Here’s a question I want to think about. If you want a counsellor or a psychotherapist, the Professional Standards Authority accredits 11 different registers for you to choose from. Suppose something goes wrong and you need to make a complaint. Do any of those registers handle complaints better than others?
The Professional Standards Authority does ask people to share their experiences of Accredited Registers, which comes with quite a big caveat.
Please note that this is NOT a complaints process. We do not investigate individuals’ complaints about regulators or registers and cannot resolve them for you, but you can help others by sharing your experience.
So, if you don’t agree with the decision of an Accredited Register, who do you appeal the decision to? Basically, you can’t appeal it to anyone, which is hardly reassuring. The most the PSA can do is take your concerns into account when it’s time to revalidate the register. By comparison with the statutory regulators (the General Medical Council, Nursing and Midwifery Council etc) the PSA can appeal decisions to the High Court. Possibly this may be a distinction between accredited registers and regulators that hasn’t been discussed enough in debates over whether psychotherapy should be regulated.
I decided to find out whether any of the registers are getting more concerns raised than others. So, I sent the PSA a Freedom of Information Act request asking them to provide a list of how many concerns have been received for each Accredited Register over the last two years. I got this response.
To help interpret the data, I created a table of just those registers that are for counsellors and psychotherapists. These registers vary wildly in size, so I added a column listing the number of registrants each has on their books. If they were all doing equally well, one would expect them to have a number of concerns raised that’s roughly equal when adjusted for the size of the register.
The Association of Christian Counsellors, the National Associaton of Play Therapists, COSCA and the Human Givens Institute all had no concerns sent to the PSA about their complaints handling.
Looking at these numbers, you’d expect the highest number of concerns to be for the BACP, simply because it’s by far the biggest register. But it’s not. The UKCP is only a quarter of the size of the BACP, but they had more concerns raised about them.
From November 2015 to January 2016 the UKCP had its accreditation suspended by the PSA, in part due to apparent mishandling of a sexual misconduct case. I emailed the PSA back to ask how many of these concerns were received before, during or after the suspension. They informed me that 8 of them were before, one of them during, and 2 of them afterwards. I hope this reduction in concerns means their complaint handling has improved since then. However, a quick glance at their complaints decisions page raises an eyebrow or two.
They haven’t sanctioned anyone since last November.
The result for the British Psychoanalytic Council also seems rather striking. They have less than a twentieth of the size of register compared to the BACP, but get almost as many concerns to the PSA. If we restrict it to only those concerns sent by complainants, the numbers are exactly the same.
Arguably the numbers for the Association of Child Psychotherapists could also be considered disproportionate to their size, but it’s only 3 concerns so we’re getting into pretty small numbers there.
Obviously this is a pretty rough-and-ready way to gauge the relative effectiveness of the different registers, but it does raise questions about whether or not they’re doing an equally good job.