What kind of regulation for counselling and psychotherapy?

On this blog, I’ve highlighted the need for statutory regulation for counselling and psychotherapy. This is demonstrated by cases such as Palace Gate, where a counselling firm was struck off by the BACP due to 30 proven allegations, but has no legal impediment to stay in business. And indeed, still is in business.

What I haven’t talked about so much is what kind of regulation might work. Time to muster some thoughts.

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Strange goings-on at counselling training provider

In August 2014 the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy withdrew the membership of Chrysalis Courses Ltd, which provided training in counselling and hypnotherapy. Allegations were upheld over failure to provide appropriate feedback to coursework, and the company was heavily criticised for failing to respond to the allegations or to engage with the complaints process. According to the BACP the company was dissolved in May 2014.

However, there’s still a website up and running for Chrysalis Courses, advertising training in counselling and hypnotherapy. So what’s going on here?

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UKCP fails to strike off yet another therapist who committed sexual misconduct

A few months ago I noticed that a Jungian psychotherapist called Rob Waygood had been suspended from the UK Council for Psychotherapy. His suspension noticed briefly disappeared and then reappeared from the UKCP complaints page, and his website also reappeared then disappeared. I took this to mean there had been a ruling and then an appeal.

The ruling has now been published, and it turns out that Waygood had a sexual relationship with a client, which caused the client harm. Concerningly, he hasn’t been struck off but instead has been given a 6 month suspension.

As it happens there was indeed an appeal, though it was the UKCP who appealed rather than Waygood, on the grounds that the original sanction was unduly lenient. Incredibly, the panel simply ordered a warning letter.

The details in the online ruling are fairly scant, but they state that Waygood started a sexual relationship with his client a short time after the therapy ended. It sounds like there were some precursors happening during the therapy, such as Waygood commenting on the client’s femininity during a session.

This isn’t the first time that a UKCP psychotherapist has committed the worst possible breach of boundaries and not been struck off. In May 2011 Geoffrey Pick was suspended for a year after sexually abusing a client. He was then put back on the UKCP register, and later resigned when the media started taking an interest. Stuart Macfarlane is currently serving a two year suspension from the Guild of Analytical Psychologists and UKCP, again for sexually abusing a client. He could be practising again after September. In both the the Pick and Macfarlane cases, their victims suffered massive psychological trauma.

The UKCP seems to have extremely poor timing in making this decision. They’re an “assured voluntary register” with the Professional Standards Authority, and their complaints procedure is due to be audited soon by the PSA to ensure quality control. Meanwhile, Geraint Davies MP has a private members bill before Parliament, calling for statutory rather than voluntary regulation for counsellors and psychotherapists. The second reading is later this month.

The Waygood decision states that, “The Panel determined that the Registrant’s behaviour was so serious that the reputation of both the profession and that of the regulators was at enormous risk.” Those reputations certainly are at risk, not only by his behaviour but by this lenient decision.

How much therapy abuse is out there?

I recently had a question posted in the comments thread to one of my blog posts, by ‘Reading Enquirer’.

Is there actual evidence that a community of statutorily regulated health professionals commit fewer abuses on average than the unregulated? Does this cure depend only on supposition and faith or is there an actual peer-reviewed evidence base? Is there evidence that statutorily regulated health professionals have greater efficacy in the relief of human suffering than the unregulated?

This is an important question, and one which raises a further question – how can we know how much abuse by psychotherapists is out there?

Abuse, by its very nature, is something that happens behind closed doors, without records being kept. No practitioner – regulated or unregulated, is likely to be auditing how much people they’ve abused. Not everyone who has been abused reports it. Still less of those who report it have their allegations proven in a fitness-to-practise hearing and/or a court of law.

If we’re talking about unregulated professionals, then that does beg the question of who they can report it to. Historically, even being a member of a professional body has not necessarily been a guarantee that a complaint will be heard properly. Until recently, complaints-handling at the UK Council for Psychotherapy was dominated by “crony-ism and amateurism” (not my words, but the words of the then UKCP chair). To give an idea what this “crony-ism and amateurism” looks like, one can read the decision letter for the UKCP’s application to be accredited by the Professional Standards Authority.

