October 2023: Carol Broad, Reference No: 00899161 Registrant ID: 379464
The Professional Conduct Panel, consisting of […] met on […] to consider the complaint brought by […] against Carol Broad (CB - the Member), who was, at the time of the matters in question, a British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) individual member.
Also in attendance were […] and […] (Clerk’s Assistants) and […] (Clerk to the Panel).
The Member was present and represented by […] (Counsel). The Complainant was present and supported by […] (Professional Supporter).
An Investigation and Assessment Committee (IAC) previously considered the complaint and the information provided by CB and decided that the following allegation met the Proceedings Test.
1.1 In ending the therapeutic relationship by email dated 29 November Year 1, the Member:
a. Failed to discuss the ending with the Complainant in advance; and/or
b. Failed to offer or suggest alternative therapeutic support; and/or
c. Failed to provide justifiable reasons for the sudden ending.
1.2 The Member thereby failed to meet professional standards, including in particular by acting in a way which was inconsistent with the following paragraph of ‘Good Practice’ in the Ethical Framework for the Counselling Professions 2018:
39 (We will endeavour to inform clients well in advance of approaching endings and be sensitive to our client’s expectations and concerns when we are approaching the end of our work together).
2.1 The Member failed to advise the Complainant of all relevant information by not disclosing to her that […] was both her line manager, as Director of […] and her clinical supervisor.
2.2 The Member thereby failed to meet professional standards, including in particular by acting in a way which was inconsistent with the following paragraph of ‘Good Practice’ in the Ethical Framework for the Counselling Professions 2018:
30 (We will usually provide clients with the information they ought to know in advance in order to make an informed decision about the services they want to receive, how these services will be delivered and how information or data about them will be protected. Where the urgency or seriousness of the situation requires us to intervene before providing such information, we will do so at the first appropriate opportunity) and/or
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: f) being watchful for any potential contractual incompatibilities between agreements with our clients and any other contractual agreements applicable to the work being undertaken and proactively strive to avoid these wherever possible or promptly alert the people with the power or responsibility to resolve these contradictions).
The Member’s representative, […], had made a written application, dated […], for new evidence to be admitted and considered as part of the hearing. The nature of the evidence was an additional character reference for the member from […]. […]
The Complainant was invited to respond to the application. She had no objections.
The Panel took advice from the Clerk. Having done so and taking into account clause 4.7 of the BACP Professional Conduct Procedure (PCP) and the Protocol on New Evidence, the Panel decided to allow the application and admit the character evidence from […].
Documents and evidence before the Panel
The Panel was provided with the following written materials:
• The original complaint and all information submitted by the Complainant.
• The formal response submitted by the Member Complained Against.
• Further information provided by the parties including a witness statement by […].
• The relevant Ethical Framework(s).
• The Professional Conduct Procedure 2018.
The Panel read all the above, then received oral evidence from the Complainant, the Member, and the Member’s witness, […], including questioning by the Panel.
The Panel had to consider the following:
• The allegations made.
• The written and oral evidence.
• What weight should be attached to the evidence.
• On balance, whether the complaints should be upheld.
Allegation 1 –UPHELD IN FULL
Allegation 1.1 – PROVED
The Panel noted the use of the word ‘failed’ in allegations 1.1(a)-(c). It reviewed paragraph 39 of the BACP Ethical Framework for the Counselling Professions 2018. The Panel found that the Member was aware that the Complainant was particularly vulnerable, had been/felt rejected by counsellors before and that the Member had undertaken not to abandon the Complainant. It also found that the Member suffered a significant […] and […] in November Year 1, […].
Nevertheless, the Panel concluded that paragraph 39 placed a duty on the Member to ‘endeavour’ to discuss an ending with a client in advance (inform clients well in advance of approaching endings), offer/suggest alternative therapeutic support (be sensitive to clients’ expectations and concerns) and provide justifiable reasons for the sudden ending (be sensitive to clients’ expectations and concerns).
The steps the Member could reasonably be expected to take to fulfil these duties were dependent on the circumstances, including the impact of her […]. The Panel found that the Member was capable of writing emails and, while she felt unable to conduct face to face sessions due to her […], she could have conducted remote sessions with the Complainant by telephone or video with her own camera off. The Panel did not accept that the Member’s […] freed her from the duties set out in paragraph 39.
It therefore concluded that, if it were proved the Member ‘did not’ do the things alleged, that would be capable of proof that she ‘failed to’ do the things alleged.
Allegations 1.1(a) and 1.1(b)
The Member admitted she ended her therapeutic relationship with the Complainant by email on 29 November Year 1. This was also independently proved by the copy email provided in evidence and the Complainant’s evidence. The Member also admitted that she did not discuss the ending with the Complainant in advance and did not offer or suggest alternative therapeutic support for the Complainant. The Panel found these admissions were consistent with the Complainant’s evidence and the documentary evidence and found that the Member did end the therapeutic relationship by email dated 29 November Year 1 (the ending email) and did not do the actions set out in allegations 1.1.a and 1.1.b.
