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Complaint upheld over Shrewsbury counselling service's guidelines breach

By Deborah Hardiman | Shrewsbury | Health | Published:

A listening ear service breached guidelines by failing to tell a client that his therapist was a university student on work placement.

The British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy’s professional conduct panel has upheld a complaint that Green Oak Foundation based in Shrewsbury failed to comply with professional standards in its dealings with the service user.

The service, in New Street, said as it was an ongoing matter it was unable to comment on the findings of the practice review.

The man received 25 recorded counselling sessions from the Newman University student, referred to as ‘X,’ to which the man had given consent, believing the recordings would be kept at Green Oak. In fact, the service had a policy that sessions were not recorded.

A report by panel chairman Amanda Larcombe stated: “The panel heard evidence from the complainant that he was not told by the organisation or X, his counsellor, at any point that X was a student, he indicated that had he known he would have asked for a qualified counsellor.

"The panel heard evidence from the organisation that the method in place was to direct student counsellors on placement to notify their client that they were a student.

"However – it became apparent that compliance with this was not checked and therefore there was no adequate system in place to ensure clients were advised accordingly other than relying on the student to comply with the organisation’s policy.

“In addition, the panel noted that the ‘placement agreement’ between the organisation and student X’s university made clear that it was the organisation’s responsibility to ensure that clients of student counsellors would be informed of their ‘student status’.

"On balance, the panel found that the organisation had failed to inform the complainant that his therapist was a student. This allegation is therefore upheld.”

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X was allowed by the university to make recordings as part of her academic studies. However, the panel found that the foundation also failed to ensure that “informed consent had been obtained”.

In response Green Oak Foundation stated: “This is an ongoing matter. It is in the hands of our legal team. We’re unable to comment any further at this stage.”

The service client, who declined to be named, said: “I was under the impression that I was being treated by a qualified counsellor. Imagine the shock when I found out she was only a student.”

British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy spokesman Andy Mann said: “We take our responsibility to hold our members to the highest professional and ethical standards very seriously.”

Deborah Hardiman

By Deborah Hardiman
@Deborahh_Star

Senior reporter for the Shropshire Star based out of the head office in Ketley. Covering the Telford area.

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