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

Keith Elvin   Membership Number KE00P115  

Assessment Panel Hearing:  December 2018

Sanction: Reflective Reports

Outline of compliant: In August 2018 the society received a client complaint relating to alleged unprofessional conduct.  

In line with the 2018 NCS Code of Ethics and in accordance with the Society’s complaints procedures the NCS Public Protection Officer referred the complaint to the Society’s Independent Assessment Panel to consider:

  • The registrants professional conduct in relation to communication and behaviours.
  • Failure to comply with NCS membership terms and conditions around supervision

 

OUTCOME

 The panels’ view was that a lack of Professional Boundaries and Supervision had proven detrimental to both the client and the registrant in this case and have imposed membership sanctions.

 

Supervision

FINDING: The registrant failed to seek necessary and appropriate supervision.

Upon receipt of the complaint the registrant informed the NCS that his supervisor had sadly passed away 3 months prior. There is therefore no opportunity for the Panel to obtain a written report regarding his supervision or further insight into the therapeutic relationship with his client.  The registrant describes his supervision as a continuous peer relationship and had not at the time of responding to the NCS engaged with a new supervisor. 

The panel note that the registrant has indicated that the complainant was infrequently mentioned in supervision, whilst also offering insight into examples of communications from his client which were demonstrative of emotional vulnerability. 

Contrary to: Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and Supervision sections 1,2, and 3

  1. Have formal one to one supervision in place and obtained from a properly qualified and trained supervisor. Attendance should be commensurate with practice hours
  2. Ensure that clients with presenting issues outside of a practitioner's scope of ability, are discussed in supervision and where appropriate referred to another practitioner.
  3. Ensure a written contract is provided from the supervisor.

 

FINDING: The registrant has not taken appropriate precautions (supervision) to assist him to provide a service that is not restricted by his personal experiences  

The registrant and complainant have in their submissions to the panel offered detail around their personal explorations and emotional responses to the therapy.                                                                              

Contrary to: Section 4 of the NCS Code of Ethics Fundamental Principles

Justice: Practitioners are aware of their own judgements based on their own experiences and need to take precautions (supervision) to provide a service that is not restricted by their own prejudice and limitations of experience.    

 

FINDING: The registrant is offering a supervision service without adequate supervision in place for his own counselling practise.

In his response to the panel the registrant has stated that he is engaged in Supervising trainee Counsellors.

Contrary to: Section 1 of the NCS Code of Ethics, Offering a Service

  1. To Provide a service to clients solely in areas in which they are trained and competent to do so. 

 

Boundaries

FINDING: The registrant did not evidence a clear understanding of the importance of contracting/reviewing contracts with his client, particularly relevant given the lengthy and intermittent therapeutic relationship outlined in the complaint. 

The registrant and complainant have offered the panel lengthy and detailed insight into the structure of their meetings and communication.  It was noted that the service offered had understandably evolved over the long term therapeutic relationship and that it is a client-led reactive service. However, it is the panel’s opinion that it is the registrant has not ensured client understanding of changes around expectation of service. 

Contrary to: Sections 3 and 9 and of the NCS Code of Ethics, Offering a Service

    3. Discuss with clients’ realistic outcomes and limitations of the service offered.

    9. Agree clear and transparent contracts and/or terms and conditions, in writing where appropriate, which do not use unreasonable terms or restrict the statutory rights of clients

 

FINDING: The registrant provided personal counselling services to members of his client’s family. 

The registrant and complainant have advised the panel that the registrant engaged in separate counselling client contracts with close members of the complainant’s family, whilst the complainant was a client. 

Contrary to: Section 5 of the NCS Code of Ethics, Delivering a Service                   

  1. Should any relationship (i.e. any enduring personal or professional connection other than the clinical relationship between client and therapist) occur or develop between either counsellor or client, or members of their respective immediate families, the therapist should consult their supervisor at the earliest opportunity. It is likely to be appropriate to cease accepting fees, work towards terminating the counselling relationship in an appropriate manner and arranging a carefully considered referral to another suitable therapist at the earliest opportunity.

 

FINDING: The panel offer a general concern regarding the registrants understanding and lack of implementation of professional boundaries in this therapeutic relationship. 

The registrant and complainant have provided different and disputed accounts of their last communications and face to face meeting. However, the panel’s opinion is that it was a significant factor at this time that the registrant had made minimal efforts to engage with a distressed client or to formally end the counselling arrangement. 

