his request she took on the role as volunteer fundraiser for the agency in return for a promise from him of paid employment in the future once the organisation was financially sustainable.

The focus of this complaint is the alleged unprofessional and unethical behaviour of Mr Cullen towards the complainant in his role as her supervisor, and to a lesser extent in his subsequent role as her mentor. Once the supervisory relationship was established, allegedly as a result of Mr Cullen's suggestion, the complainant alleged that Mr Cullen embarked on a series of initiatives designed primarily to keep her in the organisation in order to use her experience of fundraising in order to realise the vision and ambition he had for the organisation. In addition to his request that she become a volunteer fundraiser for the organisation with the prospect of permanent paid employment, the complainant alleged that Mr Cullen fostered a close personal relationship directly with her and also between members of their respective families. The complainant alleged that the supervision boundaries became increasingly blurred through, for example, Mr Cullen picking her up from home, driving her to the supervision location and then home again, with frequent stops for coffee, shopping, and visits to galleries, together with increasing socialising with her and between both of their families. Over time, the complainant alleges that Mr Cullen, while appearing to be supportive, fostered a deliberate dependence by her on him through what she refers to as his "power and control dynamic". He allegedly actively disregarded her welfare as a trainee counsellor through a "series of discouragements", including discouraging her from topping up her Foundation Degree to an Honours Degree, putting her off registering for a PhD, and inhibiting her from taking up a placement opportunity with Barnardos. The complainant alleged that Mr Cullen was able to gain information from her through the supervisory process about her lack of family support and present vulnerability and the abuse she experienced in childhood and then to misuse that information through inappropriate disclosure outside supervision to further his control over her.

The complainant summarises Mr Cullen's unethical behaviour as a supervisor by setting out his modus operandi in the following way:

- He would allegedly first target a volunteer or trainee counsellor and allocate himself as their supervisor

- He would provide 1 to 1 supervision free of charge.

- Using that relationship he would allegedly gather information on the supervisee in order both to use that supervisee to sustain his vision for the organisation and to meet his own emotional needs for his dynamic of power and control.

- Having assessed the individual's needs and vulnerabilities he would allegedly make them special with promises of roles and tasks within the agency.

- He would allegedly establish trust through emotional intimacy and support, only then to isolate that supervisee through a process of manipulating their thoughts and behaviours and discarding them if and when they became a threat, replacing them with new students from local colleges.

While the complainant suggested that this was his typical way of working, she alleged that all of it was experienced specifically by her throughout the duration of their supervisory relationship, which she describes as a process of "grooming", manipulation of vulnerabilities and the deliberate fostering of dependence upon him for malign ends. Thus she alleged he abused her trust by using his position of power to choose her clients without listening to her concerns; reinforcing his control by heightening her vulnerabilities; and undermining her own personal therapy.

The complainant stated that she eventually was able to end the supervisory relationship in June 2010, against Mr Cullen's wishes, following which she experienced lengthy "blanking" by him within the organisation as they continued to work together and a series of "passive aggressive behaviours". As Mr Cullen then moved from being her supervisor to becoming her mentor when she registered on a teaching course, she alleged that he proceeded to use the confidential information gained from her during supervision within the agency as their personal and professional relationship deteriorated, leaving her to feel "totally disrespected....and manipulated". She eventually dispensed altogether with his mentoring services in September 2011 until, after he made sexually explicit remarks to her, she gave in her notice in November 2011.

The Panel, in accepting this complaint, was concerned with the allegations made within the complaint suggesting contravention of the Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy, and those in particular are as follows:

1. Mr Cullen allegedly failed to provide the complainant with a good quality of care and competently delivered services which meet her needs, in that he built up the complainant's dependence towards him by offering free supervision to gain her trust, to meet the needs of the organisation rather than the complainant's needs and would not allow the complainant to see the complaint which a client had made against her and instead offered to increase their Supervision sessions.

2. Mr Cullen allegedly failed to provide the complainant with a good quality of care and competently delivered services which met her needs, in that he did not enable the complainant to explore fully issues she was experiencing with her client work in supervision.

3. Mr Cullen allegedly failed to provide the complainant with a good quality of care and competently delivered services which met her needs, in that he suggested in supervision that the complainant had been sexually abused and entered into a discussion about her sexual self and drew the complainant into a discussion about her family life, which made her feel uncomfortable.

4. Mr Cullen allegedly failed to provide the complainant with a good quality of care and competently delivered services which met her needs, in that when the complainant wanted to discuss terminating their supervisory relationship, Mr Cullen would not enter into a meaningful discussion about it.

