The British Psychodrama Association has revoked the membership of Mike Davidson, a key figure behind the London bus ads that would — if Mayor Boris Johnson hadn’t put a stop to them — have proclaimed to commuters: “Not gay! Ex-gay, post-gay and proud. Get over it!”
Davidson is director of Core Issues Trust, a Northern Ireland-based organization that is effectively the UK’s equivalent to the National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) in the US. As a trainee psychotherapist, he was a member of the BPA, which describes itself as follows:
The British Psychodrama Association (BPA) is the professional association for psychodramatists and sociodramatists in the UK. The BPA is an Organisational Member of the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP), which upholds professional standards in psychotherapy.
In an interview with BBC Radio Ulster in January, UKPC chairman Professor Andrew Samuels took Davidson to task for using his BPA membership to legitimize his promotion of reparative therapy. In an angry exchange, Samuels indicated, without providing details, that the BPA was investigating Davidson and his association with “gay-to-straight” conversion methods. In March, the BPA revoked Davidson’s membership, effectively stripping him of his professional credentials.
An official statement on the Core Issues website claims that BPA took the action “without a hearing, and without any complaint from a client.” The statement continues:
Following Professor Samuel’s comments, in a letter to Dr Davidson from the BPA (22nd March 2012) the organisation states that, in dealing with this matter, “our usual complaints procedure as laid out in the BPA Professional Handbook has had to be adjusted”. Presumably this is because the procedure was designed to address situations where a client has made a complaint against a therapist, but no such complaint has been made in this case. The complaint arises because of the recently imposed views of the UKCP supported by the BPA, which can tolerate no other perspective even though their views cannot be scientifically substantiated without question.
In the same letter, the BPA sets out its understanding of Dr Davidson’s views and asserts “If this is indeed representative of your position today, we wonder if there is any value in pursuing this matter further”.
It seems a complaint that due process was not followed is a red herring. The statement itself supposes this was because the BPA complaints procedure was designed to address a different situation, namely a client complaint against a therapist. In fact, even this would appear to go too far, as the official procedure states clearly who is allowed to make a complaint:
The Complaints Procedure provides a comprehensive process for those wishing to express concern or complain formally against a BPA registrant who they feel is contravening the Code of Ethics and Practice.
The BPA invite complaints from clients contacting the BPA on their own behalf or from individuals and concerned parties expressing concern on behalf of others.
So anyone can make a complaint, not just a client. Any individual or group is entitled to express a concern on behalf of others. That no client has complained directly may be true, but it is not a defining factor.
The bigger factor is that the procedural guidelines also assume that an investigation is needed to determine the truth of an allegation. Yet from Core Issues’ statement on behalf of Mike Davidson, it’s clear Davidson did not deny anything he was accused of. On the contrary, he seems to accept that he promotes and practises reparative therapy (and this is, after all, Core Issues’ raison d’être). Moreover, he has no intention of stopping. So here, it seems to me, are the facts:
- The BPA has strict rules forbidding the practice of reparative therapy;
- Mike Davidson openly admits he offers reparative therapy and will continue to offer it.
In these circumstances, why would it be necessary to invoke the complaints procedure? A professional body has rules, a member says he breaks them and will continue to break them. Isn’t that pretty much like sentencing without trial because the defendant pleaded guilty? It seems, from the facts so far, the BPA had perfectly sound reasons for removing Davidson.
The Core Issues statement is rather muddled. It first appears to object to Davidson’s removals on the grounds that the procedure was not followed, but we have seen this is a moot point. It also state its real beef with the BPA (and the UKCP), however:
The complaint arises because of the recently imposed views of the UKCP supported by the BPA, which can tolerate no other perspective even though their views cannot be scientifically substantiated without question. … Neither the UKCP nor the BPA have been willing to engage in any discussion about what appears to be an uncritical acceptance of the views imposed through the UKCP guidelines in this area. Our attempts to engage in critical debate with both have been on-going since June 2011, but have not been allowed.
Core Issues wants the BPA to change the rules and allow therapists to practise sexual orientation change efforts, or SOCE. The current rules state:
It is exploitative for a psychotherapist to offer treatment that might ‘cure’ or ‘reduce’ same sex attraction as to do so would be offering a treatment for which there is no illness. … It is exploitative to offer treatment to reduce same sex attraction when various studies bring into question whether such treatments change a person’s sexuality.
Concluding the document is a detailed list of offences that would breach these ethical guidelines:
(i) Practising, or offering to practise psychotherapy which supports within its tenets that homosexuality, bisexuality, resistance to labelling one’s sexual orientation, fluidity of sexuality, or same sex attraction are psychopathologies or symptoms of a psychopathology.
(ii) Offering ‘Sexual Orientation Change Efforts’ (also called SOCE, ‘reparative’, ‘conversion’ or ‘reorientation’ therapy) or similar therapies by other names.
(iii) Practising any other form of psychotherapy that seeks to eliminate or reduce same sex attraction in their clients (whether by stated intention, or in practice.)
(iv) Knowingly referring a client to a psychotherapist or other professional whose practice aims to eliminate or reduce same sex attraction on the basis of prejudice against minority sexuality as immoral, unnatural or pathological.
(v) Teaching material on training courses and/or when supervising psychotherapists which promotes or seeks to justify therapy that pathologises same sex attraction.
Since Mike Davidson, to my knowledge, admits to practising every single item on this list, it seems the BPA’s actions in expelling him were entirely consistent with their guidelines.