The Panel considered a summary of the main themes identified in the Call for Information, and the UKCP’s response to these submissions. It observed that many were related to UKCP’s previous complaints processes, involving the handling of complaints by itself and its OMs. It was felt that the former complaints system was characterised by lengthy times from initial complaint to completion, poor communication from the UKCP and OMs and a lack of support for complainants. There were suggestions of conflicts of interest and procedural failures that appeared not to consider public protection.

The UKCP has now instituted a series of reforms to address these issues, with the result that they’ve now achieved PSA accreditation, though the PSA is insisting on auditing their complaints-handling after 6 months. To be fair to the UKCP, they’re now publishing a growing number of complaints decisions, which appear to have been handled in a considerably improved way.

But…what psychotherapy has at the moment is only regulation-lite, not full statutory regulation. “Psychotherapist” and “counsellor” are not protected titles and you don’t have to belong to a professional body to call yourself one. Indeed, the UKCP recently struck off a psychotherapist called Julia Eastwood. She’s still advertising herself for coaching and counselling.

And then there’s all those people who use other titles similar to psychotherapists and counsellors. Even if those professions became protected titles, there’d still be all the Jungian analysts, life coaches, shamanic therapists…did I mention Ms Eastwood also advertises herself as a “conscious channel of the Archangel Gabriel”? Good luck finding someone to complain to if your conscious channel engages in misconduct.

Still, even if you can’t find anyone to complain to, you could always sue them, though that can be hugely expensive, and you’ll only get no-win no-fee if you have a strong case. So presumably we could find out how much misconduct is out there by looking at the number of lawsuits?

I spoke to somebody who sued their psychotherapist. According to them, their solicitor knew of about 30 ongoing cases, which sounds like a worryingly high number. However, we don’t get to hear about many of these cases, for the reason that most of them end in a civil settlement. These settlements tend to include a confidentiality clause, effectively stuffing the complainant’s mouth with gold.

If it’s a serious form of abuse, say, if someone was sexually exploited, there’s also the police route. But conviction rates for sexual assault are shockingly low. No guarantee there’ll even be a prosecution, never mind a conviction.

One could simply try to publicise one’s case. But that carries the risk of being clobbered by our notoriously draconian libel laws, which have a well-documented “chilling effect” on free speech in the UK. Even with the recent reforms to defamation law, the risk of being hit by a lawsuit would make a lot of people think twice.

So, to answer Enquiring Reader’s question as to whether there’s evidence that unregulated professionals commit more abuse than regulated ones – the simple answer is we don’t know. The reason for that is that without regulation we can’t know the extent of the problem, because there’s nobody to complain to.

On a more pragmatic level, I think it’s important that people have the confidence that if something goes wrong, they have access to a robust complaints procedure. For that reason, my advice to anyone seeking a therapist is to ensure that they use someone either in a state-regulated profession (e.g. clinical psychologists or arts therapists, which are regulated by the Health and Care Professions Council), or belong to a PSA-accredited body (e.g. the BACP, the UKCP or the National Counselling Society). If they don’t fulfil those basic criteria, don’t use them.

 

Professional Standards Authority formally announces UKCP Accreditation.

The PSA have sent me the following press release:

Independent quality mark for The UK Council for Psychotherapy

The UK Council for Psychotherapy’s (UKCP) voluntary register has been accredited by the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care an independent statutory body, accountable to Parliament.

Psychotherapists on UKCP’s register will be able to display the Accredited Voluntary Register quality mark, a sign that they belong to a register which meets the Professional Standards Authority’s robust standards.

David Pink, UKCP Chief Executive, said:

“The quality mark will give extra peace of mind for anyone looking for a psychotherapist, letting them know that anyone who holds the mark is committed to high standards. UKCP is pleased to offer the quality mark to psychotherapists that meet the far reaching standards of our register, as approved by the Professional Standards Authority.”