5. Mr Cullen allegedly failed to clarify and agree the rights and responsibilities of both him as a practitioner and the complainant as a client, in that he did not make it clear to her the circumstances in which supervision could end and when the complainant broached the subject of terminating therapy, did not provide reviews or set out the supervision process or clarify the roles that he would be performing in relation to her.

6. Mr Cullen allegedly held a dual relationship with the complainant which was to her detriment, in that he was concurrently a supervisor, manager, colleague and friend and then subsequently mentor, manager, colleague and friend. Further Mr Cullen allegedly failed to consider the implications of these dual relationships.

7. Mr Cullen allegedly failed to keep appropriate records of his supervision and mentoring work with the complainant.

8. Mr Cullen allegedly failed to be attentive to the quality of listening and respect offered to the complainant in that he allegedly 'groomed' the complainant and used their supervisory/mentor relationship for his own needs and for the benefit of the organisation rather than the complainant's own needs. Further Mr Cullen allegedly did not listen to the complainant when she was explaining to him things that were going wrong in their relationship.

9. Mr Cullen allegedly failed to pay careful attention to client consent and confidentiality in that he used material gained from his supervisory relationship with the complainant in their working relationship as colleagues

10. Mr Cullen allegedly failed to respect the complainant's right to choose whether to continue or withdraw from supervision or mentoring, in that each time the complainant raised the issue of terminating supervision he acknowledged it but there would be no initiation of an ending process.

11. Mr Cullen allegedly failed to ensure that his services were delivered on the basis of the complainant's explicit consent in that he continued providing supervision to the complainant when she made him aware that she wished to cease supervision.

12. Mr Cullen allegedly failed to be willing to respond to the complainant's requests for information about the way in which he was working in that he would not permit the complainant to explore a complaint that had been made against her by the client with him in supervision.

13. Mr Cullen allegedly abused the complainant's trust in order to gain emotional and personal advantage in that he used his supervisory relationship with the complainant to develop a series of discouragements, including discouraging her from topping up a Foundation degree to an Honours degree, putting her off studying for a Ph.D. and inhibiting her from getting experience with Barnardos.

14. Mr Cullen allegedly failed to respect the complainant's privacy and confidentiality in that he paid frequent visits to the bistro run by the complainant's husband during the time the complainant was his supervisee/mentor and used information gained from his supervision sessions with the complainant within the organisation.

15. Mr Cullen allegedly failed to provide supervision/consultative support, i.e. mentoring to the complainant independent of any managerial relationships.

16. Mr Cullen allegedly failed to respond promptly and appropriately to the complainant's complaint when she raised concerns regarding their supervisory relationship.

17. Mr Cullen allegedly failed to ensure that his relationships were conducted in a spirit of mutual respect and attain good working relationships which enhance services, in that he sent an email to a colleague which referred to the complainant in a less than positive way.

18. Mr Cullen allegedly failed to treat all colleagues fairly and to foster equality of opportunity in that Mr Cullen exploited the complainant's ethnic background to gain connections for him and the organisation.

19. Mr Cullen allegedly failed to avoid the conflict of interest which developed between him and the complainant, in that he was initially her supervisor, manager, colleague and friend and then subsequently her mentor, manager, colleague and friend.

20. Mr Cullen's alleged behaviour, as experienced by the complainant and identified in the paragraphs above suggests contravention in particular of paragraphs 1, 3, 4, 5, 11, 12, 13, 16, 17, 20, 33, 41, 51, 52 and 63 and of the ethical principles of being Trustworthy, Autonomy and Beneficence of the Ethical Framework for Good Practice (2008- 2013), and showed a lack of the personal moral qualities of sincerity, integrity, respect and fairness to which counsellors are strongly encouraged to aspire.

Findings

On balance, having fully considered the above, the Panel made the following findings:

1. In his oral evidence, Mr Cullen stated that all volunteer trainee counsellors at organisation A were offered free supervision. The Panel found that by offering free supervision, Mr Cullen did build up a dependency, however the Panel was satisfied that this was not a deliberate attempt to meet the organisation's needs rather than the Complainant's, although this may have been an unintentional consequence. This part of the allegation is therefore not upheld.

Whilst there was a conflict of evidence as to whether or not there was a written complaint made against the Complainant by a client, there was, nevertheless a complaint. The Complainant was not shown the complaint but instead was offered extra supervision, and in this regard, the Panel found that Mr Cullen had failed to provide the Complainant with a good quality of care and competently delivered services which meet her needs. Therefore this part of the allegation is upheld.

