The Bowlby Centre Complaints Procedure

1.  Purpose

1.1 To protect clients and other relevant persons from unprofessional or unethical behaviour by any member or trainee of The Bowlby Centre.

1.2 To protect members and trainees of The Bowlby Centre by the provision of a clear, independent and impartial procedure for the investigation and resolution of allegations of misconduct.

1.3 To protect The Bowlby Centre, its members, trainees, and the profession of psychotherapy from unprofessional conduct by any member or trainee.

1.4 To ensure that complaints within The Bowlby Centre are managed in line with UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) policy, procedures and guidelines.

2.   Summary

2.1. The Bowlby Centre recognises that it is important to have clear and fair procedures to deal with complaints about possible breaches of our Code of Ethics, our Code of Conduct, and the UKCP Ethical Principles and Code of Professional Conduct.  The Bowlby Centre welcomes any feedback which can help it to monitor and improve standards and sees any complaint as an opportunity for learning for the organisation.

3.   Complaints from a client about a Bowlby Centre member

3.1  If a client is dissatisfied with their therapist, it is recommended as a first step that the client discuss this with the therapist, in an attempt to resolve matters. If this does not resolve the issue satisfactorily, or is not possible or appropriate, the client may write to the Chair of the Clinical Training Committee (CTC), setting out the grounds for concern, to request an informal mediation. If the mediation does not resolve the issue satisfactorily, or the client chooses not to use mediation, they can put a complaint in writing to the UKCP. The UKCP complaints form is on the UKCP website. (see link above at para 2.2)

3.2  Any complaint should be made as soon as possible and must be made within three years of the ending of the professional relationship that is the subject of the complaint. A complaint cannot be made where the complainant has made it clear that legal action is to be brought against the psychotherapist or where the psychotherapist is the subject of criminal proceedings in relation to the subject matter of the complaint.

3.3  A complaint against a psychotherapist who is a member of The Bowlby Centre may be made on one or more of the following grounds:

  • The psychotherapist has been guilty of conduct falling short of the standard of conduct required of a member of The Bowlby Centre as set out in the Code of Ethics.
  • The psychotherapist has been convicted in the UK of a criminal offence;
  • The psychotherapist’s ability to practice as a psychotherapist is seriously impaired because of a physical or psychological condition.

3.4  The UKCP allows complaints from a third party if they have concerns about how a client is being treated in the therapeutic relationship. The client’s consent is not required.

3.5  When the Chair of the CTC receives a request for mediation from a client who has concerns about their psychotherapist, the Chair will respond within 14 days to explore with the client how they want the mediation to proceed. This could involve the Chair talking to the therapist, conveying the client’s concerns, or facilitating a meeting between the client and the therapist to think together about the concerns. The Chair will take advice from the Chair of Ethics as necessary.

3.6 The Bowlby Centre is sensitive to the potential vulnerability of those who become party to complaints. The Ethics Committee when informed will take reasonable steps to identify for members another member of The Bowlby Centre to offer support through the UKCP complaints process.

4.    Complaints from a client about trainee psychotherapist

4.1   If a client is dissatisfied with their therapist, it is recommended as a first step that the client discuss this with the therapist, in an attempt to resolve matters. If this does not resolve the issues satisfactorily, or it is not possible or appropriate, the client may put a complaint in writing to the Chair of the Ethics Committee.

4.2   The Bowlby Centre will not hear a complaint where the complainant has made it clear that legal action is to be brought against the psychotherapist or where the psychotherapist is the subject of criminal proceedings in relation to the subject matter of the complaint.

4.3    Complaints are to be made to The Chair of the Ethics Committee by recorded delivery or email to the Bowlby Centre, marked private and confidential and supported by any accompanying documentation.

