Regulation of Psychotherapists and Counsellors

New bill will pave the way for regulation of psychotherapists and counsellors.

Fine Gael Limerick TD, Dan Neville, has today (Friday) welcomed the recent publication of the Health and Social Care Professionals (Amendment) Bill, saying it will pave the way for the regulation of psychotherapists and psychological counsellors.

This new Bill addresses difficulties which arose with the original 2005 Act and facilitates the regulation of 12 professions including dieticians, physiotherapists, radiographers, social workers and speech and language therapists.

I have consistently expressed my concern about the lack of regulation of psychotherapists and psychological counsellors. At present, there is no State control over who practices in these areas, and what qualifications they hold. It is a dangerous situation for untrained, unskilled people to probe others’ unconsciousness. They are dealing with human vulnerability and serious damage can be done to such delicate people. Therefore, regulation of these professions is of paramount importance.

The current system of self-regulation is not working. While there are professional bodies which have a code of ethics by which their members must abide, under our common law system it is still possible for any person to practise as a counsellor or psychotherapist and practise without any training or competence. In other words, anyone can put up a sign stating they are a counsellor or psychotherapist and charge €80 per hour for their services, without any proper qualifications. The public must be protected through the promotion of high standards of conduct, education, training and competence.

The Health and Social Care Professionals Bill 2012 provides 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 service and safeguarding high standards of care by creating an environment where excellence will flourish and optimal protection is afforded to the public. This is critical to vulnerable people in crisis, who can be damaged by so-called professionals who are not properly trained or qualified.

The Taoiseach promised on a number of occasions that this legislation would be published by this month, and he has lived up to that commitment. It is crucial that the Bill, once passed, is used to ensure the full regulation of psychotherapists and psychological counsellors, to the benefit of patients and their families.