For the reasons stated above, this allegation is upheld in part.

2. In her oral evidence, the Complainant talked of bringing client work to supervision and in particular discussed one of her clients with Mr Cullen where he had suggested there may be a dynamic issue. There was no evidence brought to demonstrate that in general, the Complainant was not able to explore fully issues in her client work and therefore the Panel found that Mr Cullen did not fail to provide the Complainant with a good quality of care and competently delivered services which met her needs in this regard and therefore this allegation not upheld.

3. Mr Cullen, in his oral evidence stated that he did not recognise the account of the conversation as evidenced in the Complainant's written and oral evidence. The Panel considered that there was a conflict of evidence about whether or not Mr Cullen suggested in supervision that the abuse the Complainant had suffered in childhood amounted to sexual abuse. The Panel found that there was insufficient evidence brought to substantiate the allegation and therefore this allegation is not upheld.

4. In her oral evidence, the Complainant accepted that she had not formally broached the subject of terminating the supervisory relationship. Therefore this allegation is not upheld.

5. In oral evidence, when asked if he had clarified the rights and responsibilities in relation to the supervision relationship, Mr Cullen stated the Complainant would have been given the organisation A "Supervision Policy Sheet" which had been submitted as evidence. However, the Panel found that this sheet on its own was not sufficient as a clarification. When closely questioned, Mr Cullen's responses demonstrated that he was hazy about how and whether he had clarified the rights and responsibilities of himself as a practitioner and the Complainant as a client within their supervision sessions. Mr Cullen stated that he had carried out reviews whilst the Complainant was a student, but that he had not done so in the eighteen months or so after she was qualified. This allegation is therefore upheld.

6. Mr Cullen accepted, in both his written and oral evidence, that he had had multiple roles with the Complainant. These included being a family friend, a regular customer of the Complainant's husband's café, colleague, counsellor and supervisor. Mr Cullen also had a personal friendship with the Complainant, was her line manager in her capacity as volunteer counsellor and a mentor. When questioned by the Panel, Mr Cullen could not provide any evidence of having considered the implications of these dual relationships or the detrimental impact they might have on the Complainant, despite having said that he had discussed them in supervision. The Panel noted that Mr Cullen demonstrated a lack of reflection, both at the time and since the events occurred.This allegation is therefore upheld.

7. Mr Cullen gave contradictory evidence of his keeping of appropriate records, first stating that he had not kept records and then stating that he had done so whilst the Complainant was a student. In oral evidence, Mr Cullen stated that processes and systems had not always been in place. The Panel found that the contradictions indicated that his records, if kept, were not kept in an appropriate manner. Therefore this allegation is upheld.

8. The Panel found that there was insufficient evidence brought to corroborate the allegation that Mr Cullen had 'groomed' the Complainant for his own interests or for the benefit of the organisation. In her evidence, the Complainant accepted that she did not tell Mr Cullen in a straightforward way, that things were going wrong in their relationship. This allegation is therefore, not upheld.

9. The Panel noted the emails that contained information Mr Cullen had gained from the supervision sessions with the Complainant and which he had sent to a mutual colleague, Ms D. Mr Cullen stated, in oral evidence that the emails had been taken 'out of context'; however he accepted that he had written them and stated that 'they looked bad'. The Panel found that, whilst Mr Cullen stated that the emails were only meant for Ms D's eyes, they did contain material taken from his confidential knowledge of the Complainant and as such should not have been passed to a third party. Therefore this allegation is upheld.

10. The Complainant stated in her oral evidence, that she had not directly raised the issue of terminating supervision within her supervisory sessions. Therefore the Panel did not uphold the allegation that Mr Cullen failed to respect the Complainant's right to choose whether to continue or withdraw from supervision or mentoring.

11. The Complainant stated in her oral evidence, that she had not directly raised the issue of terminating supervision within her supervisory sessions. Therefore the Panel did not uphold the allegation that Mr Cullen failed to ensure services were delivered on the basis of the Complainant's explicit consent.

12. The Panel noted that there was a conflict of evidence as to whether there had been a written complaint by a client, however, there was evidence of a complaint about the Complainant being late for a client, which she had not been allowed to fully explore in supervision. The Panel found that, whilst Mr Cullen had brought up complaints made against the Complainant in supervision, he had not given her full information about them. Therefore this allegation is upheld.