4.4   The Chair of Ethics will appoint a Chair of the Investigating Committee to report back to the Ethics Committee as to whether there is a case to answer on the complaint. It is not essential that the Chair of the Investigating Committee is a member of the Ethics Committee. The following will not be eligible to participate in the Investigating Committee’s consideration of a complaint: partners and those who have had a therapy, supervision, teaching or tutorial relationship with either the complainant or trainee psychotherapist, or who is closely acquainted with or interested in either of the parties or the subject matter of the complaint. The Chair of Ethics will forward the complaint to the trainee and their supervisor within 14 days of receipt of the complaint and inform the student of the name of the Chair of the Investigating Committee and, where possible, of other Committee member(s). There will be a minimum of two other members on the Investigating Committee.

4.5   The Chair of Ethics will acknowledge receipt of the complaint to the client by email or by recorded delivery along with a copy of the Code of Ethics and the Complaints procedure and the name of the Chair of the Investigating Committee and where possible its other members usually within 14 days of receipt of the complaint.

4.6   The Chair of the Investigating Committee will decide who will be the investigator and a maximum of twenty-eight days, after the 14 days, will be allowed for the investigation.

4.7   At all stages, extension to the time limits laid down in these rules of procedure is at the discretion of the Chair of the Ethics Committee or the Chair of the Investigating Committee.

4.8   The investigator will take such steps as are reasonably practicable to obtain as much information as possible about the case including seeking clarification of any matter from the client and the trainee psychotherapist.

4.9   Should the investigator meet with either of the parties the investigator will meet, where possible, with both parties separately.

4.10  The investigator will report to the Investigating Committee and will make a recommendation in the light of the information available to them on whether in their opinion there is a case to answer.

4.11   The Investigating Committee will, within 14 days of receipt of the report of the investigator, decide whether there is a case to answer. The Investigating Committee will meet with the investigator prior to taking a decision if the decision is contrary to the recommendation of the investigator. If the Investigating Committee decides that there is a case to answer it will inform the complainant, the trainee and their training supervisor.

4.12  Where the Investigating Committee decides that there is a case to answer, it will inform the Ethics Committee. The Investigating Committee shall state which clauses of the Code of Ethics may have been breached. The Investigating Committee will send a written report of its decision and reasoning to the Ethics Committee within 14 days of the date on which it makes its determination. The Investigating Committee will inform the client, the trainee psychotherapist and their supervisor of the complaint outcome and inform the parties of any recommendations as appropriate.

4.13  Where the complaint concerns a criminal conviction the Investigating Committee will consider whether the conviction is relevant to the work of a psychotherapist. The complaint will be referred to the Ethics Committee only where the conviction is held to be so relevant.

4.14  If the Investigating Committee decides that there is no case to answer it will inform the client, the trainee psychotherapist and their training supervisor.

4.15  Whatever decision it has made on the question of whether or not there is a case to answer, the Investigating Committee may make recommendations to the parties and to The Bowlby Centre (via The Chair of the Executive Committee) concerning ways in which issues raised by the complaint may be addressed.

4.16  An appeal against a decision that there is no case to answer may be made to The Chair of the Ethics Committee by the client within 14 days of receipt of the outcome. The Ethics Committee will appoint within 7 days an Appeal Panel made up from persons not involved in the investigation. The membership of an Appeal Panel will be determined by the Ethics Committee. The following will not be eligible to participate in an appeal hearing: partners and those who have had a therapy, supervision, teaching or tutorial relationship with either the client or trainee or who is closely acquainted with or interested in either of the parties or the subject matter of the complaint.

4.17  The Appeal Panel shall consist of:

  • two psychotherapists, one of whom shall be a member of the Ethics Committee and at least one of whom shall be a member of The Bowlby Centre (this member may be the member of the Ethics Committee); and,
  • one lay member who is not a Bowlby Centre member and who has a knowledge of psychotherapeutic practice.

4.18  The Appeal Panel will be chaired by the member of the Ethics Committee. The Chair will have a casting vote in any case of equality of votes.

