In this section the Society gives details of the outcomes of any complaints made against members.

  • There is a summary of the complaint
  • The member's details
  • The outcome of the investigation
  • The details of sanctions imposed
  • Details of suspension of membership
  • Details of termination of membership

Approximate time scales for the complaints process

  • Acknowledgement of receipt within 5 working days  
  • Review of initial information up to 4 weeks  (at each stage where further information is sought from either party they will be notified of time limits for responses)   
  • Review of initial complaint up to 12 weeks  
  • Review by Assessment Panel up to 12 weeks  
  • Independent Panel Hearing within 6 – 9 months from the date of the Assessment Panel Decision  (dependent upon the availability of both parties to the complaint and support persons)
  • We aim to complete complaints cases within nine months.

Publication Policy          

The Societies complaints procedures seek to be open, transparent and proportionate and the outcome of the IP hearing will be published on the Societies’ website at the conclusion of the hearing.

Sanctions issued by either the Assessment Panel for minor breaches of the Code of Ethics or by the Independent Complaints Panel following a formal complaints hearing will be published on the Societies’ website

The publication of such decisions provides information about the standards expected of registrants (and members); assists clients to make informed choices and helps to maintain public confidence in the Accredited Register programme.

We aim to strike a balance and consider the rights of both clients and registrants and take account of the risk of any harm that may arise from the disclosure or non-disclosure of information

Details of sanctions will appear as an annotation to a registrant’s online register entry with a link to the ‘Outcomes of Complaints’ section of the website where further details will be recorded.

This information will be published on the websites for the period of the sanction – and will be recorded internally on the member’s file. 

If a sanction is not fulfilled then that information will be published on the Society website.

If there is no sanction then no information will be published on the Society website.

When the sanction has been fulfilled this information will be published on the Societies website and recorded on the member’s file.

In cases where a member is removed from the register, the published decision will remain on the website for a period of five years.

Outcome Of Complaints Heard:

 

Dr John Thornley Membership number: JT00P16

Independent Complaints Panel Hearing: Wednesday 26th April 2017

Sanction: Removal from register

The panel heard evidence from the complainant via an electronic link. Owing to ill-health Dr Thornley did not attend, he declined the opportunity to attend the proceedings by electronic link and was represented by a legal representative in his absence.

Outline of complaint

  • September 2016, complainant made a complaint to the NCS that Dr Thornley’s conduct towards them in therapy had been inappropriate.
  • The therapy took place over three separate periods: April/May 2015 for 3 sessions, November 2015 1 session, July/August 2016 for 8 sessions.

Charges: 

The tone of Dr Thornley’s comments in his rebuttal letter to the complaint did not demonstrate respect for the client and the nature of the complaint, contrary to Client Welfare 8.1 of the Code of Ethics.

Charge withdrawn by the Society.

In December 2015 Dr Thornley received a Christmas card from the complainant and responded by sending an e-card which the complainant claims included the message, “thank you for thinking of me” and was signed with a kiss, contrary to Client Welfare 8.1 of the Code of Ethics.

Charge not proved.

In July 2016 Dr Thornley accepted the complainant as a Facebook friend and sent an unsolicited message to the complainant on Facebook, contrary to Client Welfare 8.1 of the Code of Ethics.

Dr Thornley did not dispute that he had accepted the complainant’s friend request on Facebook. On 25th July Dr Thornley sent the complainant a private instant message. The panel believes that this was an attempt by Dr Thornley to either confuse the complainant about the nature of the relationship or to draw the complainant in to a personal relationship with him. The panel was satisfied that Dr Thornley used his position of trust to exploit the complainant emotionally. Charge Proved.

In July/August 2016 Dr Thornley saw the complainant three times in the same week – this is a potential exploitation of the client as no clear clinical reason has been given for the frequency of these sessions.

Charge not proved.

Dr Thornley initiated discussions with the complainant about the complainant’s sexual relationship with their partner and acknowledged the complainant was reticent. This suggests it was his agenda rather than the complainant’s, that he was over-familiar and made unnecessary and inappropriate sexualised comments, contrary to Client Welfare 8.1 of the Code of Ethics.

