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Archive for the ‘my formal complaints’ Category

God I hate these assholes. I know that is not a particularly nuanced comment, but that’s what all my feelings add up to.

Now on to discussing the response in detail.

First, note that the grifter therapist never responded to my second letter, even though the process permitted her to do so. I suspect that she thought she had it in the bag already, so there was no need. And she was right!

It’s clear to me now that the committee’s default approach is to find ways to excuse the therapist’s behaviour. Only in the very worst cases (e.g. having sex with a client, defrauding a client) will the committee actually impose sanctions. The Agency posts the horror stories on its website, but these are a fraction – like 5% – of the total complaints the Agency receives.

Second, a few quibbles. The response is dated November 10, 2010, but I did not receive it until February 15, 2012, THREE months afterwards. I think that in itself is indicative of the Agency’s commitment to addressing complaints. Actually I think somewhere the Agency states that it aims to have all complaints resolved in 4 months. The summary also misquotes me in a few places. E.g. I wrote that “I only claim that (therapist) was practising on me the the therapy that she herself claims to practise, and to to teach.” The summary has it as “I can only claim…”. It’s a subtle but importance difference.

Also, whoever did the summary has a weird habit of putting legitimate terms into quotes as if there is something wrong or doubtful about the terms. E.g. “anticipatory grief”. Anticipatory grief is a common term in the literature, and given how common it is in people’s lives, one would think that a group of mental health professionals would be familiar with the term and the concept. Another one is “unvalidated”. (I think that also appears with a [sic] beside it.) Unvalidated is a common, legitimate term in the context of psychotherapeutic modalities, which, again, seems like something the committee should already know. Another one is “specific examples”. I guess that’s not an everyday term? Does the summarizer need a remedial course in punctuation?

Third, as with the other complaint, the summary leaves a lot of stuff out, and I wonder if the committee actually saw my letters. I think there is some pretty compelling information in my footnotes about the theory and assumptions of Gestalt therapy. I think it backs up my claims that I was getting Gestalt therapy. Why remove it? Is there a formal rule against footnotes in complaint letters? Of course there isn’t. I highly doubt the committee would have anticipated them and decided in advance not to allow them. I think the real reasons are 1) laziness on the part of the summarizer, and 2) a sly way of weakening my complaint.

Fourth, the really juicy and offensive stuff is on page 11. There is “insufficient information” to determine whether it was Gestalt or Cognitive Behaviour therapy? I guess that can happen when someone just cuts out a bunch of information. Also, I guess it doesn’t matter that I never consented to either modality, that I never consented to any modality.

Having researched both modalities very thoroughly, I know that the committee was really reaching to claim that my “specific examples” [sic] are equally consistent with CBT. E.g. the committee claims that the therapist’s calling me “to arrange a termination session” is consistent with CBT. It isn’t. There isn’t anything in the CBT literature that says a therapist should chase after a client who quits. For another e.g., CBT is very big on the therapist and client collaborating to identify specific cognitive or behavioural problems to address, set treatment goals, and lay out a treatment plan. None of this happened in my sessions. (I could go on and on, but I recommend you do your own reading and thinking on both modalities, if you are really interested in understanding the difference.)

And anyway, the therapist’s own advertising is full of guff about her training and expertise in Gestalt therapy, and doesn’t say a word about CBT. Is it really plausible that she just happened, in my particular case, to choose a different modality than her speciality? If so, why? By what process did she determine that CBT was the correct choice?

By no process, because it’s all butt-saving horseshit. The therapist and committee know that CBT has more mainstream acceptance than Gestalt therapy, therefore it’s more “OK” if that’s what was being done to me.

The last paragraph on page 11 is really strange. Read it very carefully and see what you think. It seems to be saying that even if the therapist was doing Gestalt therapy, it’s not a problem because the Committee is “not aware” of any information etc that says it is a problem. (The paragraph also says that I did not provide them with any such information. Um, yeah, I did, but someone censored it. Nice ethical operation they’re running over there.) So, the Committee’s ignorance gets the therapist off the hook. If the committee members haven’t happened to have heard anything against a type of therapy, then it’s OK to use that therapy? Is that how it works? Yikes. I would have thought that all Agency members have an ethical responsibility to keep up to date on the literature and know which therapies have been validated and which haven’t.

But let’s go through the points one by one.

(…the Committee is not aware of any information, standard of practice or other authority, upon which [it could be found that]…)

—Gestalt therapy is a “highly questionable form of therapy”

I thought the information in my footnotes did a pretty good job of explaining why it’s questionable. It based on the assumption that clients are lying or deluded about their own situation and that therapists can freely speculate on what the “real” problem is, i.e., make shit up. And that therapists can pressure and harangue clients into admitting to that they are lying or deluded. And that a client feeling worse is a sign that therapy is working. Jesus Christ. That’s not questionable?

