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 DANGERS  OF  ALTERNATIVE  THERAPY

This article highlights the complaint of Tom Keogh against a version of counselling and therapy activity in Britain, a complaint which encountered non-cooperative tactics from organisations supposedly acting in the public interest.

 

CONTENTS  KEY

1.   Complaints  to  the  British  Association  for  Counselling

2.   Association  of  Humanistic  Psychology  Practitioners

3.   A  Link  with  the  Findhorn  Foundation 

4.   The  UKCP  and  Derby  Solicitors

      Note  on Tom  Keogh

      Appendice  on  a  Psychotherapist

 

1.   Complaints  to  the  British  Association  for  Counselling

The drawbacks involved in some forms of contemporary "counselling" and "therapy" can be acute. The lodging of due complaint is relevant.

A report dating to the 1990s refers to Derby Counselling and Therapy Centre. The complaining party describes an exploitive activity in which client safety was infringed, and ethical codes were broken. The accusation is made that therapy counsellors imposed their own way of thinking upon clients. The protester lost his wife in this fraught situation; he had been happily married for 17 years. His wife was now taught to believe that her husband and parents failed in their affection for her by comparison with the therapy group.

The complainant was Tom Keogh (see Note below), whose file includes a letter dated 12/11/1991 to the British Association for Counselling (BAC). He had taken professional advice about the recent bizarre behaviour induced in his wife by group sessions of "therapy." The symptoms created were "similar to the techniques of 'love-bombing,' hypnosis, food and sleep deprivation." Moreover, the contested procedures, considered a malpractice elsewhere, "can result in nervous breakdown, suicidal tendencies, severe headaches, involuntary muscle spasms, memory failure and lack of decision making ability."

Keogh reported that his wife had displayed nearly all of these setbacks. She had formerly been suffering from panic attacks caused by an accident (the cause of her seeking therapy), and these symptoms would reappear after attending the Counselling Centre. One of the additional problems was that she became subject to "a total dependency upon the Centre." In particular, the client stated that "she cannot now make a decision."

New beliefs attended the psychological horizon of the therapy client, including astrology, numerology, and the ideation invested in tarot cards. Yet formerly, all these beliefs had been considered ridiculous by the client. Another new attraction was "regressive hypnotherapy."

One of the counsellors committed adultery with the client while she was attending the Counselling Centre. The client subsequently admitted to improper conduct, and the counsellor was cited in divorce proceedings. The client had been given a suggested payment schedule at the start of her counselling, set on a sliding scale according to gross income. She felt obligated to pay, despite ambiguity in the wording of the schedule. In this milieu, payments were sometimes described as donations.

In 1992, the BAC agreed that two ethical codes had been breached by the Derby Counselling and Therapy Centre, though adding that this Centre had the right to appeal and therefore the matter was not concluded.

A supporting account of "therapy" activities at this Centre was supplied in June 1992 by a victim, one unrelated to Tom Keogh. This woman was herself a counsellor. Addressing the BAC, P. J. Hough related that the group sessions in Derby involved exercises which frequently left her in "a disorientated condition." Similar techniques were used in the individual therapy sessions. Yet there was "little explanation of what was taking place," and no attempt was made to rehabilitate the victim before she left the Centre. On more than one occasion, the disability here contracted left the victim "unable to go to work the following day."

Hough reports an "undue pressure" exerted upon her to continue the therapy, and this situation created "an anxiety and guilt state when I contemplated leaving." Individual sessions stressed personal issues requiring resolution, with the consequence that emotions were "brought to the surface time after time but never satisfactorily dealt with, thus causing a condition of emotional dependency on the therapist which was almost like an addiction, for three years approximately." The victim refers to other cases of dependency which lasted much longer.

In both the group and individual sessions, "much effort was put into trying to replace my own personal values and opinions with those of the group and its leader (e.g., 'New Age' beliefs, Green Party adherence, vegetarianism, rejection of conventional medical treatment, and an attitude of utter and non-compassionate egotism)." The widespread new age therapy cultivation of self-assertion has been considered disastrous by critics. These factors were accompanied by "the inducement of a trance-like state which rendered me almost unable to make personal decisions about anything without reference to the group or its leader."

After three years, this victim at last grasped what was really occurring. Hough then found that she was unable to make due representation to the executive committee of the Derby Counselling Centre, as "the majority of them were themselves in a therapeutic relationship with the same man." Further, "any attempted complaint was met with a clone-like repetition" of the group outlook blinkered by new age therapy vogues.

One of the charges made by Hough refers to "several occasions when sexual harassment took place within a therapeutic situation." Her observations in this direction were "always denied," along with the implication that she was fantasising.

