OTHER AGENCIES WHO MAY BE ABLE TO HELP WHEN ARKORDIA SERVICES ARE NOT AVAILABLE
If something goes wrong in your therapy work, we encourage you to talk things over with your therapist in the first instance. If you’re still not satisfied ask your therapist to let you see Arkordia’s complaints procedure. This document explains the process you will be engaging in, and includes details of other professional associations our members subscribe to.
If you are unhappy with any aspect of the services provided by Arkordia and would like to make a complaint, please follow the procedure outlined below.
NB A complaint made by a client is always taken very seriously. It will be recorded and investigated immediately it is received and will be treated in strictest confidence.
If you wish to make a complaint we would ask you to do so as quickly as possible from the time you understood that something had happened with which you were unhappy. But if you make a complaint to us three years after that time we will not be able to pursue it. To help you pursue your interest we will also, where possible, provide a translator or translations of this document if you need it.
Arkordia’s first and main aim will be to attempt to resolve any complaint within the therapeutic relationship. This means that, in response to any complaint, your counsellor or therapist or whoever it is you are complaining about will offer you the opportunity to talk through your concerns with a view to understanding, appreciating and resolving the difficulty. He or she will arrange a meeting within a week of receiving your communication whether this is by email, letter or phone.
If you do not wish to take up this offer, or you take up this offer and the outcome of this meeting is not satisfactory and you wish to make a formal complaint, please write as fully as you wish, by post or by email, yourself or through a friend or representative stating your complaint and send to:
Private and Confidential
C/O Gary Smith,
South Side Centre,
Telephone. 07496 155038
If you require assistance with making sense of the process laid out below we will arrange a meeting with you to help you understand with our Responsible Person. All information about arrangements for meeting and progress of the enquiry will be through the Responsible Person If you are unable to write, please let us know and we can receive your complaint in digital voice recorder or arrange a meeting with the Responsible Person to talk things through.
Within 14 days of receiving your written complaint our Responsible Person elected to manage the initial enquiry will call on another responsible independent person of good standing within the counseling community in Scotland and/or the UK (hereafter called External Consultant). The External Consultant will contact you within 14 days to try to resolve the complaint in person with you. The External Consultant will arrange for you and the person you complained against to meet with him/her separately to discuss each side of the case. The External Consultant having heard and read the evidence will then make an impartial and confidential assessment and judgment of the merits of both sides and inform yourself and the complainant in writing of the outcome within 14 days.
You have the right throughout this process to bring along to any meeting a friend or mentor. The External Consultant may also request a meeting with all parties together if this is agreeable to all parties, in which case both yourself and the complainant have a right to bring a friend or mentor as a support. This person is there for your support only, not to partake in the enquiry. If this route is chosen the External Consultant will ask the parties concerned to declare any conflict of interest before the hearing begins. The purpose in this instance and throughout the process is to see if a resolution can be found to your complaint and that all parties are properly heard.
This process will be entirely confidential, which is to say no one else but your self and the complainant will hear of the outcome by the External Consultant.
If at any stage in the process the External Consultant has good reason he/she may call a halt to the process. For example if the investigation revealed matters of criminal abuse or in some other way learns that legal proceedings have been begun by another party. Calling a halt to the complaint process may be temporary or halt it completely depending on circumstances.
In the event of your complaint being upheld the External Consultant can recommend sanctions against the member of Arkordia. These can vary from a demand for extra supervision, to suspension of the right to practice, to taking out legal proceedings against the person concerned or against the organisation as a whole.
Each stage of the process of enquiry including setting up and having meetings will take a maximum of 3 months.
The maximum time from the moment a complaint is received to an assessment and resolution is 1year.
If you are not satisfied with the decision of the External Consultant then Arkordia’s complaints procedure will have run its course. You will then be entitled to take your complaint to one of the governing bodies listed, including COSCA (Arkordia is an Organisational Member of COSCA) Other bodies that may be relevant are:
British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy: www.bacp.co.uk/crs/complaints.php
The UK Council for Psychotherapy: Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Health and Care Professions Council: Email: email@example.com
BAAT British Association for Art Therapists Health and Care Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
In the event of this happening we are obliged to let the relevant organisation know the outcome of our hearing into the matter.
