1) THE PRINCIPAL POINT I WOULD MAKE is that the HPC has ignored the fact that no case has ever been made that compulsory state regulation of psychological therapists provides the public with better protection than the existing voluntary registers. The Maresfield Report’s comparative figures confirm the opposite to be the case. If it aint broke why fix it? But a fix on the basis of a lie - namely that the HPC can and will provide better protection for clients from unethical therapists would appear to be at the very core of this mistaken project. Now lying, as it happens, is one of the very few across the board contraindications for psychological therapy, which depends on an endeavour to tell the truth. By the same token HPC regulation is contraindicated for counselling and psychotherapy, it is unfit for that endeavour. In mitigation it has to be acknowledged that the HPC is merely mirroring a polis that in recent years has been functioning on the assumption that if it can be spun then it will be done.
However the ethics of counselling and psychotherapy are irreducibly in tension with this mode of managing appearances. All the more reason then to break these people in. Again I note that the HPC has not even fulfilled its master’s requirement, as expressed by The Department of Health’s White Paper “Trust Assurance and Safety”, to consider whether it is the appropriate regulator for counselling and psychotherapy. It has simply assumed a mandate without bothering to establish a basis for it.
2) The attempt to pass off the PLG as representing the field of counselling and psychotherapy wont wash. The process for selecting its minority psy field membership was scandalous.
3) Reports of its subsequent deliberations suggest a degree of bullying and a spurious unity of views (and that is with even allowing for the prior exclusion of any potentially critical representation).
4) Furthermore the HPC appears to be untroubled by the history of the regulation debate i.e. that less than 2 years earlier both the UKCP and BACP had rejected it outright as an appropriate regulator but could now be incongruently stitching up the psy field at the HPC’s orders, under government duress of course.
5) The manifest lack of engagement with the substance of extensive critiques of the HPC’s regulatory project, lodged through The Call For Ideas, puts the
HPC’s integrity in question. It remains to be seen whether the nine papers published in the book “Compliance? Ambivalence? Rejection?” and the compendious Maresfield Report will be similarly ignored, not to mention the arguments advanced in many other individual submissions such as this one.
Merely recording and summarising the results of The Call For Ideas was indicative of yet another sham ‘listening’ exercise. Will this Consultation also prove to be a con-insult- ation? A genuine engagement with the by now very detailed and highly elaborated critique of HPC regulation by both HPC and the DoH is now overdue.
6) The collaboration of the UKCP and the BACP with HPC through the PLG, with shades of Vichy, is widely recognised as based on an unprincipled and shabby opportunism, driven by the desire for power and economic advantage of certain training institutes with an eye on the NHS psy market, groupings that do not represent the will of the practitioner base. That said, a recent politicisation of the BACP’s membership base has compelled its Executive to reject key elements of the PLG’s recommendations. Concurrently Professor Andrew Samuels is running for Chair of the UKCP on a suspension of HPC regulation ticket and is attracting significant support.
7) Close on three thousand practitioners have signed a petition against HPC regulation. This is an extraordinary groundswell of disaffection, given how generally apolitical psy professionals tend to be. A second petition against OverRegulation has attracted support from the client side and general public.
8) If HPC blunders blindly on at this juncture Principled Non Compliance will consolidate. Others will slide into False Compliance (registering with HPC out of fear and/or cynicism). False Compliance is ruinous for a professional activity that prioritises truth telling and will inflict decades of damage on the psy field.
9) The standardisation inherent in the HPC mode of regulation, as trainings conform to its demands, will lead to a reduction of choice of modes of therapy for the public.
10) Will the promised Impact Assessment pick up on the impending damage or is it more likely that it wont recognise it? Most likely it will be spun to validate a predecided and undeclared agenda, the Blatcherite project of undermining the trustworthiness of the professions in favour of installing a culture of mistrust, audit and surveillance.
