NCS | Outcome of Complaints

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


  • Paul Allenby

    PA00P02

    OUTCOME : REMOVAL OF MEMBERSHIP – NON COMPLIANCE with Conditional Membership sanction

    Assessment Panel: February 2019

    Appeal Panel: July 2019

    Outline of complaint:

    In September 2018 the Society received a client complaint upon the breakdown of counselling relationship with the registrant and the client’s request to end their counselling contract.

    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 Assessment Panel to consider evidence around the following:

    • The registrant’s communications with his client
    • Compliance with Supervision requirements
    • Consideration of terms and conditions of membership relating to the complaint process
    • Consideration of registrant response to a guidance Learning Point issued in May 2018.

    Assessment Panel

    Decision

    The panel found that the registrants’ actions had not reflected the NCS ethical standards or guidance in communication with the complainant

    The complaint considered written and reported communications between the registrant and complainant only. The NCS has no authority to engage in financial requests.

    The Panel were informed of a ‘guidance learning point’ received by the registrant in June 2018 which directed him to implement an appropriate procedure if he was required to cancel client appointments at short notice.

    Overview Finding

    The Panel’s finding was that the registrant did not offer a respectful, professional, ethical service when communicating with the complainant. Messages surrounding an unfortunate emergency cancelation portrayed expectation of deference, include inappropriate, unnecessary personal disclosure and highly emotive, persuasive language. These were later compounded by accusations and emotive texts by the registrant which placed an emotional burden on his client.

    It was the view of the Panel that had the registrant followed the previous NCS guidance learning point, it would have assisted him in this situation.

    The Panels view was that in his responses to the complaint the registrant had failed to display reflective understanding of the therapeutic relationship within context of a business contract. Or offer appropriate reflective insight into his behaviour and the importance of professional boundaries in counselling arrangements.

    Contrary to the following sections of the Ethical Framework:

    Fundamental principals

    Working towards the good of clients and doing no harm (Beneficence and Non-maleficence)

    Practitioners hold the welfare of clients central to their work and so commit to avoiding harm.

    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.

    All Practitioners undertake to:

    Offering a Service

    5. Respect the autonomy of clients to choose whether or not to avail themselves or continue to avail themselves of the service offered.

    Delivering a Service

    1. Work in ways that promote client autonomy and well-being and that maintain respect and dignity for the client.

    4. Decline with explanation, inappropriate gifts, gratuities or favours from a client. Examples include, but are not limited to financial gifts, event or discount vouchers, objects of substantial monetary value. The offering of any gift in therapy is an important event in the therapist-client relationship, and its implications should be discussed with the client and considered in supervision.

    6. Be consistent with the welfare and expressed wishes of the client and never protract treatment unnecessarily and to terminate treatment at the earliest moment consistent with the welfare and expressed wishes of the client.

    General Conduct

    5. Ensure that they maintain the highest level of communication with clients (avoiding abbreviation and shorthand) whether by telephone; email; text or any other social media messaging service (Facebook; WhatsApp). See (Appendix C)

    The panel found that the Registrant had not adhered to Supervision requirements

    The registrant did not provide details of a supervisor or any supporting evidence that he had met with the Society’s Supervision requirements at the time of being in a contracted therapeutic arrangement with the complainant.

    The Panel raised a concern that the registrant had not properly considered his fitness to practice responsibilities with reference to supervision, particularly at a time of stress or impactful personal-life events.

    Contrary to the following sections of the Ethical Framework:

    Fundamental Principles

    A practitioner of NCS will need to demonstrate that they have considered these principles in their ethical practice and decision making, especially discussing them with their supervisor.

    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

    Delivering a Service

    All Practitioners undertake to:

    7. 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.

    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.

    Supervision

    all practitioners undertake to:

    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.
    1. Ensure a written contract is provided from the supervisor.
    1. Keep a record of supervision hours.

