'Therapist reignited sex abuse trauma'

'Therapist reignited sex abuse trauma'
From BBC - November 1, 2017

The ineffective regulation of those practising talking therapies - such as counselling and psychotherapy - is leaving patients at risk of harm, the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme has been told.

For two sexual abuse victims, painful memories were brought back to the surface.

Sitting in a room with three female counsellors, "Marie" hoped her counselling would help her deal with at least some of the emotional pain caused by the sexual abuse she had endured from the age of nine to 18.

They had begun by saying "all the right things", she explains.

But looking back on the session now, she feels like she had been in a "place of terror".

The main practitioner sat so close, she says, that she was able to feel their breath - reigniting memories of past sexual assaults.

"It was very intimidating, my space being invaded," says Marie.

When she repeatedly sat with her legs crossed, contrary to the therapist's orders, she says the counsellor "actually got hold of me, holding my arms, looking in my eyes".

"I was getting very, very distressed, and feeling very sick, very ill, shaking.

"It's at that point they actually brought a sick bowl in because I was so distressed and traumatised."

The therapists later asked her if she wanted to be given a bath by all three of them, "as a way of showing nurturing towards me", she says.

'Slap on wrist'

The government has recently begun a consultation into the regulation of healthcare professionals, calling for an improved system "to protect patients".

"While the healthcare regulators are generally effective in protecting the public from serious harm," the Department of Health says in the foreword, "there has been criticism, not least from the regulators themselves, that the system is slow, expensive, complicated, reactive, overly adversarial and confusing for patients, professionals and employers."

The main therapist was suspended following a hearing after Marie made complaints against her.

But after an appeal process - which Marie was not allowed to attend - this was withdrawn, and she was allowed to continue to practise.

"It's appalling, it's disgraceful," she says. "They have caused me so much harm and yet the sanctions they give - it's like a slap on the wrist.

"Most therapists are ethical, but the ones that are not - there's no deterrent."

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