4.19  The client and the trainee psychotherapist will be informed of appointments to the Appeal Panel. The Ethics Committee shall consider reasoned objections to proposed appointments but has the right to proceed to appoint members of the panel despite objections or in the absence of a response from the parties.

4.20  The role of the Appeal Panel is to:

  • Hear the appeal from the client and clarify questions for both complainant and trainee
  • Decide whether further investigation is required and if necessary take reasonable steps to carry out that investigation;
  • Decide whether to uphold the appeal;
  • Determine what sanctions are to be imposed where an appeal is upheld.

4.21  The standard of proof to be applied by the Appeal Panel will be balance of probability.

4.22  Within 21 days of the confirmation of its appointment the Appeal Panel will meet to determine what procedure it proposes to follow. It will consider the Investigator’s Report and decide what, if any, further investigations are necessary and whether a hearing is necessary.

4.23  Where the Appeal Panel considers that the appeal may be fairly determined without a hearing, it will notify the parties of its opinion and give them an opportunity to make written representations on the matter. The Panel may then either determine the appeal or set a date for a hearing. Where the Panel determines the appeal without a hearing, it will send a written report of its decision and reasoning to the Ethics Committee within 14 days of the date on which it makes its determination.

4.24  At least 28 days notice of the Appeal Hearing is to be given to all participants.

4.25  Both parties may be accompanied by a friend or colleague of their choice subject to the agreement of the Appeal Panel which will not be unreasonably withheld. The friend or colleague will not be a lawyer or legal representative and will not have speaking rights at the Appeal Panel unless the Chair of the Appeal Panel thinks it is a reasonable adjustment for a client not able to speak for themselves.

4.26  The hearing will be held in private.

4.27  The conduct of the hearing will be at the discretion of the Chair. The hearing will include the following procedures but will not necessarily be limited to them:

  • The client will first make his/her statement.
  • The trainee psychotherapist will make his/her statement.
  • Each party may question the other, through the Chair, following the statement of each party.
  • The Panel will put their questions to both client and the trainee
  • There will be further opportunity for questions from the parties, through the Chair.
  • The Appeal Panel may allow either party to call and examine witnesses, in which case they may be questioned by the other party and the Panel.
  • The complainant will be given an opportunity to make a final statement.
  • The trainee will have an opportunity to make a final statement

4.28  The Appeal Panel may request the attendance of the Investigator to answer questions on his/her report.

4.29  The Appeal Panel will not announce a decision on the complaint at the hearing. A written report on their proceedings, decision and reasoning, will be sent to the Ethics Committee within 14 days of the end of the hearing.

4.30  Where the complaint has been upheld the Appeal Panel will consider which of the following directions are to be given:

  • to censure the trainee psychotherapist and/or warn them to exercise greater care in the practice of psychotherapy;
  • to direct extra therapy, supervision or training required, or a combination of these;
  • to direct removal from training within the organisation;

4.31  Directions under 4.30 are to be clear and specific. Time limits or other conditions for the lifting of sanctions imposed are to be clearly set out.

4.32  The Chair of the Ethics Committee will be responsible for sending a copy of the Appeal Panel decision to the client and the trainee psychotherapist and informing them in writing of any directions given, within 7 days of receipt of the report from the Appeal Panel.

4.33  The Chair of the Ethics Committee will send a copy of the Appeal Panel decision to the Chair of the Trustees of the Bowlby Centre and the Chair of the Bowlby Centre Executive Committee.

4.34  The Ethics Committee will be responsible for the monitoring of the implementation of directions made and will report back regularly to the Trustees and inform the Chair of The Bowlby Centre Executive Committee of the reports.

4.35  No award of costs or compensation will be made under this procedure.

4.36  Public statements will not be made in relation to complaints or appeals at any time unless in the reasonable view of the Chair of the Investigating Committee or the Ethics Committee that greater harm would be done to those involved by failing to do so.

