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How to be sure that your Therapist is safe and qualified

How to be sure that your Therapist is safe and qualified

How are Psychotherapists and Counsellors regulated? How can the public be sure their therapist is safe and qualified? In this article, Psychotherapist Jessica Woolliscroft explains the ways in which individuals seeking counselling can ensure that the Therapist they choose is properly trained and practices in an ethical way.

The general public are usually very surprised to discover that unlike Doctors, who are regulated by the General Medical Council, or Nurses who are regulated by the Royal Society of Nursing, or Clinical Psychologists who are regulated by the Health Professions Council, there is no statutory body that regulates counsellors or psychotherapists.

If a counsellor or psychotherapist is dishonest, incompetent or even seriously unprofessional in their conduct there is no government body that will investigate, discipline them or prevent them from practising. It is probably very shocking to most that anyone can call themselves a psychotherapist or counsellor… even with no relevant training in the field at all. The situation is often worse for child psychotherapy where many practitioners work with children and young people without having gone through any formal training in child psychotherapy.

So, how can you protect yourself when choosing a therapist?

Most people come into therapy at a time when they are feeling particularly vulnerable so do not feel assertive enough to ‘shop around’…however, the relationship that you have with your counsellor or psychotherapist is potentially life changing so it makes sense to choose with care. It is completely acceptable and sensible to compare websites and to ask basic questions when making initial contact….these questions could include:

  • Where did you train?
  • How long was your training and what is your qualification to practice?
  • Did your training include personal therapy?
  • Are you insured to practice?
  • Do you receive regular supervision?
  • Are you a member of a professional body - such as UKCP, BACP, UKAHPP, and NCS?
  • What are your terms and conditions (fees, cancellation policy etc)?

It makes sense to ask such questions; these questions are not ‘inappropriate’ or  ‘intrusive’ …they are relevant and could help you in making your decision. If the practitioner refuses to answer these questions or seems to be evasive then you would need to reflect on this and decide if this is the kind of therapeutic relationship that is in your interests.

So what are the protections and frameworks?

There exists a variety of umbrella organisations which hold their own membership registers and set their own standards of competency to practice. These include:

  • The UK Council for Psychotherapy – UKCP
  • The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy – BACP
  • The UK Association for Humanistic Psychology Practitioners – UKAHPP
  • The National Counselling Society – NCS

They will determine where and how long people should have trained, whether they should have received personal therapy as part of their training, will insist upon practitioners being insured to practice and will have a complaints procedure. Some of these organisations also have hierarchies of membership so that more experienced members become accredited practitioners or supervisors.

Some information about Regulation

In the meantime, how is the government proposing to regulate the psychotherapy/counselling field? There have been attempts over the past few years to set up statutory regulation and to protect the titles of psychotherapist and counsellor so that they could only be used by practitioners with specific trainings. These attempts have failed for complex reasons and now the government has decided to try to establish a voluntary regulation system called Assured Voluntary Registration AVR. This involves establishing a register of organisations that hold their own lists of approved members and are judged to manage themselves in a safe and professional manner.

If you would like to find out more about Regulation of the industry, then please follow the link below.

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