18 May 2010

Counsellors and psychotherapists working group meets again

Anna van der Gaag, Chair of HPC writes:

On the 12 May 2010, the sixth meeting of the HPC’s working group (called the professional liaison group) on counsellors and psychotherapists took place in London. The purpose of the meeting was to review progress and to discuss the plan of activities over the coming months.

There was a consensus round the table that progress had been made over the past year. Areas where further work was necessary were now more clearly in focus. The HPC’s initiatives on reviewing the generic standards of proficiency, and the Council’s recognition that the generic standards needed to become more over arching and less orientated towards the language of ‘health’ were seen as a key to accommodating counsellors and psychotherapists within the existing structures. There was also an acknowledgement that HPC’s ongoing engagement with the professional associations was important to making progress on all the outstanding issues – differentiation between counsellors and psychotherapists, child and adult work, as well as consensus building on the standards of proficiency and the standards on education and training. Third, members of the group spent time discussing the wider debates taking place about regulation, and the need for ongoing engagement with those who currently oppose regulation. There was an acknowledgement of the range of reasons behind opposition to HPC as a regulator. Several members felt it would be helpful to know more of the detail behind the proposals for the alternative form of regulation being proposed.

The planned activities over the coming months will centre around the PLG’s further engagement with a range of stakeholders as well as further deliberations by the group on the outstanding issues outlined above. There was agreement that the group wished to invite service users to present their perspectives on these issues, as their voice had been under represented. Careful consideration would need to be given to how best to hear more from users on their experiences of counselling and psychotherapy and views on regulation. Other suggestions included employers and those with expertise in working with children, some additional perspectives on regulation of the profession across the world, and possibly additional input from educationalists when giving further consideration to standards from education and training.

The work of the PLG in gathering more expertise and hearing from a wider range of stakeholders will run in parallel with four public meetings across the UK. These public meetings will provide opportunities for further dialogue with the profession. Each meeting will include presentations from HPC on its work, a question and answer session and workshops.

My own observation was that there were several threads running through today’s discussions – one was the ongoing need for the PLG members and the HPC to engage with the profession. The second was the centrality of the relational element in counselling and psychotherapy – which was common across all modalities - and should be clearly recognised and articulated in the current debate. The meeting was, as ever, populated by a wide ranging and constructive dialogue and a desire to make further progress towards statutory regulation.

Anna van der Gaag