Regulation must be extended to help stamp out abuse
Posted Wednesday 1 July 2009
Patients will continue to be unprotected if statutory independent regulation is not extended to counsellors and psychotherapists, according to leading national charities Mind and WITNESS. On the day that psychologists are to be regulated by the Health Professions Council (HPC), the charities welcome the advancement and urge counsellors and psychotherapists to follow suit.
Psychological therapies remain one of the least regulated areas of mental health practice in the UK, currently anyone can set themselves up as a counsellor or psychotherapist, without formal training or need to join a professional organisation. There is no single body to monitor malpractice and numerous complex complaints systems make it difficult for patients to take up claims. The Government has promised HPC regulation for psychotherapists and counsellors by 2011 but there remains some professional opposition to the plans.
Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of the mental health charity Mind, said:
“People go to see a counsellor or psychotherapist when they are in distress and it is unacceptable that at their most vulnerable they are not being properly protected. Now that psychologists are to be regulated by the HPC it makes sense for counsellors and psychotherapists to follow suit. We need a robust system of regulation that ensures health professionals meet set standards and patients are offered a central and fair system for making complaints. It is clear that self-regulation is not working and the Government must press ahead with its plans to overhaul the system.”
WITNESS Chief Executive Jonathan Coe said:
“It can be very hard for clients to complain. Not only does it require a great deal of strength of character to report abuse but people have to face over 100 different codes of conduct and organisational complaints procedures, may have to meet their own costs, prepare their own cases and represent themselves at panels made up exclusively of professionals.”
“The existing system is open to abuse. It allows therapists to continue using the same titles, even after they are removed from their own register. HPC regulation can’t end abuse but it can provide a single, unified and unbiased channel for complaints, and if a practitioner is struck off they are then legally barred from operating under that title.”
Professional boundaries charity WITNESS is approached every month by individuals who have been abused by therapists. People like Ed whose psychologist broke patient confidentiality when she divulged to third parties sensitive details of their session. He has attempted to make complaints but has been unsuccessful as it is his word against that of the psychologist, who denies wrong-doing.
"Until it happened to me I would never have believed that someone in that sort of job could, and would, tell a downright lie in order to cover up for their errors. Even so I felt sure I could rely on the complaints process to sort it all out. Now I realise that is not the case which is why I am so convinced independent, transparent and compulsory regulation for the talking therapies, according to a proper code of conduct, is essential"