A further letter to the BAC from Hough is dated July 1992, and refers to a recent press coverage of the issue. The writer here goes into more detail, and specifically accuses a named counsellor of "many malpractices." She refers to "Bioenergetic exercises and regressive work" that were a cause of problems. "I frequently left the Centre in a disorientated state of mind, unable to get home effectively; on one occasion, I found myself in a large store sobbing uncontrollably.... I was often unable to work the day following a therapy session, and incurred disciplinary action by my employer as a result."

The unenviable plight of this victim was that of an addiction to troublesome therapy. She "lived in an anxiety state for three to four years utterly dependent on the often two hour sessions and unable to make simple decisions for myself." She was encouraged to disregard normal medical advice, and was urged not to wear spectacles. "This put me in danger as I could not see where I was going." The myopia of alternative therapists can be substantial.

The victim was never given any information about the training of the presiding therapist. She was actually employed at the Derby Counselling Centre herself, and as a counsellor, and was continually told to say that all counsellors were adequately trained. She relates that the presiding malpractitioner E.W. "often counselled when he was physically or emotionally ill." More ominously, "he would follow an extreme temper bout by a session with a client." Some analysts find significance in the detail that "he employed people to counsel and to give therapy with no training other than his own methods." Hough herself was one of his trainees.

The malpractitioner E.W. became "very angry" when the victim sought supervision outside the Centre. Her attempt to indicate his shortcomings "met with extreme anger and violent temper outbursts; during such temper outbursts he would lose control and throw books at me so that I had to hide behind the furniture. These outbursts were heard by clients waiting for therapy.... Such behaviour was a deciding factor in my resignation."

The report also informs that the malpractitioner E.W. was a member of the Association for Humanistic Psychology Practitioners. The rather leisurely response of BAC stated that "we are not looking at further complaints until after the Annual General Meeting at the beginning of September."

Further notification from BAC mentioned that the Derby Counselling and Therapy Centre withdrew from membership of BAC in October 1992. "As they are no longer members of this Association, the complaint that you brought against them cannot be investigated" (letter to P. J. Hough from BAC dated 11/11/1992).

2.   Association  of  Humanistic  Psychology  Practitioners

In the wake of these developments, Tom Keogh renewed the pursuit of elusive rectification. He had discovered that the presiding malpractitioner E.W. at Derby Counselling Centre was in significant contact with other influential "therapists." Hough had divulged information that two outside advisers were in contact with the malpractitioner three or four times a year. One of these visited the Centre on a "group-chat basis." The other adviser, Glyn Seabourn-Jones (see Appendice below), was the subject of a formal complaint by Keogh, and in relation to the Association of Humanistic Psychology Practitioners (AHPP).

Keogh made complaints against both E.W. and his influential adviser. During this phase of complaint, the malpractitioner E.W. gained credibility when he joined the AHPP, being granted accreditation as a Bodymind therapist. He otherwise lacked any qualifications in counselling. He was supported in this accreditation by Seabourn-Jones , who was a member of the AHPP.

Keogh encountered substantial evasion. Seabourn-Jones resigned from membership of the AHPP, who declared that no further action could be taken (letter dated 21/09/1993). However, the AHPP did refer in that communication to "two discrepancies in his behaviour [of Seabourn-Jones] which were unprofessional and unacceptable; both these points (and they were substantiated) indicate a lack of professional judgment in his dealings with E.W. as a supervisee and with his [Derby] centre." There was the additional disclosure that "he [Seabourn-Jones) has been informed of this; it is only fair to say that he totally disagrees."

The related complaint of Keogh against the malpractitioner E.W. at Derby met with a similar dead-end. Another official letter from the AHPP Complaints Committee, dated 25/09/1993, acknowledged the malpractitioner's insistence that "much of the complaint falls outside of the AHPP Code of Ethics" and that "many of the allegations made by Tom Keogh refer to incidents which occurred before he [the malpractitioner] became a member of AHPP." The AHPP had awarded the malpractitioner with "accreditation as a Counsellor and Bodymind Therapist."

The information is also supplied that the malpractitioner had drafted a letter to the BAC in his favour, and with the compliance of the resigning AHPP member Glyn Seabourn-Jones, who had "later refuted certain aspects" of that submission. Seabourn-Jones is described as the "supervisor" of E.W., and there is the guarded statement that "we [the Complaints Committee] had some feelings that the relationship (as well as the definition and usage of supervision) was confused between these two people."

Despite some explicit reservations about E.W., the AHPP minimised their responsibility in this matter to nil. The same letter referred to an "investigative process" in which the accused malpractitioner E.W. "tendered his resignation from AHPP." There was the accompanying statement that "AHPP procedure requires for the registration not to be accepted during the course of a complaint; the Complaints Committee are recommending to the AHPP Board that his resignation is now accepted."