—Gestalt therapy is a therapeutic modality inappropriate to the goals or purposes sought therapy with the therapist – “anticipatory grief”, anger in relation to recent workplace bullying, and deterioration of a new relationship

If the Committee members weren’t so ignorant, they would know that Gestalt therapy has never been validated for anything. Ever. The most you will find is some anecdotal and unverified reports of it really working out for some clients. (This is true for many psychotherapeutic modalities, because there is no consensus on how to validate therapies. The whole thing is a mess.) Gestaltists in particular are very resistant to any kind of validation or evaluation of the therapy. They claim Gestalt is too unique to be tested. I think they just don’t want to outed as charlatans. Anyway, some basic research shows that there haven’t been any refereed articles about Gestalt in any of the major psychology/psychotherapy journals in decades. It’s been totally abandoned by academic researchers, and it was never that popular with them to begin with.

—the therapist was required to disclose to the client, and seek her consent to every therapeutic aspect or modality she might employ in providing therapy to the client, even if that was possible

Well, yeah, actually, the therapist IS required to seek consent for every aspect or modality. It’s right there in the Agency’s own standard of practice, and the relevant section is quoted on the previous page. Principle III, Interpretation 3.1. The stuff about providing clients with “accurate and complete” information about services. For fuck’s sake, people, at least TRY to pretend to give a shit about your own supposed ethics.

This part just drives me up the wall. Informed consent is just not that fucking hard of a concept to get your mind around. It’s not called “uninformed consent”. If you haven’t discussed it with the client, the client is not informed, therefore, you do not have informed consent. If you are withholding information about treatment from the client, you do not have informed consent. Not sure where you stand? Talk to the client about it.

—the services provided by the therapist…were irrelevant or otherwise not in conformity with the Agency’s standards

Pair that up with the earlier part (…the Committee is not aware of any information, standard of practice or other authority, upon which [it could be found that]…) and see if that makes any sense. “Irrelevant” strikes me as an odd word to use. I never said that anything the therapist did was “irrelevant”. If you figure out what the committee is saying here, please let me know.

Sixth, and last, is the matter of the therapist’s qualifications. The committee is apparently willing to accept evidence of having been a student at the Gestalt Institute back in 1996 as proof of being a faculty member of the Institute in 2011. Funny – in the 1990s I was awarded two degrees by two different universities but I’m pretty sure that doesn’t allow me to claim that I teach at either of them. (Actually I was a teaching assistant at one, but the degree isn’t proof of it.) The committee is also willing to ignore evidence that the Gestalt Institute no longer exists. It has no website, no phone number, no mailing address, no course curriculum. So, isn’t it time for the therapist to stop making that claim? She is at best a former faculty member. I mean, jeez, this sort of dishonesty on a resume could get you fired with many employers, but the Agency lets it slide. What does that say about their ethics?

Also, the “Gestalt Psychotherapy Association” no longer exists either, but the Agency accepts the therapist’s membership in it as evidence of the therapist’s status at the institute. That’s like accepting evidence of East German citizenship as proof of Yugoslavian citizenship.

OK, how to put this all in a nutshell? If you choose a therapist who is a member of this Agency, know that they are allowed to:

-do whatever type of therapy they want without checking to see if you agree to it
-lie about their qualifications

Nice. I wonder why they want me to keep quiet about all this?

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As Oprah used to say when introducing clips on her show – take a look!

response to complaint 2

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Complaint #2

Here is complaint #2. The documents themselves explain the situation fairly well. I ask you to particularly note where the therapist admits she doesn’t talk about her background, techniques or methods once the client has agreed to work with her. So essentially she baits and switches her clients. It’s not like she tells clients “Now that you have agreed to work with me, I am going to use techniques and methods that we have not discussed. And I’m not going to tell you what they are or when I’m using them. That OK with you?”

Also, notice that she provides no evidence of currently being a practitioner at the therapy school or even of the therapy school still existing. (It doesn’t. I checked. The phone number is out of service and the website is down and has been for at least two years. But even when it did exist, it was just an office in a suburban low-rise block, and the courses were one weekend a month for 9 months or so. The school itself was not accredited in any way. I can’t find any information about the founder other than that for a little while he taught part-time at a local university. Actually I think he is dead now.) All she says is, effectively, yeah, I’m still a “clinical faculty member” at that school. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find that every graduate of the school is also a “clinical faculty member” of it.

The therapist’s comment about her actions being consistent with her principles, including “proper practice”, I find especially galling. She never did any kind of assessment with me, never discussed therapy goals or a treatment plan, and never even offered those as an option, yet they are ALL considered part of best practice in psychotherapy. They are part of the standards of practice of the Agency no less! But she didn’t do them, and she thinks that’s OK. The fact that I think it is not OK is irrelevant. Nice, eh? No surprise that she didn’t mention the irrelevancy of my thoughts and preferences at the start of therapy.