Allegations 1.1(a) and 1.1(b) were, therefore, found proved.
The Member denied that she did not provide justifiable reasons for the sudden ending. The Panel reviewed the Member’s email dated 29 November Year 3. The Member stated that it had ‘become clear over time that the level of service [the Complainant] desire from a therapist far exceeds the services I offer’. In particular, the Member wrote,
‘There may be therapists who are willing to provide the service you seek; who are willing to operate within your preferred terms and have the time needed to respond to your emails in the manner you request. However after much soul searching I recognise that this is not something I can accommodate.’
The Panel concluded that the Complainant’s level of email communication between sessions was the only reason the Member gave for ending the therapeutic relationship.
The ending email also stated ‘Therefore I will be closing your case and not offering any further appointments.’ The Panel accepted the Member’s evidence that she offered the Complainant a closing session. However, from the email evidence and the Complainant’s testimony it found that this was not part of the Member’s planned ending for the Complainant, but a response by the Member to the Complainant’s continuing emails. It found the Member’s intention at the time of sending the ending email was to end the relationship immediately and suddenly, with no notice.
In considering whether the Complainant’s extensive use of out of session email communication was a justifiable reason for this sudden ending, the Panel considered whether the Member had informed the Complainant about her email protocol. The Panel accepted the Member’s clear and consistent evidence that she had told the Complainant about the email protocol. It also accepted the Complainant’s admission that her memory is not always reliable, particularly at times of emotional stress, and her acceptance that it was possible that the Member had told her about the email protocol, but she no longer remembered this.
However, the Panel also found, from the documentary evidence of their email exchanges and the Complainant’s evidence of the impact the Member’s language in those emails had on her, that the Member had given the Complainant mixed messages. The email protocol was clear, but the Member did not enforce the boundaries set by the protocol and responded to the Complainant using language that encouraged her out of session email communication. The Panel concluded that if the Member had consistently maintained the boundaries set by her email protocol, then a sudden ending based on persistent breaches of those boundaries may have been justified. The Panel agreed that the level of out of session email communication from the Complainant may have justified a planned ending with appropriate notice being given; however, due to the confused messages the member was giving the Complainant, as evidenced by the emails, the Panel concluded that persistent breaches of what were blurred boundaries did not justify a sudden ending.
The Panel therefore found allegation 1.1(c) proved.
Allegation 1.1 was, accordingly, found proved in full.
Allegation 1.2 –PROVED
The Panel then applied its findings in relation to paragraph 1.1 to paragraph 39 of the BACP Ethical Framework for the Counselling Professions 2018.
The Panel had already considered paragraph 39 in finding that the Member ‘failed to’ do the actions alleged. It concluded that the Member’s failures to act as alleged were failures to inform the Complainant in advance of the ending and be sensitive to the Complainant’s heightened concern about […]. The Panel accepted the Member’s evidence that she assumed that the funding applied for would be granted and the Complainant would be able to see another counsellor. However, it found this was an assumption and the Member took no steps to verify this before ending the relationship with the Complainant.
Accordingly, the Panel found allegation 1.1 amounted to a breach of paragraph 39 of the BACP Ethical Framework for the Counselling Professions 2018.
Allegation 2 –UPHELD IN PART
Allegation 2.1 – PROVED
The Panel found from the parties’ evidence that it was not disputed that the Member did not tell the Complainant that that […] was both the Member’s line manager, as Director of […] , and her clinical supervisor. […] submitted that […] was not the Member’s line manager as she was not an employee and there is no general duty on a counsellor to disclose the details of their clinical supervisor.
The Panel accepted the Clerk’s advice that, because the term was not defined by BACP, it should apply the commonly understood meaning for the purposes of this allegation. It took into consideration a number of definitions and descriptions of a line manager’s role as well as the Panel’s own experience. These included the Oxford English Dictionary definition:
‘In business or management organization, the chain of command or responsibility; the persons responsible for the administration and organization of a business’.
And the Cambridge Dictionary definition:
‘the person who is directly responsible for managing the work of someone else in a company or business, and who is one level above that person’.
And the Chartered Management Institute description:
‘A line manager is the first layer of management above the front line workers. They’re accountable for their department, or part in the business.’
The Panel accepted […] evidence that he, as Director of […] , referred clients to the Member and other counsellors. He said that he decided which clients were appropriate to which counsellor, managed their workloads and answered clinical questions arising from their client work. It also accepted that the Member was not employed by […] or […]; she was an independent, self-employed counsellor. The Member also stated that there was some form of contractual relationship between her and […] in that she was contractually obliged to use […] as her clinical supervisor for all […] clients (p619 pf hearing bundle).