13. In written evidence, Mr Cullen had stated that the Complainant had pursued two courses which had been paid for by the organisation. Mr Cullen denied that he had discouraged the Complainant and on the contrary, stated that he would have supported the Complainant had she pursued a PhD. The Panel noted that there was a conflict of evidence as to whether Mr Cullen had discouraged the Complainant from pursuing a PhD and therefore the allegation that Mr Cullen abused the Complainant's trust is not upheld.

14. In both his written and oral evidence Mr Cullen accepted that he had frequently visited the Complainant 's husband's Bistro, and stated that this was 'to support them and because the food was good'. The Panel found that in so doing, Mr Cullen did not respect her privacy and confidentiality. This part of the allegation is therefore upheld.

The Panel found that there was insufficient evidence brought to substantiate the allegation that Mr Cullen used information gained from supervision sessions within the Bistro. Therefore this part of the allegation is not upheld.

For the reasons stated above, this allegation is upheld in part.

15. Mr Cullen accepted in both his written and oral evidence that he had been in multiple relationships with the Complainant. However, when questioned he was not able to reflect on the possible detrimental issues that these multiple relationships may cause. The Panel found that his supervision and consultation was not independent from any managerial relationship. Therefore this allegation is upheld.

16. The Panel noted that there was no evidence brought to demonstrate that the Complainant had raised a complaint against Mr Cullen, prior to the allegations made to BACP; therefore this allegation is not upheld.

17. Mr Cullen accepted in both his written and oral evidence that he had sent an email to a colleague, which referred to the Complainant in a less that positive way. Mr Cullen stated that this email was purely for the recipient and was not intended to be seen by the Complainant. However, the Panel found that sending an email describing the Complainant in such unflattering terms to a mutual colleague was disrespectful and harmful to working relationships. Therefore this allegation is upheld.

18. The parties agreed that the Complainant had attended a meeting with an MP at Mr Cullen's request, however, there was insufficient evidence brought to substantiate the allegation that this was done to exploit the Complainant's ethnic background. Therefore this allegation is not upheld.

19. It was accepted by both parties that Mr Cullen sent cards to the Complainant and her family. In his oral evidence however, Mr Cullen did not accept that the multiple relationships he had with the Complainant created a conflict of interest. In her oral evidence, the Complainant stated that she was confused by the multiple relationships. The Panel also noted that the relationships had extended beyond her time at the organisation. The Panel found that Mr Cullen had failed to avoid a conflict of interest developing and indeed noted that Mr Cullen failed to acknowledge that a conflict of interest had developed. This allegation is upheld.

20. In light of the above, the Panel was satisfied that Mr Cullen's alleged behaviour, as experienced by the Complainant, and as identified in the numbered paragraphs referred to above, suggests a contravention in particular of paragraphs 1, 3, 4, 5, 11, 16, 20, 33, 51 and 63 of the Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling & Psychotherapy and the Ethical Principles of Being Trustworthy and Autonomy. The Panel also found that Mr Cullen lacked the personal moral qualities of Integrity, Respect, and Fairness that practitioners are strongly urged to aspire.

The Panel did not find a contravention of paragraphs 12, 13, 17, 41 and 52 of the Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling & Psychotherapy, and the Ethical Principle of Beneficence. Nor did the Panel find a lack of the personal moral quality of Sincerity.

Decision

Accordingly, the Panel was unanimous in its decision that these findings amounted to Professional Malpractice in that the service for which Mr Cullen was responsible fell below the standards that would reasonably be expected of a practitioner exercising reasonable skill. The Panel found that Mr Cullen was incompetent, reckless and provided inadequate professional services.

Sanction

One of the aims of the Professional Conduct Procedure is to protect members of the public. The Panel, in considering what sanction may be appropriate in the circumstances of this case, has taken into account the interests of public protection.

Within one month from the date of imposition of this sanction, which will run from the expiration of the Appeal deadline, Mr Cullen is required to provide a written submission, which evidences his immediate reflection on, learning from and understanding of, the issues raised in this complaint.

In addition, in not less than 6 months and no more than 18 months from the date of imposition of this sanction, Mr Cullen is required to provide three separate, in-depth, case studies, which evidence the following:

1. The 'dual relationships' that he and the complainant were involved in over the years and demonstrate a profound understanding of the significance of these relationships and the possible harm that may be caused by them to this complainant in particular. Mr Cullen must also:


I. Support the case study with reference to the literature available about dual relationships;
II. present evidence that this has been discussed in supervision and;
III. The case study should be signed off by a supervisor who also evidences that he/she is a) outside of Mr Cullen's current network and b) evidence that he/she has not been and is not currently involved in any other relationship with Mr Cullen.