Harry Cayton, Chief Executive of the Professional Standards Authority, said:

“We are very pleased to accredit UKCP’s register of psychotherapists. Bringing psychotherapists into a broad framework of assurance is good for patients, service users and the public and is the best way to promote quality. The scheme offers enhanced protection to anyone looking for health and social care services, and gives psychotherapists the opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to good practice.”

Accreditation does not imply that the Authority has assessed the merits of individuals on the register. This remains the responsibility of UKCP. It does not mean that the Authority has endorsed a particular therapy, people will need to consider the information provided and decide if it is suitable for them. Accreditation means that UKCP’s register meets the Professional Standards Authority’s high standards in governance, standard-setting, education and training, management, complaints and information.

As the scheme develops, accredited registers will encompass a growing range of occupations and organisations, and the Professional Standards Authority may accredit more than one register in any particular occupation. Further information on the accredited voluntary register scheme is available atwww.professionalstandards.org.uk/voluntary-registers

UKCP finally achieves PSA accreditation

It seems to be a big week for news involving the UK Council for Psychotherapy. Having recently struck off a therapist for the first time since 2009, the UKCP have, after a long process, finally achieved accreditation by the Professional Standards Authority.

The decision letter is up online at the PSA website. The UKCP is now one of five organisations offering psychological therapies (the others are the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, Play Therapy UK, the National Counselling Society and the National Hypnotherapy Society) to have so far achieved “assured voluntary regististration” status with the PSA.

The decision letter makes for an interesting read. This may not be an entirely scientific measure but comparing it to the outcome letters for other AVR bodies, something that stands out is that the UKCP’s is the longest. It’s 19 pages long, compared to 11 pages for Play Therapy UK, 13 pages for the National Counselling Society and National Hypnotherapy Society and 10 pages compared to the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy. This is speculation on my part, but that leaves me wondering about the amount of reform that was needed compared to other bodies. Certainly the letter strikes me as pretty packed with recommendations.

One thing that the letter does confirm is that – finally – the new Complaints and Conduct Process covers 100% of the UKCP membership.

The section on the Call for Information – where the PSA had asked the public to write in with any feedback about the application – is particularly interesting. Various people (me included, but I was by no means the only one) leapt at the chance to send the PSA some of the horrific stories that have been discussed on this website and elsewhere. This seems to be alluded to by the PSA.

The Panel considered a summary of the main themes identified in the Call for Information, and the UKCP’s response to these submissions. It observed that many were related to UKCP’s previous complaints processes, involving the handling of complaints by itself and its OMs. It was felt that the former complaints system was characterised by lengthy times from initial complaint to completion, poor communication from the UKCP and OMs and a lack of support for complainants. There were suggestions of conflicts of interest and procedural failures that appeared not to consider public protection.

Regular readers of this blog will have a good idea of what’s being referred to here.

The Panel reviewed the summary and noted that the new Complaints and Conduct Process has been developed to address such concerns. As quality assurance for the new procedure the Panel instructed UKCP to allow the AVR team to review a sample of CCP outcomes in six months’ time to ensure that it is achieving its objectives, as discussed in Standard 11.

So, they’re getting the accreditation, but the CCP is going to be audited in 6 months.

Comparing the UKCP letter to the Call for Information in the letters for other organisations, what stands out is that in most of the other letters it’s a much briefer section. It reads like the only other organisation to have had a similar public response is the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (scathingly referred to as “OfQuack” by its critics). Concerns with the CNHC seem to have been mostly around how they deal with complaints alleging false advertising. As in, “Sticking this candle in your ear will help your diabetes.”

It looks like the PSA process has resulted in considerable reform at the UKCP. I hope that our efforts have provided some impetus to that process. It certainly looks like the PSA has taken notice when giving instructions to the UKCP.

Although it’s me who’s written these blog posts, I think I should state that I’ve only been able to do so because of a variety of people who have gathered information and passed it to me. Some of them have shown considerable courage in doing so. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank them, even though I can’t name them.