There was an evident degree of defensive strategy on the part of AHPP, and to such an extent that Keogh became involved in a long-term formal complaint against the two therapists he named. The AHPP remained resistant. Five years later, Tom Keogh's solicitors issued a strong response to the AHPP, now based in London; the response detailed an "improper procedure" which had allowed the two contested members to resign in so convenient a manner. Furthermore, "despite numerous requests by our client [Tom Keogh] for copies of the written evidence relating to his formal complaint, he has been denied access to such documents" (letter dated 28/04/1998 from Gadsbys Solicitors, Derby).

This unsatisfactory situation was ongoing despite the event in which an Adjudication Panel had occurred at the Sherwood Psychotherapy Training Institute (Nottingham) on 5th February 1996, in which both Tom Keogh and the AHPP were represented. The Panel concluded that the AHPP, "in failing to conduct a proper enquiry, failed to comply with the provisions of its own Complaints Procedures and is in breach of its own rules; the Panel therefore finds in favour of the complainant, Mr T. Keogh" (letter from the Panel Chairman Ken Evans dated Feb. 1996). There was the additional reflection that because the AHPP had not followed proper procedures, "Mr T. Keogh has suffered an injustice."

N.B. The AHPP is currently identified in UK terms, i.e., UKAHPP. The "workshop" programmes of UKAHPP cost £75 per day in 2011. There are strong critics of workshop practices and workshop charges.

3.  A  Link  with  the  Findhorn  Foundation

The content of the legal communication to the AHPP in 1998 is sufficiently grave to prompt a close look at the 1993 predecessor situation. In fact, the two letters from the AHPP that year (1993) reveal the address of the major new age centre in Britain, namely the Findhorn Foundation of Moray (Scotland), who have a reputation for evasion and suspect entrepreneurial practice documented in books and web articles (e.g., Problems). Moreover, the AHPP Complaints Committee bore the direct auspices of Courtenay Young, a prominent alternative therapist of the Foundation whose name is closely linked with commentary on a notorious episode allegedly occurring in 1991, and on Foundation premises.

In the winter of 1991, the Moray police and social services investigated a case of alleged child abuse at the Findhorn Foundation. Strong rumours implicated an American practitioner of Neo-Reichian therapy, who was one of the entrepreneurs in the commercial "workshop" activities of the Foundation. No conclusive evidence could be discovered. An early report informs:

"Courtenay Young, the leading therapist in the Foundation, wrote at the time: "It is highly unlikely that anything can or will be proved beyond all shadow of doubt and therefore speculation as to who are involved seems totally inappropriate." (Stephen J. Castro, Hypocrisy and Dissent within the Findhorn Foundation, Forres 1996, p. 54).

The comments of Young indicate the considerable degree of concern attaching to this episode. The Foundation management were anxious to play down the problem. The Neo-Reichian practitioner had acquired a promiscuous reputation; his form of therapy was very controversial, and featured frequent references to sexuality.

In other directions, during 1993, the "therapy" known as Holotropic Breathwork was still being promoted by the Findhorn Foundation. This controversial exercise in hyperventilation was the commercial creation of Grof Transpersonal Training Inc., and had been in process for five years at that venue. Stanislav Grof had devised Holotropic Breathwork at the Esalen Institute in California. In Moray, some clients encountered severe drawbacks that were suppressed in the promotions. Critical accounts refer, e. g., to a woman "who was so disoriented following a Breathwork session that she sat in her caravan for several weeks unable to overcome her symptoms or take up her daily work, and of a second woman who was 'virtually insane' for a fortnight and could not wash or feed herself" (Castro, op. cit., p. 105).

A medical expert at Edinburgh University was commissioned by the Scottish Charities Office (SCO) to provide an authoritative assessment of Holotropic Breathwork (HB). The resulting document warned of potential dangers, and in 1993 the SCO accordingly recommended that the Findhorn Foundation management should suspend the hazardous therapy. Suspension did officially result, though partisans maintained a defiant resort to HB in private. The underground continuation infiltrated to England in subsequent years, a major instance occurring at London and in association with a well known church; in this situation, another alternative therapist favoured by the Foundation instigated HB sessions, disregarding all official cautions. William Bloom was afterwards obliged to desist, as the affiliated Anglican church authorities belatedly acted in the public interests.

Bloom had been conducting the "workshop" enterprise known as Alternatives at St. James Church, Piccadilly. He advertised his accomplishments in terms of "angels, archetypes, blessings, empowerment, healing, holotropic breathwork, meditation, money, psychic protection, therapy." The list is surely an example of what to avoid rather than what to pursue.

