Tag Archives: HCPC

Regulation, professionalism and cultures of dominance

The government has published a consultation document, Promoting Professionalism, Reforming Regulation. Although the paper does not mention counselling and psychotherapy directly, it does ask questions of, and propose changes to, the current system under which registers of counsellors and psychotherapists are accredited by the Professional Standards Authority (PSA).

In 2011, the Alliance cautiously welcomed the PSA system as an alternative to an earlier proposal to regulate counsellors and psychotherapists under the Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC), a plan we – and thousands of other practitioners – strongly opposed.

As we start to make sense of the current discussions, in which some in our field are already pushing again for state regulation while seeking to further align therapeutic practice with healthcare, we share as food for thought one submission to the consultation from long-term regulation-watcher and Alliance participant, Denis Postle.


Promoting Professionalism, Reforming Regulation: Consultation Submission from Denis Postle, ARCA

January 20, 2018

“How could the dominance cultures of the professional psychological organisations, however well intentioned, make reliable, just adjudications of the dominance misbehaviour of alleged errant members?”

I have been a practitioner of group facilitation, personal development training and therapy in the Humanistic Psychology and Human Potential traditions since 1985. In 1995 I was a founder participant of the Independent Practitioners Network (IPN) and for me this continues to be a dynamic way of sustaining practitioner civic accountability. This is not an Independent Practitioners Network response.

Over the last 20 years I have taken a detailed and sustained interest in the ongoing processes of regulation of the psychological therapies, publishing a considerable  amount of material on the internet via eipnosis: a journal for the Independent Practitioners Network  and two books, plus participation in several others.

As I will outline below, the more I saw of mainstream counselling and psychotherapy institutions in this time, the less I was inclined to be associated with them; this perspective is thus of an outlier. IPN emerged as a response to what was perceived as inadequate forms of civic accountability in the psychological therapies.

2.2  ………As the HCPC has traditionally been the regulatory body to assume regulatory oversight of new groups, it could be seen to have a vested interest in expanding its registrant base. We therefore believe that the PSA, working with relevant stakeholders, would be better placed to provide advice on the regulation of professions

During the abortive process of taking counselling and psychotherapy into regulation by the HCPC, then just HPC, I had extensive contact with its chief executive, Marc Seale, and attended and reported on a substantial number of events and meetings there. I became convinced that, then or now, for the HCPC to regulate psychotherapy and counselling would be as inappropriate as putting the Royal Ballet under the control of the Sandhurst military academy. The HCPC knew how to ‘grasp’ but had no capacity for ‘holding’ the nuances of the practice of counselling and psychotherapy. Happily the HCPC’s coercive, prescriptive approach to this task failed and should not be revived.

I attended many of the early foundation meetings of the PSA and its cultural grasp of regulatory tasks was notable for its more participative, cooperative stance.  I regard it as a least worst option.

Promoting professionalism, reforming regulation

The text of the departmental statement under this headline, as so often, appears to make a presumption that psychotherapy and counselling are some subsidiary of medicine, i.e. they consist of ‘assessment’, followed by ‘diagnosis’ and ‘treatment’ of ‘patients’. This hegemony of the medical paradigm and the assumption that how medicine is regulated can transfer to the psychological professions continues to defy constant challenge from critical practitioners. It is perhaps a key vehicle through which harm to people in need continues to be enacted.

There may be a small place in the diverse cornucopia of the psychological therapies for biomedical treatment using zero responsibility elixirs but the overwhelming basis of psychological work is relationship. This means that there is an intrinsic element of risk, and insofar as  regulation has sought to make this disappear, it has tended to make professional practice defensive. How can this be in the public interest?

Risk can and should be minimised, to do this successfully would seem to  mean there was comprehensive evidence of the actual amount of harm that was prevalent in the psychological therapies. I and colleagues I have consulted are not aware of any such evidence.

Witnessing the regulatory shenanigans over the last 20 years in the UK convinced me that ‘Professionalism’ in the psychological therapies is comprehensively compromised in ways that this consultation seems unaware of.

Some perspectives that may be relevant:

The psychological therapies can be seen as an extractive industry. Practitioners work with clients, they accumulate in professional journals the insights that emerge; there is parallel input to trainings, supervision and professional conferences, where the extracted knowledge is refined  and fed back into practice. This tends to be a self-referential elite activity, the psychological knowledge does not diffuse significantly into society. One result of this elite grasp of work with the human condition amplified by the pathologising of instances of common human distress, has been the generation of stigma. As a result, and especially in the current climate of economic ‘austerity’, access to professional psychological knowledge typically requires a crisis.