The panel accepts the complainant’s evidence that Dr Thornley asked them about how they started new relationships in pointedly sexual terms. The panel determines that terms used were over-familiar, unnecessary and inappropriate comments and therefore constitute emotional and sexual exploitation of the complainant. Charge proved.

Dr Thornley touched the complainant’s hand when they had paid for sessions using a card machine, contrary to Client Welfare 8.2 of the Code of Ethics.

The panel accepted demonstration evidence and accepts that in phase three of therapy unnecessarily and deliberately touch took place. In doing so Dr Thornley misused his position of trust and confidence. Charge Proved.

Dr Thornley embraced the complainant, contrary to Client Welfare 8.2 of the Code of Ethics.

The complainant accepts that they initiated a hug with Dr Thornley at their last face to face session, following extensive discussion about their feelings and whether anything would happen as a result of them. In those circumstances, the panel considers that Dr Thornley should not have permitted the hug to take place. The fact that he did allow it and the nature as described by the complainant was entirely inappropriate and was an abuse of trust. Charge proved.

Dr Thornley touched the complainant on their bare shoulder, contrary to Client Welfare 8.2.

The panel is satisfied that the complainant has given an honest account of this incident and that, in touching the complainant in the way described, together with a reported comment about watching the complainant, Dr Thornley misused his position of trust. Charge proved.

Dr Thornley massaged the complainant’s back, contrary to Client Welfare 8.2.

There is no dispute that Dr Thornley massaged the complainant’s back with their consent during a session when the complainant had become acutely distressed, at a time Dr Thornley reflects the complainant was developing feelings for him. The panel is satisfied that this was an inappropriate intervention and, taken together with its other findings the panel has determined that by massaging the complainant in this way, Dr Thornley misused his position of trust. Charge Proved.

Dr Thornley placed his hands into the complainant’s hair and parted it multiple times, contrary to Client Welfare 8.2.

Charge not proved.

In July/August 2016 Dr Thornley failed to give reasons for the delay in using a “Rewind Technique” to assist the complainant. Dr Thornley then attempted to provide the treatment during a telephone session, which is unsafe practice. Contrary to Client Welfare section 10 of the Code of Ethics.

Charge not proved.

Disclosing personal information regarding personal problems, ill health, depression and personal relationships, contrary to General Conduct, subsection 1.

The complainant stated that personal information which mirrored the complainant’s own struggles had been disclosed by Dr Thornley during their sessions. The panel was satisfied that the alleged self-disclosure did take place and considers this was extensive and inappropriate as part of an effort to exploit the complainant. The panel determined that this undermined public confidence and brought the profession into disrepute. Charge Proved.

Smoking an e-cigarette and slouching during a counselling session, contrary to General Conduct, subsection 1.

Charge not proved.

Dr Thornley used his mobile telephone during a counselling session to “track” a friend’s journey, contrary to General Conduct, subsection 1.

Charge not proved.

Dr Thornley failed to seek supervision in this case in particular, his decision to see the complainant three times in one week; and his decision to delay the use of the “Rewind Technique”, contrary to the requirement for supervision and continuing professional development in the Code of Ethics.

Charge not proved.

Dr Thornley failed to seek supervision in this case in particular, regarding the issues described as transference on the part of the complainant; contrary to the requirement for supervision and continuing professional development in the Code of Ethics.

Dr Thornley states he had believed on reflection that the complainant had been developing feelings for him over a period of time. The panel is satisfied that Dr Thornley in fact sought to cultivate such feelings on the complainant’s part and that he was aware of the transference and counter-transference issues. The panel considers that Dr Thornley breached the Code of Ethics by not taking the complainant’s case to supervision during phase three of therapy, particularly following the last face to face session and before their telephone session. Charge proved.