Contrary to: Section 2 of the NCS Code of Ethics Fundamental Principles

Being trustworthy and responsible (Fidelity):  Practitioners endeavour to establish trust with their clients and the community in which they work. Therefore, practitioners not only honour the trust placed in them by their clients and the community but also act in a respectful, professional and ethical manner when representing their profession.

Contrary to: Sections 1 and 4 of the NCS Code of Ethics  General Conduct

 1. 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 bring it into disrepute, being aware of professional and personal boundaries.

 4. Ensure that they maintain the highest level of communication with clients

 

OUTCOME: SANCTIONS upon membership

Registrant Keith Elvin to provide a written 2-part report:

Part 1.

A written reflective report exploring personal learning in respect to the findings of the panel. Specifically, the panel are seeking evidence of learning and development of the registrant’s practice in respect to:

The need for clear contractual arrangements (written when perceived necessary) with respective parties

The importance of professional boundaries

A rigorous self-examination on his work and practice in light of this case and his adherence to the NCS Code of Ethics.

Identification and List of related CPD for 2019

Part 2.

A written report of supervision arrangements that includes:

Registrant to engage an appropriately qualified supervisor as an urgent priority.

That regularity of the supervision is appropriate to the volume of client practice and in line with the NCS guidance.

Regarding Provision of Supervision to trainee counsellors, the registrant must submit evidence of his supervision qualifications and details of his supervision practice.                                                                                                                                              

 

Mr Elvin’s Supervisor to provide a separate report:

Specifically, the panel are seeking evidence of the registrant’s learning and development in respect of:

 Adherence to the NCS Code of Ethics and guidance.

How learning in this case has been communicated in practical improvements and engagement with supervision

Nb it is recommended that if the registrant’s choice of new supervisor does not appear on the NCS list of approved supervisors, that he checks with the NCS to confirm their qualifications conform to NCS guidance.

These reports are to be written no earlier than one month and no later than 3 months from the date Mr Elvin receives the Panel’s report.

 

 

Simon Brodie Membership number SB00P28

Assessment Panel Hearing:  April 2018

Sanction: Removal from Register

Outline of compliant

In December 2017 the society received evidence, submitted by a third party, relating to an inappropriate relationship between the registrant and an un-named client. 

In accordance with the societies complaints procedures, following investigation the Public Protection Officer referred the complaint to the Society’s Independent Assessment Panel.

Outline for consideration by the Panel:

  • The registrants professional conduct in relation to sexualised communication and inappropriate behaviours.
  • Failure to bring professional boundary issues to supervision

 

Having considered the evidence submitted, the Panel found serious and significant breaches of the following NCS 2017 Code of Ethics:  

  • Client welfare (sections 1, 2 & 8)

Practitioners work in ways that:

1. Promote client autonomy and wellbeing, maintain respect and dignity for the client

2. Remain aware of their own limitations and wherever appropriate, be prepared to refer a client to another practitioner or medical adviser who might be expected to offer suitable treatment.

8. Refrain from using position of trust to cross boundaries appropriate to the counsellor client relationships or exploit the client emotionally, sexually, and financially or in any way.  NB clarification on dilemmas experienced by therapists should be sought from their supervisor.

  • General Conduct (section 1)

1. All practitioners undertake to conduct themselves in accordance with their professional status, and in such a way as neither undermines the public confidence in the profession nor brings it into disrepute

  • Supervision (sections 1,5)

1. Meetings with a colleague to discuss ongoing cases and issues arising from them and to work through any personal matters that might affect their own position or ability to practise.  Most usual are either personal one to one supervisor or participation in a peer support group. 

5. Suitable personal growth and development, including seeking counselling where appropriate

Outcome of findings from the Panel

Accordingly, the Panel made an offer to the Registrant for Consensual Disposal of the complaint, whereby the Registrant would admit his breaches of the code of ethics and accept removal from the Society’s register.

Mr Simon Brodie has accepted this offer and is hereby removed from the NCS register.

He is now bound to the Society’s publication and re-admission policies.

  

Dr John Thornley Membership number: JT00P16

Independent Complaints Panel Hearing:  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.

 

Sanctions met, no further concerns noted. 

The report offers reflection of the registrant's decision-making process at the time of the event and how the panels advice has impacted on their professional work and ethical practice. Evidence of change including contractual arrangements, confidentiality and risk assessments, cross-working practice, as well as information regarding CPD and supervision arrangements have been provided.

 

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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