For the industrialised psychological therapies, regulation has multiple benefits. It supports the creation of professional walled gardens of therapeutic practice membership of which is restricted in ways that generate unnecessary scarcity. The walled gardens are also professionally and economically in competition with each other and have often seemed more concerned with status and protection of the profession than of enriching and empowering the population at large.

Due perhaps to the medical paradigm that shaped early development but also because of an overly self-referential professional culture, access to these professional walled-gardens tends to be excessively expensive, unduly lengthy and with inappropriately complex academic content. Where is the evidence that, apart from the economic benefits to universities and training institutes, and enhanced professional status, a Masters or a PhD is a requisite education path for sitting alongside people who are struggling with human condition difficulties?

2.9  ……….In addition, the Law Commissions recommended that regulatory bodies be given powers to operate a form of negative register through the use of prohibition orders for those groups not subject to statutory regulation. Such a scheme allows individuals to be barred from practising a specified profession or from carrying out specific activities and would set the standards required of a certain occupation. Where these standards were not met in a way that places the public at risk of harm, the relevant regulatory body would issue a prohibition order that would prevent or restrict an individual from carrying out a certain role or providing certain services.

This is perhaps the most important issue of the consultation.

I see no problem with a person convicted by a court of abuse or fraud being included on a public register of such offenders. The key to this is ‘convicted by a court’.

Inclusion on such a list of people found guilty of abuse by the professional bodies that are presently under the wing of the PSA would be unacceptable.

Three reasons for this:

1. In my experience of the behaviour of some people in the psychological professions, there will likely be a witchhunt of practitioners like myself who are on, or just outside, the margins of the regulation regime. Or for instance, who belong as I do, to civic accountability bodies that are too small for the PSA’s attention.

2. My study of the UK psychological professional bodies, including the HCPC, constantly demonstrated a profound paradox. The bodies claim to be protecting the public from abuse. But what is the origin of abuse? It is the enactment of some form of physical, emotional or cognitive dominance behaviour, i.e. some form of coercion, bullying or sexual abuse, due, leaving aside mistakes, to an unworked thread of belief or behaviour in the practitioner that licences them to enact some form of domination.

Why does this matter? It matters because with no exception that I know of, the professional psychological bodies associated with the PSA are all structured as traditional top down dominance cultures in which executives make decisions on behalf of members.

How could such dominance cultures, however well intentioned, make reliable, just adjudications of the dominance misbehaviour of alleged errant members? Especially if they are licensed to enact extreme dominance behaviour such as legally enforceable negative prohibition orders.

3. A negative prohibition order is way too close to potential abrogation of human rights, i.e. the human right to have a conversation with a consenting Other, paid or unpaid. In the hundreds of modes of approach to working with the wildernesses of the human condition, there will always be people and institutions who find some other approaches to be anathema or alien, and worthy of being dismissed as charlatanism. If they are introduced at all, negative prohibition orders should only apply to convictions by the courts.


Brief references

Books

Postle, D. (2007) Regulating the Psychological Therapies: From Taxonomy to Taxidermy. Ross-on-Wye: PCCS Books.

Postle, D. (2012) Therapy Futures: Obstacles and Opportunities. Lulu.com

Videos

The PsyCommons – Ordinary Wisdom and Shared Power

Around 75% of the UK population have no need of ‘mental health’ services. What is it they know and do that keeps them psysavvy? The psyCommons examines the ordinary wisdom and shared power hidden from us by the mental illness industries and the medicalization of ordinary human distress.

The psyCommons and its Enclosures: Professionalized Wisdom and the Abuse of Power

The second in a series of videos about the psyCommons looks at how the basic human capacity to resolve and survive the ordinary difficulties of daily life through family, friends and local communities, is undermined by the psychological professions, along with their pharma allies.

