Skip to content

More on ethics, psychotherapists and media

April 15th, 2009

Dr Petra

The scandal of the planned Labour smear campaign isn’t going away.

It’s strange to watch the media responding to this tale. There’s been swipes across papers against each other (some journalists complaining how the News of the World and Telegraph should never have run the story in the first place), print journalists complaining about bloggers (and how they don’t do ‘proper journalism’) and a fair amount of revisionism within the press. The Daily Mail in particular have done a complete U-turn. Previously they’ve seemed happy to run stories by and about Mr Draper, but they’ve now taken to vocally discrediting him. Strange that only a couple of weeks ago Mr Draper had several columns running in the Mail in just one week (one about therapy, the other about division of labour in the home).

After blogging about my concerns over psychotherapist Derek Draper’s role in this sad story earlier in the week I’ve had numerous journalists get in touch. Most have asked sensible questions about my concerns over Mr Draper’s ethics and fitness to practice. But a minority have been approaching the same dubious territory as the email smear campaign story they’re chasing.

One journalist asked me to “dish the dirt” on Mr Draper as a “fellow therapist”. I am not a therapist and I have no dirt to dish. I only have concerns over fitness to practice.

Another asked me if I would “analyse Derek Draper’s personality”. Which is ironic given my main complaint about this case is the setting up of case studies as a means of putting down other people. Besides, I don’t do analysis of case studies or celebrities – it’s unethical and it’s one of the reasons I’ve been complaining about this current smear scandal.

A third journalist asked me whether I’m glad Mr Draper’s getting “his come uppance” (their words). And to that I have no comment since I’m not finding much that’s enjoyable about this sorry tale, and I very much doubt anyone directly involved with the story is either.

I’ve found it interesting that raising concerns over fitness to practice and questions for people to ask about psychotherapists has resulted in an interpretation from a minority of journalists that I’m engaged in a personal battle with Mr Draper. This is not personal, I just don’t like unethical practice. And I think outing someone who’s gay, suggesting someone has an STI and making out a person’s got worsening mental health problems are all unethical behaviours.

I’m becoming uneasy that what should be a discussion about therapeutic practice is becoming something of a witch hunt. I don’t want any part of that. Witnessing the glee some journalists and bloggers have had for Mr Draper’s demise and the ferocity in which this story has been chased only serves as a reminder to me how horrific it must be to end up in the firing line. I’d like to say we’ll be safe if we’re ethical and professional, but that’s not true. If it’s better news to trash you than to tout you then you’ll be turned upon.

I think anyone reporting on this story – as a blogger or journalist – must remember there are many people likely to be personally affected by this story. Not least Mr Draper, his family and friends. Yes, you could argue this courtesy was not apparently considered when plans were made to invent scandals to smear the opposition. Perhaps nobody considered then that it might cause pain and distress – which clearly it has. However, two wrongs don’t make a right, and I don’t think it’s appropriate that we all get personal. This should be about campaigning for ethical practice, not an exercise in bullying type behaviour. And that’s being played out within the media, in some blogs, and in the comments sections of some blogs.

Don’t for one minute assume from this I’m excusing Mr Draper’s alleged behaviour over the planned smear campaign. I am in the process of making a formal complaint about this. I just feel if we’re criticising someone for smearing others, then the last thing we ought to be doing is repeating that unethical behaviour.

Comments are closed.