    Terms and conditions of NCS membership

    The panel were informed that the terms and conditions of Society membership require a registrant to fully participate with the complaint’s procedure.

    The registrant in his responses to the NCS repeatedly questioned the validity of the complaint being accepted and investigated.

    The registrant did not declare that he was ‘not fit for practice’ until pressed for information by the NCS PPO with regards to the complaint. The Panel found that the registrant did not declare that he was ‘not in practice’ appropriately.

    Findings:

    Conditional Membership Sanction

    The Panel noted that the registrant is currently marked as ‘not in practice’ but had expressed plans for his return to practice in early 2019.

    Conditional Membership Sanction

    Prior to his return to counselling, The registrant was ordered to produce:

    An immediate update to the NCS with regards to his counselling practice.

    • Evidence of Supervision and Insurance
    • A written statement to demonstrate reflection and learning in relation to the complaint and details of preparation for his return to practice after a break

    Following 6 months practice:

    Registrant to provide a report from his Supervisor, showing that he has fully understood and put into practice the issues relating to:

    • Importance of and proper use of supervision

    • Relevance of guidance learning issued by complaints panels for the NCS

    • Registrant’s understanding of the client/therapist relationship

    • Improvements in standards of Communication with his clients

    • Professional Insight and developmental learning displayed by the registrant and awareness of his duty of compliance with the requirements of membership

    Appeal

    On 25th April 2019 the registrant exercised his right to apply for Leave to Appeal.

    The Grounds for Appeal were that:

    The facts were found against the weight of evidence

    New evidence was available.

    Application was granted.

    The registrant was offered 2x time extensions by the Panel to submit further evidence. In July 2019 the Panel had not received further communication from the registrant.

    Appeal Decision

    The Appeals Panel conclude that:

    • The Assessment Panel’s decision was not made against the weight of evidence
    • No new evidence had been received.

    The Appeal was therefore not upheld.

    Overview Summary

    The Appeals Panel re-considered the sanctions previously imposed by the Assessment Panel.

    The Appellant had stated that he would return to practice early in 2019. As at July 2019 the Panel were aware that the registrant had an active website soliciting clients and an active Counselling Directory listing

    The sanctions issued by the Assessment Panel were amended as follows:

    Conditional Membership Sanction

    To maintain his registered status, the Registrant must: Within one month of the date of receiving the decision supply:

    • Evidence of current Supervision (copy of contract and supervisor qualifications)

    • Insurance certificate

    • A substantial and satisfactory written statement (minimum 2500 words) to demonstrate reflection and learning in relation to this complaint.

    Entitled “An account of my reflection and learning in relation to this complaint and its outcome” specifically addressing the following subjects:

    • The importance of clear and appropriate contracting in counselling
    • The value of clinical supervision in counselling
    • How inappropriate communication with clients outside sessions can damage the therapeutic relationship

    It must also reference to at least 3 relevant books, journal articles or online resources, as well as the NCS Code of Ethical Practice

    Following 6 months practice:

    Registrant must provide a report from his Supervisor, evidencing that he has fully understood and put into practice reflective learning from issues relating to:

    • Importance of and proper use of supervision
    • Relevance of guidance learning issued by complaints panels for the NCS Registrant’s understanding of the client/therapist relationship

    This decision of the Appeals Panel is final and will be published on the NCS website.

  • Simon Brodie

    SB00P28


    OUTCOME: CONSENSUAL DISPOSAL OFFER
    FINAL OUTCOME : REMOVAL OF MEMBERSHIP


    Assessment Panel Hearing: April 2018

    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 well being, 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.

  • Keith Elvin

    KE00P115


    OUTCOME : REMOVAL OF MEMBERSHIP – NON COMPLIANCE with Conditional Membership sanction
    Assessment Panel Hearing: December 2018

    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 judgments 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 practice.

    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

    5. 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.