If you’re still unhappy after following our procedure, you can contact COSCA, the Confederation of Scottish Counselling Agencies. Arkordia carries an organisational membership with them and they can tell you how to proceed further. Or you may also contact any of the other agencies our members are affiliated to.
We keep confidential records of sessions and receive regular supervision for our work. All our notes are kept securely and our computer is not networked. Our supervision is bound by rules of confidentiality and we are bound by the ethical codes of the professional bodies we subscribe to.
About ARKORDIA; an article written for COSCA in 2013
ARKORDIA: a cooperative model of counselling provision.
Arkordia has been formed to provide a counselling and psychotherapy service in the Edinburgh and Lothians area, which is affordable and accessible to individuals, couples or families.
The name Arkordia has its roots in the Greek word “kardia” meaning heart, also from the word “ark” which implies shelter and refuge. The combination of these two words embraced the philosophy of the founding members of Arkordia, and their intentions, that the psychotherapy, counselling and creative therapies offered by us would be from the heart, providing a safe place for people to grow and become themselves. Interestingly it also sounds like accord which means in one of its definitions, that I read in the shorter Oxford English Dictionary “To bring heart to heart” “To cause to agree” “to be in harmony with”.
Arkordia grew out of the closure of No. 21 counselling service in Edinburgh in 2006; a small group, who were volunteer counsellors plus one of the originally paid staff at No. 21 began to meet together in the early part of 2007 to begin the process of designing and formulating our service. Out of those early discussions we attracted a substantial grant from “Awards for All” to employ a consultant to provide evidence for the need for such an agency and establish a development plan for a 5 year period. On this basis, we registered as a charity and formulated our memorandum and articles of association as a charitable company. Our evolving philosophy and values were deeply embedded in these formal documents and established a modus-operandi of a cooperative, non-hierarchical management in which all those involved in the organising and delivery of the service would have equal standing.
There was a long and sometimes painful gestation period. The longest and still ongoing debate concerning payment of therapists remains but at present we are now a group gathering round the dual task of providing a counselling service through volunteer (unpaid) counsellors on a cooperative basis for those with generally small means. We reveled in making something from the roots up but the calling to be therapists in the service of a good cause was necessarily held up while this work carried on. We are not necessarily all skilled in the tasks of fund raising, taking minutes (though we now have a paid administrator for certain tasks which is a Godsend) filling in forms for disclosure Scotland and collecting statistics to support fundraising efforts. The practical task of meeting, organising and deciding was at times frustrating while also feeling necessary for us all. We sometimes got confused over respect for one another and the necessity of meeting the task we had set ourselves. The planning of meeting times ahead rather than only the next one ahead became a matter of frustration. The impotence we felt over the slowness of recruiting therapists was palpable at times as we attempted to incorporate some of the fundamental core values of the therapeutic process; acceptance, valuing, empathic understanding, choice, shared power and openness in our dealings with each other. But it is through this kind of process that we have built trust connection and challenge in our interaction with each other. We meet on a regular basis for business meeting and in a peer group supervisory mode for evaluation and review. It seems, that for the present, we are likely to remain quite small but the transition from an organisation setting itself up to one that is up and running has been made.
It is a fundamental tenet of our group that we bring the same respect and horizontal way of dealing with one another that we bring to our work with clients so it is worth reflecting what is meant by a cooperative. For example the shared task we have at present is to reduce our client waiting list. Within a conventional hierarchical organisation the decision may be taken to reduce contact time with clients to say six sessions, (So far our work with an individual client can be open ended) or to recruit more therapists. This decision would be taken by a manager or director and the staff would set about complying with it. Within a cooperative way of working such decisions are taken together. This implies and asks for a willingness to wait on others, a discussion and a teasing out of the concerns and always an attempt to listen to the others voice. Decisions are made from the basis of a consensus of understanding. You can hear, in this way of expressing it, how close it is to the understanding of what we are required to do within our client work. Our authority is exerted as an extension of the combined understanding of being a part of the group in that moment and of our own personal understanding of the goals of the organisation but, to quote Randy Schutt’s paper:
“Consensus is a process for deciding what is best for a group. The final decision is often not the first preference of any individual in the group, and many may not even like the final result. But it is a decision to which they all consent because they know it is the best one for the group”.
