Thursday, 7 April 2011

Call yourself a counsellor?? The "Brass Plaque" argument

One of the major historical strands in the debate about regulation of psychotherapy and counselling in the UK has been the so-called "Brass Plaque". This refers to the notion that (at present) anyone can set themselves up as a counsellor or psychotherapist, simply by having a nice-looking shiny name-plate outside an office. Put simply, if you call yourself a counsellor, you can be one - even without relevant qualifications or training.
Regulation (supposedly) offers the public protection against charlatans and bad therapists, qualified or not - and part of the package entailed the legal protection of the titles "counsellor" and "psychotherapist".

I must admit, I never really bought this argument. I have always had some faith in Joe Public, and believed that he/she would be able to tell who's who. But I am beginning to reconsider. Those people wishing to name themselves (without, perhaps, the necessary credentials) have increasingly complex ways of covering this up. We're now living in a world of flash(y) websites and bold claims, nice pictures and all-too-positive 'testimonials'. If a website has a high Google ranking, it's often mistakenly assumed that the company must be 'reputable'. In truth, these rankings are more about e-marketing than good service or clinical expertise. Maybe it's getting easier to fool Joe Public.

I stumbled into a website recently of someone reasonably local to me, who doesn't seem to be qualified in counselling (they have been trained in an associated field, you might say). But there is no evidence of BACP/UKCP membership (or of any other professional bodies), and no information about their qualifications. Some interesting claims were made, when I looked further....

(Counselling is) "... literally repeating what the client says each time..."

(On couple work) "your conflicts ..." ".. will become a thing of the past!"

Some of the material, like the first example above, shows a gross misunderstanding (and misrepresentation) of the counselling process.
The second example shows how a bold claim can be incredibly misleading. I have never been in the business of telling couples that ANY of their conflict will disappear entirely an this way - it's unrealistic.

Now I've (nearly) stopped seething, I am more sympathetic to the idea that our titles should be protected, and those using them falsely should be stopped.