January 2024: Hazel Hill, Reference No 00566002, Registrant ID 45039
This outcome was reached by agreement.
Hazel Hill, a BACP individual member, agrees to the following outcome of the investigation into a complaint of failure to comply with professional standards under reference PCP[…].
1.1 Hazel Hill (the Member) has been a member of the BACP since […].
1.2 The Member works in […].
1.3 On 29 April Year 1 the Complainant, […], who was a client of the Member, made a complaint about their professional conduct under reference PCP[…].
1.4 The Complainant attended individual therapy with the member on 13, 26 January, 9 February and 2 March Year 1. The Complainant’s complaint relates to the fourth and final session.
1.5. The Complainant says that the Member appeared to the Complainant to be self-absorbed, dominating the session by speaking for 75% of the time. Despite the Complainant being obviously disengaged and quieter than usual the Member appeared oblivious to the Complainant’s discomfort causing the Complainant to feel she was not being listened to.
1.6. The Complainant says that, when she attempted to […], the Member spoke of her own personal […] and gave ‘extreme’ diet nutritional advice; committing to a wheat, dairy and sugar free diet, trying a dieting app ‘Noom’ and taking advice from a dietician Michael Mosley (known for intermittent fasting).
1.7. The Complainant, […] by this unwanted advice.
1.8. The Complainant says that when she tried to discuss her anxiety around socialising and referred […] as an example, the Member ‘turned the conversation around’ to be about the Member’s relationships and wrongly assumed that the Complainant did not […].
1.9. The Complainant says that she was not given any contractual documentation or written information with regard to her counselling agreement with the Member at any stage.
1.10 On 7 March Year 1 the Complainant emailed the Member to inform her that she wished to end therapy setting out her reasons which were that she didn’t feel listened to, she hadn’t asked for unsolicited nutritional advice, she had felt […] the diet advice and opinions, that the Member’s personal opinions were impacting on her therapy negatively when discussing relationships, and the absence of any formal contract or paperwork at the beginnings of the sessions together. The Complainant says that she provided this as feedback to avoid other clients getting “the same poor level of care”. She says the Member replied the same day stating ‘"Thanks for letting me know’" without any further comment on the feedback provided and the distress she had caused.
2.1 Hazel Hill makes the following admissions which the BACP accepts:
There was no written record or easily accessible contract between the parties before the commencement of therapy setting out the terms on which the Member would provide therapeutic services to the Complainant in contravention of paragraph 31 of the BACP Ethical Framework for the Counselling Professions 2018 that states:
31. We will give careful consideration to how we reach agreement with clients and will contract with them about the terms on which our services will be provided. Attention will be given to
d. providing the client with a record or easy access to a record of what has been agreed.
e. keeping a record of what has been agreed and of any changes or clarifications when they occur.
In her email dated 7 March replying to the Complainant’s email of the same date the Member failed to:
(a) acknowledge the concerns the Complainant expressed about her experience of therapy with the Member and/or
(b) attempt to repair the therapeutic relationship by offering the Complainant an opportunity to discuss with her, either in writing, remotely or in person, the concerns she had raised in her email and/or
(c) apologise to the Complainant for any harm and/or distress she experienced in therapy.
The Member thereby acted in contravention of Paragraph 52 of the BACP Ethical Framework for the Counselling Professions 2018 that states:
a) We will ensure candour by being open and honest about anything going wrong and promptly inform our clients of anything in our work that places clients at risk of harm, or has caused them harm, whether or not the client(s) affected are aware of what has occurred by:
b. repairing any harm caused, so far as possible
c. offering an apology where this is appropriate
3.1. Hazel Hill puts forward the following mitigation which has been taken into account by the IAC in deciding the appropriate outcome.
3.2. Since receiving the complaint, she has discussed the matter with her supervisor and from this, has provided supplementary evidence to the IAC, as well as contacting her insurance company.
