Counsellors and psychotherapists are set to be regulated by the Health and Social Care Professionals Council ("CORU") under plans recently revealed by the Minister for Health.
The titles "counsellor" and "psychotherapist" are not currently "designated titles under the Health and Social care Professionals Act, 2005 ("the 2005 Act"), and consequently there is no statutory oversight over the competence of persons using such titles or over the minimum qualifications and training required to use them. Furthermore, there is currently no one professional body representing the estimated 5,000 practitioners. Counsellors and psychotherapists are of course subject to other general types of regulation such as consumer legislation and criminal law.
The designation of the titles would mean that only practitioners with the necessary minimum qualifications could use the titles, and would subject all those using the titles to a code of conduct and fitness to practice regime.
The regulation of persons working with people in vulnerable circumstances is of course to welcomed. Unfortunately however, it is not just a simple matter of bringing the titles under the auspices of the 2005 Act. There are many issues yet to be worked out before the new regime kicks in, including how to assess the qualifications and experience of existing practitioners and exactly how many titles will be protected. These are issues which arise whenever a regulatory regime seeks to expand its remit.
Let's hope for the users of mental health services that they do not take long to resolve.
For many years, there has been concern about the lack of regulation in the health counselling area and the level of qualifications held by some of those offering services.