One of Britain’s leading mental health clinics could face legal action after telling a student therapist to watch lectures saying that white people are unconsciously racist, that Christianity is a racist religion, and that the Bible can be blamed for racism because it contrasts ‘darkness’ and ‘light’.
Amy Gallagher, a mental health nurse from south London, has spent more than £20,000 training to become a psychotherapist on a course run by the prestigious Portman Clinic in North London, part of The Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust.
But now the 33-year-old is preparing a legal case, saying she believes the Trust is guilty of religious and racial discrimination against her as a white Christian.
Ms Gallagher says that senior members of the Tavistock Trust eventually threatened her with suspension from her final year of the clinical qualification and, as the dispute escalated, suggested that her career as a psychotherapist could be at risk.
Amy Gallagher (above), a Christian from South London, is preparing legal action against the Portman Clinic in North London, part of the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust, over what she feels was religious and racial discrimination in a course she undertook during clinical training in psychotherapy
She said: ‘On the basis of my experience there, what they describe as anti-racism is racism. What they describe as tolerance is an intolerance of anyone who thinks differently to them.
‘Left unchallenged, such institutional bullying will only be emboldened.
‘I feel passionate about this. I hope my case will prove that teaching these discriminatory ideas – as though they are factual and true – within the NHS or within academia is wrong.’
She says that, if she is successful, she will also seek undisclosed damages for distress, which she says led to a deterioration in her mental health and made her consider quitting the course. Her attempts to question the course content, she says, were dismissed as ‘angry’ and ‘vexatious’ – which she denies.
Ms Gallagher says it is particularly concerning that radical identity politics are now ‘leaking into the health service’.
This weekend she launched a crowdfunding campaign, called Stand Up To Woke, to help pay for her legal battle against the Tavistock Trust, which she plans to sue for racial and religious discrimination, harassment and bullying.
Ms Gallagher claims she was told to watch lectures and read essays that branded Christianity a racist religion and blamed the Bible for racism because of references to ‘darkness’ and ‘light’
This weekend, Ms Gallagher launched a crowdfunding campaign she has called Stand Up To Woke to help pay for her legal battle against the Trust, which she plans to sue for racial and religious discrimination, harassment and bullying
Ms Gallagher, who has worked for seven years, enrolled on the Portman Clinic’s D59F Forensic Psychodynamic Psychotherapy course in September 2020 to finish her clinical training. She had already completed the Tavistock’s foundation psychotherapy course.
She had initially enjoyed the two-year, part-time course, which will qualify her to set up her own private psychotherapy practice.
But Ms Gallagher became concerned when, in November, students were given a compulsory lecture on race and racism by forensic psychoanalyst Dr Anne Aiyegbusi.
She said: ‘The lecturer spoke negatively about Christianity, while no other religions were mentioned. When I questioned this, I was told the Trust sees Christianity as responsible for racism because it is European.
‘That’s when I started to feel as though I wasn’t welcome on the course and I wasn’t comfortable with these ideas.’
Ms Gallagher, a church-goer, claims the lecture was ‘politically biased’, and had ‘little or no reference to psychotherapy’.
Days later, she and other students were asked to attend a free public seminar online by Jungian psychoanalyst Helen Morgan, called Whiteness: A Problem for Our Time which concluded, among other things, that white people are unconsciously racist as a matter of course.
Ms Gallagher, 33, enrolled on the Portman Clinic’s Forensic Psychodynamic Psychotherapy course in September 2020 to finish clinical training that would qualify her to set up a psychotherapy practice. (Above, the Portman Clinic in north London)
The lecture, examining ‘white privilege and white fragility’, is still promoted on the Tavistock’s website as a ‘centenary policy seminar’.
The online description said: ‘This presentation is rooted in the assumption that the problem of racism is a problem of whiteness and that an examination of this construct of whiteness needs to be central to seeking a solution to this destructive dynamic.’
It added: ‘The colour-blind approach and the silencing process of disavowal that develops in the childhood of white liberal families are a means of maintaining white privilege and racism.’
At a meeting with her course leader Ms Gallagher explained she did not consider herself racist and that she took a ‘colour-blind’ approach, meaning she did not judge people by their skin colour.
Ms Gallagher claims she was told that such a colour-blind approach is now ‘outdated’.
Ms Gallagher then filed a formal complaint to the Tavistock Trust in January last year .