 

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Statement on Regulation

REGULATION OF COUNSELLING AND PSYCHOTHERAPY

STATEMENT FROM THE ALLIANCE FOR COUNSELLING AND PSYCHOTHERAPY, MAY 2014

Some years ago, the Alliance played a prominent role in the campaign against the statutory regulation of counselling and psychotherapy (SR). In reviewing the success of this campaign, it seems clear that it was not due solely to a change of Government in 2010. Petitions signed by several thousand practitioners against the plan to regulate the professions via the Health Professions Council (HPC, now HCPC) were remarkable, given the reticence usually shown by therapists in the political realm. Permission to proceed with a Judicial Review of HPC’s conduct was also highly significant. In general, the Alliance considers that, in the words of a Coalition health minister, ‘[we] won the argument’.

We are aware that SR is once again being discussed in some political and professional circles. We have studied Geraint Davies MP’s early day motion and Patrick Strudwick’s articles, and noted some pressure and mobilisation from the same groups of counsellors and psychotherapists who were previously supportive of SR under the HPC.

To us, it is, at the very least, foolhardy to consider rejecting the current Accredited Voluntary Register (AVR) scheme run by the Professional Standards Authority (PSA) which is not even a year old. AVR is a progressive institutional innovation that addresses the vast majority of the defects that existed with the old, traditional voluntary registers. It should be given the opportunity to prove itself by allowing it to continue for at least five years.

The Alliance continues to welcome this scheme which, on balance, we see as substantially superior to the proposals for SR under the HPC. In our view, the PSA scheme has already improved matters. For example, although the old voluntary registering organisations were already operating under ethical codes that made the offer of reparative therapy a matter of serious professional misconduct, it was the PSA’s committed anti-discriminatory policy that underlay the decision by the Association of Christian Counsellors (ACC) to follow suit. Until their accreditation by PSA required a rethink, this organisation was one of the main sources of providers of reparative therapy.

The PSA also deserves much credit for the United Kingdom for Psychotherapy’s (UKCP) adoption of a mandatory Central Code of Conduct, a long overdue reform.


“It is simply not the case that counsellors and psychotherapists are untrained and unaccountable”


The Alliance would like to see the PSA doing more to promote counselling and psychotherapy, including drawing the attention of the public to the existence of its accredited registers. It is simply not the case that, as some supporters of the early day motion state, counsellors and psychotherapists are untrained and unaccountable. Our understanding is that the PSA promised such a promotion during early discussions with the former voluntary registering bodies, so is therefore now obliged to conduct an appropriate campaign.

We hope that the PSA might now engage more with its accredited bodies with regard to how serious sanctions, such as striking off, can be better and more widely communicated to the public.

The PSA has, so far, remained silent on the matter of SR. We realise that it may be politically difficult for the PSA to speak in defence and justification of its own existence but now seems a good time to start such a process. Many of the proposals to reintroduce the failed project of SR seem strikingly ignorant of the nature and even the fact of the AVR scheme. In the face of this, we would like to see the PSA issue a statement on the progress of the AVR scheme so far.


“a damaging and misleading idealisation of statutory regulation is taking place”


The Alliance believes that a damaging and misleading idealisation of statutory regulation is taking place. Unless there is a change in primary legislation, we will continue to see people struck off by statutory registers rebranding themselves and continuing to practice as before. It is highly misleading to claim that evasion of sanction is only a problem for accredited voluntary regulators as has been claimed.

We are perplexed at the linkage of the quite legitimate concern over reparative therapy with SR. We speculate that those who want to see statutory regulation are using current repulsion at general homophobia to further their own political agenda. In reality, most reparative therapy was and is offered by people with a religious orientation whose practice is not going to be affected by any kind of regulation of counselling and psychotherapy.

The Alliance also believes that, whilst prejudice can never be eliminated entirely, the situation in our professions has changed substantially since one small-scale research project of 2009 discovered the extent of reparative therapy being offered.

A key factor in the successful campaign against SR was the development of a convincing argument that statutory regulation of counselling and psychotherapy as ‘health professions’ was and is inappropriate for this field. The medical model of clear-cut diagnosis and treatment does not apply. In particular, an adversarial and generic system of complaints, founded on tendentious principles, and with no systematic inclusion of alternative dispute resolution (ADR – conciliation and mediation) will never be fit for purpose.

We should not forget that, when the HPC’s process was halted, there was no agreement over such central issues as the difference (or not) between psychotherapy and counselling, or whether (or not) work with children required different trainings.