2. The understanding of the meaning of 'conflict of interest' and demonstrate a profound understanding of the significance of how a conflict of interest may arise within organisation A. Mr Cullen must also:


I. Support the case study with reference to the literature available about conflict of interests within a counselling arena;
II. present evidence that this has been discussed in supervision and;
III. The case study should be signed off by a supervisor who also evidences that he/she is a) outside of Mr. Cullen's current network and b) evidence that he/she has not been and is not currently involved in any other relationship with Mr. Cullen.

3. The importance of keeping consistent and clear records and the importance of being thorough and consistent in his record-keeping as above.


I. Support the case study with reference to the literature available
II. present evidence that this has been discussed in supervision and;
III. The case study should be signed off by a supervisor who also evidences that he/she is a) outside of Mr. Cullen's current network and b) evidence that he/she has not been and is not currently involved in any other relationship with Mr. Cullen.

Mr Cullen's accreditation is suspended until the sanctions above have been considered as satisfactorily completed by a Sanction Panel.

These written submissions must be sent to the Interim Registrar by the given deadlines, and will be independently considered by a Sanction Panel.

May 2015: Christine Usher, Reference No: 573333, Bishop's Stortford CM23

The complaint against the above individual member/registrant was taken to Adjudication in line with the Professional Conduct Procedure.

The complaint was heard under the BACP Professional Conduct Procedure and the Panel considered the alleged breaches of the BACP Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy.

The focus of the complaint, as summarised by the Pre-Hearing Assessment Panel, is that in September 2011, the complainant saw Ms Usher for family therapy, having found her leaflet at a doctor's surgery, and having been recommended to look for family therapy by a CBT therapist. The reason for needing therapy was that the complainant was feeling sad, in part due to being unable to breast-feed her baby, and was also experiencing problems in her relationship.

It was agreed that sessions should take place at 2pm on Saturdays. The complainant states that whilst this suited her partner, she found it difficult to find childcare. The complainant alleged that this issue was discussed in therapy but that Ms Usher did not appear to consider this a problem. The complainant therefore attended only three sessions, the last one on her own. During therapy, Ms Usher allegedly assured the complainant that she was not depressed, but the complainant stated that this made her more confused and ashamed about her feelings and she felt unable to communicate, and carried on hoping to feel differently.

The complainant stated that her partner continued to see Ms Usher on a Saturday. The complainant alleged that during his therapy, her partner changed from loving the complainant to distrusting and hating her. The complainant became increasingly overwhelmed, lonely and resentful as she needed her partner's help and support and this was made worse by his being out of the house on Saturdays. On one occasion the complainant stated that she insisted that her partner take the baby to therapy with him, so that the complainant could take her older child to a party. When she picked up Mr P later, from therapy, he refused to get in the car with her.

In February 2012, the complainant decided to make changes to her life, in particular, giving up smoking. As she had allegedly been told by both Ms Usher and her mother-in-law that she was not depressed, she was put on Chamonix. (Ms Usher had allegedly told the complainant that the complainant felt threatened by her mother in law). The complainant stated that she became depressed and suicidal and the medication was changed. Around this time, the complainant's partner allegedly began to insult and humiliate her, and also to video-record her.

Ultimately, in March 2012, the couple split up, allegedly in part because Ms Usher encouraged the complainant's partner to decide whether or not to leave the family home. The separation was very acrimonious and there was a court case. The complainant was aware that her partner had had therapy before and was anxious that he may be susceptible to the influence of his therapist. She therefore, rang Ms Usher to ask what kind of therapy her partner was having, but Ms Usher allegedly told her to, "ask him yourself" and put the phone down.

On 25 May 2012, Ms Usher wrote an "expert witness" statement on behalf of the complainant's now ex-partner. The statement referred to the sessions held with the complainant and discussed what she had said within the sessions, and Ms Usher's opinion of what was said by the complainant.

The complainant stated that this report was in the end not used in court, however, alleged that the writing of this report was a breach of her confidentiality, and that all the information given about her was untrue. Specifically, the complainant denied that she had suggested to Ms Usher that her partner had a mental illness.

The complainant alleged that Ms Usher had not listened to anything that she said, that her written evidence is distorted, and that Ms Usher teamed up with her partner to bully the complainant.