She said: ‘I started to feel I was essentially being asked to subscribe to a racist ideology – that you have to believe these radical ideas to become a psychotherapist.’
The Trust eventually apologised in writing for the ‘upset and unease’ she had experienced and asked a senior member of the trust’s education department, Esther Usiskin-Cohen, to investigate.
Ms Gallagher met Ms Usiskin-Cohen and set out her complaint again, explaining that the stress had caused her to lose weight and have trouble sleeping.
Following the meeting, the Tavistock offered Ms Gallagher support through the trust’s Student Advice and Consultation Service and its Care First helpline.
Then in March last year Ms Gallagher was directed towards another text on the course reading list, called ‘The Criminalisation of Blackness’.
Ms Gallagher said the text, by Maxine Dennis, contained what amounted in her view to ‘further discriminatory anti-white and anti-Christian content’.
Ms Gallagher, who is still on the course, says she is concerned that radical identity politics are ‘leaking into the health service’
Gallagher said of the reading: ‘It talked about the Bible’s use of the words light and dark and said this causes people to be racist in their unconscious. The use of light and dark is used in all major world religions and there is no evidence the Bible’s use of those terms causes racism.
‘Again, to me, it was Christianity being singled out as a religion.’
Then in May last year, Ms Gallagher received a letter from the Tavistock’s deputy director of education, Elisa Reyes-Simpson, raising concerns over her ‘vexatious’ conduct.
The letter warned that she could be suspended from the course. It added: ‘Any adverse student conduct finding may also give rise to questions regarding your suitability to practice and may have implications for your ability to obtain professional registration.’
Ms Gallagher said: ‘To be told I might not be able to become a psychotherapist because I don’t think Christianity is a racist religion and I don’t think all white people are racist is quite extreme. They are essentially saying my views are inappropriate but they won’t say why.’
A spokesperson for the Tavistock declined to comment on Ms Gallagher’s claims in detail, saying: ‘This matter has been addressed through our formal complaints process which has now concluded.’
Throughout the dispute it has insisted that students on the psychotherapy course must examine their own ‘irrational unconscious beliefs and bias’ to be able to help patients. This is a standard approach in the field.
Toby Young (above) from the Free Speech Union said: ‘This is a prime example of the wokeness that’s endemic across the higher education sector, depicting whiteness as the root of all evil
The Tavistock Trust is also clear about its aim to become an ‘anti-racist organisation’ through a Race Equality Strategy that was first announced in 2017 and relaunched last spring.
The Trust’s March 2021 newsletter said: ‘The differential impact of Covid-19 on different ethnic groups, as well as the killing of George Floyd in the US and the prominence of the Black Lives Matter movement, have further exposed the depth of systemic racism within our society and the institutions within it.’
It added: ‘We are seeking to hold a mirror up to our organisation. We want this review to go beyond our existing approaches and work with organisation to come up with a clear strategy to change the culture of the organisation and hold us to account.’
The Trust published its final investigation report into Ms Gallagher’s complaints in October 2021.
The report said that Anne Aiyegbusi realised her lecture had been ‘intense’, but said it was ‘undeniable’ that ‘Europe in the name of Christianity was instrumental in the racism, slavery and colonialism that has a linear connection to what we see today in forensic services’.
It also upheld the Trust’s view that Ms Gallagher had been ‘excessively and inappropriately confrontational’ when raising her concerns with the course.
It denied that her progression on the course had been compromised by her views but said there had been ‘concern’ for her ‘capacity for learning becoming restricted’.
The Mail on Sunday knows of no similar complaints against the course.
However the Trust found Ms Gallagher should receive an apology for the letter sent on May 07 by the Tavistock’s deputy director of education, Elisa Reyes-Simpson, because there had been a delay in sending the letter that had caused ‘confusion and alarm’.
It also said Ms Reyes-Simpson should initiate a review of the student conduct concerns procedure.
Toby Young from the Free Speech Union said: ‘This is a prime example of the wokeness that’s endemic across the higher education sector, depicting whiteness as the root of all evil.
‘All publicly funded institutions have a legal duty not to create a hostile environment for people in virtue of their protected characteristics, including religion and belief, so I suspect Amy has a strong case. I applaud her courage.’
Ms Gallagher said: ‘In the investigation report, I was told I was the problem and that I needed to interrogate whiteness.
‘At no point have they apologised for telling me that Christianity is a racist religion. I’m seeking an apology for their discriminatory views and they haven’t done that.’