Just at the point where eIpnosis had decided we had better things to do than study the entrails of UKCP, a notice of an open meeting with the above event title arrived. First reaction was no, these people have invited the state in to take over-arching responsibility for their ethical posture vis a vis clients, we have indeed better things to do. Second reaction, show up, was prompted by several pages about dissent from the imminent capture by the Health Professions Council [HPC] at the end of the UKCP’s recent Call for Ideas submission to the HPC, Part 2: 4.3 pp11-13.
Yes, pigs might well fly, three semi-public UKCP pages of dissent from the notion of state regulation [SR].
If, following Will Schutz’s notion that doubt constitutes a ‘No’, a more powerful political action for UKCP than participation in the SR process would have been to refuse to take part in it and to let their registrants later vote with their feet. An action that would almost certainly derail the whole regulation process since (see below) huge numbers of UKCP trained practitioners don’t even register with them anyway, and may not see the need to sign up to the HPC either.
However with this lack of democratic leadership in the background, Transforming Times, the event, with occasional flashes of connection, slipped into quite a lot of wallowing in apolitical psychotherapist anguish about not being good enough, about not communicating well enough with clients, why can’t we reach some simplification about what we offer that clients (but more importantly government) can easily understand? How can we be more self confident and find our own respectability?
As an event it didn’t fly. It was billed as an enquiry but turned out to be framed in an extremely prescriptive way, as though the facilitators had been entranced and intimidated by the culture of domination that eIpnosis and others have long felt suffused the UKCP.
Be that as it may, for regulation watchers there were a variety of contacts, statements and leakage that made the day worthwhile. I’ll try to list a few of them.
Some people present claimed that ‘clients had to be protected from harm’ and saw this as sufficient justification for state regulation. For others it was personally essential; it promised ‘power’, ‘recognition’, ‘status’, and a job, plus ‘a way of protecting my pension’. People were open about what amounted to survival agendas. They would take on SR, even if for the moment it meant setting aside a fullon psychotherapy capability in favour of false compliance, ie undertaking a CBT training that might eventually let their psychotherapy knowhow back in via the fire escape.
In the eIpnosis universe such false compliance even contemplating it, contributes actively to the formation of an inner charlatan. This subpersonality is likely to appear as soon as therapists pretend to be someone they are not, i.e. pretending to be a CBT-affirming SR-embracing person not practising in accord with their real values and orientation. What comes with this is a tendency to project it onto lesser mortals, for example counsellors and coaches.
That some people were in a tough place, let alone UKCP itself, is not in doubt. To eIpnosis, the issue seems to be how far ethical erosion and values incongruence can be tolerated without a shame tsunami. Considering the amount of reflective anguish in the room, this could be a prediction of things to come.
The dynamic of the day’s inquiries was undermined by the early presentation from an official of a long list of questions and statements such as:
If we want to be seen as a profession, we have to have rules.
Do we want any regulation at all?
Would regulation with caveats be OK?
Can we stop it? Regulation brings fear.
How can we become more political?
Do we want to be put in boxes?
We value divergence but not categories.
A more savvy and fully cooperative inquiry might have spent the morning discovering for itself what participants brought with them. Such a detection process and subsequent ownership of the participants’ actual questions, collected and collated, as opposed to those provided, would have told us a lot we didn’t know. But then in cultures of domination such surprises may be (unconsciously) suppressed. And certainly for eIpnosis it was a day light on surprise. As though the dominant training culture couldn’t get out of the act. And we might guess, it can’t, or doesn’t yet know how to.
In the conference pack was a list of the 70+ UKCP MO’s. Here was an acknowledged elephant in the room that wasn’t , each and probably every one of them is likely to be under threat of going out of business if they don’t succeed in signing up to some form of state regulation. Each of them has trainees for whom, as part of their training purchase, they are committed to delivering state registered status. A powerful over-arching dynamic that was not owned and declared at this event.
Also not owned and declared until eIpnosis and others lobbied for it, was the actual current state of play around SR. Without prodding, no mention would have been made of the imminent December 4th first meeting of the HPC Professional Liaison Group [PLG] at which, echoing one participants grief about the onset of regulation, another declared this date as the point at which ‘the kiss of death for the psychological therapies would be administered’. At all such meetings, as eIpnosis has learned, people are running at very different speeds on SR, some entirely off the track. One senior training member of the UKCP’s CPJA section had never heard of the HPC, let alone the PLG. There seemed to be few people at the meeting who were at all adequately informed about the development of SR.
