2012symonscmphd.pdf (51.22 MB)
Download file

Complaints and Complaining In Counselling and Psychotherapy: Organisational and Client Perspectives

Download (51.22 MB)
posted on 20.12.2012, 12:15 by Clare Mary Symons
Complaints and complaining in counselling and psychotherapy have been largely ignored in the research literature. The research in this thesis used various methods to address different but related questions within this area. An in-depth analysis of the documentary archive of complaints made to the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) was undertaken. Descriptive statistics were compiled relating to the Association's Professional Conduct Procedure and Article 4.6 procedure. Thematic analysis was used to examine allegations in complaints letters and the resulting categories were then used to produce descriptive statistics. An online questionnaire was developed to explore the reasons why clients do not bring formal complaints in cases where they have experienced poor or harmful therapy. Finally, in-depth semi-structured interviews were undertaken and analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis to explore these themes in more detail. The findings show that BACP has lower rates of complaints received and upheld than in comparable literature; male therapists are disproportionately represented among those complained about; and lay people are underrepresented as complainants. This is the first systematic research to examine therapy complaints in the UK in an area that has received minimal research attention internationally. The online survey found differences in reasons for not complaining between lay people and clients who are themselves therapists, while the interviews revealed a complex constellation of reasons for not complaining. These findings make an original contribution to debate about regulatory issues in counselling and psychotherapy and have implications for policy-makers as well as practitioners.



Wheeler, Susan; Reeves, Andrew

Date of award


Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level


Qualification name




Usage metrics