Sadly, these changes come too late for people who were not properly listened to or supported when they tried to speak out about a rogue’s gallery of unethical therapists – Derek Gale, John Smalley, Geoffrey Pick, Stuart Macfarlane – and that’s just the names in the public domain.

I don’t doubt there are likely to be other rogues out there among the UKCP membership. However, they should no longer be able to rely on “cronyism and amateurism” (to quote the former UKCP chair) to protect them from accountability. Those rogues may now have to shape up or ship out of the UKCP.

 

More on the loophole that unscrupulous psychotherapists could use to keep practising

Last week I discussed possible ways that a psychotherapist might avoid a misconduct investigation under the new system of “assured voluntary registration” (AVR). Since then I’ve been making some enquiries to the relevant professional bodies, and have had some replies.

Quick recap: after the 2010 general election the incoming Coalition government shelved plans to make counselling and psychotherapy state-regulated professions, opting instead for AVR. Under this new system, existing professional bodies such as the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy and the UK Council for Psychotherapy could apply to have their self-regulating procedures accredited by the Professional Standards Authority. The BACP has already achieved PSA accreditation. The UKCP is working towards this, and has brought in a new Complaints and Conduct Process in order to comply with the standards required by the PSA. However, not all UKCP member organisations are signed up to the new process yet, and so the UKCP has not yet achieved accreditation.

Somebody recently tried to complain to the UKCP against their former therapist, making extremely serious allegations. However, the therapist had already resigned his registration, so there was nothing the UKCP could do to investigate.

I e-mailed the following scenario to the UKCP, BACP and PSA, and asked them for comment.

Is there provision to safeguard against a psychotherapist resigning from a PSA-accredited body to pre-empt an imminent complaint against them, and then perhaps later re-registering with another body?

To take a hypothetical example, in which one assumes that the UKCP has become PSA-accredited. In this example a BACP-registered psychotherapist learns that a complaint is about to be made against him. He promptly resigns from the BACP register before the complaint is made, thus preventing it from going forward. At a later date he attempts to register with the UKCP.

Under such a scenario, would the UKCP have access to a “paper trail” which would alert them to the fact that an attempt at a complaint had been made? Will there be information-sharing between the various AVR bodies with regard to such potential issues?

I got the following reply from the UKCP:

Your question about whether information sharing or paper trails form part of AVR should be addressed to the PSA. We can’t answer on their behalf. What we can do is tell you about the ways we aim to safeguard our register.

When someone applies for UKCP registration, they are asked to declare if they have been disciplined by any professional body or membership organisation responsible for regulating or licensing a health or social care profession. We investigate all declarations, contacting the body in question and taking appropriate action.

If someone has been struck off a statutory/voluntary register and applies for UKCP registration, they would have to declare this. We would then refer the details to our Professional Conduct Committee for advice. We would then make a decision to grant registration, grant registration with conditions, or refuse to grant registration.

UKCP’s complaints and conduct process prevents a registrant from resigning once we have received notification of a complaint or concern. If someone is in good standing at the point of resigning we cannot prevent them leaving; this is the case for other regulators.

As far as we know, what we do is similar to other registration bodies – statutory or otherwise. [emphasis mine]

The UKCP is correct that if somebody resigned prior to a complaint being made, other regulators wouldn’t open an investigation either. But here’s a difference: if a nurse resigns from the Nursing and Midwifery Council, they’re effectively striking themselves off. “Nurse” is a protected title and you have to be NMC-registered to use it and to apply for jobs. This isn’t the case for “counsellor” or “psychotherapist”. Because they’re not protected titles they can carry on working regardless of whether or not they’re still registered.

I got a particularly interesting reply from the BACP:

Any BACP member complained against is prevented from resigning from membership in order to avoid accountability under our Professional Conduct Procedure. However, this only currently applies if a complaint has already been received by the Registrar. A former member cannot be held to account under the current procedure if the complaint is received after resignation of membership.

