When someone with a serious mental illness – schizophrenia, bipolar disorder — takes pharmaceutical drugs for their condition, we’re obviously talking about medicine and the medical profession. Drugs affect the physiology of the body, and drug use needs to be monitored by someone who’s been to medical school. But what if you see a talk therapist because you’re unhappy with your relationship or feeling low after losing your job? Should that be under the control of the medical establishment?
This issue – should psychotherapy be treated as a health profession and regulated by the government — is currently under debate in the UK. Advocates on both sides of the argument are talking past each other. Their reasoning appeals to their constituencies, but the two sides are unwilling or unable to consider a compromise.
The Health Professions Council: New rules for therapists
The Health Professions Council (HPC) is a UK regulatory agency set up to “protect the public.” If a “health professional” does not meet certain standards, HPC can put them out of practice. Currently the HPC regulates 13 professions, including podiatrists, physical therapists, and radiographers.
Last summer HPC announced its intention to regulate psychotherapists and counselors. This comes at a time when there is a high demand in the UK for psychotherapy. The economic recession has increased the number of individuals seeking help. Both doctors and patients regard therapy as safer and more effective than antidepressants and tranquillizers when it comes to anxiety and depression. The National Health Service is training an additional 3,600 therapists at a cost of $261 million a year.