Stark facts exposed about anti-regulation therapist

Campaigners post details online of professor's unconventional methods. Melanie Newman writes

January 28, 2010

A professor who has campaigned against the regulation of psychotherapists by the Health Professions Council held naked therapy sessions with a female client in the 1980s.

Extracts from a book detailing the unusual sessions held by Brian Thorne, emeritus professor of counselling at the University of East Anglia, have been posted online by supporters of the proposed regulation of the sector.

Professor Thorne is a fellow of the Alliance for Counselling and Psychotherapy, a group of practitioners that is opposing the plans for statutory regulation of psychotherapists and counsellors.

In a speech at an Alliance conference last year, he said the resistance to HPC regulation was "a battle which is concerned with power, with freedom, with transformational love, with the evolution of the human spirit".

Now, passages from his chapter in Key Cases in Psychotherapy, an edited collection published in 1987, have been posted online on the Mental Nurse blog.

Professor Thorne describes in it a series of therapeutic sessions with a client named Sally, during which she sometimes removed her clothes.

He says his "principal task" in the sessions was "massaging with great gentleness her stomach, her shoulders and sometimes her buttocks", and says the pair drank sherry together.

Before deciding to take off his own clothes, the professor says "there was no question of checking with Sally for it was only I who could give permission to myself".

The professor experienced "intuitive promptings" which, he says, "enabled me to encourage Sally to undress, or on occasions to initiate a particular form of physical contact, whether it was simply holding hands or, as in the final stage, joining in a naked embrace".

Taboos and a "fear of irresponsibility" work against the "proper exploration of physical and sexual communication in therapy", the professor concludes.

Professor Thorne told Times Higher Education the chapter was written "when an altogether different culture prevailed".

He added that his approach had to be seen "in the context of Sally's own determination to confront her physical being".

"The chapter describes work which was totally exceptional and remains unique. It was never intended to be a 'model' for others," he said, adding that his opposition to HPC regulation "is in no way linked to the issues around body work".

He also said that he had taken a "back seat" in the anti-HPC campaign in recent months.

Last year Professor Thorne, who is also a lay canon of Norwich cathedral, acted as a character witness in support of arts therapist Derek Gale at an HPC hearing.

He told the hearing that mainstream therapists could learn from Mr Gale, who was subsequently struck off for multiple transgressions of professional boundaries.

Professor Thorne later told THE: "I agreed to appear at the HPC hearing at Derek Gale's request but such 'support' in no way indicated my approval of many aspects of his practice. I believe that he acted with integrity but was often misguided."

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