The Alliance for Counselling and Psychotherapy will, of course, fight against any new plans for statutory regulation. But the previous experience was so divisive that we sincerely hope that those who are looking to reintroduce the project will read this statement, reconsider their position and engage with us and the majority in our field in making the still-evolving AVR system work as effectively as possible – in the interests of clients and patients, the professions, and society as a whole.

The above statement has been sent to a number of key figures in the debate, including politicians, journalists, regulatory bodies and therapy organisations.

Soundings #1

An Odd Couple: Gay Rights and State Regulation

A bill – supported (on Twitter) by the British Psychoanalytic Council – proposing the regulation of counselling and psychotherapy by the Health Professions Council [1] is awaiting its second reading [2] in Parliament on 6 June 2014. However, no sitting is expected, nor is the bill (sponsored by Labour Co-op [3] MP Geraint Davies, Swansea West) expected to become law.

It is, however, expected to become a campaign issue, and indeed, it is already showing signs of gathering support. Those in the psy-therapy field who favour state regulation are hitching their wagons to it, the motor of which, you may be surprised to hear, is gay rights.

The bill proposes that Section 60 of the Health Act 1999 (Regulation of health care and associated professions) be amended to include a paragraph requiring that a code of ethics for registered counsellors, therapists and psychotherapists must include a prohibition on gay-to-straight conversion therapy. You can read the bill here – it is one page long.

Let’s look at some of the threads that hold this ‘object’ in place.

1. Davies claims that 16 per cent of therapists practise gay conversion therapy, and cites Bartlett, Smith & King (2009) [4] to support his claim. The quote from the article actually says: “Although only 55 (4%) of [1,406 surveyed] therapists reported that they would attempt to change a client’s sexual orientation [if asked] … 222 (17%) reported having assisted at least one client/patient to reduce or change his or her homosexual or lesbian feelings.”

The major organisations, including UKCP, have responded to this by banning reparative therapy, and making it “an ethical offence” to offer it “even if asked”. In practice this seems to relate only to work done by the Association of Christian Counsellors (who are not registered under the UKCP), which leaves the wider questions which are raised here apparently undiscussed.

2. The Society of Radiographers recently considered these issues with Davies and have gone on to adopt his ideas as policy. At their Annual Delegates Conference, 7-8 April 2014, they formulated their wish to campaign with the TUC to push for counselling and psychotherapy to be given to the HCPC in order to prevent practitioners from trying to convert gays to straights. Conference notes that gay conversion therapy has recently been evidenced as an active practice within the UK psy-scene, with one in six psychiatrists, therapists and psycho-analysts admitting to having attempted to change at least one patient’s sexuality. This practice has no medical indication and is deeply rooted in the idea that homosexuality is a mental illness.” They go on:

“Psychotherapy in the UK is an unregulated practice, with practitioners free to practise out with professional bodies and their ethical statements.  With the majority of referrals coming from general practitioners, the Government is debating a Bill to regulate psychotherapy under the Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC).  However, Norman Lamb, Minister of State for Care and Support, has said that the Government has no plans to ban conversion therapy and believes that regulation of therapists is not appropriate due to the cost to registrants and taxpayers.” And finally, the Radiographers conclude: “As a regulated profession we call on the UK Council of the Society of Radiographers to: Support the Government Bill and make it clear they believe any health and social care profession should be under statutory regulation. Work with relevant gay charities, such as Stonewall and Gay Men’s Health, to ensure that vulnerable people are protected from this unregulated practice.”

This Motion was supported by the UK Council of Radiographers and passed by Conference earlier this year. In speaking for his motion, Ross McGhee quoted Freud’s letter to an American mother in 1935, which says: “Homosexuality … is nothing to be ashamed of, no vice, no degradation. It cannot be classified as an illness; …. Many highly respectable individuals of ancient and modern times have been homosexuals, several of the greatest men among them (Plato, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, etc.). It is a great injustice to persecute homosexuality as a crime, and cruelty, too.” [5] McGhee wants to know why such enlightened opinion seems not to be figuring in the current debate.

