All members of the Association accept that they are accountable for their actions. The existence of the Complaints Procedure demonstrates one aspect of the Association’s concern for the provision of quality psychotherapy and the maintenance of high professional standards. Complaints may arise with or without foundation, and it is the Association’s responsibility to resolve the questions raised and provide an outcome.
Procedures have been developed to assist Council in dealing with complaints made against members (or provisional members) of the Association. The aim is to provide natural justice and consistency and a process that is fair, effective, timely and subject to external scrutiny.
Psychotherapists in the Association are professional practitioners who understand that psychotherapy takes place within the context of complex relationships. Sometimes psychotherapy raises boundary issues and ethical questions which are difficult for psychotherapist and client to manage.
There may be occasions when it seems appropriate to complain. The Association has a process available to members, clients, or others to enquire whether a complaint about a member is appropriate and would be supported by the Association.
If a psychotherapist or a client wants to find out whether their concerns are substantive enough to form the basis for a complaint the first step is to contact the Complaints Convenor through the Association’s Executive Officer. The Complaints Convenor is a senior member of the Association whose sole responsibility is to ensure that the process is followed correctly and that people’s rights and confidentiality issues are attended to. Sometimes simply talking to the Complaints Convenor results in a way forward without using more steps in the process. In situations where the Convenor fails to resolve the issue or judges its nature to be in possible breach of good professional standards or the Association’s Code of Ethics, he or she forwards the complaint to the Complaints Assessment Committee. This small committee is independent of the Complaints Convenor and has a lay person in attendance. If they decide the complaint should proceed, the complainant and the respondent are advised accordingly. A well-designed procedure ensures that each person’s rights are protected. These steps are shown in a flow chart which the Association can make available to members and clients. If a complaint is proven, there are provisions for ensuring that members are held accountable.
There is also a Professional Practice review procedure which provides the opportunity for a practitioner’s work to be discussed and reviewed carefully. This scrutiny may be requested or required by Council. The Ethics and Professional Standards Committee meets as required, is convened by its appointed chairperson and draws its members from around the country. It reports its findings to Council and to the practitioner under review. This is another aspect of the Association’s concern to promote and support safe ethical practice and to provide guidance and review of individual practice. The Committee takes care to be respectful and helpful to those concerned. Its work may be instead of, or in addition to, the function of the complaints process.
The Complaints Procedure sits alongside the Code of Ethics and the The Constitution (PDF, 170Kb) of the Association. The Association reviews the process and makes amendments when necessary. The aim is to enable psychotherapists and clients to feel supported and safe. The psychotherapy profession is enhanced when boundaries are in place and there are pathways to resolve important ethical issues.