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ADDS 5121: Ethical Violations. Bruce Biddlemore

Question asked by Melissa Grant on May 2, 2020
Latest reply on May 3, 2020 by Sharmaine Regisford

Bruce Biddlecome was an addiction counselor.  He began a sexual relationship with one of the clients of the facility where he worked. He was caught because the client used a piece of toilet paper to collect his semen. The Board investigated and then revoked his license.  Mr. Biddlecome did not appear at any of the hearings assigned to his case, a fact which hurt him in 2 ways: being a "no-show" is a violation of the disciplinary rules; and he missed the opportunity to defend himself and perhaps get a lighter punishment. He is eligible to reapply for a license in 10 years.


Biddlecome was charged with 4 offenses: (1) violating an order to appear at his hearing (2) engaging in unprofessional conduct (3) admitting that he is incompetent to provide addiction counseling services (4) engaging in sexual contact with a client.  


In addiction to the civil revocation of his license, he faced criminal charges. They are not very strong, so we can presume the client was at least 18 and consented to the sex.  He served 150 days in jail, and has another 215 stayed.  He will be on probation for 2 years


Do I agree with the revocation? There are too few details provided to make a well-reasoned opinion, but if (as mentioned above) the client was a willing participant and was over 18 years old, I believe a lesser punishment could have been ordered by the Board than revocation.  He could have gotten a suspension, for example.  


Why is this violation a concern? Addiction clients are in a very vulnerable position.  Counselors see them through some of the worst days of the withdrawal, the admission to an addiction, and much more.  Counselors need to be extremely certain that they are never taking advantage of the client's vulnerability by persuading them to do something the client does not actually want to do or is likely to regret later.  The client's interests should always rump the counselor's.


How could this have been prevented?  In reality, it probably could not have, if Biddlemore was determined to see it happen. People find ingenious ways to get around rules.  It would help, though, if counselors were not allowed to be in contact with a client unless another counselor is as well.  This would both prevent the incidents from occurring and would protect the counselor against false accusations.


What would I do if I learned that a colleague was engaging in unprofessional behavior of this sort?  My initial reaction would be to talk with the colleague to persuade him to stop.  Explaining the consequences of getting caught might help.  But after speaking with the colleague, I would realize that's not enough.  It doesn't protect the client, nor clients to come.  Also, is not my prerogative to determine the price he should pay for his ethical violation -- that job belongs to the Board and the courts alone.  Therefore, I would encourage the client to file a complaint, to talk about this with a mental health counselor, and perhaps to move to a facility that has its eyes on the counselors, not just the clients.Joe College@@@@