The BACP members’ Facebook group, set up last year, has been the single most revealing environment I have been a part of, when it comes to highlighting systemic harm, privilege and abuse of power in the counselling and psychotherapy profession.
A recent thread on racism was deleted by BACP, apparently after complaints from some BACP members that the post was not relevant to the profession (in spite of the discussion in the thread demonstrating the relevance unequivocally). After several anti-racist members protested (and BACP initially simply directing the original poster to their (inadequate, in my experience) complaints process) they finally apologised for the deletion. Further threads and posts popped up, more comments, microaggressions and, in some cases downright racist comments were made by members on various threads, each challenged by therapists including the OP herself.
One post in particular, which went unchallenged by the BACP for over a week (until I saw and publicly highlighted it), has led me to the inescapable conclusion that BACP is an organisation whose values are no longer compatible with my own. This incident managed to combine the assaultive weaponisation of pathology (which I have highlighted with the org a number of times) and the silencing of a black woman as she spoke about racism. It was truly abhorrent. On a personal level, I am also deeply saddened that the organisation has learned nothing from the damaging experiences I had of being publicly pathologised by therapists, last year.
The offending poster, naming the OP, claimed that she had placed herself in the ‘victim role’ to BACP’s ‘persecutor’ and went on to attempt to silence the discussion about race by claiming it was being “utilised to foster division”. The original post was long, and went on in this vein. The post received 6 ‘likes’ from other therapists.
The fact that 7 therapist are willing to publicly align themselves to the weaponisation of pathology to attack a black woman talking about race is shocking. The fact that a professional body would do nothing about it for over a week, in spite of having plenty of previous opportunities to learn these kinds of lessons means, in my view, the organisation’s understanding of racism, white supremacy, power, pathology and structural inequality is wholly inadequate, and, given that this is not the first time that these kinds of dynamics have occurred in the forum, not sufficiently open to change.
I stayed with the BACP for this long because I see good in the organisation. I have volunteered with their older people’s expert reference group and met fantastic people, putting clients first, with real, honest passion and integrity. I wanted the systemic problems in the body to change; I wanted to be a part of bringing about change and re-centring social justice and client needs in the largest professional body in the country. I submitted the scrap SCoPEd resolution to open up debate about the kind of future we want for this profession, and to highlight the acts of inequality that exist silently, subtly in the upper echelons of the organisation, but become seismic for clients, trainees and therapists when they are enacted. I wanted to be a part of that change, so that I could continue to support the BACP. But sadly, I have to concede that my values and those of BACP have diverged so far, that at this point, I no longer feel it is congruent or proper for me to continue to pay a membership fee to the organisation.
I have been a member of NCS for some time, so this decision does not leave me without ethical support or recourse for my clients, but it does leave me with a sense of loss. Both in terms of the cessation of my work with OPERG, which I enjoyed very much, and also the loss of the potential to be a part of bringing about the change I wanted (and still want) to see from BACP. I am not ruling out a return to BACP one day, but this would only be possible if considerable structural change occurs at many levels of the organisation, including the overhaul of their resolution process to make it statistically possible for a member resolution to be heard at AGM. The current system is completely undemocratic, and in my view, shows disdain for member views.
So for me, this is goodbye to BACP. I will continue to be a committed campaigner against SCoPEd, and I have extended an invitation to Fiona Ballantine Dykes to keep open lines of communication, should she wish to do so, however, I cannot tolerate the systemic issues that, in my opinion, the organisation has proliferated by not deleting abusive posts, and instead deleting important anti-racist posts. This feels like the final straw for me, and so I must now, with some regret, vote with my feet.