5.    Complaints about the Bowlby Centre as an Organisation

5.1   Complaints about the practices or behaviours of the Bowlby Centre or its representatives from clients, trainee psychotherapists, members of the Bowlby Centre, members of the public, potential applicants for therapy and people awaiting referral should be addressed in writing/by email to the Chair of the Bowlby Centre Executive Committee.

5.2   The Chair will consider whether the complaint is an ethical issue and take advice from the Chair of Ethics as necessary. The Chair will appoint a Bowlby Centre member, not a member of the Ethics Committee, to be the investigator.

5.3   Usually within 14 days of receipt of the complaint, the Chair of the Bowlby Centre Executive will acknowledge the complaint and tell the complainant who will investigate.

5.4   The investigator will meet the complainant and complete the investigation and will send his/her investigation report to the Chair of the Bowlby Centre Executive with findings and to the Chair of Ethics where it was determined earlier that this is an ethical issue. This process should be completed within 28 days where possible.

5.5   The Investigator and the Chair of the Bowlby Centre Executive or someone delegated with authority to do so by the Chair of the Bowlby Centre Executive will determine the outcome for the complaint and inform the complainant of the outcome and any actions to be taken within 14 days of receipt of the investigator report. The Chair of Ethics will also be involved in determining any outcome should it be considered an ethical issue. The Chair of the Bowlby Centre Executive has the final say in determining any outcome.

5.6   Where the complainant is not satisfied, they have the right to appeal to the Chair of Trustees within 14 days of receipt of the complaint response. The appeal must state why the complaint believes the complaint response was inadequate and what outcomes the complainant wants.

5.7   The Chair of Trustees will determine whether to hear the appeal or delegate this decision to another Trustee.

5.8   The Chair of Trustees will acknowledge the appeal within 14 days and tell the complainant who will hear the appeal.

5.9   The appeal will usually be a paper-based decision although the Trustee can choose to meet with or speak with the complainant or the Investigating Officer or the Chair of the Bowlby Centre Executive as part of the decision making.

5.10 The appeal decision will be given in writing to the complainant and copied to the Chair of the Bowlby Centre Executive within 28 days following acknowledgement of the receipt. This decision is final. The letter will inform the complainant that if they are dissatisfied with the way in which the complaint was handled they can contact the CPJA College within the UKCP.

6.   Complaints by Bowlby Centre members and students

6.1 The purpose of this section of the complaints policy is to provide a procedure to be used if a member of The Bowlby Centre community has a complaint which they are unable to resolve through the normal Bowlby Centre support and communications systems.

6.2 This procedure sets out the way you can seek to resolve:

  • difficulty with something The Bowlby Centre (or someone within The Bowlby Centre community) is doing,
  • an experience when you think that The Bowlby Centre is failing to live up to its values,
  • failures to work well enough within the expectations to work together collegially,
  • failure to implement our agreed procedures.

It aims to support, clarify and help manage the relationships and uphold the values in the way we work together and is designed to give people clear ways for working to resolve things when they have gone wrong.  It is not designed to be used in relation to people’s individual therapy.

6.3 Usually we would expect that disagreements can be resolved amicably by discussion. Before a formal grievance procedure is activated, you must first try to resolve it directly with the person/s involved, with support from others within The Bowlby Centre community, where appropriate.  This stage of the process should take no longer than 14 days, so as not to delay the resolution of disagreements and grievances.

6.4 If you are not satisfied that your grievance has been or can be resolved by informal means and you wish to take the matter further you should raise the matter by writing to your line manager or the Chair of the Committee which is responsible for the area of work within The Bowlby Centre. For current students, this will be the Clinical Training Committee.  For members, it will be the Membership Committee.  This triggers a formal grievance.  The Bowlby Centre representative will organise a meeting (but not necessarily be present at the meeting) to explore your grievance, which will normally take place at The Bowlby Centre. The meeting should normally take place within 14 days of the grievance being raised. The aim of this meeting is to seek ways of resolving the grievance. The members of The Bowlby Centre community asked by Chair of the relevant Committee to assist in attempting to resolve your grievance at this stage of the process must not be: partners and those who have had a therapy, supervision, teaching or tutorial relationship with either party or who is closely acquainted with or interested in either of the parties or the subject matter of the complaint.  A note taker will be present.  All parties will be permitted to bring a friend to attend with them, but those individuals will not usually be invited to speak on behalf of the individuals involved in the formal grievance.