At the end of the morning, an inquiry process was introduced that invited people to occupy pre-defined roles, ranging from‘apathy’‘state regulation is going to happen, it’s inevitable’‘come on, let’s get regulated and make a difference in the world’‘opt out, let me get back to my practice’. This livened things up but as before, the group dynamic was undermined by the roles being prescribed, not discovered. However, people speaking from some of these positions let it be known that dealing with the SR process left them feeling ‘dirty’, and that they felt that this got into their client workalso that to the dominant ‘health’ (i.e. medical) model of SfH and HPC, the UKCP was perceived as a threatand that on the PLG the UKCP was outnumbered (see below for more on this). However a key official still asserted ‘that it was better to be in than out’.
eIpnosis has long distinguished in client work phases such as ‘recovery’ ‘survival’ and ‘flourishing’. That the UKCP is in ‘survival mode’ seemed only too obvious from this meeting. ‘Recovery’ from the imposition of SR may yet be on the horizon. Flourishing? Not in prospect. However fragments of information, chinks of light leaking from the trainer dominated UKCP interior, were useful pointers to how SR might play out in this organization. For example there are apparently 22,000 ex officio members, people who over the years have been trained by the 70+ Member Organizations, and around 3500 trainees. There was news earlier in the year that there is churning of about 1000 UKCP registrants a year, and that only 6000+ UKCP trained people currently see the need to be registered with them. On a registrants day earlier in 2008, only four registrants showed up.
In the light of all this, that the UKCP (and BACP) each has only one voice at the HPC’s PLG table is bizarrely unrepresentative. Perhaps they are only noticing this after the event. It does look as though only due to the HPC superceding their regulatory function have the UKCP been now compelled them to reconsider the representation of the registrants. Also bizarrely unrepresentative is the extent to which that sole UKCP person is unrepresentative of this UKCP constituency that seemed to grow by the minute, to over 30,000 people trained in the last 15 years or so. What a story of failed representation. eIpnosis didn’t go to this meeting to have prejudices confirmed but these figures form an extraordinary underline of the long-standing perception among regulation watchers that UKCP functions as a trade association with most of their registrants regarded as inconsequential output.
How can an organization that doesn’t represent its own constituencies claim to know how to represent clients' interests?
And… unlike the BACP, let alone the BPC, this was an open meeting. And… there are voices that seem determined to turn the supertanker around. The UKCP membership will be opened up to become registrant-direct. Under SR, as someone asked, will we still have to be a member of our Member organization, and register with the UKCP and the HPC? The answer, only the HPC.
After some prodding, a curiously reluctant UKCP leaderhip set out a useful summary of the recent regulatory history and outlined a few priorities, they were: paying focused, distinct attention to the Regulator, the HPC, its Professional Liaison Group, the employer-led organization Skills for Health, and Increasing Access to Psychological Therapies. The UKCP ‘would be working with politicians and bureaucrats behind the scenes’, ‘seeking alliances with BACP and BPC’fighting cornerscompeting with hostile othersthe usual tasks of dominance cultures that trade associations have to cope with.
eIpnosis was occasionally seduced into empathic concern with these difficulties but via a necessary reminder quickly jumped outwhat is being power-brokered in these cultures of domination is something very precious and even fragileways of working with the human condition that always entail fundamentally non-coercive relationships. Collaboration with the tick box, audit, surveillance culture of the HPC has historical resonance. The psychological therapies are at a Vichy moment. It’s not surprising that some people would come out of this process feeling contaminated.
The gentle, caring reflectiveness of much of the meeting suggested that any of these people would be a safe pair of hands for a needy client; and yet they don’t see that the mismatch between the dominance culture of SR and their ‘loving’ practice, as one participant described it, constitutes values incongruence that they are on the way to finding intolerable.
And so it might prove, since the UKCP leadership was prepared to acknowledge two significant shifts in orientation. One, that there might yet be a break point in the regulatory process. Such a public declaration suggests that there has been a policy decision on it. eIpnosis guesses that it would arise out of a Regulatory notion that the fixity of standards can, in the psychological therapies, be somehow be equated with the ever-shifting dynamics of ethics, and that the imposition of this view by force might regarded as terminally intolerable. We’ll see. A second encouraging moment came when without prompting, one of the leadership group privately let it be known that they were taking responsibility for representing Principled-Non-Compliance [PNC], and Conscientious Objection, the unyielding approach to SR of some practitioners.
Hmm. Perhaps, if you will indulge the hurrah, the 11000+ plus hits on eIpnosis may be reaching the parts that have previously seemed impermeable.
To conclude, three eIpnosis after-reactions. One was that there seemed no place at all here for human potential work, i.e. the deep academization and grip of training agendas seems to bias ensuing psychotherapy professionalisation towards the treatment/therapeutic resolution of distress, and away from personal development for its own sake.
Secondly, the training/accrediting bodies such as UKCP are not a military industrial complex but in their academicized, bureaucratized, medicalized and latterly, marketized ambitions to marry into the power of the state, they do resemble that nexus of power, money and influence. Each sector locks into the other three to consolidate its grip on the psi field as a whole. For practitioners awake to the delicacy, subtlety and specificities that slip through the fingers of such a complex, attention is shifting to a practitioner movement that will leave it to its fate with the state.
Lastly, in how this event played out on the day, power was a word hardly mentioned; its absence might be thought to have stalled the event. Its omission also lends weight to the continued observation that the UKCP leadership, and not least UKCP participants, still seem oblivious to the limitations of hierarchical top down power relations in the ‘working with the human condition’ field. They might be appropriate, even necessary, for a trade association but where there is such values incongruence, clients interests are definitely not on its front page.