We are currently engaged in the process of changing this procedure. This change will be implemented at the earliest possible opportunity and will enable us in future to hold former members to account for their practice whilst they were in membership, subject to the conduct procedure in effect at the time.

We publish the outcomes of all conduct cases where the complaint has been upheld (either in full or in part) on our website, where they are available to the public, as well as other professional bodies.

I would like to add that this response relates specifically to BACP – we can’t speak for or on behalf of the Professional Standards Authority or other accredited registers.

I’m sorry that I’m unable to give you any idea of timings, but if you would like me to I’m happy to get in touch with you with relevant updates as I’m aware of them. [emphasis mine]

So, the BACP are changing the rules? This makes a lot of sense. If the jurisdiction of a complaint is based on whether they were registered at the time of the alleged incident rather than at the time of the complaint, then that makes it easier to generate a paper trail that might alert other bodies.

Also, given that a lot of people who use psychotherapists hire one privately, it’s also worth emphasising the value not just of a paper trail but also a Google trail. If somebody’s fitness-to-practice ruling is up on the relevant body’s website (or if some sneaky blogger has broadcast the details – hi there!) then a member of the public searching for information about that therapist could be forewarned.

Since the BACP appear to have made a very sensible decision, I hope that other AVR bodies will follow suit.

Finally, here’s the response from the PSA:

Information sharing between holders of Accredited Voluntary Registers (AVRs) in the interests of the public is an important part of accreditation and is an explicit requirement of our standards.

If a registrant is removed from an AVR and subsequently applies to join a different AVR, this must be disclosed to the second AVR and must be taken into account in any decision. Withholding such information would be a clear breach of our standards.

In the example provided, the Professional Standards Authority would expect AVRs to work in partnership to protect the public, even if no formal complaint has been investigated.

 

The loopholes that can enable unscrupulous psychotherapists to keep practising.

There’s no doubt that times are changing for psychotherapists in the UK. Although plans to make psychotherapy a state-regulated profession were shelved when the Coalition took over from Labour, the new system of “assured voluntary registration” (AVR) is increasingly gearing up. However, the loopholes in this system are starting to show, and those loopholes could put the public at risk.

A quick primer on AVR. It’s basically a form of regulation-lite where existing professional bodies can apply for accreditation from the Professional Standards Authority (formerly the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence, which oversees the work of regulators like the General Medical Council, Nursing and Midwifery Council etc). The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy has already achieved PSA accreditation. The other main professional body, the UK Council for Psychotherapy, is working towards it.

At least one loophole has now emerged. An individual recently tried to make a complaint to the UKCP about her former psychotherapist. The allegations were extremely serious, and have been the subject of litigation. However, she was told by the UKCP that she couldn’t make a complaint against him as he had already resigned from their register.

To be fair to the UKCP, the exact same thing would happen if somebody tried to complain to the Nursing and Midwifery Council against a nurse who had previously resigned. They probably wouldn’t be allowed to resign after a complaint has been made, but if they’ve already left the register then it would be outside the NMC’s jurisdiction and there’s nothing they can do.

But here’s the difference. “Nurse” is a protected title and you have to belong to the NMC register in order to practice as one. Any nurse who resigns their registration is effectively striking themselves off. “Psychotherapist”, however, is not a protected title, and you can belong to any professional body or none. As AVR becomes more established it’s likely that a psychotherapist wouldn’t get work from the NHS, social services, schools, universities or the voluntary sector without belonging to a PSA-accreditated body. However, for any practitioner who’s outside of that, accepting self-referrals from the public, anything goes.

All this comes at a time when psychotherapy services are being decimated in the NHS under the pressure of cuts. Waiting lists of six months or more for talking therapies are commonplace, if they can be accessed at all. They’re frequently on a time limit, such as six sessions, regardless of whether or not six sessions are actually enough. The result is that people who feel they need therapy and can afford to do so are more likely to turn to the private sector to seek out a therapist.