6.5  If this meeting does not resolve your grievance, you can write to the Chair of the Ethics Committee to request an investigation. The Chair of the Ethics Committee will appoint an investigation officer within 7 days to report back to the Ethics Committee as to whether there is a case to answer on the complaint. The following will not be eligible to participate in the consideration of a complaint: partners and those who have had a therapy, supervision, teaching or tutorial relationship, or who is closely acquainted with or interested in either of the parties or the subject matter of the complaint. The Chair of the Ethics Committee will write to all parties involved in the complaint, informing them of the investigation officer, within 14 days of receiving the formal complaint.

6.6 A maximum of 28 days will be normally allowed for the investigation once the investigation officer has been appointed by the Chair of the Ethics Committee.  The investigation officer will likely speak to all parties involved in, and witness to, the complaint, as well as request and consider relevant paperwork.

6.7 The investigation officer will decide whether there is a case to answer and report to the Chair of the Ethics Committee.  The standard of proof to be applied by the investigation officer will be balance of probability.  The investigation officer may make recommendations to the parties, including any misconduct penalties, and to The Bowlby Centre concerning ways in which issues raised by the complaint may be addressed. The basis for the misconduct penalties applied will be the same as in The Bowlby Centre’s Code of Conduct.

6.8 The Chair of the Ethics Committee will write to all parties to the complaint with details of the investigation outcome and the detail of any misconduct penalties, within 14 days of the investigation report.  If there are recommendations for The Bowlby Centre, the Chair of the Ethics Committee will also write to the Chair of the Executive Committee outlining those recommendations.

6.9 An appeal against a decision that there is no case to answer may be made to The Chair of the Ethics Committee by the complainant within 14 days of receipt of the outcome. The Ethics Committee will, within 7 days, appoint an Appeal Panel made up from persons not involved in the investigation. The following will not be eligible to participate in an appeal hearing: partners and those who have had a therapy, supervision, teaching or tutorial relationship with or who is closely acquainted with or interested in any of the parties or the subject matter of the complaint. The Appeal Panel shall consist of:

  • two psychotherapists, one of whom shall be a member of the Ethics Committee and at least one of whom shall be a member of The Bowlby Centre (this member may be the member of the Ethics Committee); and,
  • one lay member who is not a Bowlby Centre member and who has a knowledge of psychotherapeutic practice.

6.10 The role of the Appeal Panel is to:

  • Hear the appeal from the complainant
  • Decide whether further investigation is required and if necessary take reasonable steps to carry out that investigation;
  • Decide whether to uphold the appeal;
  • Determine what sanctions are to be imposed where an appeal is upheld.

6.11 The standard of proof to be applied by the Appeal Panel will be balance of probability.  Usually, the Appeal Panel will convene a hearing but has the option of deciding the appeal on papers without convening a hearing.  Either way, the Appeal Panel is expected to make a decision on the complaint within 28 days of being appointed by the Chair of the Ethics Committee.

6.12 Where the complaint is upheld the Appeal Panel will make clear and specific recommendations to the Ethics Committee for misconduct penalties on individuals or ways for The Bowlby Centre to improve its operations.  The basis for any misconduct penalties will be The Bowlby Centre’s Code of Conduct.

6.13 The Chair of the Ethics Committee will write to all parties involved in the complaint within 7 days of receiving the report of the Appeal Panel, specifying the decision and any individual sanctions and any recommendations for The Bowlby Centre.  If there are recommendations for The Bowlby Centre, the Chair of the Ethics Committee will also write to the Chair of the Executive Committee outlining those recommendations.