In the far-off days when I was a student, a common exam question used to start with the words ”Compare and contrast…” and there followed any two things – they could be theories, concepts, approaches – you get the picture. I want you to to put yourself in a similar situation now and you have to compose answers to the questions below on the Ethics and Professional Standards paper.
There follow four scenarios, all real, and all documented. Your task is to identify in what ways these cases are similar and in what way they are different (apologies to David Wechsler). As you are answering this online you are allowed to access some information provided by the examiner as hyperlinks. There is no time limit. No additional marks will be added for comments such as “You must be joking.” or “You cannot be serious.”.
A senior and widely respected professor of clinical psychology at a UK university specialised in the treatment of young women with anorexia nervosa on which his reputation was based. He was a Fellow of the BPS. His therapeutic interest turned into the sexual abuse of at least four of his clients. A BPS Disciplinary Panel found him guilty of gross professional misconduct. After resigning his UK academic post he was believed to be teaching at an overseas university.
His punishment was him giving an undertaking not to practise again.
He was not expelled and he remained both a member and a Fellow of the BPS.
A clinical psychologist and member of the BPS in practice in Wrexham specialised in sex therapy. As part of this therapy (initially free on the NHS) he began to see a female client as a private patient and charged her £35 per session which consisted of him having sex with her, usually in a car park. He had also discussed other clients with this person as well as shredding her medical records. He was found guilty of professional misconduct in that he acted in manner likely to be detrimental to the client.
His punishment was suspension of his membership for three years and would only be allowed to rejoin the BPS if he continued to undergo professional training.
A selection of studies by a highly respected and influential psychologist and Honorary Fellow with an extensive research record was reviewed by a truly independent panel of his academic institution. They concluded that the published results of these studies were unsafe and all editors of journals in which these papers appeared should be informed of this. This particular case has been well known to the BPS for at least two years.
His punishment is still awaited.
A Chartered Psychologist and Fellow of the BPS stood for election as President and was duly elected by the membership. His manifesto was clear about the need for reform of the governance and management of the BPS. Following a small number of complaints about his persistence and attitude by a handful of staff, the BPS invoked its Member Conduct Rules and found him guilty of “persistent bullying”. All this information was not only sent to members by email, it was accompanied a by a YouTube video. It was also given prominence of the BPS website. This despite that fact that there there is a 21-day appeal period which, should it be successful, will repudiate the allegations.
His punishment was immediate expulsion.
Please now answer the following questions:
- Draft a letter to the victims in Scenarios 1 and 2 explaining and justifying why more serious steps were not taken to protect others and to expel the psychologists in question.
- Why is sexually abusing your clients seen as a less serious matter than alleged bullying?
- Why is research misconduct seen as less serious matter than alleged bullying?
- Why do we have to wait for a proper statement from the BPS on high profile research misconduct for two years, whilst allegations of bullying can be made, investigated and dealt with in under 12 months?
- In Scenario 2 devise a three-year CPD programme teaching practitioners that sleeping with your clients and requiring them to pay for sex is wrong. Please also describe what outcome measures you would use to assess progress.
- The BPS has admitted that the complaints procedure and member conduct rules and procedures are in need of a root and branch review. Prepare a Press Release explaining how that statement squares with the statements made in the letter sent out to members in Scenario 4.
- The BPS Complaints FAQs includes the following statement ‘…The Society does not have a function to investigate complaints against its members…”. In the light of this admission. write a letter for members explaining how the process described in Scenario 4 can be justified.
You may wish to consult the following references:
Letter to The Psychologist (page 79) from Peter Harvey February 2006 (available on The Psychologist Archive. [https://thepsychologist.s3.eu-west-2.amazonaws.com/articles/pdfs/0206lets.pdf?X-Amz-Algorithm=AWS4-HMAC-SHA256&X-Amz-Credential=AKIA3JJOMCSRX35UA6UU%2F20210507%2Feu-west-2%2Fs3%2Faws4_request&X-Amz-Date=20210507T123834Z&X-Amz-SignedHeaders=Host&X-Amz-Expires=10&X-Amz-Signature=990b08b403a97ae7560cd425990b650a16493077bccb1ad378e76173c5066c50]
For more general background reading you are recommended to see
Pilgrim, D. & Guinan, P. (1999) From mitigation to culpability: rethinking the evidence about therapist sexual abuse. The European Journal of Psychotherapy, Counselling & Health 2 (2), 153-168.
Once your incredulity has subsided you may begin.
Peter Harvey, Former Chief Examiner and Chair of the Board of Examiners for the BPS Qualification in Clinical Psychology.