Outline of Findings

Decision on safety to practise and sanction

The panel has found that Dr Thornley adopted a course of conduct intended to draw the complainant into a personal relationship with him, namely by taking opportunities to touch the complainant, inappropriately disclosing personal information, asking sexualised questions and sending the complainant a private message without therapeutic purpose. Dr Thornley did not see fit to bring the complainant’s case to supervision.

Dr Thornley abused his position of trust in a very serious way. The panel considered that he has brought and is likely to bring the profession of counselling into disrepute in the future and that his safety to practise is thereby impaired.

The panel considered all sanctions available to it. The panel found that there is a risk of repetition in the future and that the only way to protect the safety of the public and maintain the wider public interest of promoting confidence in the profession is to remove Dr Thornley from the register.

 

 

Jane Ovington Membership number JO00P09 

On 22 September 2016 the Society received information from a third party about the above named Registrant.  The matter was processed as a complaint in accordance with our complaints procedures. After investigation, the Public Protection Officer referred the complaint to the Society’s Independent Assessment Panel.

Outline of complaint

Based on evidence provided by the third party, the matters investigated related to:

  • Mrs Ovington’s response to an allegation of assault made by a minor - information Mrs Ovington did not immediately pass on.
  • Whether Mrs Ovington correctly followed appropriate safeguarding protocols, including seeking appropriate and timely supervision.
  • Whether Mrs Ovington had a written contract with her client/their parent(s) or guardian.

Charges

The evidence presented suggested Mrs Ovington did not comply with the Society’s Code of Ethics in that she did not have a written contract; she failed to safeguard her client; and she did not seek appropriate supervision. The relevant sections of the Code of Ethics are listed below:

Point 1 under, “Treatment of Minors and Those Classified as Persons With Special Needs or Vulnerabilities”

All Practitioners undertake to:

Obtain the written consent of an appropriate adult (i.e. parent, legal guardian or registered medical practitioner) before conducting treatment with clients who are either under the age of majority or are classified as persons with special needs or vulnerabilities. It is further advisable that the therapist should hold a current Full Disclosure CRB certificate if they wish to work with minors.

Point 4 under section, “Delivery of Service”

Explain fully to clients in advance of any treatment: the fee levels, precise terms of payment and any charges which might be imposed for non-attendance or cancelled appointments and wherever relevant, confidentiality issues. Use clear and transparent contracts which do not use unreasonable terms or restrict the statutory rights of their clients.

Point 1 under “Confidentiality, Maintenance of Records and Recording of Sessions” of the National Counselling Society’s Code of Ethics

All Practitioners undertake to:

Maintain strict confidentiality within the client/counsellor relationship, always provided that such confidentiality is neither inconsistent with the therapist’s own safety or the safety of the client, the client’s family members or other members of the public nor in contravention of any legal action (i.e. criminal, coroner or civil court cases where a court order is made demanding disclosure) or legal requirement (e.g. Children’s Acts). 

Point 1 under section, “Supervision and Continuing Professional Development”

Practitioners are expected to maintain or improve their level of skills and professional competence in an appropriate manner commensurate with their vocations. This could include:

Meetings with a colleague (or colleagues) to discuss, in confidence, ongoing cases and issues arising from them and to work through any personal matters that might affect their own position or ability as practising therapists. Such arrangements can take a variety of forms, the most usual of which are either personal One to One Supervision or participation within a Peer Support Group

 Findings and Sanctions Imposed

The Independent Assessment Panel met on 7 December 2016. The Assessment Panel concluded that while mistakes had been made by the Registrant, no serious breach of the relevant Code of Ethics had occurred which could result in the suspension or removal of the member.  The complaint was therefore referred back to the Public Protection Officer with instructions regarding sanctions.

Accordingly, the Panel imposed the following sanctions:

Mrs Ovington should produce a two-part report:

A written reflective report (part 1) whereby she accounts for and clarifies the mistakes in this case as notified to her and what learning she has taken from this experience. Specifically, we are seeking evidence of her learning and development of her practice.

A written report (part 2) regarding her supervision arrangements.

The Independent Assessment Panel also expect Mrs Ovington to submit a written piece, confirmed by her supervisor that shows she has:

Improved her ethical practice to adhere to the NCS Code of Ethics.

