'The Penny's Dropped', so read a large sign for Maestro plastic money in Liverpool Street station as Ipnosis travelled to the October 10th meeting of the psychotherapy and counselling Reference Group, an ad hoc collection of mainstream psychopractice organisations. As we discovered, for the organisations who have been pursuing state regulation of psychotherapy and counselling, the penny has at last dropped that it promises to be a disaster.
The meeting's core agenda: how to respond to the proposals for progressing state regulation of counselling and psychotherapy from the Foster review of non-medical healthcare professions and Professor Appleby, National 'Mental Health Czar', as an NHS insider described him at a recent IPN Gathering.
This agenda unfolded (unraveled) something like this:
The Foster Report is appalling, and inept, and regarded as 'excruciatingly embarrassing' by the DoH but even though they find themselves between a rock and a hard place because of it, Foster will likely shape government action.
The reference group organizations also regard the HPC as inept, inadequate, wholly medical in its world view, and not 'fit for purpose' as a regulator of psychotherapy and counselling.
1. State regulation of psychotherapy and counselling is INEVITABLE - fervent emphasis from the reference group chair - (an Ipnosis rejoinder that this statement amounts to a trance induction, fell on deaf ears).
2. The Foster Report says 'no other regulator than HPC'.
3. After decades of wishing for state regulation, the BPS looks to have got their wish, to be 'state registered psychologists'. Unfortunately, panic, panic, it means being taken over by the HPC, i.e. they get their wish but not in the form they had dreamed of.
How do they, the BPS, avoid turning from princes into frogs?
The emerging subtext of the meeting was that the BPS position re: state regulation by the HPC (despite them having 'pulled back' in their negotiations with HPC) was 'precarious', i.e. there appears to be a high chance that regulation by HPC will be applied, whether BPS like it or not, during November's passage of the Mental Health Bill.
There was a second subtext, the meeting seemed fairly obviously a panic reaction to the latter possibility, not least because it promised that, having devoured the BPS, the HPC would pick off the remaining organisations one by one. So... how do psychopractice organizations respond to the Foster review November 10 consultation deadline for comments on the regulation process?
The BPS, aided and abetted by BACP and UKCP but not so far as we could tell, by the major psychoanalytic organisations, sought in the meeting to orchestrate support for 1, unified (but polite and respectful) opposition to HPC, and Foster and all his works, and 2, a proposal for an alternative approach - regulation of counselling and psychotherapy via a Psychological Professions Council [PPC].
In the characteristic fashion of the mainstream psychopractice organizations, the UKCP, BACP and BPS had devised a 'draft' running to 36 pages detailing how the PPC would be structured; however only the 'partnership group' had seen the text before the meeting. Oh yes and comments/suggestions for the draft by October 23rd please, a 'stitch-up', as a prominent UK professor of psychology later described it.
The meeting's tone of determined urgency strongly suggested that the BPS knows, or is close to certain, that they are up for imminent HPC regulation. The meeting was held in the BPS's chrome and glass City office and Professor Cooper, the prestigious BPS president, (but what does he know or care about counselling and psychotherapy?) found time to chair the first hour before leaving for a meeting.
One or two people voiced the opinion that the proposal for a PPC will be ignored by the DoH, since it can be read as a way of holding onto the current status quo while paying lip service to state regulation. Others felt that unless user groups, who, as someone said would provide 'a leverage point', could be 'harnessed' in it's support, the PPC notion would be seen as a further example of professional protection.
From an IPN regulation watcher's perspective it was hard to contain 'I told you so' responses. To reiterate Nick Totton's excellent notion, 'in seeking state regulation, psychotherapists and counsellors are not just turkeys voting for xmas, they have also written the menu', and they now feel alarmed as they see the cook turning on the oven and getting ready to pluck, stuff and cook them.
When, a day or two after the meeting, Nicola Barden, Chair of BACP, wrote to participants and organisations who not been able to attend, outlining what had been discussed, the urgency of the BPS's 'precarious position', and the possible domino consequences for UKCP and BACP of BPS being summarily imprisoned in the HPC were missing from her account.
These quotations give the flavour of the text:
There were several points of principle around which there was general agreement.
1. The Health Professions Council (HPC) is not fit for purpose as a regulator for the psychological professions. Its processes do not offer public protection in this field. The Foster Review, which offered no change to the regulatory framework for the psychological professions, failed to address any of the concerns raised by the field in response to the consultation.
2. A united approach by the professional bodies holds the strongest promise of effecting a change of view in the Government regarding its approach to regulating the psychological professions.
3. The involvement of user groups would be a powerful and necessary part of developing a fit-for-purpose alternative to the HPC.
4. It is helpful to present the Government with a positive alternative to the HPC, as well as a critique of it and of Foster.
.... The draft PPC is very open for discussion; the general structure of a regulatory council around which the proposal is built [that] is fairly standard and therefore difficult to alter.
.... Following 25 October, when there is a meeting of the ‘partnership group’ that originally considered this proposal (BPS, BACP and UKCP and a number of psychology organisations outwith BPS), and following feedback from the ‘reference group’, it may be possible to put together a shared statement with a list of signatures. This would be circulated to participants for agreement prior to any publication.
Ipnosis feels that it can't be said too often that the claimed inevitability of state regulation of psychotherapy has been a persistent trance induction generated by the mainstream psychopractice organisations over a period of at least a decade and a half. That its advent would involve cascades of of government led coercion and domination has been predictable for the whole of that time.
The inevitability trance denies a profound confusion of ends and means; if you have signed up to be state regulated, keep in mind that 'protection of the public' by regulation in anything like the form planned, HPC or PPC, will be overwhelmingly outweighed by the damage it will do to user's experience of psychopractice services.