The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), British Psychoanalytic Council (BPC) and United Kingdom for Psychotherapy (UKCP) recently issued a joint Statement of Intent. 

The three regulators say they want to work together to promote training and research, to improve access to mental health funding and to ensure the value of therapy is fully recognised. These are laudable goals to have in common.

It is more what each organisation says about their current complaints process that attracted attention. Why and what does this mean for practitioners subject to their complaints processes?

The stated intention of wishing to continue to safeguard the public by“effectively regulating the counselling and psychotherapy profession” is preceded by claims that the present “robust complaints procedures ensure the on-going quality of the service our registrants offer to the public”.

How is this to be reconciled with the fact that all three of the regulators have recently revised or are in the process of revising their complaints procedures? On our assessment, the amendments proposed in the BACP’s review are not far reaching enoughWhat about the BPC’s review of its disciplinary regime; is that also not a tacit acknowledgment that the current regime is manifestly not fit for purpose? Sadly, the fact the present regimes are subject to review is not addressed in the promotional video or statement of intent, which is rather misleading.

Furthermore, the Statement of Intent is also silent as to whether the three regulators propose to make their complaints processes more consistent, unified or at least not in conflict with each other. There are marked differences in the approaches to complaints handling at present, which puts practitioners who are subject to a complaint under both, at a substantial disadvantage. At present a practitioner may face a hearing on the same allegation before two organisations, with each operating differing procedures and in theory able to reach different outcomes. This hardly seems robust and effective and is an area where attention is urgently required.

Unless the divergence in the BACP, BPC and UKCP complaints’ processes is addressed and overhauled, unfairness will continue to prevail. And to be clear that means unfairness for practitioners as well as the members of the public whom they treat.