A Christian psychotherapist has been found guilty of “professional malpractice” after trying to help a gay man become straight.
Lesley Pilkington, 60, faces being struck off from the British Association for Counseling and Psychotherapy which came down on the side of her client, Patrick Strudwick.
Strudwick approached Pilkington, a practitioner of reparative therapy, at a Christian conference on therapy for homosexuality and pretended that he wanted treatment to help him overcome his same-sex attractions.
He was in fact a gay journalist working undercover.
Pilkington and Strudwick had two therapy sessions together, during which Strudwick secretly recorded their conversations.
He then used the material gathered during the sessions to make a formal complaint against Pilkington to the BACP, the professional body for counselors.
A decision was communicated to both parties by the BACP last week but its contents were to remain confidential. However, Strudwick wrote an article giving details of the BACP’s decision in the Guardian newspaper.
In response, the Christian Legal Center, which is supporting Pilkington’s case, also released excerpts of the ruling.
The BACP found that Strudwick had “in significant ways deliberately misled [Pilkington] into believing that he was comfortable and accepting of her approach” and “lulling Mrs. Pilkington into a false sense of security.”
It also stated that Strudwick had “manipulated the content of the sessions to a considerable extent in order to meet his own agenda.”
The BACP nonetheless found Pilkington guilty of “professional malpractice” for extending the session with Strudwick over the allotted hour and for failing to counsel Strudwick after a meeting with her husband while the gay journalist had been out of the room.
The ruling stated that Pilkington’s membership in the BACP would be suspended and that she would be struck off the register if she does not undergo training.
Strudwick said, “I am an out, happily gay man. I was undercover, investigating therapists who practice this so-called conversion therapy (also known as reparative therapy) – who try to ‘pray away the gay.’
“I asked her to make me straight. Her attempts to do so flout the advice of every major mental-health body in Britain.”
Pilkington is appealing the decision and has made a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission criticizing the article and the “subterfuge and deceit” used by Strudwick.
“I am deeply concerned that the privileged and confidential relationship between a counselor and her patient will be undermined by a journalist seeking a sensationalist story without any substance,” she said. “It is an abuse by the Guardian newspaper. Accordingly, I propose to act with restraint.
“Reparative Therapy is a valid therapy that many people want and it should not be damaged by irresponsible reporting. The hearing is still subject to an appeal.”
Her case is being supported by the Christian Legal Center. Its director, Andrea Minichiello Williams, said it was “wholly unacceptable” that the BACP had even considered the complaint against Pilkington.
“Christians are being targeted and increasingly unable to access justice in this country,” Williams commented.
“To think a gay activist, engaged in deception, can seek out a Christian therapist by pretending to be a Christian seeking to choose to change his behavior, manipulate the counseling sessions for the purpose of a story, use a clandestine taping device and then report the therapist to the professional body is almost beyond belief.
“One can only imagine the reaction if a Christian tried to do this to a Pink therapist.”