Report on counselling centre complaints welcomed

Report on counselling centre complaints welcomed

Irish Times Friday, June 13, 2008

RÓISÍN INGLE

FORMER CLIENTS of “life coach” Claire Hoban and the Dublin-based consultancy where she worked have welcomed the findings of a report into the counselling operation.

Des Martin, a former client of Roebuck Consulting Ltd in Rathgar, Dublin, who handed over almost €250,000 to the centre, said yesterday he was “pleased and relieved” by the report of the NAPCP (National Association for Pastoral Counselling and Psychotherapy).

Calling for proper regulation of the counselling industry, he said: “The response from the NAPCP vindicates our efforts to uncover the unethical practices engaged in by Roebuck and we can only hope that nobody else is exploited the way we were.”

Mr Martin, one of the co-founders of support group Sore (Survivors of Roebuck Experiences), added: “This is a good time to reiterate our wish to see proper regulation of the psychotherapy industry in this country.”

Mr Martin paid almost €250,000 to the centre over the course of a year after initially approaching the centre for counselling. The money was eventually refunded by the company but Mr Martin said he was left in debt and suffered from depression after his dealings with Ms Hoban.

Mr Martin was one of several ex-clients of the centre that The Irish Times discovered had been asked for large sums of money for counselling and other services.

In an interview with this newspaper last October, Ms Hoban admitted to seeking sums of €100,000 and €10,000 from two people who had approached the centre for counselling. Her boss and the director of the centre, Bernie Purcell, said the money was in relation to a “Life Mentoring Programme” which was designed for “ambitious, astute people”.

Ms Purcell said if the participants of the programme had not made €1 million in a two-year period their €100,000 was refunded. “We have made at least 20 millionaires in that time,” Ms Purcell, a former director of the Rape Crisis Centre in Dublin, told The Irish Times last October.

Ms Hoban at that time described her role as “fulfilling people’s life dreams whether that involved buying a Ferrari, moving to Barbados or buying a Morris Minor”. She said: “The jump from counselling to €100,000 or €50,000 and all your dreams come true sounds quite strange, and you have to understand that these conversations take place in a particular context. It’s not simply ‘Do you want to give me €100,000?’.”

According to Ms Hoban, the Roebuck Counselling Centre was “not simply a counselling service”.

In the interview last October, she claimed that she was being “set up” by those who have made complaints against her.

In response to a number of complaints from ex-clients of Roebuck, the NAPCP – the accrediting body for both Ms Hoban and the training course run by Roebuck Consulting Ltd – set up a three-person ethics committee to investigate practices at the centre and sought legal advice regarding the process.

The body this week expelled Ms Hoban from the organisation and revoked the course accreditation held by the centre.

In its findings, the committee criticised practices at Roebuck where clients were charged counselling fees a number of years in advance and were pressured to enrol as students in a counselling training course.

John Hughes, a member of the NAPCP ethics committee, said that the process was treated “with contempt” by Roebuck Consulting Ltd which, he said, failed to respond to the issues raised by complainants. “We were told by Roebuck that they were conducting their own internal investigation and that we would be given the results of this but it never came to pass,” he said.

NAPCP report: main findings

•The charging of counselling fees one, two or three years in advance, at varying discounts, led to many of the problems

•There was a “disturbing pattern” of counselling clients being indiscriminately and inappropriately pressured to enrol as students in the counselling course

•The course accredited by the NAPCP was run in such a way as to allow an unacceptable level of conflicts of interest

•Claire Hoban had “seriously, flagrantly and frequently” failed to act in accordance with many provisions of NAPCP ethical code

•A multidisciplinary role such as that adopted by Ms Hoban, who acted as teacher, life coach, mentor, potential business partner, fees collector and family therapist, was likely to give rise to levels of conflicts of interest inconsistent with adherence to the code of ethics

•There were breaches of confidentiality and misuse of influence by the company

•The cancelling of Ms Hoban’s and Roebuck Consulting Ltd’s membership was the “severest sanction” open to the board

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