10 September 2014

What the public want in respect of the regulation of counselling and psychotherapy

by Amanda Williamson

[NB This post is an excerpt from a longer article on the issue of regulation]

This is the question that my colleague Tina Welch and myself posed to members of the public in June 2013:


Should Counselling and Psychotherapy be regulated professions?

Therapists have been in debate regarding this issue for many years. Some are staunchly for regulation, some are staunchly against.

I would like to ask THE PUBLIC their opinion, to help inform therapists.

Q: How important is the statutory (compulsory) regulation of counsellors and psychotherapists to you?

                            1 I am strongly against statutory regulation
                            2 I am slightly against statutory regulation
                            3 I don’t care either way
                            4 I am slightly for statutory regulation
                            5 I am strongly for statutory regulation

Finally, are you aware that Counselling and Psychotherapy are currently unregulated professions in theUK?

We asked a total of 117 adults to rate the importance of statutory regulation according to the above scale. 40 were male, 77 were female. 5 people were therapists and 2 described themselves as having a background in mental health.

The findings

The answer to our first question gives what I believe to be a very clear message about what the public want. 

In answer to the question asking whether they were aware that counselling and psychotherapy are currently unregulated professions in the UK, 75 people were not aware of this fact and 41 said they were aware. 1 person was unsure whether they knew or not. 

Of those that didn't know, many expressed surprise at this fact and assumed that they are regulated professions (I would like to collect data on that specific issue next time - how many people assumed the professions are regulated and/or are surprised to discover they are not?)

A number of people said that there should be more polling of public opinion on this matter. 2 of the people that expressed this were personally strongly against statutory regulation, but welcomed this research being done.

So not only do the majority of people we asked want regulation, but many assumed it was already in place.

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