Regulating the Psychological Therapies: From Taxonomy to Taxidermy.
Subject: Government regulation of business
Author: DuBois, Dany
Pub Date: 07/01/2010
Publication: Name: Existential Analysis Publisher: Society for Existential Analysis Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Psychology and mental health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2010 Society for Existential Analysis ISSN: 1752-5616
Issue: Date: July, 2010 Source Volume: 21 Source Issue: 2
Accession Number: 288874209
Full Text: Regulating the Psychological Therapies: From Taxonomy to Taxidermy.

Denis Postle. (2007). Ross-on-Wye: PCCS.

As an untrained psycho-practitioner, Denis Postle has been campaigning against all forms of registration, regulation and professionalisation of psychological practitioners since 1990. This book is mostly a composite of articles he has written and published on the website of his organisation, the Independent Practitioners Network (IPN).

Postle has chosen to expose organisations such as the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) and the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) as mercenary businesses vying for premium position under the forthcoming statutory regulation of the industry. He draws to our attention the nefarious motivations of these regulating bodies, which he believes primarily aim toward gaining power and wealth. Furthermore, he is campaigning against umbrella regulation by the Department of Health (DoH), fearing the politicisation and medicalisation of all sanctioned therapeutic intervention. Postle believes that psychological services should offer a wide range of approaches, including New Age remedies such as Past Life Regression or Psychic consultation.

The book consists of three parts. Initially Postle argues against registration for psychotherapists by way of exposing the history of the UKCP's 'Machiavellian efforts' to establish supremacy in the field, jostling for power over other governing bodies of counsellors and psychoanalysts. As these governing bodies all seek state mandate to deem who can and cannot practice, Postle believes they are potentially committing a 'theft' of the psycho-practice territory, and that territorial protectionism of the sector is deplorable.

Postle is concerned that the monopolisation of the psychotherapeutic industry has evolved past the embryonic stage, and targets the Emmy van Deurzen dynasty as symptomatic of this hegemony. Professor Van Deurzen was the first chair of the UKCP, a chair of the member organisation Universities Psychotherapy and Counselling Association (UPCA) and runs the training college the New School of Psychotherapy and Counselling (NSPC). Through the selective quoting of van Deurzen on the need to 'quality control' therapists and her desire to turn psychotherapy 'into a scientifically based, accountable, professional expertise', Postle wishes to portray van Deurzen as a self-appointed patriarch.

Dennis Postle believes the goal of the UKCP is to monopolise the market in order to exclude competition while harvesting all the financial rewards for themselves. Postle says, 'UKCP is actually a trade association, composed primarily of training organisations, that is trying to structure the market for its services.' As he explains, member organisations, for instance the UPCA, are formulated purely to generate fees from students. He believes our professional ethical standards are compromised if we belong to organisations that are financially motivated businesses.

The UKCP claims to want to protect the public against rogue therapists, yet Postle argues that the UKCP is a dysfunctional organisation which itself merits rogue status. By accusing the UKCP of self-appointed status and double-standards, Postle is implying that the UKCP is in no position to pronounce on practitioners' legitimacy, without the risk of being considered hypocritical.

Part two of the book maps the attempts to bring psychotherapy under state authority and is predominantly a critique of the Psychotherapy Bill from 1999. The Bill was required to define psychotherapy as predicated on a specific construal of human nature. This perspective would take on a legal definition and consequently any other ontology would warrant negligible status in the public domain. According to Postle, psychotherapists should not wish to be directed by organisations who have a predilection for state regulation, as the aim to gain recognition as experts on the human condition by the medical world is morally dubious. Submitting our practice to state control involves a politicisation that impinges on our civil liberties. A hierarchical system which trickles down from government through accrediting bodies, through colleges to therapists, will ultimately dominate and infantilise the client. Infantilising the client contradicts the humanistic world-view embodied by many therapists, which maintains the importance of diminishing power relationships as far as is possible.