  • Dr Fiona Fox

    NCS17-04789

    Assessment Panel : 09/11/20

    Outcome: 6 Months Suspension From NCS Accredited Register and Conditions for Re-Registration

    Outline of complaint

    Dr Fox used the Duty of Candour option to report that she had breached the NCS Code of Ethics by crossing the boundaries appropriate to the therapeutic relationship by engaging in a brief relationship of a personal nature with a former client soon after the termination of the contract. No complaint was received about her conduct.

    In line with 2018 NCS Code of Ethics and in accordance with the Society’s Complaints Procedures, the NCS Ethics Officer referred the complaint to the Assessment Panel.

    Assessment Panel

    Decision by Consensual Disposal

    6 Months suspension and Conditional Membership Sanctions following Dr Fox’s admittance of Violating Section 3a of the Society’s Code of Ethics- Delivering a Service.

    Upon completion of suspension period Dr Fox has agreed to demonstrate a reflective process regarding the circumstances of her violation of the Code of Ethics and the steps she has put in place to ensure she can return to safe practice.

    The Panel took into consideration the steps that had already been put in place and the prompt self-referral by the registrant under her duty of candour.

  • Vicky Goddard

    VG00P03

    Assessment Panel 29/01/21

    Outcome: 12 months suspension from National Counselling Society Accredited Register and Conditions for Re-Registration.

    Outline of Complaint

    In July 2020, the Society received a complaint from a former client of the Registrant. The complaint centres on the Complainant considering that the Registrant had practised beyond the scope of her knowledge and capability.

    In line with the 2018 NCS Code of Ethics and in accordance with the Society’s complaints procedure, following investigation the Ethics Officer referred the complaint to the Society’s Assessment Panel to consider:

    • The Registrant’s professional conduct in relation to providing Counselling to the Complainant.
    • The Registrant’s Supervision arrangements during this time.

    Assessment Panel Findings

    The Panels view was that the Registrant’s professional conduct breached the Code of Ethics in the following areas:

    Offering a Service Section 1- Provide a service to clients solely in areas in which they are trained and competent to do so.

    Delivering a Service Section 1- To work in ways that promote client autonomy and wellbeing and that maintain respect and dignity for the client.

    Supervision Section 1- Have formal one to one supervision in place and obtained from a properly qualified and trained supervisor.

    Assessment Panel Decision

    Decision by Consensual Disposal

    12 months Suspension and Conditional Membership Sanctions following Vicky Goddard’s admittance of Breach of the Society’s Code of Ethics.

    Upon completion of the suspension period Vicky Goddard has agreed to provide the Assessment Panel with an essay that demonstrates a reflective and learning process in relation to the complaint.

    Vicky Goddard is required to produce a satisfactory report from her Supervisor to confirm sufficient improvement in the Registrant’s capacity for safe practise.

  • Chai-Yoel Korn

    NCS19-08622

    Assessment Panel 08th March 2021

    Outcome: The Assessment Panel accepted application from the registrant to have the case disposed of by consensual agreement. Chai Yoel Korn accepted responsibility for what went wrong and agreed to an appropriate and proportionate sanction.

    Outline of Complaint

    The original complaint focusses upon the outcome of one initial counselling session in mid 2020, in which the complainant alleges that the counselling relationship took an unexpected shift in focus, away from the primary presenting personal issues of the client, and towards a discussion of the client’s representative work in which the possibility of a supervisory relationship may have been discussed.

    In addition, the original complaint focusses upon post-session communication and the ending of therapy.

    Assessment Panel Findings

    The Assessment Panel found that the registrant had breached the Code of Ethics as follows:

    1. Fundamental Principle 1. Working towards the good of clients and doing no harm 

    (Beneficence and Non-maleficence)
    “Practitioners hold the welfare of clients central to their work and so commit to avoiding harm”.

    And

    Offering a Service : Section 5

    “Respect the autonomy of clients to choose whether or not to avail themselves, or continue to avail themselves of the service offered. “

    The registrant confused the boundaries of the therapeutic relationship in that they inappropriately laid out a route to a supervisory relationship

    And

    2. Fundamental Principle 4. 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”.

    And

    Delivering a Service : Section 1.

