Information was received by BACP from an organisation and Mr McGahey, which was sufficient to refer for consideration under Article 12.6 (formerly known as 4.6) of the Memorandum & Articles of Association.
The summary of the information, together with the allegations as notified to Mr McGahey were as follows:
That Mr McGahey allegedly conducted counselling sessions with a vulnerable female client alone, outside office hours in May 2010. It is further alleged that the client reported that Mr McGahey had allegedly kissed her on 15 June 2010 and on 17 June 2010 and had also touched her on 17 June 2010. Mr McGahey allegedly did not deny kissing her but denied touching her. Mr McGahey allegedly had admitted to developing caring feelings towards the client and had discussed his behaviour with his clinical supervisor. It is also alleged that despite his discussion with his clinical supervisor on 17 June 2010, he allegedly kissed the client later that day. It was also alleged that the client was extremely vulnerable and had been adversely affected by these incidents. Mr McGahey's employer instigated a disciplinary hearing in July and it concluded that he had admitted kissing a vulnerable client on two separate occasions and although he had refuted having touched the client, that on the balance of probabilities this had also happened. The disciplinary panel concluded that he should be summarily dismissed from his post with immediate effect for gross misconduct. A subsequent appeal upheld that decision. Mr McGahey notified BACP on 7 July 2010 that he was dismissed by his employer for gross misconduct on 6 July 2010, and subsequently made further partial disclosure.
The nature of the information raised questions about the suitability of Mr McGahey's continuing membership of this Association and suggested that his actions have brought, or may yet bring, not only this Association but also the reputations of counselling/psychotherapy into disrepute.
The information further suggested that there may have been a serious breach, or breaches, of the Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy and it raised concerns about the following in particular:
- Mr McGahey's alleged inappropriate and sexualised behaviour toward a very vulnerable client suggesting an abuse of her trust, poor therapeutic boundaries and a lack of care towards the client. Mr McGahey's alleged behaviour also suggested incompatibility with the values and principles of counselling and psychotherapy. Further it suggested his alleged behaviour lacked the personal moral qualities of humility and wisdom to which counsellors and psychotherapists are strongly encouraged to aspire.
- The information further suggested that Mr McGahey's fitness to practise had been impaired.
The member was invited to send in a written response, and did so.
The Panel was provided with the following written materials:
- The information submitted by the organisation and Mr McGahey
- Further information submitted by Mr McGahey.
The Panel decided to implement Article 12.6 of the Memorandum and Articles of the Association in this case. The Panel gave its reasons for its decision as follows:
- In working on his own, outside of office hours, which was in breach of his organisations Lone Working Policy, and in giving his mobile phone number without consultation with his manager, Mr McGahey demonstrated poor management of boundaries.
- In kissing his vulnerable client on the lips twice, on two separate occasions, Mr McGahey's behaviour was incompatible with the values and principles of counselling and psychotherapy.
- In offering longer sessions at a time when it was contrary to the Service Policy, without prior discussion with his manager, Mr McGahey demonstrated a lack of humility and a failure to adhere to boundaries.
- In his failure to recognise that kissing a client on the lips may be construed as sexual, Mr McGahey's practice fell below the standards expected of a reasonably competent practitioner.
- The second kiss occurred at a time after Mr McGahey had discussed this in supervision and understood that the client needed to be referred on. In this regard, Mr McGahey demonstrated poor boundaries, an abuse of trust, and a lack of care towards the client.
- The Panel found, on the evidence provided, that Mr McGahey's behaviour is so serious as to warrant termination of BACP membership under Article 12.6.
Mr McGahey was given the opportunity to appeal the decision, but no appeal was received. Consequently his membership was withdrawn.
Any future application for membership of this Association will be considered under Article 12.3 of the Memorandum and Articles of the Association.