The complaint against the above individual member was taken to Adjudication in line with the Professional Conduct Procedure.
The complaint was heard under the BACP Professional Conduct Procedure 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 therapy from Mr Goodman from 14 January year 1 until 6 October year 2. From 1 October year 2, Mr Goodman was also a tutor on the counselling course briefly attended by the Complainant.
The Complainant entered therapy in order to deal with difficult issues. In the 5th session he exchanged a hug with Mr Goodman, which became their normal way of ending sessions. In January year 2, after a three week break, they greeted each other by kissing (on the lips) as well as hugging. From this point, they regularly hugged and kissed at the [ . . . ] end of each session, despite the Complainant's request to change to a handshake in September. They also exchanged emails, which were allegedly signed off with kisses.
Mr Goodman made personal comments including saying that he thought the Complainant smelled or looked nice, that he looked forward to their sessions which were a bright spot in his week; that their bond was the strongest he had ever experienced, that he would grieve their ending and that he would, for the first time consider a post-client relationship with the Complainant.
In June year 1, at Mr Goodman's suggestion, they went paddling in the sea together. The Complainant drove them both and they held hands whilst they walked and paddled. For the Complainant, this experience resembled that of friends or lovers rather than therapist/client. In September [ . . . ], when they again went to the sea, Mr Goodman held a towel for the Complainant to change under, in such a way that the Complainant's body was exposed to him.
In the session that took place on 22 September year 2, both of them cross-dressed, by prior agreement. Mr Goodman wore a short dress and sat in a way which exposed the contours of his genitals.
At different times during the counselling sessions, Mr Goodman self-disclosed personal details about his life, including childhood issues and sexual fantasies and lent the Complainant romantic films allegedly unrelated to his therapeutic work but relating to different or difficult relationships.
In September year 1, Mr Goodman solicited a testimonial from the Complainant, for use on his website, although he never used it. This left the Complainant confused and disconcerted as he had taken some time to write the testimonial, which he saw as a business gift to help Mr Goodman market his practice.
In year 2, the Complainant commenced a counselling Diploma Course. Knowing that Mr Goodman was associated with the course but also knowing that it was held in two different venues, he applied to the venue where Mr Goodman was not involved. In the event that course was cancelled and having discussed the matter with the course provider and also with Mr Goodman, was agreed that provided they finish their therapeutic relationship this need not be an issue. They agreed to meet at the end of the first term to ensure that no damage had been done to their therapeutic relationship. Before this could happen, on 8 October year 2, the other course tutor allegedly attempted to coerce the Complainant into disclosing, to the student cohort, the nature of his connection with Mr Goodman. A three-way meeting was held with Mr Goodman, the Complainant and the other tutor. The Complainant did not feel supported by Mr Goodman in this meeting. He attempted to meet with Mr Goodman before the next class but when Mr Goodman refused he withdrew from the course, feeling disillusioned and betrayed.
Subsequent to the Complainant's withdrawal from the course he and Mr Goodman organised a series of three meetings. [ . . . ] Mr Goodman referred to them as unpaid counselling sessions intended to end their work together. These sessions were allegedly not contracted, clarified or paid for.
On the third meeting the Complainant expressed suicidal thoughts. When Mr Goodman wanted to contact his doctor, the Complainant objected on the grounds that he was no longer a client. At Mr Goodman's request, the Complainant agreed to call him if he felt suicidal. When the Complainant attempted to ring him some two weeks later, Mr Goodman did not respond. The next day, the Complainant missed a planned session, instead writing suicide notes, one of which he sent to Mr Goodman posting it "hours after the last collection".
The Complainant's brother also attempted to contact Mr Goodman, who sent an email which the Complainant read as terminating the therapy as he (the Complainant) had not attended their last session.
In February year 3, the Complainant requested, and was sent, the notes from his counselling sessions. He alleged that there were false statements included in these notes.
The Complainant had attempted to meet with Mr Goodman but was unable to do so.
The 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:
1. Mr Goodman allegedly failed to provide a good quality of care and competently delivered service that met the needs of the Complainant, in that he made a number of inappropriate personal disclosures about himself to the Complainant including ones of a sexual nature at various times during the therapeutic relationship.
