Information was disclosed to BACP, which was considered under Article 12.6 of the Articles of Association.
The summary of the information received is as follows:
Mr Jameel Abbas contacted BACP on 5 July Year 1 to self-refer and advise of a dismissal from his employment as a counsellor at Organisation X. Mr Jameel Abbas included the dismissal letter he received from his employer, a letter from his supervisor and a statement giving more details surrounding the circumstances that led to the dismissal.
The [ . . . ] Counselling Manager contacted BACP on 27 July Year 1 to advise that Mr Jameel Abbas was dismissed on 30 June Year 1 due to gross misconduct. In the summative list of reasons for his dismissal it was advised there was a client complaint due to Mr Jameel Abbas acting [ . . . ] in counselling sessions which made the client feel uncomfortable. This included inappropriate comments, lengthy calls outside of sessions, proposing social meetings, initiating physical contact, giving gifts, sharing personal information and a suggestive conversation on an online dating site.
The dismissal letter to Mr Jameel Abbas summarised a hearing which took place to consider allegations of him breaching the Organisation X’s Policy and Procedure and the BACP Ethical Framework. The allegations were:
• Failure to recognise, maintain and respect professional boundaries with a student/client.
• Failure to uphold professional integrity – abuse of power as a counsellor whilst working with a young, impressionable female student/client.
• Failure to uphold the professional values of Organisation X and Counselling service.
• Failure to declare a potential conflict of interest in an appropriate and timely manner.
• Failure to recognise an appropriate method of communication with a student/client and to utilise this is in a professional context.
• Failure to monitor and maintain own psychological health, ensuring resilience and resourcefulness to undertake counselling work in ways to satisfy the professional standards.
The Organisation X panel listened to evidence presented in person, considered written evidence and considered the behaviours expected from employees and responsibilities of those in student counselling roles. It reached the unanimous decision that, on the balance of probabilities, Mr Jameel Abbas’ behaviour constituted gross misconduct and his employment was terminated without notice.
Mr Jameel Abbas sent BACP a supporting statement to provide his reflections and interpretation of events surrounding the incident. He advised that on reflection he realised that he did not put the client first and did not review the impact of this therapeutic relationship in supervision. Mr Jameel Abbas also accepted that he did not maintain his own physical and psychological health. He highlighted that he was not open in supervision as, due to the volume of clients to work through, there was not enough time but, on reflection, he understood he should have discussed this client.
Mr Jameel Abbas confirmed he did share his mobile number with the client and now understands this was inappropriate, but he did feel he had the client’s permission after the client sought him out on social media and a dating site. Mr Jameel Abbas admitted he did not maintain a distinction between his professional and personal presence and has since deleted his social media accounts.
Mr Jameel Abbas advised he received new clients each week on top of his returning clients, under the scrutiny of a new management team which he advised he found very intense as policies and procedures were also rapidly being changed. Mr Jameel Abbas advised his physical health was also a factor after having been absent on three occasions between January and May Year 1 and tried to return to work too early each time.
Mr Jameel Abbas also included a letter from his supervisor who confirmed she first became aware of the situation leading to his dismissal after he had been suspended from work and a disciplinary meeting date had been set. Mr Jameel Abbas’ supervisor advised that he had a high client case load and struggled with his work life balance which may have impacted on his client work.
The nature of the information raises questions about the suitability of Mr Jameel Abbas’ continuing membership of this Association and it raises concerns about the following in particular:
• It is alleged that in having been dismissed, Mr Jameel Abbas has brought, or may yet bring, not only this Association, but also the reputations of counselling/psychotherapy into disrepute.
• It is alleged that being dismissed is incongruent with what is expected of a member of BACP.
• The information further suggests that there may have been a serious breach, or breaches, of the Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy.
Article 12.6 Panel’s Decision
The Panel carefully considered all the evidence submitted by Mr Jameel Abbas and decided to implement Article 12.6 of the Articles of Association.
Mr Jameel Abbas’ membership will be withdrawn subject to appeal. Mr Jameel Abbas has 28 days from the date of notification of this report to make an appeal. In the absence of an appeal, notification will be given to Mr Jameel Abbas by the Chair of the Association with regard to the withdrawal of membership.
In addressing the issues before it the Panel gave due consideration to all evidence supplied by Mr Jameel Abbas. The Panel considered the following points to be central in its decision making:
• Mr Jameel Abbas was employed by Organisation X as a counsellor and had been summarily dismissed for gross misconduct on 30 June Year 1.
• The Panel noted that Mr Jameel Abbas had not appealed his dismissal or applied to the Employment Tribunal; and he had not made any submission to BACP that led the Panel to consider Organisation X’s process as anything other than fair and effective. The Panel therefore found the investigation and findings of Mr Jameel Abbas’ employer to be credible and persuasive evidence of his behaviour as a practitioner.
• The behaviour that had been alleged, proved at the disciplinary hearing and not challenged by Mr Jameel Abbas, related to his professional conduct and encompassed an inappropriate relationship, questions around his integrity, conflicts of interest and mental and physical resilience. The Panel considered the circumstances of this conduct to be serious breaches of the BACP Ethical Framework, in particular in relation to:
failure to establish and maintain appropriate professional and personal boundaries in relationships with clients; and
failure to maintain high standards of honesty and probity in all aspects of his work; and,
failure to take responsibility for his own wellbeing in order to maintain good practice.
• The Panel recognised that it should not go behind the decision of Organisation X’s disciplinary process and noted that of the sanctions available to that process, summary dismissal for gross misconduct was the most severe. The Panel saw this as confirmation of its view that Mr Jameel Abbas’ misconduct could amount to serious breaches of the BACP Ethical Framework.
• The Panel gave Mr Jameel Abbas credit for referring himself to BACP. It noted that he had not appealed his dismissal, which demonstrated some degree of insight and acceptance of responsibility for the misconduct that led to his dismissal. The Panel recognised that Mr Jameel Abbas appeared to fully accept the seriousness of his misconduct, commenting to his supervisor that his counselling career is at an end, and there was evidence of some reflection by Mr Jameel Abbas but little evidence of productive learning. Mr Jameel Abbas had also recognised he had health problems and had sought help from his GP.
Having considered all the information available to it, the Panel concluded that Mr Jameel Abbas’ misconduct, in particular the inappropriate relationship with a client, was incongruent with what is expected of a member of BACP. That conduct, together with the other allegations upheld by his employer - and accepted and not appealed by Mr Jameel Abbas - constitute serious breaches of the BACP Ethical Framework. The Panel unanimously agreed that, if the details of Mr Jameel Abbas’ conduct and summary dismissal for professional misconduct were accurately made known to the public, they would bring not only the BACP, but also the reputations of the professions of counselling and psychotherapy into disrepute.
The Panel decided that Mr Jameel Abbas’ failings warranted the withdrawal of his membership of BACP.
Mr Abbas did not appeal the decision and his membership was withdrawn.
Any future re-application for membership will be considered under Article 12.3 of the Articles of Association.
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