Reviewer Sue Murphy
Peter Jenkins, author of Counselling, Psychotherapy and the Law, has issued a DVD entitled Therapists and Professional Negligence: A Duty of Care? which gives trainers, students and other professionals in the therapy field a clear digest of the relevance and relationship of current legislation to counselling and psychotherapy.
Divided into two parts with an informative booklet, Counselling Ethics and the Law, and The Case of Dr Theodor Werner, the DVD aims to cover key elements of UK law, as defined by its main structures and boundaries, and the significant issue for therapists of professional negligence.
The importance of the DVD lies in the ways in which Jenkins offers the viewer thorough but reassuring information about the precise conditions which would need to be met for a case of professional negligence to be brought to court. It is revealing that in the UK there is a single successful case of this nature reported at Appeal Court Level. The unique case of Werner versus Landau (1961), which centres on the legal test for winning a case against a therapist for negligence under civil law, is discussed in detail in an interview with Jenkins. Here we learn of both the rarity of such a case and of the substantial difficulties faced by a court in proving the three legal conditions necessary for conviction. Jenkins is careful to make the distinction between this example and that of a complaint taken up by a professional body which is outside the civil court system and where clients may be more likely to succeed.
There is an interesting discussion about the impact of theoretical models and how accusations of professional negligence might be applied to different conceptual modalities, ie if a complaint is made against a CBT practitioner, for example, the case would be considered within the professional framework of that particular modality.
Whilst this a useful tool in the trainer’s box, it would be helpful if the quantity of the information were to be illustrated with some visual aids, perhaps in the form of charts, or notes or animated graphics.
It is not the business of this DVD to enter into the complex territories of professional ethical dilemmas where there are often competing demands with no clearly defined answers; this might be an important subject for a subsequent DVD in this helpful series.
Sue Murphy B.A. M.A. Cert.Ed. UKCP Registered Psychotherapist. Dip. Supervision has been working for over 25 years as a psychotherapist, supervisor, trainer and manager of counseling services in the NHS, Voluntary Sector, Further and Higher Education. She has specialised in working with young people and eating disorders. Currently she supervises teams in the NHS and voluntary sector, and individuals in a variety of charitable organisations. She is Head of the Diploma in Supervision Course at the Minster Centre.