In other posts of this blog I have made my personal and professional opinion clear. As I have argued, the HPC, in its attempt to create an umbrella of standards applicable (with minor adjustments) to all Health Professions, has created a Procrustean bed that works by eliminating differences and homogenizing approaches in the name of “protection of the public”, “scientific evidence” and “measurable outcomes”. This, I wrote, can only be to the detriment of a discipline like psychoanalysis which as we have seen, and very clearly, does not fit on that Procrustean bed.
The war is far from over, but there were some interesting developments. Instead of re-writing things that have already been written by others much better than I could ever hope to do myself, I choose to reprint below a press release by several Psychotherapy Organisations –including the ones that I belong to, CFAR and College of Psychoanalysts-UK.
Here it goes.
Association for Group and Individual Psychotherapy, Association of Independent Psychotherapists, Centre for Freudian Analysis and Research, The College of Psychoanalysts-UK, The Guild of Psychotherapists, The Philadelphia Association
19 October 2009
Psychotherapy Organisations Poised to Challenge
Health Professions Council in the Courts
The Kings College and Royal Holloway study, 'Statutory Regulation and the Future of Professional Practice in Psychotherapy and Counselling', funded by the General Medical Council and the Economic and Social Research Council, warns of over-regulation failing to provide the best model of patient care. A focus on high-profile 'media spectacles' creates a regulatory climate 'obsessed with blame', leading to regulatory practices which fail both clinicians and patients. The HPC is criticised for its failure to address political forces at work in its consultation process, with certain stakeholders battling for 'position and influence'. It concludes that HPC-style regulation may well be less effective at public protection than a profession-based mandatory regulation, with an emphasis on mediation and interpersonal processes such as supervision. Current regulatory proposals fail to recognise the complexity and subtlety of the therapist-patient relationship.
These conclusions echo those of The Maresfield Report, which also highlights HPC's expensive and adversarial system of complaints, with a growing backlog of unheard complaints and a exceptionally high rate of dismissing complaints from members of the public as 'no case to answer' (more than 70% compared to 10% in therapy organisations' existing procedures). Complainants may be required under HPC to disclose medical history and hearings take place in front of a public gallery, undermining basic principles of confidentiality. The Report also finds that although there have been several European projects to introduce statutory registration of therapists, Britain is the only European country to propose regulation for the actual content of therapy sessions.
Many of the organisations which published The Maresfield Report have also threatened a legal challenge to HPC this week via the well-known London law firm Bindmans. HPC were given the brief to assess the 'regulatory needs' of the field and to explore its own suitability as a regulator, yet proceeded as if there was simply no question that the field required regulation and that they, in fact, would be the regulator. There is concern that one motivation here may be financial: HPC budgets are growing each year, and the registration fees of counsellors and therapists would be the single largest source of income the HPC would receive from one profession.
HPC's failure to make a proper evidence-based case for regulation, ask itself critical questions as required by the statutory regime and conduct proper consultation means that its actions are open to challenge in a judicial review claim. The psychotherapy organisations involved will decide whether to issue one in the next few weeks, depending on the HPC's response to Bindmans' submission. The new reports and the legal challenge will be a major embarrassment to HPC at a time when it has begun actively lobbying both Conservative and Lib-Dem policy makers, anticipating a change of government before the proposed legislation can be introduced. It will be particularly embarrassing to HPC’s CEO Marc Seale, who is trying to push through this controversial regulation while many politicians are becoming critical of the once received wisdom of the project.