The complaint against the above individual member was taken to Adjudication in line with the Professional Conduct Procedure.
The complaint was heard under BACP Professional Conduct Procedure 2010 and the Panel considered the alleged breaches of the BACP Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy.
The focus of the complaint, as summarised by the Pre-Hearing Assessment Panel is that the complainant received counselling from Ms Bowley from February 2010, individually and later simultaneously in a group. The relationship was strictly professional, until, as alleged by the complainant; Ms Bowley telephoned him early one morning and divulged personal information about her distress and asked him for some sleeping tablets. The complainant alleged that Ms Bowley telephoned him again that day, making the same request and allegedly venting her feelings about the organisation she worked for. Over the next two days the complainant alleged that Ms Bowley tried to telephone him several times, including leaving a voice-mail message for him and speaking to him on one occasion, allegedly apologising for her behaviour and wishing to resume the counselling arrangements.
The Pre-Hearing Assessment Panel, in accepting this complaint was concerned with the allegations made within the complaint suggesting contravention of the Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy, and those in particular as follows:
- Ms Bowley allegedly imposed her own personal issues and distress upon the complainant, thus allegedly infringing the boundaries appropriate to a professional counselling relationship.
- Ms Bowley allegedly improperly asked the complainant for some of his own prescription-only drugs on two occasions.
- Ms Bowley allegedly broke the trust she had built up with the complainant.
- Ms Bowley's alleged actions in communicating inappropriately with the complainant allegedly added to his physical pain as well as causing him distress.
- Ms Bowley's alleged behaviour, as experienced by the complainant, suggested a contravention in particular of the ethical principles of being trustworthy, beneficence, non-maleficence and the personal qualities of integrity, competence and wisdom, and of paragraphs 1, 17 and 40 of the Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling & Psychotherapy (2010).
The complainant did not attend the Hearing. However, pursuant to paragraph 4.9(a) of the Professional Conduct Procedure, a decision was made to proceed with the hearing in the Complainant's absence.
On balance, having fully considered the above, the Panel made the following findings:
I. Ms Bowley accepted both in writing and verbally that she had telephoned her then current client, the complainant, because she wished to discuss her own distress about incidents that were not to do with the counselling that he was receiving from her. The Panel found that by so doing Ms Bowley had wrongly imposed her own personal issues and distress upon the complainant, thus seriously infringing the boundaries appropriate to a professional counselling relationship. Therefore this allegation is upheld.
II. Ms Bowley accepted both in writing and verbally that she telephoned the complainant and improperly asked for some of his own prescription-only drugs on at least one occasion. However Ms Bowley accepted the complainant's assertion that she may have telephoned him (out of her own need to discuss her own distress) on two or more occasions and she could not specifically recall the number of calls that were made. In her oral evidence, Ms Bowley accepted that she had asked the complainant for some of his own prescription- only drugs, but she was not able to account for her reasoning in doing so, other than saying that she could not see the decline in her mental health at the time. Therefore, the Panel found, on the balance of probabilities that Ms Bowley had asked for the complainant's prescription only drugs on at least two occasions. The Panel also found that in making the calls to the complainant, in order to satisfy her own needs and without considering his well-being, Ms Bowley had not acted in the best interests of her client, nor had she demonstrated integrity in her dealings with him. This allegation is therefore upheld.
III. Ms Bowley accepted both in writing and verbally that her actions in ringing the complainant to discuss her own needs seriously broke the trust she had built up with him. The Panel found that at the time Ms Bowley was not able to recognise the gravity of requesting drugs from her then current client, nor of the seriousness of crossing boundaries in this way. Therefore this allegation is upheld.
IV. Ms Bowley accepted both in writing and verbally that her actions in communicating inappropriately with the complainant added to his emotional distress, although she stated that she could not know whether he had been affected physically. Whilst the complainant had chosen not to attend the Professional Conduct Hearing, the Panel accepted his written evidence that he had been caused emotional distress so this part of the allegation is upheld. However, the complainant had not provided any corroborative evidence as to the fact that he suffered physical distress, so this part of the allegation is not upheld.
V. Ms Bowley stated, when questioned, that her fitness to practise had been impaired during the time that she was working with the complainant, even prior to her telephone request for some of his prescription-only drugs. She also stated at the hearing that her fitness to practise continues to be impaired. Thus she had failed to monitor her fitness to practise for some time. The Panel therefore found that Ms Bowley had not been wise to continue counselling when she was under so much personal stress, and nor was she able to work competently with the complainant.
VI. In light of the above findings, the Panel was satisfied that paragraphs 1, 17 and 40 of the Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy 2010 had been breached, as well as the ethical principles of being trustworthy, beneficence, non-maleficence and the personal moral qualities of integrity competence and wisdom.
Accordingly, the Panel was unanimous in its decision that these findings amounted to serious professional misconduct on the grounds that Ms Bowley's behaviour seriously contravened the ethical and behavioural standards that should be reasonably expected from a member of the profession.
Ms Bowley accepted her part in the issues described above in a full and frank manner. The Panel also took cognisance of the challenging events in her private life that preceded and continued throughout the events that gave rise to these proceedings.
Ms Bowley told the Panel that she had ceased to work as a counsellor, as her fitness to practise remains impaired, and that she could not see herself returning to the profession in the foreseeable future.
Ms Bowley's membership of BACP is withdrawn with immediate effect.