BACP Appeal Panel rules on Lesley Pilkington Christian therapy case

23 May 2012

The British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy (BACP) has this week informed a Christian counsellor that, following her appeal, she will still lose her senior accredited status, after she was tricked into provided counselling to a fake client who was secretly an undercover journalist.

However, the Appeal Panel reversed much of the original decision against the counsellor, Lesley Pilkington, and has now lessened the original sanctions against her.

Original complaint

Mrs Pilkington, a counsellor with over 20 years of experience, was originally subject to a complaint made by homosexual journalist Patrick Strudwick, who approached Lesley while attending a Christian conference about sexuality and pretended to be a Christian in need of help over unwanted homosexual attraction. Lesley agreed to help him and they mutually agreed that the counselling would be based on Christian principles.

Throughout the two counselling sessions, Mr Strudwick repeatedly told Lesley that he wanted to leave his homosexual lifestyle, that it had become meaningless to him and that he wanted to change.

Following the sessions he lodged a complaint to the BACP to get her struck off. He also secretly recorded his two sessions with Lesley, and then sold his story to a national newspaper, maligning Lesley in the press.

The Appeal Panel found this week that Lesley should still lose her senior accredited status because she should not have assumed that Mr Strudwick wanted to proceed under the same therapeutic approach that she offered, despite the fact they both agreed to do so. It also found that she should not have taken his claim that he was depressed because of his homosexuality at face value.

Issue over client status

The panel also ruled that Patrick was a real client, despite him being an undercover reporter who had approached her on false pretences.

However, the panel also upheld the following mitigating circumstances:

“Mr Strudwick was not open about his true intention in engaging the services of Mrs Pilkington and in significant ways deliberately misled her into believing that he was comfortable and accepting of her approach, such as saying Amen at the end of prayers and making statements such as, “I’ve become more religious again recently”, lulling Mrs Pilkington into a false sense of security. In his persistent questioning he manipulated the content of the sessions to a considerable extent in order to meet his own agenda.”

Mrs Pilkington contended that Mr Strudwick was never a genuine client and therefore no professional relationship existed between them. She also demonstrated that he had clearly affirmed and agreed to her therapeutic approach.

Mr. Strudwick’s complaint against Lesley was in fact highly politically motivated and aimed at exposing ‘reparative therapy’ and attacking those who practise it.

He told ‘Pink News’ on 10 Feb 2010: “We want to root out therapists and psychiatrists who are practising these techniques and ultimately bring an end to them through exposing them, as well as disrupting their meetings. The ultimate aim was to prevent religious groups from offering ‘counselling’ which aims to change sexual orientation.”

Now that the appeal panel has decided that Mr Strudwick was a real client, concerns have been raised over the vulnerability of all Christian councillors, as they are now open to harassment from undercover journalists and gay activists approaching them pretending to be clients.

Reparative therapy

Although Mr Strudwick initially tried to use his complaint against Lesley to stop reparative therapy taking place in the UK, he was later forced to drop this approach and he told the BCAP in the appeal hearing that he was not seeking to challenge the efficiency of therapy for same-sex attraction. He had no evidence to establish that such therapy is not beneficial to some clients.

This leaves councillors free to continue providing this therapy to motivated clients. Mr Strudwick also failed to get Lesley’s membership of the BACP revoked.

The Appeal Panel held that Lesley was knowledgeable on the subject matter and had not breached any of the minor allegations including those related to time keeping and introducing Mr Strudwick to her husband.

‘Inclusive’ society

Lesley Pilkington said:

“I am grateful that reparative therapy remains recognised by the BACP; but who is going to protect Christian counsellors from continued harassment?  My witnesses were not permitted to be called and they were fearful of intimidation by homosexual activists who were sending abusive phone calls.

“Regrettably, there is an attempt by some to silence Christian viewpoints on marriage, sexuality and on the upbringing of children.

“We are supposed to live in an inclusive and diverse society. Does that then mean it’s inclusive and diverse for everyone except those who want to leave their same sex attraction, and those therapists who want to help them? And do we want the kind of society where bullying, and intimidation, lies and betrayal are used to accomplish dubious purposes? Such behaviour is totally unacceptable in any civilized society and must be exposed for what it is and utterly condemned.”

Andrea Minichiello Williams, CEO of the Christian Legal Centre, said:

“An experienced counsellor who has spent so many years helping people has been put under investigation and dragged through the press following the deceit and aggression of a homosexual activist.

“Lesley has been penalised because she was targeted as a Christian and because she believes that people are free to choose to change their behaviour if they wish.

“For Patrick to seek to take away her professional accreditation and malign her in this way exposes the more sinister side of the homosexual lobby. It’s incredibly intolerant.”

Mrs Pilkington is being supported by the Christian Legal Centre.

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