I suspect that the only reason the therapist is so frank in her letter is that she counted on 1) the secrecy of the complaint process and 2) that the committee would be biased towards her.

Anyway, take a look, do your own thinking and form your own opinion. Then let me know: would you hire this person as your therapist?

complaint 2

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The first time I sat down to write this commentary, I got so angry I had to stop and stay away from it for a week. Reading over the Agency’s response I see so much blaming-the-victim and cognitive distortion – all just to get the therapist off the hook. The fundamental question is: was that an appropriate message to leave on an ex-client’s work voicemail, and did it risk the ex-client’s confidentiality? The answer is: No, it wasn’t, and yes, it did.

I am certain of my answer because if you asked a random person about this situation, they would agree with me. No one wants to get a message like that at work. No one wants their confidentiality put at risk. Everyone can see that the surest way to maintain confidentiality is not to leave such a message in the first place.

Now, on to my blow-by-blow commentary of the response.

Right away I see that the summary does not contain the full text of the message left by my ex-therapist. The full message was 187 words. The excerpted parts add up to 33 words, just 18% of the original. My concern here is that the committee never saw the text of the full message, that it was edited down by an Agency staff member as they saw fit. Of course that would skew the committee’s interpretation. This message:

touch base and say goodbye
if there were things that have happened that [you] were not pleased with or felt disappointed with in the therapy
someone else who may be a better fit

is a whole lot less invasive and indiscreet that this one:

Hello [client] it’s [therapist], I got your message, thanks for calling. If you have a chance, when you have a chance, I’d like to just touch base with you just to be able to say goodbye, and I’m thinking of you, and thinking well of you, and hoping that your reasons for not wanting to come back are good ones. And I’ve just been thinking about you, and just want a chance to touch base and say goodbye, and if things haven’t gone the way you wanted, or if there were things that have happened that you were not pleased with or feel disappointed with in the therapy, I would be pleased to hear about that and to listen to that. And if there is someone else who might be a better fit, I would be pleased to help you connect with whoever that might be. Give me a call, and let me know when might be best to reach you. I might be able to try you later tonight at home too, but I’ll leave you my work number. Hope to connect with you soon.

[Although the shorter message still gives away “therapy”, anyone listening to either message would know that it wasn’t about massage therapy or a spa treatment. (Note: when spas leave confirmation messages on voicemails, they NEVER say what the appointment is for. Mani-pedi, bikini wax, threading, facials – whatever you are having done, they keep that shit PRIVATE.)]

On page 4 under “Reasons”, the committee says that the therapist did not act in bad faith by leaving the message. I think the therapist’s intentions are irrelevant here. Confidential is CONFIDENTIAL. Once you pee in the swimming pool, you can’t get the pee back out. It doesn’t matter if you didn’t mean for that to happen.

The blaming-the-victim stuff is found where the summary says things like

1) the client didn’t tell the therapist that the daytime number was her work number, (The therapist never asked. I was supposed to know to tell her? Isn’t most people’s daytime number their work number? Plus my outgoing message makes it perfectly clear that it is my work voicemail.), and

2) that there was no indication that anyone else used the line (I was supposed to know to tell her that too? But the therapist is not responsible for asking me that? And technically, it’s not my voicemail, it’s my employer’s, which means my employer can rightfully access it at any time.).

Also, I really do not care for this remark: “both the Member and the Complainant made minor oversights that resulted in this unfortunate series of events.” Grrr. I didn’t make ANY oversights, because it’s NOT MY JOB to teach the therapist about confidentiality. This REALLY vexes me. Aren’t therapists supposed to know how to maintain confidentiality already? Doctors do, banks do, freaking spas do, but therapists don’t need to? (I DARE the Agency to put that on its website.)

I answered the question as it was asked – for a daytime phone number. I was NEVER asked if confidential information could be left at either number. It’s not an oversight not to answer a question that was never asked. The Agency just doesn’t want to acknowledge that its Member fucked up.

Notice on the last page (last two sentences of the second paragraph) that the committee backtracks a little by noting that by saying “the therapy” the therapist exposed her identity (yeah, that’s what makes it a breach of confidentiality, duh), and that in future the therapist should change her intake form, and be as “vague as is reasonable” when leaving messages for clients.

Personally, I think “vague as is reasonable” is still too loose, because “reasonable” can be debated. I think the only sure way to maintain confidentiality in a voicemail message is to say next to nothing, e.g. “This is [therapist’s name]. Please call me.” Even leaving the therapist’s phone number is too risky, since a Google search or reverse-lookup could identify the therapist. The client has the therapist’s phone number anyway, or can look it up themselves. If the client doesn’t call back, that’s the breaks. Life goes on.