    “Work in ways that promote client autonomy and well-being and that maintain respect and dignity for the client”

    The Assessment Panel found that the registrant did not apply appropriate screening processes or decision processes regarding accepting clients.

    Assessment Panel Decision

    Decision by Consensual Disposal

    Sanction:

    Chai Yoel Korn has agreed to produce a report of not less than 3000 words whereby they account for and clarify the mistakes in this case as notified to them and what learning they have taken from this experience. In particular, the assessment Panel is seeking evidence of learning and development of practice in respect of :

    • The need for clear and respectful consideration of the expressed needs and wishes of clients at the beginning of therapy
    • The importance of refraining from allowing the practitioner’s own needs unduly to influence clinical decision making

    This report is to be submitted no earlier than three months and no later than six months from the date of the Panel’s findings being communicated to the Registrant.

  • Dr John Thornley

    JT00P16

    OUTCOME : REMOVAL OF MEMBERSHIP - professional misconduct

    Independent Complaints Panel Hearing: April 2017

    Overview

    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:

    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.

    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 accepted 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.

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

    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 practice 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.

  • Nikki White

    NCS13-00234

    Assessment Panel: December 2019

    Outcome: non-compliance with Conditional Membership sanctions

    Outline of complaint:

    The complainant and registrant met through an online dating service. The complainant, the complainant’s family and ex-partner all were offered individual therapy services by the registrant.

    The panel considered extracts from single source social media messages between the complainant and registrant. These contained detail of private and social matters as well as professional therapy arrangements.

    It was noted that the therapy service itself was viewed favourably by parties to the complaint and that the registrant offers a wide range of therapeutic services. Cleansing Therapy was referred to by the panel as an additional service, appearing to be a physical rather than a therapeutic therapy.

    Overview

    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 complaint Assessment Panel to consider:

    • If the registrant had behaved in a manner which was in line with NCS requirements around Professional boundaries, conduct, communication and confidentiality.
    • If the registrant had complied with NCS supervision requirements.

    Assessment Panel

    Decision: Conditional Membership Sanctions

    The Panel outcome statement contains considered, collective concerns, with particular emphasis on the written statements received from the registrant in response to the complaint. Outcome decision includes an immediate action order with regard to supervision (no client work to be undertaken prior to this being in place) and learning and development conditions of membership to address professional conduct and self-awareness.

    Self-Awareness

    The Panel found that the registrant had displayed limited self-awareness around professional boundaries, dual relationships and the importance of having professional supervision in place.

    Professional Boundaries/Dual relationships

    The registrant stated in correspondence “I would like it noted please that X was not just a client. We had been on dates prior to me offering .. therapy and had become good friends before any therapy took place. This wasn’t a usual client/therapy relationship. I helped out as a friend.”

    Affectionate and emotive language was used throughout messaging evidence, with no clear professional boundary between personal and business communication.

    Contrary to the following 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

    Delivering a Service

    All Practitioners undertake to:

    • (1) Work in ways that promote client autonomy and well-being and that maintain respect and dignity for the client.
    • (3) Refrain from using their position of trust and confidence to: Cross the boundaries appropriate to the therapeutic relationship. This includes but is not limited to having sexual relationships with or behaving sexually towards clients, supervisees or trainees; maintaining the confidentiality of counselling as far as the law allows; or by exploiting them emotionally, financially or in any other way whatsoever.
    • (4) Decline with explanation, inappropriate gifts, gratuities or favours from a client. Examples include, but are not limited to financial gifts, event or discount vouchers, objects of substantial monetary value. The offering of any gift in therapy is an important event in the therapist-client relationship, and its implications should be discussed with the client and considered in supervision.
    • (5) 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 and 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.
    • (7) 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.

