Complaints we receive about a BACP member are dealt with under our professional conduct procedure (PCP). There are different ways we can deal with complaints, depending upon the nature and seriousness of the issue.
Our new PCP, which was launched in December 2018, is the result of several years' work with members, other concerned bodies and the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care (the body that accredits our Register). It aims to improve the way we handle complaints, shortening the time it takes to resolve complaints and reducing the number that have to go to a full hearing, while still offering the same level of protection to the public and clients.
You can read more about the changes in Therapy Today (November 2018).
Every complaint we receive is reviewed by a case manager. They will check whether the complaint, if proved, would mean that the member failed to meet our professional standards.
They also check that the complaint is not vexatious or frivolous – ie made to cause annoyance and with no serious purpose or value.
If a complaint passes the test, we'll let the complainant know and inform the member that a complaint has been made about them. We may also ask for further information.
If a complaint doesn’t pass the threshold test, we'll tell the complainant and close the complaint.
Right of appeal
A complainant may only appeal against a decision to close the complaint if they have convincing new evidence that was not available at the time of the test.
How we uphold high standards of proficiency and ethical practice within the counselling professions.
How to complain about a BACP member
Making a complaint about poor or unethical practice by your therapist
What happens if a complaint is made against you
Information for BACP members
Letter of advice
For minor or technical breaches of professional standards, we may write to the member with advice on how they can improve their practice. The member must accept that they have failed to meet the standards required.
While this is not a formal disciplinary action, the letter will be kept on their record for three years. We can take it into account if we receive any similar complaints within that time.
Right of appeal
There is no right of appeal for the member or the complainant if the complaint is dealt with by a letter of advice.
Investigation and assessment
Complaints about more serious issues are sent to the Investigation and Assessment Committee (IAC). This is a panel of three independent people.
The IAC may request further information or, in exceptional circumstances, interview those involved in a complaint.
It can make the following decisions:
- deal with the complaint by means of consensual disposal
- suspend membership through an interim suspension order
- refer the complaint to a disciplinary hearing
- refer the complaint to a practice review hearing
- dismiss the complaint
The IAC is also responsible for deciding whether complaints that have previously been considered can be reconsidered in the light of new evidence.
If the member admits breaching professional standards and agrees to accept a sanction, the IAC can close the complaint. Details of the agreement and the sanction will be published on this website in Notices.
Right of appeal
There is no right of appeal for the member or the complainant if the complaint is dealt with by consensual disposal.
Interim suspension order
If considered necessary for public protection, the IAC can suspend a member from BACP membership for up to 18 months while the complaint is taken to a disciplinary hearing.
The IAC can refer allegations of serious breaches of professional standards to a disciplinary hearing, heard by a Professional Conduct Panel.
If the complaint is upheld, the panel can impose sanctions on the member, including suspending or withdrawing BACP membership.
Please see Disciplinary hearings for more information if your case has been referred.
Practice review hearing
The IAC can refer complaints about the professional service provided by a member to a practice review hearing, heard by a Professional Conduct Panel.
These are less formal hearings which aim to find a resolution acceptable to both the complainant and the member.
If poor service is proved, and the parties can't agree, the panel can impose sanctions on the member. However, it can’t withdraw or suspend BACP membership.
Please see Practice review hearings for more information if your case has been referred.
The IAC may decide there’s no case to answer and the complaint will not be taken any further. We will tell the complainant the reasons for this decision and let the member know.
Right of appeal
The complainant can ask for a review of the IAC's decision.
We also have a separate, discretionary procedure for serious complaints which cannot be dealt with under the PCP.
Article 12.6 is used for issues such as criminal convictions or where disciplinary action has been taken by a member's employer. It can't be used for personal matters or to replace investigations by other authorities, such as the police.
Cases considered under Article 12.6 require a higher degree of proof and we must receive sufficient evidence to support the disclosure or complaint.
We assess any information received on a case by case basis. If we proceed, an independent panel will decide whether or not Article 12.6 should be implemented.
It will consider whether the member's actions have or may:
- bring BACP's reputation into disrepute
- bring the profession into disrepute
- bring BACP’s private business into the public domain
- impede the legitimate activities of BACP
- misrepresent their membership status
- amount to a serious breach of BACP’s Ethical Framework
The only sanction is withdrawal of membership.
If you're considering submitting information for this procedure, please discuss it with us first.