The Pre-Hearing Assessment Panel, in accepting this complaint, was concerned with the allegations made within the complaint suggesting contravention of the Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy, and those in particular as follows:

1. Ms Usher allegedly failed to provide the complainant with a good quality of care and competently delivered services which met her needs, in that she suggested that the complainant was not depressed, when she was not qualified to make such a comment.

2. Ms Usher allegedly failed to provide the complainant with a good quality of care and competently delivered services which met her needs in that she did not appreciate or take into consideration how the difficulties that the complainant had regarding child care would affect her attending the sessions.

3. Ms Usher allegedly failed to provide the complainant with a good quality of care and competently delivered services which met her needs in that she prepared a report which was to be disclosed to third parties, in which she referred to the complainant and information obtained from the therapy sessions without her knowledge or consent.

4. Ms Usher allegedly failed to give careful consideration to the limitations of her training and experience and work within these limits in that she told the complainant that she was not suffering from post-natal depression when she was not qualified to make such an assessment and prepared a report in relation to the complainant and her partner in which she gave opinions about the mental state of the complainant's partner which she was not qualified to provide.

5. Ms Usher allegedly failed to give careful consideration to the limitations of her training and experience and work within these limits in that she prepared a report in relation to the complainant and her partner in which she made statements and gave opinions which she was not qualified to make.

6. Ms Usher allegedly failed to clarify and agree the rights and responsibilities of her as a practitioner and the complainant as a client in that she did not make it clear to the complainant that she would be preparing a report relating to her and submitting it to third parties or that she would be making assessments in relation to whether or not the complainant was depressed.

7. Ms Usher allegedly failed to ensure that the complainant was adequately informed about the nature of the services being offered to her and obtain adequately informed consent from the complainant in that she did not inform the complainant that she would be preparing a report in relation to matters which she and her partner had discussed in therapy and disclosing it to third parties and did not seek the complainant's consent to refer to her or what she had discussed in therapy within the report.

8. Ms Usher allegedly failed to pay careful attention to client consent and dignity in that she prepared a report which referred to the complainant which could be used in court, without seeking the complainant's consent.

9. Ms Usher allegedly failed to respect the complainant's privacy and confidentiality in that she referred to matters, which the complainant had disclosed to her in therapy, in a report which was to be submitted to third parties, without seeking the complainant's consent.

10. Ms Usher allegedly failed to ensure that she was accountable to the complainant for the management of confidentiality in that she disclosed information in a report relating to the complainant without her consent.

11. Ms Usher allegedly failed to ensure that she clarify the terms on which her services were being offered in that she did not make it clear to the complainant the limitations of confidentiality or that she would be submitting a report which referred to the complainant or matters she had disclosed in therapy.

12. Ms Usher allegedly failed to take particular care over the integrity of presenting her qualifications and professional standing in that she gave opinions in relation to the mental state of the complainant and her partner, within therapy, and within her report, which she was not qualified to make.

13. Ms Usher allegedly failed to foresee or avoid the conflict of interest which could arise in agreeing to see the complainant's partner as an individual when she had previously seen both the complainant and her partner as a couple.

14. Ms Usher's alleged behaviour, as experienced by the complainant and identified in the paragraphs above, suggests a contravention in particular of paragraphs 1, 2, 3, 11, 12, 20, 24, 59, 61 and 63 and of the ethical principles of Being Trustworthy, Autonomy, Beneficence, Non-maleficence and Justice of the Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling & Psychotherapy (2013), and showed a lack of the personal moral qualities of Empathy, Integrity, Respect, Competence, Wisdom, Fairness and Humility to which counsellors are strongly encouraged to aspire.

Findings

On balance, having fully considered the above, the Panel made the following findings:

1. There was a sharp conflict in the oral evidence presented by both parties. The Complainant in her evidence stated that she told Ms Usher that she had been assessed and diagnosed as suffering from Post Natal Depression (PND), but that Ms Usher had dismissed this diagnosis and stated that the Complainant did not have PND. Ms Usher denied this and stated that she would never be dismissive of a diagnosis of a mental health illness and would work with whatever issues the client presented, including depression. Ms Usher stated that she was not qualified to make a medical diagnosis. The Panel noted that there were communication issues between the Complainant and Ms Usher in view of the language barrier and agreed that it was likely that this led to misunderstandings between the parties. In the absence of any corroborating evidence, the Panel accepted the evidence of Ms Usher and did not find that Ms Usher failed to provide a good quality of care and competently delivered services in suggesting that the Complainant was not depressed when she was not qualified to do so. This allegation is therefore not upheld.