2. Mr Goodman allegedly did not clarify and agree the rights and responsibilities of both himself and the Complainant, in that; he conducted the last three meetings where the purpose, nature and contracting for the meetings was not agreed with and made clear to the Complainant; he informed the Complainant that he would not acknowledge the Complainant in public whilst also meeting with the Complainant outside of the counselling room in public places; he did not explain to the Complainant why he did not use the testimonial the Complainant had written for him.
3. Mr Goodman allegedly had dual relationships with the Complainant in that; he was both his counsellor and his tutor for a period of time; he agreed to cross dress in a session deviating from the counselling relationship; he met in social settings in public places outside of the normal place where sessions took place. The dual relationships were allegedly to the detriment of the Complainant.
4. Mr Goodman allegedly failed to keep the Complainant's trust in that he was not attentive to the quality of listening and respect offered to the Complainant, when he dismissed the Complainant's request for the hugging and kissing to be stopped and scaled down to a handshake.
5. Mr Goodman allegedly abused the Complainant's trust in order to gain emotional and/or sexual advantage in that; on occasion he hugged and kissed the Complainant on the lips; he signed off emails with kisses; he drove with the Complainant to the local beach and paddled with the Complainant and held hands with the Complainant as they walked along the shoreline; on an occasion when both he and the Complainant visited the sea, Mr Goodman held the towel for the Complainant as he changed clothes in such a way as he could see the Complainant's exposed body; he exhibited sexualised behaviour with the Complainant and shared intimate details about his life with him.
6. Mr Goodman allegedly failed to endeavour to remedy any harm he may have caused to the Complainant in that he withdrew his offer to meet with the Complainant by email dated 12 February year 3 and further stated he would be no longer responding to any further correspondence and that he considered the matter to be closed.
7. Mr Goodman's alleged behaviour, as experienced by the Complainant, and as identified in the numbered paragraphs referred to above, suggests a contravention in particular of paragraphs 1, 3, 4, 11, 17 and 42 and the ethical principles of Being trustworthy, Autonomy, Beneficence and Non-Maleficence of the Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling & Psychotherapy (2013)and showed a lack of the personal moral qualities of Sincerity, Integrity, Respect, Competence Fairness and Wisdom to which counsellors are strongly encouraged to aspire.
The Member Complained Against chose not to attend the hearing. The matter was referred for consideration under paragraph 4.9 of the Professional Conduct Procedure which states:
Where a Complainant or Member Complained Against fails or refuses to attend a Professional Conduct Hearing, the Registrar has the power to decide to either:
a) Proceed with the Hearing in the absence of one or both of the parties; or
b) Adjourn the Hearing to a date not less than 28 days in advance; or
c) Terminate the proceedings; or
d) Refer the matter for consideration under Article 12.6 of the Memorandum & Articles of Association.
The options were carefully considered and a decision was made by the Registrar to proceed with the hearing in the absence of Mr Goodman. The parties were therefore notified that the hearing would take place in the absence of the Member Complained Against.
At the outset of the hearing, during the Complainant's opening summary, he identified five matters which he believed had not been included in the allegations:
(i) [ . . . ]
(ii) [ . . . ];
(iii) [ . . . ];
(iv) Terminating the therapeutic relationship against the Complainant's wishes;
(v) [ . . . ].
He invited the Panel to consider these additional matters.
The Panel determined that issue (iv) was part of Allegation 6 and a matter upon which it could make a factual finding. However, the Panel determined that the remaining issues, although they may form part of the background circumstances, were not part of the allegations and therefore no factual findings could be made. The Panel noted that the BACP procedure does not allow for additional allegations to be added once the allegations have been determined by the Pre-Hearing Assessment Panel.
Having been informed of the above, the Complainant confirmed that he was content for the hearing to proceed.
The Panel found the Complainant to be a credible and reliable witness. His responses to Panel questions were thoughtful and balanced. He tried his best to assist the Panel and appeared to make a conscious effort not to distort or exaggerate his evidence. For example, he readily accepted that the cross-dressing idea came from him. At times the Complainant became visibly upset whilst recalling the events that took place. The Panel had no reason to doubt that the events that the Complainant described were anything other than his genuine recollection of the interactions he had with Mr Goodman and the impact it had on him. The Panel accepted the Complainant as a witness of truth.
