Today - psychology comes under the regulatory auspices of the Health Professions Council. In some ways this does not affect me directly at present because I don't fit in to any of the categories which have become protected titles. It also creates a bit of an anomoly as I fit the criteria to be registered as a qualified social worker because of my past work and qualification with his body. The counselling profession is going to be professionally regulated in 2 years time. This has created a fair amount of controversy and indeed this process is likely to be a lot more 'messy' than some other types of professional regulation. Regulation seems to be working well for social work. However, this is a very clearly defined profession with existing statutory duties. Social workers have been traditionally employed by local authorities who are public bodies with very clear lines of responsibility and training has been provided for some time by publicly funded Universities. In addition to this training had been standardized and regulated for several decades.
Training in counselling, on the other hand has been provided by a diverse range of bodies, many of them private. There is a great variety of models and approaches. Many counsellors work in private practice and they do not have any statutory duties.
Part of the problem with the regulation controversy is that several different objectives are being conflated. The most obvious one is the need to protect the public from unethical, untrained or unscrupulous practioners. An article in today's Guardian recounts a story about a woman who was a victim of sexual misconduct by a counselling practioner. Certainly, the public need to be protected from such misconduct. However, statutory regulation is likely to encompass other issues such as standards of training, approaches to practice, monitoring of standards etc. Many of these issues cannot be tackled without significantly changing the face of the profession and its relationship with its clientel. Much of the attraction which private therapy hold for clients is the fact that is holistic, private, highly confidential and outwith the mainstream. For practitioners, the freedom to choose a model and develop their own highly individual stykle of working is a huge attraction in a field which does not offer many opportunities for high earnings or career development.
This is an issue which is likely to generate a very strong and lively debate over the next few years. Lets hope that whatever happens with regulation it arises out of a debate which hears all sides.