11) In common with many other practitioners I don’t recognise my practice in the Standards of Proficiency. I do not support psychotherapist and counsellor becoming protected titles. The distinctions between the two titles that a couple of members of the PLG cobbled together at the last minute on a lunchbreak are specious.
12) The public would be better protected by a Practitioner Full Disclosure List in
conjunction with an expansion of mediation for dealing with complaints, a public information campaign on what to reasonably expect from counsellors and psychotherapists in their different modalities, a rolling programme of ethics debates for counsellors and psychotherapists to participate in, and resort to the criminal justice system for dealing with fraudulent claims and sexual and financial abuse. There is no reason why a variety of synergistic measures to enhance civic accountability should not be encouraged, such as the processes of ongoing familiarisation with colleagues’ work both within and between small groups that enable a responsible ‘standing by’ as exemplified by IPN, now 15 years established and the route I have personally taken towards enhanced voluntary regulation.
13) I regard College and University based training as largely irrelevant to practice,given that a practitioner’s personal therapy in my view is the foundation of the craft and its ethics. Thus HPC regulation in conjunction with the Skills For Health competency grids is geared to an industrial model for the standardised production of psycho technicians operating under expropriated titles.
14) Despite the HPC’s touchy denials this regulatory project is unmistakably and irremediably medical model in its orientation and foundations. Again I don’t recognise my practice here, rendering the HPC an inappropriate regulator.
15) Sociologically speaking HPC regulation expresses four contemporary forces: Bureaucratisation, academisation, medicalisation and marketisation, the convergence of which guarantees the eventual ruin of the lively and creative working culture I have inhabited as a practitioner for the last twenty five years.
16) HPC regulation of the psychological therapies derives much of its raison d’etre from a broader current political agenda, the need to be seen to be implementing measures to protect populations from risk. For Terror read Therror (therapist error). Therror features an unhelpful scrambling and conflation of competency issues (all therapists will on occasions be incompetent and it may be news for HPC that therapies progress in spite of and at times even because of incompetency) with ethical issues (inherently local or contextual and,please note, very very few practitioners actually indulge in unethical behaviour).
The medical model HPC is running factors out of the equation an awkward truth that psychotherapy and counselling (with a few exceptions) are co-created enterprises, value and insight and change if anything depending more on the client’s contribution (would HPC care to regulate the client?). Policy driven by risk protection tends to erode individual responsibility and thus in human relations work produce a dangerous illusion of safety.
17) HPC regulation panders to the ideology of consumerism and in conjunction with the medical model misrepresents counsellors and psychotherapists as exponents of service delivery, persons who do something to other persons like dentists or are there to fulfil orders as if they were grocers. Practitioners writing to their MPs tend to receive (standardised) replies that position them not as constituents but as customers. If therapy is a consumable then the door is open for vexatious third party complaints and lawyers on the look out for a new no win no fee profit sector. It is well known that the changes which clients can make in their lives are by no means always gratifying to spouses or the family of origin. In other domains of life such misrepresentation could be termed a set-up. Some sections of the psy professions may well fall in with this illusion and thus in due course fall into this particular HPC trap.
18) A colleague of mine has noted that as the alleged wisdom behind the proposal for HPC state regulation is that the control of the therapy is unsafe in the hands of those who are trained and qualified to use it, how does it suddenly become safe in the hands of those who are not professionally qualified in its use, who indeed glory in their declared managerialist ignorance of it?
19) There is only one honourable course of action for the HPC at this point. To recommend to the Department of Health that its assignment to regulate the psychological therapies is a mistake and should accordingly be called off forthwith.
20) In summary HPC regulation of counselling and psychotherapy is unwise, unjust and untruthful.
All I have is a voice to undo the folded lie.
eIpnosis is edited, maintained and © Denis Postle 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009
UNWISE, UNJUST, UNTRUTHFUL
by Guy Gladstone
A Response to the HPC's PLG Recommendations for the Regulation of Counsellors