The Panel noted that a ‘failure', could only be proved if there was a duty to do something, which without good reason, was not done. On balance, having fully considered the above, the Panel made the following findings:
1. In both his written and oral evidence, the Complainant explained that Mr Goodman made several inappropriate disclosures during sessions. These included recounting [ . . . ]. these particular disclosures were made in a session shortly before the Complainant began an introductory counselling course. To prepare for the counselling course, which involved sharing experience, the Complainant had suggested a light-hearted session but was surprised by the disclosures Mr Goodman chose to make. The Panel accepted the Complainant's evidence and was satisfied that in addition to these disclosures Mr Goodman made other disclosures about himself and his experiences. The information provided by the Complainant was such that it could only have come from Mr Goodman. These disclosures were inappropriate because they provided no benefit to the Complainant and did nothing to further his therapeutic needs. The Panel recognised that there are occasions when it may be appropriate for a therapist to make a disclosure, but it is never appropriate to make sexual disclosures, as this is a transgression of the professional boundary between practitioner and client. In making inappropriate disclosures Mr Goodman failed to provide the Complainant with a good quality of care and competently deliver services which met his needs.
For the reasons stated above, Allegation 1 was upheld.
2. The Complainant in his written and oral evidence explained to the Panel that Mr Goodman did not clarify the status of their last three meetings that took place. The Panel noted that the therapeutic relationship ended on 6 October year 2. Therefore, by the time of the meeting that took place on 26 October year 2, the Complainant was no longer a client. However, the meeting took place in the same setting where the therapy sessions had taken place and the onus was on Mr Goodman to clarify the nature, purpose and contracting terms to avoid sending conflicting messages. In accepting the evidence of the Complainant, the Panel was satisfied that whatever discussion there had been at the outset of the three post therapy meetings in October/November year 2, it did not include an agreement as to the purpose, nature and contracting terms. Furthermore, in accepting the evidence of the Complainant, the Panel was satisfied that Mr Goodman informed him that he would not acknowledge the Complainant in public. However, on more than one occasion he met with the Complainant outside of the counselling room, in public places. This had the effect of sending contradictory messages and caused anxiety and confusion. In failing to clarify the terms of their last three meetings and failing to explain the contradiction between refusing to acknowledge the Complainant in public and then arranging meetings in public, the Panel was satisfied that Mr Goodman did not clarify and agree the rights and responsibilities of both himself and the Complainant. The Panel found the third component of Allegation 2 was not proved. On the Complainant's own account, Mr Goodman stated that he did not use the testimonial that the Complainant had provided because he had been too busy. Therefore Mr Goodman did provide an explanation.
For the reasons stated above Allegation 2 was partially upheld.
3. The Complainant in his written and oral evidence acknowledged that the therapeutic relationship ended on 6 October year 2. The Complainant commenced his counselling diploma course on 1 October year 2 and therefore for 5 days Mr Goodman was both his counsellor and tutor. The Complainant also informed the Panel that it was at his suggestion that both himself and Mr Goodman cross-dressed during a session. In the context of their therapeutic relationship the Panel was satisfied that this was a deviation as there was no evidence that the evolution to cross dressing was for therapeutic reasons. Furthermore, the Panel accepted the evidence of the Complainant that he met Mr Goodman in social settings in public places outside of the normal place where sessions took place. As a consequence of the Panel's factual findings, it also found that Mr Goodman had more than one dual relationship with the Complainant. For 5 days Mr Goodman was both the Complainant's counsellor and course tutor whilst the cross dressing and meetings in social settings crossed the boundary between practitioner and client into a personal and intimate relationship. The Complainant stated during his oral evidence that he suffered no detriment as a result of the dual counsellor/tutor role which persisted for 5 days, and the Panel was also unable to identify any detriment to him. However, the Panel took the view that the first walk along the beach, the ‘towel incident' and the cross dressing were detrimental to the Complainant. These incidents were detrimental because they undermined the professional relationship and had the potential to cause harm. The ‘towel incident' was particularly damaging as the Complainant had just had an intensely emotional experience and Mr Goodman seized upon an opportunity to view the Complainant's exposed body. The Complainant found the juxtaposition very painful and the Panel determined that Mr Goodman's actions were abusive.
For the reasons stated above Allegation 3 was partially upheld.