    General Conduct

    All Practitioners undertake to:

    • (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 brings it into disrepute, being aware of professional and personal boundaries.

    Confidentiality

    The registrant discussed clients with clients (in writing). In the Panels view this offers a lack of awareness with regards to the essential requirement of client confidentiality.

    Contrary to:

    Confidentiality, Maintenance of Records and Recording of Sessions

    All Practitioners undertake to:

    (1) 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

    General Conduct

    All Practitioners undertake to:

    • (5) Ensure that they maintain the highest level of communication with clients (avoiding abbreviation and shorthand) whether by telephone; email; text or any other social media messaging service (Facebook; WhatsApp). See (Appendix C)

    Appendix C: Communications and Social Media

    Before providing counselling or advice/suggestions via any online platform/text messaging/email the practitioner should have considerations in place to deal with the following:

    • The danger that a client may believe he or she has 24-hour accessibility to the therapist.
    • The potential for a lack of time for reflection on either party before responding to each other.
    • Awareness of potential professional and personal overlap by the careful and restrained use of social media such as Twitter, Facebook etc.
    • When using Facebook or other social media platforms, personal accounts must be kept private from public viewing by making use of privacy levels according to the specific social media platform. Additional and separate user accounts for professional purposes and use, should be used.

    Supervision

    The registrant provided no evidence to the NCS about her Supervision, despite repeated requests having been made.

    In the view of the Panel a qualified supervisor would likely have ‘nipped in the bud’ all of the concerns noted.

    The panel considered the registrant’s statement “I have not taken this to Supervision as yet, however I have spoken to my peers in my peer support group. These peers are highly qualified, successful and professional therapists….”

    (It is noted that this arrangement is not accepted as adequate supervision under the NCS Code of Ethics).

    Contrary to:

    supervision, all practitioners undertake to:

    • (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.
    • (5) Not engage in any dual relationship when seeking supervision. Examples of dual relationship can be found in the members area of the website.

    Contrary to: Society Terms and Conditions of Membership:

    Conditions of Registration:

    • · “I have supervision appropriate to the amount of clients that I am seeing”
    • “I monitor my safety to practice at a level that enables me to provide an effective service and seek advice from my supervisor if there are any health or personal circumstances which could impair my effectiveness”

    Contrary to: Society Membership guidance:

    …It is important that the Supervisor is properly qualified.

    Peer and group supervision is acceptable, in addition to formal one-to-one supervision (not in place of), and is dependent upon your own level of experience and the client group you are working with…

    DECISION: Fitness to practise sanctions

    The registrant must provide evidence of the following:

    Supervision:

    • · Registrant to immediately engage a suitably qualified and experienced Supervisor and must not see clients until this is in place. To notify NCS once a contract has been agreed.
    • · The Supervisor must provide a comprehensive fitness to practise report to the NCS after 12 months of working with the registrant.

    Reflective Report:

    • Registrant to produce a Reflective Report. This should be received by the NCS on a date that falls after 3 months and prior to 9 months from receipt of the Panel’s decision.
    1. The report must be over 2000 words.
    2. It should demonstrate understanding of the following: Professional Boundaries, Dual Relationships, why Supervision is essential and learning through supervision (upon having explored this complaint outcome with a new supervisor).

    CPD:

    • Registrant to complete the NCS Code of Ethics CPD within 3 months of receipt of this outcome.
    • Registrant to complete a CPD training on the topic of professional boundaries, within 6 months of receipt of this outcome

    Personal Therapy:

    • Registrant to attend a minimum of 6x sessions of Personal Therapy to explore her awareness and wellbeing in relation to the compliant. Personal learning and insight gained should be included in the reflective report.

    OUTCOME

    Upon receipt of the Panel Outcome report, the registrant contacted the NCS to resign her membership and declared a refusal to engage in further contact with the Society. As an immediate action Sanction had been ordered by the Panel, the Registrant was therefore not compliant with conditions of membership.

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