22 May 2012

‘Gay cure’ therapist loses appeal against suspension

Psychotherapist Lesley Pilkington loses her appeal against suspension from her professional body over a therapy session with a journalist who posed as a christian wanting to be “cured” of being gay.

Ms Pilkington, a qualified psychotherapist, was first suspended in 2010 by the British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists (BACP) for breaching the BACP ethical framework.

In May 2009 campaigning journalist Patrick Strudwick went to see Ms Pilkington posing as “Matthew” and describing himself as a Christian who did not want to be gay any more. He secretly recorded the therapy sessions as part of an investigation into “conversion therapy” – a controversial treatment that claims to help a patient deny his or her attraction to the same sex.

In its original report, the BACP professional conduct panel found that: “In what was intended to be an assessment session, Mrs Pilkington did disclose her personal views on the complainant’s lifestyle and sexual orientation.

“Mrs Pilkington confirmed in response to questioning by the complainant that in her opinion same sex attraction (SSA) is similar to depression in mental illness and is addictive behaviourally like alcoholism.” The appeal panel found this to be inappropriate.

The appeal panel also reported that Mrs Pilkington had: “asked the complainant if there was any freemasonry in his family despite knowing that his parents were both Catholics. She then asserted that ‘freemasonry often encourages it [homosexuality] as well’.”

The panel concluded that: “in this therapeutic session it was totally inappropriate and unnecessary to raise what appeared to be Mrs Pilkington’s personal views about freemasonry”.

Mrs Pilkington also seemed to imply that “Matthew” may have some repressed memory of sexual abuse, an approach that was described by the appeal panel as “entirely wrong”.

The appeal panel agreed that Mrs Pilkington’s inclinations to make diagnoses was unprofessional and premature given this was an early stage in the therapy.

Mrs Pilkington remains suspended from the BCAP.