Such details were included in my Letter to BBC Radio (2006), which was suppressed by the BBC, who had chosen to sponsor Bloom in a radio chat show.

4.  The  UKCP  and  Derby  Solicitors

A significant letter from Tom Keogh's solicitors is dated 17/05/1999. This was addressed to the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP), an organisation located in London and which had recently demonstrated a further evasion, dismissing any grounds for continuation of the complaint by Keogh. In March 1999, the evasion was effected via the Humanistic and Integrative Psychotherapy Section of the UKCP, who provided a panel of three members representing such subjects as gestalt and metanoia.

Addressed to the Chair of the evasive panel, the response from solicitors Gadsby, Coxon & Copestake (Derby) included the following:

"It is quite clear, to both ourselves and our client [Tom Keogh], that the AHPP are deliberately avoiding this issue. We are quite aware of the contents of your final paragraph, i.e. that on the 5th February 1996, the AHPP were adjudged to have failed to comply with the provisions of its own complaints procedure. The natural follow-on therefore is to allow our client to proceed with his complaint, the original complaint, as per our letter to the AHPP of 04/06/1997. As has been pointed out on many occasions, our client has never been given the opportunity of a full hearing on a complaint of substance. Because of the behaviour of Counsellors under the jurisdiction of the AHPP and UKCP, our client has suffered losses as follows:

1.   His wife, who visited the Derby Counselling (and Therapy) Centre, clearly in need of assistance and vulnerable, was taken advantage of by one of the therapists, thereby breaching the code of conduct. The Derby Therapy Centre was found guilty of breaking its code by the British Association for Counselling. This was back in 1992. Since then, our client has been attempting to obtain a full hearing into this matter, but has met with obstruction and total lack of assistance by any of the Bodies who should be caring for the welfare of persons in need of counselling.

2.   As a direct result of the breach of the code of ethics by the Derby Therapy centre, our client's wife left him and divorced him. He has therefore incurred the upset of the separation from his wife after many years of marriage, together with the obvious financial consequences."

The closing paragraph of the lawyer's letter observed: "It is clear that our client is going to get no further through the prescribed and proper channels," meaning the supposedly responsible bodies advertising their expertise in counselling and related subjects. The lawyer suggested the prospect of assistance by an investigative journalist, who might delve fully into the background of the AHPP, the UKCP, and "all the Counselling Centres associated with either." The last sentence is especially evocative:

"We will also suggest that the journalist investigates the bank accounts of persons receiving therapy and the bank accounts of the various [Counselling] Centres."

The Keogh complaint via legal channels has since been paralleled by the complaint of Kate Thomas concerning the Findhorn Foundation. The subject of alternative therapy, along with the commercial "workshop" vogue, is capable of arousing strong questioning and resistance.

Kevin R. D. Shepherd

July 2011

Note  On  Tom  Keogh

Tom Keogh is a recently retired inhabitant of Derbyshire, having conducted his own building and civil engineering company for over thirty years. He gained a local reputation for reliability. I have been in telephone contact with him, and he conveyed the impression of a down to earth and buoyant character. His 1990s confrontation with questionable counselling procedures was vigorous and persistent, utilising the resources of solicitors at every turn. He has informed me that both of the therapists about whom he complained (E.W. and Glyn Seabourn-Jones) are now deceased. He says that the AHPP used various tactics to prevent his complaint, including revised or manipulated rules and lengthy delays.

Appendice  on  a  Psychotherapist

Glyn Seabourn-Jones (1919-1999) is better known than other therapists mentioned in the Keogh documents. He has been described as a leading figure of 1970s humanistic psychotherapy in Britain, and the first to introduce Arthur Janov's controversial "primal scream therapy" to Europe. He conducted a primal scream "workshop" in London that gained an extremist reputation. Seabourn-Jones was enthusiastic about the "humanistic" or "growth" movement that emerged from California in the early 1970s. This trend became widely known as the Human Potential Movement, strongly identified with the 70s and 80s decades.

Seabourn-Jones originally studied with the philosopher Alfred J. Ayer, a Professor at London and Oxford, but declined the latter's offer of a chair in philosophy at New York University, instead preferring a role in therapy at the Tavistock Clinic. Ayer's version of logical philosophy (caricatured as "talk about talk") has met with resistance from critics, though the Human Potential Movement is generally considered a far more questionable and reckless avenue of activity. Yet during the 1950s and 1960s, Seabourn-Jones did conduct classes in philosophy, psychology, and English literature at London and Cambridge Universities. In 1970 he was elected to the British Association for Psychotherapy, and was thereafter identified as a psychotherapist. See his obituary.