4. The Panel accepted the Complainant's evidence that 5 weeks into the therapeutic relationship Mr Goodman requested a hug at the end of an emotional session. The hugs became a regular occurrence and a year later kissing on the lips began. From then on the Complainant and Mr Goodman hugged and kissed at the end of all but three sessions when Mr Goodman had a bad cold. The Panel was satisfied that Mr Goodman dismissed the Complainant's request at that time to stop the hugging and kissing and scale back to a handshake. Mr Goodman's actions blurred the therapeutic boundary and disregarded the Complainant's attempt to reinforce the boundary. In so doing, Mr Goodman failed to keep the Complainant's trust in that he was not attentive to the quality of listening and respect.
For the reasons stated above Allegation 4 was upheld
5. The Panel took into account its findings in relation to Allegation 4 and was satisfied that on occasion Mr Goodman hugged and kissed the Complainant on the lips. The Panel also took into account its findings in relation to Allegation 3 and was satisfied that Mr Goodman drove with the Complainant to the local beach, paddled with him and held hands with him as they walked along the shoreline and on a separate occasion held the towel for the Complainant as he changed clothes in such a way that he could see the Complainant's exposed body. Furthermore, Mr Goodman's disclosures to the Complainant contained intimate details about his life and he exhibited sexualized behaviour towards the Complainant, including remarking on his appearance, his smell and suggesting that in other circumstances he would have liked to pursue a sexual relationship with him. The Panel accepted the Complainant's evidence that Mr Goodman signed off his emails with kisses. Although the emails were not produced, the Complainant provided the plausible explanation that he had deleted all of the emails after the breakdown of the relationship, and this explanation was accepted by the Panel. In light of the above the Panel concluded that Mr Goodman abused the Complainant's trust in order to gain an emotional and sexual advantage.
For the reasons stated above Allegation 5 was upheld.
6. The therapeutic relationship ended on 6 October year 2. However, Mr Goodman had allowed a personal and emotional relationship to develop between himself and the Complainant. In these particular and unusual circumstances, Mr Goodman had a duty to endeavour to remedy any harm that he may have caused to the Complainant. Mr Goodman failed in that duty when, in an email to the Complainant dated 12 February year 3, he withdrew his offer to meet with him, and when he stated that he would no longer respond to any further correspondence and that he considered the matter to be closed.
For the reasons stated above Allegation 6 was upheld.
7. In light of the above findings, the Panel was satisfied that paragraphs 1, 3, 4, 11, 17 and 42 of the Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy (2013 edition) and the ethical principles of Being Trustworthy, Autonomy, Beneficence and Non-Maleficence had been breached. It also found that Mr Goodman) demonstrated a lack of the personal moral qualities of Sincerity, Integrity, Respect, Competence Fairness and Wisdom to which counsellors are strongly encouraged to aspire.
Accordingly, the Panel was unanimous in its decision that these findings amounted to Serious Professional Misconduct in that Mr Goodman had contravened the ethical behavioural standards that should reasonably be expected of a member of the profession. The Panel also found that Mr Goodman had brought the Profession into Disrepute in that he acted in such an infamous or disgraceful way that the public's trust in the profession might reasonably be undermined, or might reasonably be undermined if they were accurately informed
about all the circumstances of the case.
There was no written evidence of mitigation presented and as Mr Goodman was not in attendance at the hearing, neither was there any oral mitigation presented.
One of the aims of the Professional Conduct Procedure is to protect members of the public. The Panel, in considering what sanction may be appropriate in the circumstances of this case, has taken into account the interests of public protection.
In reaching its decision, the Panel took into consideration that Mr Goodman had failed to engage with the BACP process throughout, had taken advantage of a vulnerable client to serve his own needs and had engaged in an inappropriate relationship with the Complainant which had persisted for a lengthy period of time. There was no evidence before the Panel to demonstrate any insight on Mr Goodman's part.
Given the Panel's findings, it was of the opinion that Mr Goodman's behaviour amounted to particularly serious breaches of Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy (2013 edition) and the ethical principles and demonstrated a disregard for them. The Panel also found that the Complainant had suffered serious harm.
Consequently, the Panel was unanimous that the proportionate sanction was that Mr Goodman's membership of BACP should be withdrawn.
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