3. Another supporter of the bill is journalist Patrick Strudwick who came to prominence in February 2010 with his article in The Independent newspaper reporting his undercover assignment to ask a Christian BACP counsellor (subsequently struck off as a result of this article) to help him to “pray away the gay”. On 24 February this year, Strudwick penned another article, this time for the Guardian supporting Davies’ bill, and concluding that: “If the government votes against this bill on Friday [6], as they have suggested they will, they will be failing every Briton – not only the one in four of us who will suffer mental ill health but everyone affected by it. They will leave you, your child, your partner, or anyone reaching out, vulnerable, scared, to quell their distress, at the mercy of the untrained, the unqualified and the unethical. This is not simply a scandal; it is an emergency.” UKCP Chief Executive David Pink wrote to the Guardian, rebutting Strudwick’s article and suggesting that the public were more at risk of harm from such simple assumptions and misleading reporting.

4. Leo Abse, famously flamboyant lawyer and former Labour MP for Pontypool (and then Torfaen) from 1958 until 1987, pioneered a private member’s bill to decriminalise homosexuality. Abse’s bill was eventually passed on 28 July 1967. This important private member’s bill is apparently being prepared for spinning by the Labour Party [7] as one of its great contributions to this country, rather than the result of the personal struggle of one of its backbenchers. You can listen to a BBC interview with Leo Abse, broadcast on 20 December 1966, here.

5. The Law Commission published its report (following the consultation on the regulation of health and social care) on 2 April this year. The 465-page document can be consulted here, and you can find its analysis of issues around ‘voluntary registers’ from paragraph 5.24 on page 60, and its “Recommendation 28: The [existing] regulators’ powers to keep voluntary registers should be removed”. This means that regulators like HCPC could not also hold a voluntary register.

6. The attempt by the then HPC to capture counselling and psychotherapy was squashed by the Judicial Review hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice, 10 December 2010. Dinah Rose QC maintained that the HPC had unlawfully failed to address critical questions about whether counselling and psychotherapy should be regulated by statute, and whether the HPC is the appropriate body to administer such regulation, given the fact that many practitioners explicitly eschew a ‘medical-model’ orientation.

Despite the HPC’s attempt to have the application ‘timed out’, Mr Justice Burton also ruled that the Judicial Review had been brought without delay and was ‘clearly arguable’. Furthermore, he criticised the misleading nature of HPC statements. For example, practitioner groups had been led to believe that the HPC would fulfil its legal responsibility to report to the Department of Health on whether it had the requisite capability to regulate the field. This never happened, and the HPC proceeded as if the requirement to report on the matter did not exist, despite acknowledging it in an early-minuted meeting. Specifically, the judge questioned the HPC’s reassuring communication to the DH in December 2009 that it had completed its exercise and was ready to accommodate the talking therapies. He invited the HPC to “reword or revise” that letter. This never happened, and the HPC’s embarrassment was allowed to fade away when the new government changed the name to HCPC, gave it the social workers to register, and told it to drop its hope of capturing counselling and psychotherapy.

The questions now are whether enlightened opinion is still against state (HCPC) regulation, whether the new voluntary regulatory mechanisms under the Professional Standards Authority (put in place by the major bodies during the last few years – BACP, UCKP etc.) are widely understood and in good use, or whether the turmoil of the 21st century has left practitioners and public without the necessary bearings to think through these difficult issues.

For anyone who would prefer not to be defeated by rhetoric, babble, confusion and the wild commands of the super-ego, please do join the debate.

@Alliance4CP

info@allianceforcandp.org

http://www.allianceforcandp.org/

Soundings, a research report for the contemporary context of psy-praxis, is written by Janet Haney, who would like to thank colleagues for their part in supplying ideas, references, information and edits. All websites were sourced: 9-11 May 2014.

[1] The Bill cites the Health Professions Council, even though this institution has recently been renamed the Health & Care Professions Council in order to take the social workers on to its register.

[2] The ‘second reading’ is the moment for the first proper debate; the ‘first reading’ is a formality to read the title of the proposed bill into the records.

[3] The British Co-operative movement stretches back to 1844 when the Rochdale pioneers invented consumer co-operatives as a response to ‘the invisible hand’ of capitalism which was funnelling profits to a few, and leaving many to struggle.

[4] Bartlett, A., G. Smith & M. King, “The response of mental health professionals to clients seeking help to change or redirect same-sex sexual orientation”, BMC Psychiatry 2009, 9:11 

[5] Freud, Sigmund, “Letter to an American mother”, American Journal of Psychiatry, 107, 1951: p. 787.

[6] In fact this ‘first reading’ in Parliament is a formality to read the title of the Bill into the records.

[7] On-line survey taken by the author this month.