3.3. The Member states that, after submitting her preliminary response on 7th September, she has undertaken the following discussions and directed study, which, she considers have enabled her to reflect on what she needs to put in place to ensure that professional standards are maintained at all times within her counselling practice, namely:
a) has consulted BACP’s Ethics Hub on 26th October Year 1, which directed her to study the following paragraphs of BACP Good Practice Guidelines:
paragraph 72 – Unplanned endings in the counselling profession
paragraph 4 – Working in private practice within the counselling profession
paragraph 33 – Ethical decision making within the counselling profession
paragraph 39– Making the contract within the counselling professions.
b) has read the BACP Ethical Framework.
c) has read Reeves, A. and Bond, T (5th ed) ‘Standards and Ethics for Counselling in Action’ and Sill, C. (2006) ‘Contracts in Counselling and Psychotherapy’.
d) met with her supervisor monthly in September, October and November.
3.4. the Member also submits the following points in mitigation:
a) she recognises that in not contracting in writing with this client she has fallen short of the expectations of the BACP Ethical Framework, and that this has contributed to the Client’s distress. To ensure that all future clients have a copy of her contract, she now emails the contract to them prior to their initial session and asks them to review the contract and if they agree, to return a signed copy to confirm that they have read and understood it. Sessions cannot commence until the contract is returned beforehand.
b) further reflection on the Client’s complaint to BACP has led her to conclude that she failed to prioritise the Client’s needs sufficiently, by attempting to support them with an appropriate ending. She placed too much emphasis on maintaining her Client’s autonomy and this clouded her judgement. In future, her procedure with any client who requests an unplanned ending is to offer them a free meeting to attempt to address and resolve any outstanding concerns. If this is declined, she will address each issue in a written response to the client.
c) her client’s complaint and her subsequent engagement with BACP has prompted her to reflect deeply upon her whole practice as a counsellor. She is now aware of aspects of her professional behaviour in the handling of this client that have contributed to their distress, and she feels that it would be appropriate for her to express her remorse to the client by way of an apology. If the Client feels that it is appropriate, she would be prepared to meet with them also.
4.1 The issues identified and admitted by Hazel Hill amounted to breaches of the Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy 2018, in particular paragraphs 31 and 52 as identified in the admissions above.
4.2. One of the aims of the Professional Conduct Procedure is to protect members of the public. The IAC, in considering what sanction may be appropriate in the circumstances of this case, has taken into account the interests of public protection.
4.3 In relation to the findings above, the Committee considers it appropriate that the Member should:
1. within 6 weeks of receipt of this letter, provide to the BACP a reflective piece setting out:
a) what went wrong in this case
b) what she has the learned from the training/learning she has undertaken, what changes she has made to her practice in light of this learning, focusing on the concerns raised in the allegations, and how she has embedded these changes into her practice
c) specifically, what changes she has made in her practice if a client has/would in the future express concerns about their therapeutic experience with her
d) the impact of this complaint on the reputation of the BACP and the wider counselling profession
2. The Member is also required to provide a copy of her current contract and to set out how this is adequate and how it complies with the Ethical Framework 2018
3. On completion of the above, to provide a genuine and sincere letter of apology addressed to the Complainant addressing the concerns raised in the complaint.
4. The Member is required to provide evidence of discussion of the above points with her supervisor.
4.4 The Member agrees that this Agreement will be published by the BACP in line with the Publication Policy and that this Agreement will be disclosed to the Complainant.
4.5 The Member agrees that she will not act in any way inconsistent with this Agreement such as, for example, by denying the findings in paragraph 2 above.
4.6 If the Member fails without good reason to comply with the sanction set out above or acts in a way which is inconsistent with this Agreement the matter will be referred to a sanction panel for consideration. The decision of the sanction panel may be published.
4.7 If the Member acts in a way which is inconsistent with this Agreement a sanction panel may determine that it will terminate her membership. Such a decision will be published.
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