COUNSELLING – PROFESSIONALS vs CHARLATANS:
Can the public easily tell who are properly qualified counsellors and psychotherapists and who are charlatans? Sadly, the answer is a resounding ‘No’. Unfortunately, the Government has refused to do anything that might help weed out the fake practitioners. It seems that the government’s ‘anti-red tape’ policies are all about pruning the official rule books. They want fewer regulatory bodies; they certainly don’t want to create any new ones. That’s why there isn’t an official Therapists Registration Agency and why there isn’t any way of keeping out the quacks. There is no such thing as a properly vetted list of genuinely qualified counsellors and psychotherapists. Buyer beware!
It could all have been so different. About 5 years ago a national scheme to officially regulate the talking therapies was about to be rolled out. The appropriate minimum qualification levels for counsellors, (undergraduate), and for psychotherapists, (postgraduate), had been established. It was also agreed that the Health and Care Professions Council would regulate entry in to these two professions and that the HCPC would monitor practicing therapists. The public would be protected – at last! However, in 2012 the Government chose not to implement the necessary legislation. This means that anybody, trained or untrained, qualified or unqualified, can call themselves a counsellor or a psychotherapist. There are no official safeguards for the public. No minimum standards, (or indeed any standards), of qualifications or experience are necessary. Worried? You should be. The fact is that if you randomly choose a therapist then you might very well pick a fraud. What’s more, if anything goes amiss there is no one to complain to; no one who can stop a ‘wrong-un’ practicing. There is very little, (if any), possibility of redress. You are on your own.
So, how do you tell the difference between the qualified practitioners and the con artists? In theory, if counsellors or psychotherapists are registered and accredited members of one of the professional associations then they should be OK. Unfortunately, the reality is that in all too many cases the minimum standards accepted by these associations are abysmally low. At best, their entry-level members might help a little. At worst they probably won’t do too much harm.
Just to make matters worse, there is an awful a lot of misleading self-marketing out there, particularly amongst the minimally qualified. There is a tendency, especially amongst the inadequately trained, to present themselves as being far more expert than they actually are. Watch out for therapists who list lots of degrees without stating which subjects they studied or at what level they studied them. All too often unidentified degrees, usually in totally irrelevant subjects, are listed so as to suggest levels of therapist training and expertise that are unwarranted. If a practitioner is listing an apparently very impressive number of academic honours it is very important to find out exactly which subjects these degrees actually relate to. Clearly, ‘Bert Smith, BSc – Counsellor’ looks good. However, ‘Bert Smith, BSc (Media Studies) – Counsellor’ is not so impressive. Always remember the case of Dr Marie Stopes the celebrated pioneer of birth control. The natural assumption is that she must have been medically qualified. She wasn’t. Her doctorate was in the study of fossil plants and coal!
Always try and sort out the wheat from the chaff with regard to claims about diplomas and certificates. Not all diplomas and certificates are equal – far from it. Not all awards have real value. A diploma or a certificate can be awarded for anything from attending a weekend course in elementary counselling to completing a Diploma in Higher Education that equates to Year 2 of an honours degree in counselling or psychotherapy. Be warned!
You also need to be very be very careful of people claiming to have attended lots of impressive sounding training programs and skills courses, (usually ones that you have never heard of). In many cases they only needed to have attended on Day 1 to get a ‘qualification’ – there were no exams, tests, or assessments. In other words their impressive sounding accreditations might prove little more than that they turned up and paid their registration fee. They certainly do not mean that somebody is fit to practice counselling or psychotherapy
Finally, be wary of practitioners who claim to disdain formal therapist training. According to them, therapy is an innate creative art, one that cannot be taught. These high-minded ‘therapeutic missionaries’ nobly refuse to be constrained by anything as demeaning as therapist education. Their inborn skills, they say, cannot be sullied by anything as mundane as training for a qualification. So, should you trust such people? That’s up to you but ask yourself this. Would you trust a self-taught airline pilot or an amateur surgeon?
At the end of the day, it is an unfortunate fact that all the public can really do to make sure that their counsellors or their psychotherapists are genuine is to do a bit of personal research and to ask around. No competent practitioners will object to being asked questions about their work or to explain just what it is that their qualifications mean. Genuine professionals will openly and honestly advise you about their own, (or someone else’s), ability to provide what you need. If you are ever not sure if someone is OK or not then why not ask me for some advice. I’ll always be happy to talk you through your options. You can contact me via my website, (www.normanclaringbull.co.uk) or email me at email@example.com