Because AVR isn’t true statutory regulation in the manner of doctors, nurses, social workers etc, a psychotherapist who suspects a complaint may be imminent can just resign from their professional body and carry on practising.

Possibly they might join another professional body. For example, the College of Psychoanalysis UK which isn’t PSA-accredited, though they do have a complaints procedure. You can read it here. Complaints have to be proven to the criminal standard of “beyond reasonable doubt” (the usual standard of proof for such hearings is the civil standard of “on the balance of probabilities”). If that isn’t enough to put people off complaining, then Part 5, Section 1.2.1, informs us that, “the Panel shall have the power in its discretion…to require the Complainant to pay such costs and expenses in the event of the complaint not being upheld.” In other words, prove the complaint beyond reasonable doubt or face a big bill. It’s almost as if they’re trying to put people off from complaining.

Or, of course, a therapist can just not bother to join any organisation, but carry on seeing their existing clients and advertising their services.

All this shows why psychotherapy needs proper statutory regulation rather than the halfway fudge of AVR. In the meantime, my recommendation to anyone seeking a psychotherapist is to check that they remain registered with a PSA-accredited body such as the BACP.

The Looming Crisis at the UK Council for Psychotherapy

In recent months I’ve covered the way in which complaints are dealt with (or not!) against psychotherapists, with the result that misconduct or even abuse can continue unrestrained. In particular I’ve looked at the John Smalley case, in which the UK Council for Psychotherapy, after three years of delay, found seven allegations proven against a Jungian analyst, but failed to issue any sanction.

Complaints handling at the UKCP has for years been dominated by “crony-ism and amateurism” – not my words, but those of the former UKCP chair Andrew Samuels. But I’ve just noticed some interesting developments that may well send the UKCP sleepwalking into a crisis. It could even threaten the existence of the organisation itself.

Psychotherapists, unlike doctors, nurses, social workers or teachers, have no statutory regulator. “Psychotherapist” is not a protected title and anyone can call themselves one. However, in practice most are registered with self-regulating bodies like the UK Council for Psychotherapy, the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, or the British Psychoanalytic Council.

The UKCP is an umbrella body for 75 separate member organisations. Until recently, if you wanted to make a complaint against a UKCP-registered therapist, you first had to complain to their member organisation, and could then appeal to the UKCP if your complaint was rejected.

These 75 organisations have a wide variety of complaints processes. Some of them are absolutely shocking. The way to make a complaint can be very opaque. You may find that complaints panels have no lay members, so that the case is being heard only by the therapist’s colleagues. In some cases complaints have to be proven to the criminal standard of “beyond reasonable doubt” (the usual standard of proof is the civil one of “on the balance of probabilities”). For some organisations, if your complaint is rejected, you can be expected to pay legal costs!

To give an example, when I looked into the Smalley case, I contacted his UKCP member organisation, the Independent Group of Analytical Psychologists. Their website contains no information about how to make a complaint. Their Code of Ethics isn’t published on the site – I asked for a copy months ago and still haven’t got it. Oh, and if you’re wondering why they don’t publish an online list of fitness-to-practise outcomes on the site (in the way that bodies like the General Medical Council or Nursing and Midwifery Council do) it’s because they freely admitted that they haven’t sanctioned a member for years. I can’t imagine why not.

The UKCP is currently moving towards a new Central Complaints Process (CCP) that will handle all complaints instead of the member organisations. After the IGAP found “no case to answer” in the complaint against Mr Smalley, the complainant appealled to the UKCP, who found that the IGAP’s decision had been “perverse and incorrect”. They then ordered a new hearing under the CCP.

The new CCP turned out to be a shambles from beginning to end. It took three years of delays to reach a conclusion. At the end of it, the panel found that Mr Smalley had smoked in therapy sessions, he had made derogatory remarks about one client to another, and he had breached professional boundaries by inappropriately setting up two clients in a business relationship with each other. Along the way, he freely admitted that he had destroyed his notes – an act that would be considered serious misconduct if a doctor or nurse did it.

