Psychotherapy unregulated in Ireland, Neville tells European conference

Addressing the European Association of Psychotherapy Conference in Vienna today (Thursday), Fine Gael Mental Health Spokesperson, Dan Neville TD, has said that there are no statutory regulations in Ireland for the registration of psychotherapists and counsellors. Deputy Neville said that this is an anomaly which does not lend itself to good clinical governance and the maintenance of high standards of patient care.

“In 2005, the Health and Social Care Professionals Act was introduced by the Irish Government to provide for the registration of persons qualifying to use a title of a designated profession and for the determination of complaints relating to their fitness to practice. Twelve bodies were established to perform the powers assigned under the Act to the registration of the 12 designated professions. Psychotherapy was not included as one of these designated professions.

“When challenged in parliament at the time of the debate on the Bill, the responsible Minister stated that the professionals regulated had become so regulated by a process of discussion and consensus. However the psychotherapists and counsellors groups failed to agree an approach to regulation. The Minister employed that statutory regulations in such circumstances would have serious legal implications. The Minister accepted the principle that all psychotherapists and counsellors should be properly qualified. He pointed out that in consultation with the professional groups involved he was unable to obtain agreement on the criteria. He stated that he asked that the groups to revert to him with agreed proposals. Under the Health Care and Professionals Act, the Minister may, by regulation, designate for the purpose of the act any health and care professional not already designated.

“The current anomaly in Ireland does not lend itself to good clinical governance and the maintenance of high standards of patient/client care. There is no State control over who and what qualifications are held by those practicing in these areas. It is dangerous for untrained, unskilled people to probe the unconscious of others. They are dealing with human vulnerability and serious damage can be done to people who are in a delicate mental state.

“The Health and Social Care Professionals Act 2005 creates a mechanism to drive forward the clinical governance agenda. It creates a framework through which practitioners are accountable for continually improving the quality of their services and safeguarding high standards of care by creating an environment where excellence will flourish and optimal protection is offered to the public. The omission of psychotherapists and counsellors as a designated profession under this Act must be rectified.”