So there is a willingness to let go ones own preference in favour of movement to the essential goal. You might say, ‘but do not hierarchical organisations do this also?’ The difference is, at root, a matter of philosophy. The decision taken within a cooperative group rests on the belief in equality and parity of influence being made visible. To coin the phrase we are “equal before God” but within a cooperative group more effort is demanded than is found in a hierarchical organisational structure, to ensure that that this is manifested as a lived process. The resort to diktat is impossible within a cooperative, which does not mean that the power of individual personalities cannot sway decision-making in certain directions but it is always held in check as long as the essential idea of cooperation is continuously experienced as a shared as well as an individual responsibility.
In this way we incorporate those fundamental and core values of the therapeutic process mentioned earlier. You may say ‘But is not this way of working inefficient in time and energy?’ Where there is a lot of contention and with that mistrust also then as with any organisation the arguments can become circular and unproductive and even vituperative.
Randy Schutt again;
“Many groups feel that they must allow every person in the group to fully discuss every possible perspective on every issue. When there is little trust in a group of people, this may be justified. But consensus does not require this. In a cooperative, trusting group it is possible to allow individuals or committees to make most decisions with little or no discussion in the larger group. When the group is pressed for time, quick, though less ideal decisions, can also be tolerated”.
At the conclusion of our lengthy period of investigation and discussion we were anxious to proceed as soon as possible. Our development plan was based on raising funds to pay counsellors and to secure premises but it was also evident that raising the level of funding required, in the current and persisting economic climate, would make that difficult, particularly if we were to preserve an affordable and accessible service. As we had a surplus of funding from the Awards for All grant, we were able to renegotiate the use of it to support a pilot year and, with a further grant from Edinburgh Volunteer Organisation Trust (EVOT) we covered ongoing expense for administration and publicity but this was on the basis of operating as volunteer practitioners. The conclusions we drew from our pilot year experiences was a need for our service, that our approach, in terms of management and practice was viable and that based on voluntary effort it was rewarding and successful. As consequence of this we have come to value more fully the idea of volunteering as a core part of our groups understanding of itself.
David Pilgrim maintains that psychotherapy: (It) works at its best in a voluntary and individual contract… (p121).
We have extended this volunteering principle further, inviting clients to make anegotiated level of donation; what Natiello calls a “Self Selected Fee” and identifies this as :
….(a) “philisophical stance that paves the way for more equality between my client and me. Asking clients to choose a fee that is appropriate for them, based on their ability to pay, established their responsibility to the relationship and their right to make decisions about their own lives at the outset of therapy”, (p39)
We set a scale of £5 to £40 anticipating that there would be a range of offerings which would average out sufficiently to cover basic costs of administration and rental of premises. In 2010, our pilot year , Arkordia worked with 23 clients and established a waiting list of a further 23 potential clients. At this point the contact work and the administrative procedures were carried out by what we call the Operational Management Group all on a voluntary basis. Two of us gave many, many hours of time to this process but an average of the 6 of us gave upwards of 40/45 hours in the year including seeing clients.
We have established our practice and procedures more fully now. Arrangements are that potential clients ring a dedicated number indicating their wish to use the service. They leave their name and contact details on an answer phone. Our administrator returns their call within 24hrs when she takes further details and preferences. These details are held securely in an online record system accessed later by practitioners to arrange sessions. Individual client work notes and records are kept in a dedicated and locked filing cabinet in the venue from which we work. There have been concerns about potential users being put off by the telephone access system but by and large this is clearly not the case. Of course the generation of a long waiting list remains worrying and has led to two recruitment drive for more practitioners. One remarkable observation in that first year was that the ongoing administrative expenses were covered entirely by the client donations. We have been and are in an ongoing debate about offering training places to students.
As we progress into our fourth year we are recruiting more colleagues which may include students who are well on in their training. We are developing a unique organisation that offers its members a rich working experience that augurs well for the experience of our clients also. We have a valuable and unusual profile which we are sure has a wider appeal than we have been able to establish so far.
The poetic image of Noah’s ark comes to mind, a picture of a still slightly cumbersome craft full of animals, birds, insects, fish and of course Noah’s huge family. It has arrived on the top of Mount Ararat, the dove has returned. The waters have receded. We can tether our craft to the tree not in our case on Mount Ararat (Does it have trees?) but the more prosaic but completely real and generous establishment of the Southside Counselling Centre.