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:
Ms McMaster provided information to BACP written by her supervisor regarding her conduct in relation to a former client.
Within the information, the supervisor states that she received an email from Ms McMaster on 4th April Year 2 advising Ms McMaster had had a relationship with a former client (X), the supervisor met with Ms McMaster the following day.
Ms McMaster informed her supervisor that X had attended counselling with her on and off for approximately 3 years finishing in August Year 1 with a few support sessions taking place before Christmas. Ms McMaster went on to inform her supervisor that on 25th January she had two bottles of wine to take home after work. However, she began to drink these at her office after seeing her clients. Ms McMaster advised her supervisor that X called her work phone and she answered. Ms McMaster confirmed in her inebriated state she ‘stupidly told [X] where [she was] and why’. X came to the office and they talked through the night. Ms McMaster advised her supervisor she expressed feelings for X but that she could not remember half of what she said. Ms McMaster further advised she cancelled her clients the following morning and went home.
The supervisor states Ms McMaster told her that she had realised her mistakes and that she ignored the former client’s texts and telephone calls. Ms McMaster did eventually respond to X advising she would need to report what happened as being unethical, but X begged her not to.
Ms McMaster did not self-refer this at the time and went on to have a sexual relationship with X.
Ms McMaster told her supervisor she was “thoroughly ashamed and riddled with guilt. [she had] let [her supervisor] down…, [she had] let the profession down, [she had] let [her] client down, [she had] let [herself] and [ . . . ] down.”
Along with Ms McMaster’s self-referral BACP also received correspondence from the counselling coordinator at Organisation A. Ms McMaster was a volunteer at this organisation and also used the premises for her private practice. Organisation A advised that X had raised a complaint with the organisation about Ms McMaster. X told the organisation that X has no trust in the profession after the experience X had.
In X’s complaint X stated X and Ms McMaster had regular social contact through texts and meetings. X stated X did not initiate the relationship with Ms McMaster but initially felt she was someone X could trust. However, X went on to report Ms McMaster as being manipulating and arrogant and as ‘throwing up things discussed within therapy’. X told the organisation Ms McMaster would say things like she was “risking [her] professional reputation for this relationship”.
After meeting with X, Organisation A contacted Ms McMaster’s supervisor who advised a report had already been made to BACP. Organisation A tried to contact Ms McMaster for details of the report made to BACP for the organisation’s accountability and requested a meeting with Ms McMaster. As of the date of the email to BACP (11th May) we are informed Ms McMaster had not responded.
Within Ms McMaster’s self-referral she states that the events were a ‘huge lapse of judgement and boundaries [ . . . ]’. Ms McMaster states that this occurred at a time when she had been experiencing [ . . . ].
The nature of the information raises questions about the suitability of Ms McMaster’s continuing membership of this Association and it raises concerns about the following in particular:
• It is alleged that given the nature of the complaint made and her self-referral, Ms McMaster has brought, or may yet bring, not only this Association, but also the reputations of counselling/psychotherapy into disrepute in that she acted in such a disgraceful way that has or may yet undermine the public’s trust in the profession and the Association.
• It is alleged that in entering into a relationship with her former client Ms McMaster has acted in a way that is incompatible with the values of counselling and psychotherapy.
• It is alleged that Ms McMaster’s current fitness to practice may be impaired such that clients may be adversely affected by your continuing to practice.
• The information suggests there has been a serious breach, or breaches, of the Ethical Framework for the Counselling Professions (2016).
Article 12.6 Panel’s Decision
The Panel carefully considered all the evidence submitted by Ms McMaster, her Supervisor and Organisation A, together with the responses from Ms McMaster and decided to implement Article 12.6 of the Articles of Association.
Ms McMaster’s membership will be withdrawn subject to appeal. Ms McMaster 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 Ms McMaster 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 Ms McMaster, her Supervisor and Organisation A, together with the responses from Ms McMaster. The Panel considered the following points to be central in its decision making:
• Ms McMaster, by her own admission:
entered into an inappropriate, sexual relationship with X
having recognised in November Year 1 that she was, ‘beginning to struggle’, continued to see clients when she, ‘should have stepped away from [her] duties as a therapist’ as circumstances in her family, ‘put huge mental stress on [her] and [her] competence to practise.’
• Ms McMaster’s alleged conduct, much of which she accepts, indicates that there have been clear breaches of the BACP Ethical Framework, some of which are serious, including but not limited to:
failing to maintain her own health and wellbeing
having an inappropriate relationship with a client
• The conduct was not a single incident that might be explained by a one-off error of judgement.
• Ms McMaster did not show adequate insight – she described the client as ‘not really a client’ because X had only attended a couple of sessions. The Panel decided that this demonstrated Ms McMaster did not recognise when she was in a professional, counsellor-client relationship and subject to the Ethical Framework. It accepted there was a dispute about whether the client (X) attended a session after Christmas, but the Panel was satisfied that there was no clear ending of what had been a long-term, ongoing therapeutic relationship and X considered there was still a client-counsellor relationship at that time.
• The Panel accepted that Ms McMaster had notified BACP of the issues in question. However, it noted that she had only done so after it had been reported by her Supervisor and after she knew X had complained to Organisation A. The Panel also noted she did not disclose her conduct with X to her Supervisor until after the relationship with X had ended.
• There was not enough evidence regarding Ms McMaster’s health at this time to satisfy the Panel that her current fitness to practice may be impaired such as clients may be adversely affected. However, the Panel was satisfied that the evidence, including Ms McMaster’s admissions, showed that her conduct:
amounted to a serious breach, or breaches, of the Ethical Framework
was incompatible with the values of counselling and psychotherapy
has brought, or may yet bring, the BACP and the reputations of counselling/psychotherapy into disrepute
was disgraceful such that it has or may yet undermine the public’s trust in the profession
Ms McMaster did not appeal the decision and her membership was withdrawn.
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