Taken into account the mistakes in this case, and whether any additional training has been undertaken and the learning evidenced in her practice.

These reports are to be written no earlier than six months and no later than 9 months from the date Mrs Ovington received the Panel’s report.

 

 

Malcolm Brookes Membership number MB00P04

The Society received a complaint against the above named Registrant on 26th May 2014. In accordance with our procedures, after investigation, the Public Protection Officer referred the complaint to the Society’s Independent Complaints Panel.

Outline of complaint

  • The complainant sent a formal complaint, on 26th May 2014, to The National Counselling Society against Mr Brookes.
  • The complainant alleged that Mr Brookes had formed an inappropriate relationship with the complainant’s wife, whilst she was in a signed contracted counselling relationship with Mr Brookes.
  • The complainant explained that he was making the complaint as his wife was experiencing emotional turmoil and still had feelings of attachment.
  • The concerns were alleged to have taken place around April 2014.
  • The complainant provided evidence in the form of email correspondence between Mr Brookes’ and his client, to evidence Mr Brookes alleged behaviour towards his client.
  • The complainant also provided the Society with a timeline of events which included and alleged kiss from Mr Brookes to his client and an alleged crossing of both physical and emotional boundaries during their sessions.
  • It was also alleged that Mr Brookes had declined to approach his supervisor to advise them of the alleged inappropriate relationship.

Charges

The evidence presented by the complainant suggested that the registrant had formed an inappropriate relationship with his client. Accordingly, the Society’s Public Protection Officer presented four charges to the Panel, in accordance with the Society’s Code of Ethics. The four charges are listed below:

Section 8 point A under “Client Welfare” from the National Counselling Society’s Code of Ethics:
Registrants must refrain from using their position of trust and confidence to:
Cross the commonly understood professional boundaries appropriate to the counsellor/client relationship or exploit the client emotionally, financially or in any other way whatsoever. Should any relationship (i.e. other than for the professional relationship between client and therapist) develop between either counsellor and client or members of their respective immediate families, the therapist must immediately cease to accept fees, terminate the counselling relationship in an appropriate manner and refer the client to another suitable therapist at the very earliest opportunity. N.B. Clarification on dilemmas experienced by therapists in respect of the foregoing should be sought from their supervisor.

Section 8 point B under the “Client Welfare” section of our Code of Ethics:
Registrants must refrain from using their position of trust and confidence to:
Touch the client in any way that may be open to misinterpretation. N.B. Before using any touch as a component of counselling, both an explanation should be given and permission received.

Section 1, under “General Conduct” from our Code of Ethics:
Registrants must undertake to:
Conduct themselves at all times in accord with their professional status and in such a way as neither undermines public confidence in the process or profession of counselling nor brings it into disrepute.

Point A under “Supervision and Continuing Professional Development” from our Code of Ethics:
Registrants are expected to maintain or improve their level of skills and professional competence in an appropriate manner commensurate with their vocations. This could include:
Meetings with a colleague (or colleagues) to discuss, in confidence, ongoing cases and issues arising from them and to work through any personal matters that might affect their own position or ability as practicing therapists. Such arrangements can take a variety of forms, the most usual of which are either personal One to One Supervision or participation within a Peer Support Group.

Findings and Sanction imposed

The Independent Complaints Panel met on 26th November 2014. Both the registrant and complainant attended the hearing.
The Independent Panel found that there was sufficient evidence to uphold the four charges of breaches of the Code of Ethics as listed above.


Accordingly, the Panel imposed the following sanctions:


“In the interests of public safety, the Panel ordered that Mr Brookes be suspended from the NCS register for five years from 26th November 2014. He shall be entitled to apply to have the suspension lifted after two years. Such an application would have to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the NCS that Mr Brookes is safe to practise.”
The above decision was given to Mr Brookes at the Independent Complaints Panel Hearing on 26th November 2014, the order was also sent to him on 1st December 2014.
Neither complainant nor registrant sought to appeal these findings.

 

 

 

 

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