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29th March 2000 text
Denis Postle

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This Article accompanied a comprehensive review of the Psychotherapy Bill 1999 published in Self and Society January 2000

Weary of the task of confronting the professionalisation of psycho-practice, I often remind myself that vigilance about how, and by whom, human nature is being defined, is always honourable and necessary. Thus is it is no exaggeration to say that the Psychotherapy Bill is a very important document. It attempts to put certain of the definitions of what constitutes human nature, what is 'human' 'natural' and 'normal', beyond argument.

There is a literal assumption in the Bill that its registrar and all practitioners are male. This Achilles heel is an indication of the Bill's male-dominant, hierarchical, autocratic view of what is human and natural. And this has been embedded in the regulatory infrastructure it proposes.

That such a view of what is human and natural is seeking to be privileged over any other is surely highly incongruent with the ways in which psychotherapists actually work (Postle 1998, 2000) Yet it is clear (Casement 1999) that this Bill or something very like it, is high on at least the UKCP's wish list.

Might the Bill resolve the dilemma that the UKCP's 70+ organisations face due to the impossibility of advocating both pluralism and restrictive regulation? At first sight this looked promising. But wait a minute, so far as these schools sign up to statutory regulation, won't their definition of human nature suddenly have the status of law? What was previously local will become legal. And also, by giving, literally, the 'force of law' to even a handful of definitions of human nature, does not the Bill demean, denigrate and demote the rest of the field of psycho-practice? Might this indeed be one of the Bill's intentions? So much for pluralism.

Regulation, as we are often told, is for the protection of clients, and surely with this Bill, for them everything in the garden is now rosy. Or is it? Just as doctors know what is 'normal' and 'healthy' and psychiatrists know about 'disorders' and 'mental health', so now psychotherapists, (state registered, for there will be no others), claim to 'know what is good for us', 'how we should live' (Tantam &Van Deurzen 1999) in other words, what is human and natural.

That many clients may welcome this is unsurprising but isn't it a poisoned promise? Part of the price of the Bill's legal enforcement of who is and who isn't a 'psychotherapist' involves the modelling of domination as a preferred form of social relating. As a result, one of the definitions of human nature that psychotherapists regulated under this Bill inevitably bring to their clients, is that domination is tolerable, even natural, because that is the organisational style they have signed up to.

As I point out elsewhere in more detail (Postle 1999, 2000) domination (and subjection, subordination, victimisation etc.) is a defining feature of almost all client abuse. Yet here is a Bill that has domination running through it like Blackpool through a stick of rock. A Psychotherapy Bill no less.


Casement, A (1999) Chair's Report The Psychotherapist No 13 Autumn 1999        
IPNOSIS An Internet journal for the Independent Practitioners Network http://ipnosis.postle.net        

Postle, D (1998)The Alchemist's Nightmare: Gold into lead the annexation of psychotherapy in the UK International Journal of Psychotherapy 3:1 G.O.R.I.L.L.A. archive http://www.lpiper.demon.co.uk/        

Postle, D. (1994) The Glacier Reaches Edge of Town. Self and Society 23:6 G.O.R.I.L.L.A. archive http://www.lpiper.demon.co.uk/        

Postle, D. (1999) Statutory Regulation talk given at the British Confederation of Psychotherapy conference 'Statutory Regulation', June 1999 G.O.R.I.L.L.A. web-site http://www.lpiper.demon.co.uk        

Postle, D. (2000) Shrink-wrapping psychotherapy British Journal of Psychotherapy Spring issue        

Postle, D., & Anderson, J. (1989) Stealing the Flame. Self and Society 18:1 G.O.R.I.L.L.A. archive http://www.lpiper.demon.co.uk/        

Tantam, D. & van Deurzen, E. (1999) The place of psychotherapy and counselling in a healthy European social order European Journal of Counselling Psychotherapy and Health 2:2        

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