State regulation would in theory encourage the perception of psychopractice as privileged, demanding a further increase in unnecessary academic qualifications. Training institutions and academic organisations will become increasingly concerned with legitimising themselves in order to award accreditation, for which they will accrue greater revenue from increasing tuition fees and prolonging training timeframes. Student fees and consequently client fees would be artificially raised, exacerbating an elitism which discriminates against minority groups, women and the financially disadvantaged. It is in the interest of those who own the colleges to create such a structure, appointing themselves as arbiters of who is a legitimate practitioner and who is not, and the way to become legitimate is to pay up. Pay your college fees, pay your member organisation fees, pay your governing body fees, or else be refused the right to practice.

The third and final section concentrates on how the DoH have attempted to 'map, measure and capture' psycho-practice. The issue here is that of evidence-based practice and whether non-medical interventions can comply with the Health Professions Council (HPC) suggestions for good practice. Postle wishes to remind us that extended training does not guarantee good practice and contends that registering with governing bodies hinders a plurality of approaches which could be beneficial in therapeutic practices. He believes that having a diverse psychological field is preferable to the restricted and limited one that state regulation will decree. Government has been informed by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines which have declared Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to be the only evidence-based 'treatment' for depression and panic attacks and therefore the only viable therapeutic approach. Any evidence which suggests that the therapeutic relationship is the key to good clinical outcomes has been ignored.

The DoH justify state intervention as a means to protect clients from rogue therapists, the same justification is given by the UKCP and BACP for statutory regulation. Postle contends that there is no evidence to support the claim that psychotherapists abuse their clients to an extent that warrants judicial administration beyond common law, and that bringing in further tiers of hierarchy and legality will only damage client and practitioner confidence.

In his concluding statements, Postle clarifies his alternative approach to the UKCP directives for the regulation and professionalisation of the psychological therapies. He believes that if practitioners cannot be responsible for the regulation of their own work and feel the need to sanction the intervention of an authority to discipline them, then such infantilisation will generate the same in the client. Postle advocates psycho-practitioners join his network of independent practitioners, IPN. The idea is that therapists regulate each other in something akin to regular peer-to-peer group supervision, this would be in addition to the regular supervision they already engage in. Therapists would meet regularly with a group of fellow practitioners who are jointly accountable for one another's practice. In this way they could closely monitor the work of the other and thus, he thinks, reduce the possibility of abuse almost entirely.

Postle would happily do away with any delineation between the work of whom he calls 'psycho-practitioners' which would render such terms as 'psychotherapist', 'counsellor', or 'psychologist' as meaningless. He does not address in what way it could be beneficial for the public to be presented with psychotherapy as a discipline which stands under the same umbrella with practices such as tarot reading and alternative medicine, or whether it is not disrespectful to the therapist to be aligned with such unqualified practices that eschew all prevailing scientific evidence and logic. I personally agree with Postle's assertion that psychotherapeutic practices will inevitably have to develop greater transparency and accountability. I do however have serious reservations about associating with practitioners whose methods can best be described as 'psychic powers'.

Regulating the Psychological Therapies does not resemble a conventional publication as the chapter construction is largely a collection of papers and articles that have been published on the internet site of the IPN. In theory Postle has attempted to chronicle how the issues unfolded over seventeen years and how the IPN addressed them, but in practice this lead to much repetition and a certain lack of clarity. The main points of his argument require little exposition, so some prudent editing would have been beneficial. Questioning the financial imperatives and the allegedly capitalist profit-driven nature of the UKCP brought some as yet uncharted issues to the fore, though a more dispassionate, objective stance would have conveyed the gravitas of the author's argument just as successfully I feel.

This book succeeds in being a catalyst for scrutiny of the most fundamental questions of psychotherapeutic practice. With state intervention imminent, now more than ever practitioners are required to consider their individual practitioner status, as well as the motivations of those who represent, govern and regulate them.
Gale Copyright: Copyright 2010 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.