Speaking the unspeakable #2
Now and again I try to remind myself why I am convinced
that state regulation of psychopractice is problematic and harmful to both
client and practitioner interests.
Hidden behind the benign protective promises of psychopractice regulation and the reasonable voices patiently lining you up for it, is a death threat. In a vain attempt to guarantee client safety, it will kill, in the sense of 'uprooting those plants considered to be weeds', as a onetime Chair of UKCP described it, is intended to kill, wildness, the esoteric, the exotic, and the unpredictable, that are involved in the unavoidably haphazard tasks of helping people find their way out of corners into which they may have become painted.
So far as it is unable actually to eliminate such subtleties from 'official' psycho- practice, the compulsive over-valuation of what can be measured sidelines the immeasurable, the experiential, or the intuitive, even the emotional, in favour of the spurious certainties of 'evidence based practice'. Evidence, it would seem, entirely derived from discredited old paradigm research on people.
Meanwhile, creativity and innovation are already being hi-jacked by the institutional need for ingenuity in nuancing the HPC's requirements. Will these maneuverings be as effective in guaranteeing client safety as the audit culture in schooling has been in significantly improving education? Or the multiple makeovers in the NHS have been in delivering significantly improved care, or noticing Dr Shipman's toxic habits? I doubt it.
One or two organizations appear to have seen over the edge of the abyss. IPN is obviously one of them; the BACP seems to be rowing away from the HPC as fast as they can. Another is psychoanalysis, where some practitioners, for example the College of Psycho-analysis, aware of the dire effects of regulation in Italy and France, have seen the impossibility of reconciling the core elements of psychopractice, the 'specific singularities' as they call them, of psychoanalytic discourse, with an HPC audit culture.
Alongside these inhabitants of the psychopractice landscape are the innumerable other psy traditions that, happily, prosper unnoticed under the radar of the HPC and the DoH, the innumerable schools of yoga, scientology, co-counselling, revaluation counselling, Reiki, life coaching, career coaching, feng shui, reflexology, meditation, Steiner and human scale education, internet counselling, the variously valuable seminar traditions such as Landmark, Insight, and Hoffman Process, and whole galaxies of self help books, CD's and DVDs.
Perhaps we should ask, are counselling and psychotherapy really so important? A Google search for 'personal development UK' turned up 121 million entries, the age-old appetite for knowing ourselves and settling into ourselves seems alive and well and there appears to be plenty of nourishment outside of the boundaries of quasi-professionalized psychopractice.
Is this misplaced optimism? More particularly, am I compulsively optimistic about human nature? Is IPN's 14 year history of mutuality and cooperation in support of what we lately began to call 'best practice accountability', an optimistic froth on the top of a toxic brew of 'the malicious desire that we all have in our hearts', as psychoanalyst Chris Oakley recently put it, that necessarily requires an accommodation with the state's monopoly of force for containment and regulation? After all, what ultimately defines a viable state? Isn't it that the state has a monopoly on the use of violence, force and coercion? That makes, by association, a very seductive form of endorsement of what is often a very uncertain occupation and if we need it because we might really do bad things, then we win both ways.
To not know what model of human nature shapes our beliefs and practice whether as persons and practitioners, we favour pessimism, or prefer optimism, and/or how we balance them and yet to diligently run the one we have inherited as a 'regime of truth'constitutes a deep trough of unawareness that can make for intolerable incompetence in psychopractice.
Supporters of state regulation of psychopractice such as the UKCP appear to be compulsively standing on, or colluding with, a wholly pessimistic model of human nature, one which expects abuse, coercion, and exploitation of clients even from fully trained and qualified practitioners and presumes that ultimately only the threat of state force can contain such dangerous tendencies.
These, recall, are for the most part training organizations. Yet their model of education delivers practitioners into the working world whom the schools, soon to be incorporated as Colleges, insist would be unable, with a few others, to safely and reliably self-assess their fitness to practise, specify the client population with whom they could competently work, and hold a self-directed commitment to an ethical code.
We are of course all entitled to line up behind whatever model of human nature we prefer; however, as religions around the world are presently demonstrating, it matters less that we have a model of human nature than that we do not believe it to be the only or true one, and that we do not feel we have the right to impose it on other people.
And yet today in UK psycho-practice, we have the mind-boggling spectacle of schools of psychopractice embracing top-down power relations, shepherding, bullying, manipulating and entrancing their memberships into the arms of the state, as though dominance and subordination was the only model of power relations. As a colleague quietly whispered to me at the recent Psychoanalytic SR conference, 'everyone here sees the world through hierarchical spectacles'. State regulation of psycho-practice in the form that is presently being contemplated will serve to further legitimize the hugely damaging cultural norm that says that 'might makes right'. which underlies the victimization so many clients present with.
Happily, a minority of UK practitioners seem to be waking up to the degree to which this archaic perspective on power relations is being enacted in the field of psycho-practice. Scattered across the whole field of psychopractice, they have yet to find a focus (apart from IPN) for their dissent. Such practitioners are likely to prefer, or at least recognize the value of, a model of human nature that sees persons as predominantly cooperative, mutually supportive, altruistic, and non-violent, and able, with others, to take responsibility for the conduct of their work.
Is this a utopian dream? As Jonathan Schell in The Unconquerable World has documented in detail, haphazard but very effective application of such a non-violent 'power with' paradigm of human relations is what in recent decades brought Eastern European countries out of their oppression. Will current proposals for statutory regulation of psychopractice honor such a model of human nature? Not the way it looks at the moment. Will a way of orchestrating rejection of the planned 'self-mutilation' be found? I believe so.
In the 17 years or so that I have been regulation watching in the UK, there have been several attempts to orchestrate either statutory, or state regulation of psychotherapy and counselling. Each stumbled over the task of 'herding cats' as one DoH person put it, and while the current effort may also fail too, it has a different quality, being the first with active government participation.
The DoH may succeed in entrancing the UKCP's collegiate companies into enthusiastic participation in their programme of external facilitation of role analysis, competencies listings, and disciplinary codes that plugging in to the HPC will require. If so, my guess is that nothing less than mass resistance (meaning mass resignations) will head off state/statutory regulation. I don't see the DoH/HPC being able to regulate an occupation in which a significant proportion of practitioners reject their proposals for regulation out of hand.