The Conflict – Update & Zarathustra

On 17 February, we published the following post about a conflict involving this service.

https://palacegatecounsellingservice.wordpress.com/2014/02/17/the-conflict/

I was interested to see this article by Zarathustra, a.k.a. Phil Dore, on that post.

http://notsobigsociety.wordpress.com/2014/02/27/exeter-counselling-service/

If you would like to read the full story in our words, just follow the first link above (Zarathustra has also included this). As he says, our post is rather long. But, like him, you may find it interesting. I do indeed ‘view this as something important’. Very important, in fact, for reasons that our post outlines.

On the face of it, Zarathustra’s post seems an open-minded comment on something we chose to put in the public arena. The quotations are all accurate, although I have a small question mark about Zarathustra’s motivation for his selection of quotations.

There is a slight inaccuracy in Zarathustra’s article. He quotes our list of 12 or so concurrent complaints, all emanating from the same group of therapists (centred around two people who used to work with us at this service). Zarathustra comments: ‘According to Talbott, all these complaints have been apparently unsuccessful’. That seems to me somewhat misleading.

What we in fact said was this:-

‘So far, four official processes have concluded, all in our favour and/or that of the practitioner concerned. There has been no finding against us or that practitioner, and no finding in favour of the complainants.’

We have also given some specific information about the specific complaints (of the list of 12), including outcomes where we know them.

Clearly this is not a major inaccuracy by Zarathustra, and may be accidental. Nonetheless, I am choosing to correct it.

I have a further issue. My take on Zarathustra’s article is that he is presenting himself as ‘uninvolved, but interested’. Fair enough. Except I am not convinced Zarathustra IS uninvolved.

For a considerable time, one of the complainants has published references to Zarathustra’s internet comment, including on the ‘Not So Big Society’ blog. That complainant has also had direct interaction with Zarathustra, and they appear to share some ideology, e.g. strongly pro counselling regulation.

This suggests to me that Zarathustra’s post may be disingenuous, come from a position of undisclosed knowledge, and bring an undisclosed agenda. If so, I have issues with that from an ethical/congruence perspective. My guess is that his next post may be rather less neutral in tone.

I may be wrong – I am open to that possibility. However, I want to state my unease, and my reasons for it.

I also note that Zarathustra omits from his selected quotations our stated reasons for making the – clearly unconventional  – choice to publish ‘The Conflict’ in the first place. We did this in response to repeated public comment by those involved (as well as approaches to inappropriate third parties from the outset, described in our above post). In view of this, we decided it was important for this service to have a voice.

Zarathustra also omits another point included in our own post:-

‘In our 18 year history, we have never experienced a client or a therapist engaging in an external complaints process. To put this in context, we currently see some 160 clients a week, and around 30 therapists choose to work with us (often for many years).’

Obviously we do now have two therapists engaging in an external complaints process. It remains the case that no client of this service has ever engaged in such a process. We have given the context for this above, in terms of client numbers.

Interestingly, Zarathustra refers to Phoenix Counselling Services in his article, the not-for-profit company of which ‘Palace Gate Counselling Service’ is the trading name. Although this is readily ascertainable public information, it does not feature in our two blog posts to which Zarathustra links. He has also included a number of other links, for example to my personal blog and a colleague’s private practice website. Zarathustra certainly does seem to be taking an interest. It appears he has done a little research on us, or perhaps does indeed have some prior information about this matter.

He has also tagged our service name and my/my colleague’s names within his post.

I note some of Zarathustra’s own comments seem to come from those who show signs of enjoying a witch hunt themselves, and may be willing to make assumptions and judgements without evidence. I have simultaneously posted my comments on his article, and I am interested to see if he will publish that.

Zarathustra ends by saying ‘It sounds as though a very interesting tale may be about to unfold’. Personally I question the benefit of further public tellings of this tale, however ‘interesting’ it may be to Zarathustra or other readers.  This is because at the heart of this situation are human beings, who have already experienced varying – and considerable – degrees of pain and damage in their lives, as a result of this conflict. We recognize that includes the complainants, however much we may challenge their behaviour and motivations.

However, if the complainants (or indeed commentators like Zarathustra) choose to publish further material, we will publish reflective responses, with supporting evidence to the extent necessary – in defence of our clients, therapists and an according-to-means service which has had an excellent reputation and served Exeter for the past 18 years.

My own preferences notwithstanding, I anticipate there may well be further ‘unfolding’ in the wind. That will be what it will be.

Lindsey Talbott, Therapist and Supervisor

Palace Gate Counselling Service

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One Response to The Conflict – Update & Zarathustra

  1. Pingback: Our Service, the BACP & the regulation debate | Palace Gate Counselling Service

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