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The end of the holiday season has seen a shower of activity in the UK psychopolitics territory. Apart from the COSCA text posted here in early August, three other items have appeared pointing to changes in regulationism priorities.

The College of Psychoanalysts [CofP], shocked by the British Confederation of Psychotherapists [BCP] decision to negotiate directly with the HPC, appears to have woken up to the way the UK psychopolitics landscape was beginning to be eroded and is promoting a conference next year: PSYCHOANALYSIS AND STATE REGULATION details.

Intriguing though this move is, much more interesting are the arguments put forward in a College of Psychoanalysts text handily passed on to IPNOSIS - STATE-REGULATION AND PSYCHOANALYSIS: THE POSITION OF THE COLLEGE OF PSYCHOANALYSTS. This is essential reading for anyone interested in the debate about how, or whether, psychopractice would survive the State Regulation that now seems to have become the government's preference. Here is a sample:

Within the past two years, however, it has become apparent that the government will not sanction statutory-regulation for either profession and that the government wants state-regulation under the Health Professions Council (HPC) instead of the original preference of the professions for statutory-regulation via a Psychotherapy Bill. Almost by default, that now appears to be the direction in which both professions are heading.

Added to this there is a catalogue of some of the details of psychoanalytic practice that, while at the extreme of the psychopractice spectrum, echo much of what many practitioners will be be doing, if they are lucky enough to have clients with the courage and resource to dive deeply towards the often unforseeable, unimaginable depths of human hurt and distress. As the CofP correctly guesses, such open-ended psychic enquiry would be beneath the HPC's regulatory radar and thus potentially illegal. The text is a useful outline of why clients' interests are unlikely to be well served by any form of State Regulation.

Alongside this, though they make curious bedfellows, a press release from the BACP reveals that the 'Director of Workforce' a sector of the DoH previously unknown to IPNOSIS, is promoting a Review of non-medical professional regulation: Call for ideas.

BACP's response to this call (IPN has yet to be asked) supports the sense that, as though they had taken part in some long overdue vision quest, the BACP now seek to move away from, rather than embrace, statutory regulation of psychotherapy and counselling. Here is Point one from the BACP text, IPNOSIS emphasis:

1. The Professions
Regulation has served a number of purposes for the professions in the past. It represented recognition that a particular occupational group had gained jurisdiction over an activity to the exclusion of other groups. It gave legitimacy, status, respectability and greater bargaining power in the workplace and with user groups. It was the mark that showed that an occupation had become a profession.

Today, so many diverse occupations are regulated (from physiotherapists to radiographers to night club bouncers), that regulation no longer confers the kind of status it once did. However, through the protection of title, regulation does close an occupation to the unqualified and thus provides some advantage to registrants, along with some public protection.

Further, statutory regulation results in a profession yielding significant control over its educational and continuing professional development (CPD) standards, and therefore, over its future development.

Bearing all this in mind, it is difficult to see why any currently unregulated profession would seek statutory regulation under the existing models with their tendency to stifle innovation.

After reassuring the DoH that despite this:

...BACP supports the concept of statutory regulation...

BACP's Alan Jamieson goes to ask if:

there is an underlying assumption in this Review that statutory regulation ensures public protection. Given that there appears to be little evidence to support such an assumption, we would be interested to explore that premise further, adding that the protection of a title, which is the main means by which statutory regulation operates, is proven to be ineffective...

On the Health Professions Council [HPC], apparently the government's preferred vehicle for counselling and psychotherapy regulation, the BACP is less than enthusiastic:

Taking the HPC as an example, it seems to us, that the developmental functions relating to the professions it regulates, ie. review of curricula, approval of placement agencies and definitions of CPD, can only have a detrimental effect on the development of best practice and innovation in those professions. Whilst the purpose may have been to address professional self interest, we believe the resulting exclusion of professional expertise can only result in stagnation in the longer term.

There's more, much more, read it for yourself and witness the attempts of the BACP to try to row away fast from the emergent State Regulation of counselling and psychotherapy via the HPC. As though the damage to client and practitioner interests this would entail had not been thoroughly explored (and ignored to death by BACP et al) over the last 16+ years.

An IPN participant recently posted the following message from Brian Magee Chief Executive of COSCA:

Regulation of Counselling and Psychotherapy

Recently I attended a meeting in London of the UK Government's Department of Health's Project concerned with the statutory regulation of counselling and psychotherapy. From my previous correspondence on this Project, you will recall that a Liaison Group comprising of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) and the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) was established and funded to work with a Reference Group comprised of all accrediting professional bodies in the field of counselling and psychotherapy in the UK. COSCA is a fully active member of this Reference Group.

The Liaison Group has now completed its extensive and challenging work of mapping the training in counselling/psychotherapy, the analysis of the ethical codes of the participating professional bodies, and a study of the functions of counsellors and psychotherapists. A report from the above is being prepared and will be submitted to the Department of Health. Copies will be distributed to members of the Reference Group in due course. The funding for doing further work is not yet in place and it is unclear whether further funding will be made available.

In the course of carrying out the above work, there have been increasing doubts cast by the Liaison Group on whether counselling/psychotherapy should be regulated by the Health Professions Council (HPC). One of the main reasons for this is that the above work showed that most professional bodies already have higher standards for counsellors/psychotherapists compared to those that the HPC would apply.

If the mood of the last London meeting was anything to go by, there now seems to be a shift in thinking not only away from HPC as the regulator, but also away from statutory regulation itself and a return to focusing on working together as professional bodies on self-regulating the activities of counsellors and psychotherapists. Depending on the UK Government's response to the above report, this shift may or may not be developed further. I will try to keep you informed about any developments on this matter.

Brian Magee

Chief Executive (COSCA)

July 2005

September 27th 2005

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