The UKCP’s sanction? Nothing. Not even a caution. Although he resigned from the UKCP during the proceedings, he’s still registered to this day on the IGAP website.

 The introduction of the UKCP’s Central Complaints Process comes in the wake of plans to properly regulate the psychotherapy profession. Under the previous Labour government, proposals were made for plans to register counsellors and psychotherapists with the Health Professionals Council (now the Health and Care Professions Council) which currently regulates occupational therapists, arts therapists, clinical psychologists and social workers. Although many psychotherapists welcomed this, a noisy campaign was launched, claiming that the sky would fall in if psychotherapists had to be accountable for their actions in the same way as just about every other helping profession.

After Labour gave way to the Coalition, plans for state-regulation were shelved, and the anti-regulation campaigners cheered a victory. However, the Coalition then proposed a new systems of “assured voluntary registration”. The Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence (the uber-regulator that oversees bodies like the GMC, NMC, HCPC etc) was renamed the Professional Standards Authority and given the power to issue an official rubberstamp to self-regulating bodies like the UKCP…..if they were deemed to be doing a good enough job. 

Key to getting this rubberstamp from the Professional Standards Authority is the UKCP’s new Central Complaints Process, even though it failed abysmally in the Smalley case. However, the most recent UKCP bulletin suggests their strategy may be running into trouble.

The UKCP chief executive, David Pink, issues a stark warning.

I can understand that organisational members might be nervous about handing over their complaints work to a team in the UKCP office, but it is vital that we take this decisive step. However diligently and carefully a member organisation handles complaints, they can never been seen to have sufficient independence to be free from accusations of bias…I am disappointed that many of our member organisations seem to be reluctant to engage with the central complaints scheme.

I’m really not surprised that there’s a lack of engagement from member organisations. Last May I e-mailed the Independent Group of Analytical Psychologists to ask them if they would be signing up to the CCP. I got this reply.

Since the UKCP Central Complaints Process is not yet finalised, it is too early to say if IGAP will sign up to it or not, but is likely to do so if it is felt to match our professional standards and has nothing that contradicts our existing Code of Ethics.

Hardly a ringing endorsement. And given the gasps of horror from some member organisations at the possibility of state regulation, it wouldn’t be surprising if some of them started dragging their heels over signing up to the CCP.

Pink gives a stark warning of what this might mean.

By this time next year we need everyone to be signed up to the central complaints or in the process to becoming signed up. By then, other leading reputable therapy organisations (including BPC and BACP) are likely to be fully PSA accredited. Employers, referrers, commissioners and clients will begin to expect practitioners to be on  a PSA-accredited register as a minimum requirement. We must not fall behind.

And indeed they may well fall behind. To give an idea of how the UKCP compares to its rival organisations, here’s the hearings page for the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy. It gives detailed accounts of hearing outcomes and sanctions against therapists who’ve committed misconduct.

Now have a look at the equivalent page for the UKCP. There’s only one entry on it! It’s for Derek Gale, a notorious abuser who was registered with the UKCP as a psychotherapist and with the Health Professions Council as an arts therapist. The UKCP stuck him off in 2009, but only after the HPC struck him off first.

Until recently there were two entries – the other being for Geoffrey Pick, suspended from the register in 2011 for an unspecified breach of boundaries. He’s now back on the UKCP register and his entry in the complaints archive removed. As for John Smalley, the UKCP don’t intend to publish the hearing outcome until Spring 2013, a year after the final ruling.

The UKCP have been failing for years to protect the public from rogue therapists. It now looks like they’re having trouble getting their member organisations to sign up to their new complaint system, which is a shambles anyway. No wonder they’re getting worried that rival bodies like the BACP will get the PSA accreditation and they won’t.

If that does happen, the results will be utterly predictable. All the reputable psychotherapists will promptly sign up with the BACP, leaving the UKCP to shrivel into a rump organisation housing the quacks, hucksters and chancers of the therapy world. I can’t say I feel the least bit sorry for them.