British Psychological Society Conference: Therapy 'used sexual abuse'

A FEMALE therapist claimed yesterday that she had been sexually and physically assaulted as part of a therapy intended to put her in touch with her own rage.

She told the conference that nine other members of a psychotherapy workshop had held her down for eight hours while they insulted and abused her.

She claimed that the group included a Church of England minister, a psychiatrist, a GP, two psychologists, a dentist, a social worker and a teacher of women's studies.

The woman, Kay Kennedy, a lecturer in behaviour studies at Glasgow University, who had been in therapy because of sexual abuse as a child and rape, said it had been the most damaging experience of her life and had filled her with blind terror.

Many of the people involved continued in their professions and some were on ethical committees of their own organisations, she said.

'These were a group of people who regarded themselves as extremely sensitive professional carers. What happened to me was extreme but not unique.'

Ms Kennedy described how, during the event eight years ago, she had been partly stripped

and the group had been encouraged to shout insults about her underclothes and her sexual attractiveness.

She went on to describe how the psychiatrist masturbated her while telling her details of rapes and how the others had sexually abused her. She had not tried to bring any action against anyone involved, she said, because until recently the events had been to painful to confront.

Ms Kennedy was speaking during a debate on how the profession can best regulate itself and discipline members who exploit their clients.

A new organisation called the Prevention of Professional Abuse Network (Popan) has been set up to help people who have been abused and to conduct more research into the extent of abuse of clients by therapists.

It has contact with about 100 people but its organisers say it has 'only exposed the tip of the iceberg'.

The British Psychological Society is seeking legislation to empower it to bar pyschologists from working if they exploit their clients by having sexual relationships with them.

Graeme Geldart, a solicitor and assistant secretary of the society, said yesterday that in addition he favoured limitations on sexual relationships with former clients. Psychologists should have to prove that a relationship with an ex-client was not exploitative, he said.

The Prevention of Professional Abuse Network can be contacted at Flat 1, 20 Daleham Gardens London NW3 5DA.