The idea that psychotherapists, counselors, and other professionals involved in mental health are able to self-regulate their practices and client relations may be an admirable goal, but in most instances, it has been demonstrated that regulation by a third party, most usually the government or a dedicated overseeing agency, can be of great benefit to practitioners and clients alike. In the United States, efforts to promote widespread regulation of psychotherapists have been largely successful, with standards for licensing, continuing education, and therapy for therapists themselves serving as major focal points. In the United Kingdom, however, many professionals are objecting to recent proposals for the greater regulation of psychotherapy and counseling practices.
The proposals have been made in the wake of increasing reports of therapist abuse by clients in the UK. Such abuse has ranged from inappropriate relationships such as those involving sexual contact or the deliberate development of co-dependency to legal issues such as the consumption of marijuana in the presence of clients. UK charity Mind, which has been deeply involved with efforts to improve the quality and reach of national psychotherapy services, has noted that increased regulation by an unbiased party is needed, as self-regulation has thus far proved unsuccessful.
Opponents to the proposals have suggested that they will change their professional titles to reflect individual disciplines or schools of thought, thereby avoiding the need to register with an overseeing agency. Such moves may make a powerful statement about the desire for professional independence, but supporters of the push for regulation suggest that a refusal to participate could be associated with a greater risk of client harm. As reports of such harm increase, the urgency of the regulation issue is likely to rise as well, creating a lively debate among the UK’s psychotherapists and counselors.
© Copyright 2010 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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