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Guilt Hardens the Heart?

EDITORIAL December 2006

Responses to the consultation phase of the Foster review of non medical health care professions have been with the DoH for a few weeks now. Those that Ipnosis has seen express very significant doubt about the Foster review which, as ipnosis readers will recall, doesn't mention the psychological therapies at all but lays out the terms under which the Health Professions Council will regulate them as a sector of the medical universe.

If you follow Will Schutz's excellent notion that significant doubt is a No, only the IPN participant's response calls a spade a spade, rather than an instrument of husbandry. It gathered several hundred signatures in less than two weeks for statements saying an unequivocal No to any state regulation of the psychological therapies.

Not to be outdone by such a paltry few no-sayers, the BPS and its new friends BACP and UKCP, posted the following press release declaring that '100,000 non-regulated professionals have said ‘No’ to the Government’s proposals for their statutory regulation'. 'Nine professional bodies... have worked together worked together to develop an alternative of how their members might be best regulated to give the public protection on a par with that guaranteed with Medical Practitioners' (ipnosis emphasis).

More accurately, as I have previously reported in The Penny's Dropped, coming face to face with the reality of taking delivery of their wish for state regulation provoked in the BPS and its allies a very unscientific panic and despair mindset. The result In August /September was a quick and nasty defensive response to the DoH - sound a fanfare for the Psychological Professions Council [PPC] - (Permission Please to Control?) A 'brochure' posted 30/11/06, again makes the claim of 100,000 supporters for the PPC. If you know how these numbers have been assembled ipnosis would delighted to hear from you.

With a couple of exceptions, from the Lacanian psychoanalysts, and Richard Mowbray, other responses, so far as we have been able to gain access to them, say no to Foster but dress up their bitter (and entirely justified) complaints about the report's inadequacy in pleading protestations along the lines of 'please regulate us, but also please make sure it doesn't hurt'. As though there was any possibility that state regulation of the nuanced subtleties of therapy could be implemented without damage and pain.

For example, while autumn is pretty much over, the Skills for Health partners are no doubt readying their combine harvesters to cut and thresh our counselling and psychotherapy competencies. Their web site is instructive, if you go up a layer or two you'll find that Skills for Health lives under the umbrella of the skills sector development agency Skills for Business.

'At the heart of the Skills for Business network are 25 Sector Skills Councils (SSCs). Each SSC is an employer-led, independent organisation that covers a specific sector across the UK.'

'SSCs provide employers with a unique forum to express the skills and productivity needs that are pertinent to their sector.

Isn't this, to hit the irony switch, just what the psychological therapies need, a 'skills for business', 'employer-led' take on what matters in the work we do? That's what I mean by damage and pain, keep this in mind when the competency questionnaires arrive in your mailbox.

But hold on a minute, in writing that sentence I'm assuming that you will be consulted, that you belong to a democratic organization. But isn't it more likely that the responses to the Skills for Health task of establishing psychotherapy and counselling competencies (leaving aside psychoanalytic competencies) will never reach you?

Come on Denis, how could 50,000+ practitioners possibly negotiate a set of universal competencies with the Department of Health's contractors? No, that's a task for the mainstream organisations. After all we can trust them (even if we are outside their remit) they are people of goodwill, they are well intentioned;

And, as Rosalind Mead of the DoH, in a recent rebuke to the UKCP, demonstrates, the mainstream accrediting institutions continue to have a capacity for a genteel, competitive brutality; a quality that the headlong pursuit of state endorsement of therapy professionalization somehow seems to generate.

Brutality? Isn't that too strong? In the decade and a half that I have been a regulation watcher a number of images have formed of the professionalisation/regulation process: 'glaciation', 'stealing the flame', 'turning the gold of therapy into lead', 'domesticating therapy's wildness', 'making a walled garden out of a meadow', 'fencing off and claiming exclusive rights to a sector of the psychopractice prairie', 'taxonomy and taxidermy' (collected next spring in a forthcoming book).

These intuitions continue to reflect a domineering, imperial vision and an ultimately brutal culture of control and expropriation. That this is carried through by well-intentioned, gentle and subtle people is not in doubt. What they don't seem to see is that state regulation of psychopractice and the manipulation and spin that it entails has the same kind of brutality as building a motorway through a nature reserve; as though historically we were not at a time when, in psychosocial and physical landscapes, ecological diversity matters incomparably more than any taxonomy culture of barcoded skills. As I have already outlined here, such a culture mutates into taxidermy.

In his poem Choice, Robert Alter warns that guilt hardens the heart, I guess that the brutality of the pursuit of regulation by the mainstream organizations, their desire to be recognized by the state as the experts on the human condition, gives rise to considerable amounts of guilt, perhaps due to the (half-conscious) perception that this is selling the soul of psychotherapy and counselling. Continuing to be a regulationist enthusiast does appear to require a certain hardening of the heart so that the damage regulation will entail drops out of sight.

State regulation of psychopractice will cause damage.

Ipnosis would like to see the underlying justificatory notion of 'protecting the client' rewritten as 'protecting the client's experience'. If we make this fundamental shift isn't state regulation a non-starter?

It has been a matter of great delight in recent weeks to have discovered a community of hundreds of practitioners who appear to share enough of this perspective with Ipnosis to be prepared join us in publicly refusing to bystand the harm to the client's experience that state regulation will entail.

Thank you.

Ipnosis is edited, maintained and © Denis Postle 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006. 2007
December 20 2007

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