Lived Experience Blog

Anybody can call themselves a therapist.

Comment by our Chief Executive, Ashley Fulwood.

Picture of Ashley Fulwood smiling, wearing blue shirt, dark blue waistcoat and dark blue tie.

Ashley Fulwood

29th April 2021

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This week I fell for an online confidence trick that cost me £93 pounds, I was misled.  Admitting this is embarrassing, but just like when I speak candidly and honestly about my OCD sometimes, which is equally embarrassing for me, I do so in the hope others can learn from my mistakes, or at the very least feel less alone and isolated themselves because of the problem.

So, here’s my story, and bear with me, there is an OCD connection to this.  I received a genuine DVLA letter through the post to renew my driving license, and like many people, I jumped on Google and typed driving license renew and I inadvertently clicked the top link, which was an advert.  I was half asleep and the dark looking website resembled the DVLA website, and was saying all the right things, so I assumed it was genuine and I continued.  Even the driving license renewal fee it showed at the final checkout page looked genuine £14.  So I was shocked when I checked my bank statement to see an actual charge of £93.

It was only when I went back and Googled did I realise a) my mistake and b) the teeny tiny small print at the bottom of the page that says I was paying for a 'service' charged at £79 (plus the £14 DVLA fee for renewing). So I paid for a service, and technically they offered me that, which means it’s unlikely I can claim my money back.

Why am I typing this on a website for people with OCD?  Because my mistake is sadly not too dissimilar to the mistakes I see people with OCD making every week, often costing them a lot more money. Worse still, people tell the charity the 'treatment' they pay for leaves them no better or worse off, all the time having spent often their limited funds and invested energy on.  People tell us they type in words like ‘OCD treatment’,  ‘OCD treatment clinic’ or ‘OCD recovery’ and many other variations of words. The result is that various US and UK treatment options show up, either as adverts or near the top of the Google search list.

There is no such thing as an expert by experience in terms of an OCD therapist!Ashley Fulwood

Like my misleading license/DVLA website, those websites immediately look valid and words that often stand out include:

  • Become free from OCD
  • We’ve been there, we have recovered from OCD
  • Our treatment programme is proven to be effective

Who would not want that? So you continue reading and see words like:

  • Licensed therapist
  • OCD Coach
  • Years of experience working in the field of OCD
  • Expert by experience
  • Counselling Diploma

All positive sounding words that add to the impression of a genuine website offering a genuine service with glossy, professional looking websites adding to that impression. Now don't get me wrong, they all offer a service, but the mistake I made and that many with OCD make is not to double checking the credentials of the people offering that service.

Many of those same websites post seemingly insightful posts on their social media accounts, but when these posts are studied more closely, you realise they lack any real insight that will help. They are simply there to suck you in to become clients.

The fact is, none of the points listed above means that someone is clinically experienced/trained to provide OCD treatment or qualified to charge hundreds, sometimes thousands of pounds for OCD treatment or coaching. As one north American website in their disclaimer point out after mentioning they're not a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist that "No guarantees can be made other than to deliver the coaching services purchased as described".  

Going back to my experience, there is a Martin Lewis newspaper article about the exact issue I encountered, and it's what he called fake DVLA sites in which he comments, “Have you been scammed? Legally probably not. Morally, certainly in my view”.

I am afraid these days, anybody can call themselves a therapist/recovery coach. There is no such thing as an expert by experience in terms of an OCD therapist!  What I mean by that is, you can be an expert by experience in your own OCD, but that never ever makes you an expert suitably skilled to treat other people. I am an expert by experience, with over 20 years of experience working in the field of OCD, but that does not mean I am qualified to treat anybody. I am not qualified to treat someone because I have no clinical training, qualifications or supervision to treat.

I hope when people go to Google to seek OCD treatment, often out of desperation, they will not fall for the mistake I made, which was to make assumptions about the website they land on because of how it initially looks.

Unlike me, please read the small print and look very closely at the people you are paying money to, ask yourself are they the real deal? Are they formally qualified with the BABCP (not to be confused with the BACP)?  Be very clear about what service you are paying for, how many therapy hours you can expect and exactly how much the total cost will be. Also ask them, what if you don’t feel you received the type of therapeutic experience you expected, what is your right to complain and get a refund?  If you read that and proceed that is fine, that is your choice, but you have made that choice knowing the facts.

Don't be like me, be smarter!

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