2. The Complainant in her evidence accepted that she and her former partner had agreed the time that the session would take place. Whilst both parties accepted that the Complainant described the difficulties that she had with child care, the Complainant accepted in her evidence that she did not make a request to Ms Usher to change the timing of the session. On questioning both parties, there was no evidence of any other option for an appointment time other than a Saturday afternoon. The Complainant stated that her former partner worked Monday to Friday and Ms Usher stated that she did not offer evening appointments and had already been flexible in agreeing to see the Complainant and her former partner on a Saturday afternoon. Further, the Complainant stated that she had hoped that she would be able to make child care arrangements so that she could attend the session on a Saturday afternoon, but she had been unable to do so. The Panel therefore did not find that Ms Usher failed to provide a good quality of care and competently delivered services in not taking into account how the difficulties that the Complainant had in arranging child care would affect her attending the sessions. This allegation is therefore not upheld.

3. Ms Usher accepted in both her written and oral evidence that she did not have the Complainant's consent to refer to her within the report she submitted on behalf of the Complainant's former partner. The Panel therefore found that Ms Usher failed to provide the Complainant with a good quality of care and competently delivered service which met her needs in preparing a report that she disclosed to third parties, which referred to the Complainant and information obtained during her therapy sessions with the Complainant, without her knowledge or consent. This allegation is therefore upheld.

4. The Panel accepted Ms Usher's evidence that she did not tell the Complainant that she was not suffering from post-natal depression, as referred to in allegation 1. The Panel therefore did not find that Ms Usher failed to give careful consideration to the limitations of her training and experience and work within these limits in relation to this part of the allegation. The first part of this allegation is therefore not upheld.

With regard to the second part of the allegation, Ms Usher accepted that whilst she did have experience of working within the mental health arena, she did not have any medical qualifications which would enable her to provide any diagnoses. In preparing a report in which Ms Usher gave opinions regarding the mental state of the Complainant's former partner which she was not qualified to provide, the Panel found that Ms Usher failed to give careful consideration to the limitations of her training and work within these limits. This part of the allegation is therefore upheld.

For the reasons stated above, this allegation is upheld in part.

5. Ms Usher accepted that she prepared a report in relation to the Complainant and her former partner in which she made statements and gave opinions which she was not qualified to make. The Panel therefore found that Ms Usher failed to give careful consideration to the limitations of her training and experience and work within these limits. This allegation is therefore upheld.

6. The Complainant in her evidence stated that she was unaware of the existence of the report that Ms Usher had prepared until her solicitor informed her. Ms Usher accepted that did not make the Complainant aware that she would be preparing a report in relation to her and submitting it to third parties. In relation to this part of the allegation, the Panel found that Ms Usher failed to clarify and agree the rights and responsibilities of her as a practitioner and the Complainant as a client. This part of the allegation is therefore upheld.

The Panel accepted that Ms Usher did not make any assessments in relation to whether or not the Complainant was depressed and therefore could not fail to clarify and agree the rights and responsibilities with the Complainant in this regard. This part of the allegation is therefore not upheld.

For the reasons stated above, this allegation is upheld in part.

7. Ms Usher in her evidence stated that whilst she sought consent from the Complainant's former partner to prepare the report, she did not seek consent from the Complainant. Further, the Complainant stated that she was unaware of the existence of the report until her solicitors brought it to her attention. The Panel therefore found that Ms Usher failed to ensure that the Complainant was adequately informed about the nature of the services being offered to her and obtain adequately informed consent from the Complainant to prepare a report detailing what was discussed in therapy and disclose it to third parties. This allegation is therefore upheld.

8. Ms Usher accepted that she prepared a report in which she referred to the Complainant and submitted it to the solicitors of the Complainant's former partner for use in court proceedings, without the Complainant's consent. The Panel therefore found that Ms Usher failed to pay careful attention to client consent and dignity in this regard. This allegation is therefore upheld.

9. Ms Usher accepted that within the report she prepared for the Complainant's former partner, she referred to matters that the Complainant had discussed with her in the session which she attended alone and did not seek the Complainant's consent to do so. The Panel therefore found that Ms Usher failed to respect the Complainant's privacy and dignity in this regard. This allegation is therefore upheld.

10. The Panel found that in preparing a report, which referred to the contents of the Complainant's session without her consent, Ms Usher failed to ensure that she was accountable to the Complainant for the management of confidentiality. This allegation is therefore upheld.