The Panel concluded that […] was actively involved with the management of the Member’s clients and in supporting the Member in her clinical work prior to and after they were referred by […]. The Panel found that applying its findings to the commonly used meanings above, […] was the Member’s line manager.
It was accepted that […] was the Member’s clinical supervisor and that neither piece of information was disclosed to the Complainant.
The Panel therefore considered whether these pieces of information were or became ‘relevant information’ in the relationship between the parties at any point.
The Panel accepted […] submission that there is no general duty for a counsellor to disclose the identity of their clinical supervisor. However, it noted that at the point the Complainant applied for funding for […] counselling, encouraged by the Member, […] multiple roles became relevant information. The Panel found that […] would have received information about the Complainant as the Member’s clinical supervisor and was then in the decision chain for the funding application as Director of […]. He would also have controlled whether the Complainant was allocated to the Member if funding was granted as the Member’s line manager.
The Member knew the Complainant was highly sensitive and anxious about her information being shared with others and had agreed this boundary with the Complainant (p77 of hearing bundle). Given this knowledge, the Member should have informed the Complainant about all of […] roles in which he would come to receive personal information about her.
The Panel noted the duty set out at paragraph 30 of the BACP Ethical Framework for the Counselling Professions 2018. It concluded that information about […] multiple roles was relevant information that the Member had duty to disclose to allow the Complainant to make an informed choice about whether to apply for funding with […] or another provider.
Accordingly, the Panel found allegation 2.1 proved.
Allegation 2.2 –PROVED IN PART
The Panel then applied its findings in relation to paragraph 2.1 to paragraphs 30 and 31(f) of the BACP Ethical Framework for the Counselling Professions 2018.
The Panel found that there were no identifiable contractual incompatibilities between the Member’s agreement with the Complainant and her contractual obligation to […]. Accordingly, it found the Complainant had not proved that the Member acted in breach of paragraph 31(f) of the BACP Ethical Framework for the Counselling Professions 2018.
In relation to paragraph 30 of the BACP Ethical Framework for the Counselling Professions 2018, the Panel accepted the Member’s evidence that other providers were available for the Complainant. It concluded that, given her levels of anxiety and sensitivities, the Complainant may have made a different decision about her funding application if she had known about […] multiple roles. Without the information, the Panel found the Complainant was not able to make an informed decision. The Panel noted the paragraph 30 duty applies ‘usually’ but did not identify any reason for the Member to deviate from the usual in this case.
It found Allegation 2.2 proved in part.
The Panel reconvened on […] to consider what, if any, sanction is appropriate having taken into consideration the Member’s three submissions on sanction.
The Panel reminded itself of its findings above. It also considered the guidance within BACP Protocol on Sanctions (PR14) and reminded itself of its powers of sanction under Article 5.12 of the BACP Professional Conduct Procedure 2018.
The Panel noted the Member stated that she had undertaken continuous professional development (CPD), but not specified what, demonstrated some, but limited reflection, and apologised for the distress caused to the Complainant. However, the Panel concluded the Member had not demonstrated a deep understanding of the risk of harm arising from her behaviour.
Having considered all the above the Panel decided it was necessary and proportionate to impose the following sanction. The Panel noted that the Member would be away for a period and took this into account when deciding on the time to comply with the sanction.
1. Within three months of the date of this letter, the Member is to provide the BACP with:
a. Evidence of successful completion of no less than 12 hours continuous professional development (CPD) focused on:
(1) The BACP Registrar defines CPD as:
a. ‘Any learning experience that can be used for the systematic maintenance, improvement and broadening of competence, knowledge and skills to ensure that the practitioner has the capacity to practise safely, effectively and legally within their evolving scope of practice. It may include both personal and professional development’.
i. managing safe endings in therapeutic relationships (minimum six hours);
ii. identifying and addressing ethical dilemmas (minimum six hours).
N.B. The Member can include any CPD she has undertaken since the date of the hearing of this complaint.
b. A copy of the Member’s revised contract
c. A copy of the Member’s revised email protocol;
d. A personal statement demonstrating specific changes/improvements in the Member’s practice that;
i. reflects on what went wrong with the Complainant and shows acceptance of responsibility for what the Panel found went wrong;
ii. demonstrates a deep understanding of the harm that can be caused by abrupt and/or poorly managed endings with clients and the harm that was caused to the Complainant;
iii. details what she has learned, how she has applied that learning and what she has changed to prevent repetition.
e. Confirmation that the Member has discussed her CPD and personal statement with her supervisor.
(Where ellipses [ . . . ] are displayed, they indicate an omission of text)