After all that, the reasons for the Agency wanting me to keep this secret is pretty clear: The Agency knows that their decision will not hold up to public scrutiny. They want the public to believe in their authority, so that they public will continue to pay for the services of the Agency members, who pay – through membership fees – the salaries of Agency staff. If the public loses confidence in the Agency and it members, and decides to get the same services from other providers or just not to bother with the services at all (since therapy isn’t proven to work anyway, who needs it?), the dollars will cease to flow, and these folks will be out of a job.

So, ask yourself, if you knew at the start that the above was the TRUE level of confidentiality you could expect, would you still have dealings with this Agency or any of its members?

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No time like the present. Here is the Agency’s (Complaints Committee) response to my complaint. Take a look, form your own opinion, and later on I’ll post my commentary.

response to complaint 1

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I think my first letter pretty much speaks for itself, although one thing I do not touch on is the therapist’s comment about “I hope your reasons for [quitting therapy] are good ones.” I really don’t think it was her place to comment AT ALL on my reasons for doing anything once the therapy relationship had been severed. I also think it was a clue to how much she over-valued her opinion while devaluing mine. What difference does it make what she thinks or feels about my reasons? I quit. It’s done.

1) The reply from the Regulatory Agency

What I find vexing and unethical about this letter is that it is the first mention that Complainants are expected to keep the complaint confidential. That is NOT what it says on the Agency’s website. In fact the Agency website says that Complainants must be aware that there is no guarantee that their complaint will be kept confidential. This is primarily to do with complaints that lead to legal proceedings or situations where in order to properly investigate a complaint, confidentiality must be broken. I understand that, but I think there is a double standard here. The Agency gets to decide whether to keep a complaint confidential, but the client has no say. This info is kept from the client until after their file their complaint, when it is too late. It’s a bait-and-switch. The Agency could, at the very least, post this info on its website so that clients know in advance how the process works.

2) The Therapist’s response

I have a very low opinion of this woman anyway, so I’m not going to cut her any slack here.

First, her letter has a lot of guff about her commitment to standards of practice yadda yadda. Whatever, bitch. Commitment is something you DO, not something you gasbag about.

Second, she kind of suggests that since I didn’t specify what info was OK to leave on which voicemail, how was she to know? Here’s what you do, bitch: Assume nothing, and err on the side of caution. I.e. DON’T leave confidential info on ANY voicemail.

For fuck’s sake, it’s not that hard. I work in an environment where ALL of my communication is subject to Freedom of Information inquiries, so I just never put anything in an email, voicemail, letter, etc that is in any way confidential or questionable. I always pre-emptively filter my work communications to meet the “what if this ended up on the news?” standard. And I don’t deal with much confidential or sensitive material to begin with, nothing equivalent to what a therapist is privy to. Shouldn’t a therapist’s behaviour conform to the HIGHEST standard of confidentiality?

Third, this stuff about how my work voicemail outgoing message did not indicate that others used the line or would take my calls or whatever… please. It’s my WORK voicemail. It is for WORK purposes, not to coach people from my personal life on how to be discreet.

Fourth, this rubbish about “a healthy closure to a therapeutic process” is really all about HER. I.e. conforming to HER notions of healthy closure, not mine. I was fine with how things closed, that’s why I handled it the way I did. If I had wanted to speak to her about quitting therapy, I would have made some effort to do so. What is so difficult to understand about that?

This is what I get from her letter: SHE assumed it was OK to spill my confidential info onto my work voicemail, SHE believed it was necessary to discuss termination with me, therefore HER actions were OK. Like her opinion is the only one that matters. What I don’t see is any respect for MY decision to end therapy the way I chose. It is, after all, my time, my money, my life.

Also, bitch please: YOU JUST GOT CANNED. You’re not my therapist anymore, so it doesn’t matter what you think about what I do. TAKE THE HINT.

Fifth, I must point out her notes on confidentiality on her “Policies of Practice” document. She guarantees the “strictest of confidence” except under certain conditions, none of which apply to my case.

Um, yeah. Drooling into my work voicemail =/= strict confidence.

Next up: the Agency’s response!

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Complaint #1

Finally I get around to copying and scanning the documents related to my formal complaint against my ex-griftertherapist.

It is necessary to conceal identifying information so I don’t risk getting sued. I had to play around with white-out and markers to find the best method of concealment. I apologize for the messiness – it took a few tries! In order to save time and hassle, I won’t post the letters from the Licensing Agency that only acknowledge my letters and contain no pertinent information.

Complaint #1 relates to a confidentiality issue. I’ll let you all review my letter and the therapist’s response, and then post again with my thoughts and commentary on it.

So, take a look!

complaint 1

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