11. Both parties accepted in evidence that the issue of confidentiality was discussed during the initial assessment session as part of the verbal contract, but the Complainant denied that she was informed of the limitations of confidentiality and the circumstances in which this could be breached. Further, Ms Usher accepted in her evidence that given the language barrier, she should have revisited the matters discussed in the verbal contract in subsequent sessions to ensure that the Complainant understood. Ms Usher accepted that she did not make the Complainant aware that she would be submitting a report which referred to the Complainant and the matters she discussed in therapy. The Panel therefore found that Ms Usher failed to clarify the terms on which her services were being offered in not making it clear the limitations of confidentiality. This allegation is therefore upheld.

12. Ms Usher accepted in evidence that she did not have any medical qualifications which would enable her to offer any diagnoses and further accepted that this was the first time that she had prepared a report in this manner. The Panel noted the expert's declaration section of the report in which Ms Usher claimed to be an expert, when she was not. Ms Usher stated in evidence that the report was a template she used to insert the content of her report. Whilst the Panel accepted that Ms Usher did not offer opinions in relation to the mental state of the Complainant, the Panel found that in preparing a report in which Ms Usher gave opinions relating to the mental health of the Complainant's former partner which was to be submitted for use in court proceedings, Ms Usher failed to take particular care over the integrity of presenting her qualifications and professional standing. This allegation is therefore upheld in part.

13. Ms Usher stated in her oral and written evidence that during the time that she was counselling the Complainant and her former partner, there were issues in her personal life which were parallel to the issues the Complainant and her former partner were going through. Ms Usher stated that on reflection she felt protective of the Complainant's former partner and his plight and saw her role as his protector and experienced a level of transference. Ms Usher stated that this served to cloud her judgment and in hindsight she should have taken some time off work to deal with her personal issues. Ms Usher accepted that it was a conflict of interest to agree to see the Complainant's former partner individually when she had been counselling him and the Complainant as a couple. The Panel therefore found that Ms Usher failed to foresee or avoid the conflict of interest which could arise, and as such this allegation is upheld.

14. In light of the above findings the Panel was satisfied that there was a contravention of paragraphs 1, 2, 3, 11, 12, 20, 24, 59, 61 and 63 and the ethical principles of Being Trustworthy, Autonomy, Beneficence and Non-maleficence and Justice of the Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling & Psychotherapy (2013). The Panel also found that Ms Usher showed a lack of the personal moral qualities of Integrity, Respect, Competence, Fairness, Humility and Wisdom to which all counsellors are strongly encouraged to aspire.

The Panel was not satisfied that Ms Usher showed a lack of the personal moral quality of Empathy.

Decision

Accordingly, the Panel was unanimous in its decision that these findings amounted to Professional Malpractice in that the service which Ms Usher provided fell below the standard which would reasonably be expected of a practitioner exercising reasonable skill and care, in that she was incompetent and reckless.

Mitigation

Ms Usher made a full and frank admission and acknowledged her failings. Ms Usher states that she now ensures that she provides her clients with a written contract as opposed to a verbal contract and has changed her supervisor, which has given her the opportunity to reflect on the transference that occurred in this case. Further, Ms Usher stated that it was now her practice never to see one half of a couple as an individual.

Sanction

One of the aims of the Professional Conduct Procedure is to protect members of the public. The Panel, in considering what sanction may be appropriate in the circumstances of this case, has taken into account the interests of public protection.

Within one month from the date of imposition of this sanction, which will run from the expiration of the appeal deadline, Ms Usher is required to provide a written submission, which evidences her immediate reflection on, learning from and understanding of, the issues raised in this complaint.

In no less than six months and no more than 12 months, Ms Usher is required to undertake training on working with couples from different cultural backgrounds of one day's duration and must provide documentary evidence of her attendance on the course within the same time frame.

In addition, at the same time as submitting evidence of her attendance on the above course, Ms Usher is required to provide a written report reflecting on what she learned on the training course and how this has influenced her practice. Further Ms Usher is required to demonstrate how she uses supervision and has changed or made improvements to her practise in respect of the following areas:

  • Working with clients cross culturally where there are language barriers;
  • Maintaining boundaries within the therapeutic relationship;
  • Monitoring and maintaining her self-care;
  • Foreseeing and avoiding conflicts of interests;
  • Managing confidentiality within a therapeutic setting.

The above report must be countersigned by Ms Usher's supervisor, who must confirm that the above matters have been discussed in supervision.

These written submissions must be sent to the Interim Registrar by the given deadlines and will be independently considered by a Sanction Panel.