Psychotherapists win the right to challenge Health Professions Council plans for statutory regulation

Mr Justice Burton has given six psychotherapy and psychoanalysis practitioner groups permission to proceed with what he described as an “important” judicial review challenge to proposals for their regulation by the Health Professions Council (HPC).

The groups' barrister, Dinah Rose QC argued that the HPC had unlawfully ducked critical questions about whether psychotherapy and psychoanalysis should be regulated by statute and, more importantly, whether the HPC is fit for purpose in this context given its focus on the measurable outcomes of medical-style interventions. Their judicial review was ruled to have been brought without delay and was “clearly arguable” in the judge’s view. Giving a short oral judgement, Mr Justice Burton went on to criticise the misleading nature of HPC statements. Practitioner groups had been led to believe the HPC were considering and would be reporting to the Department of Health on whether it should be the regulator in circumstances where this was apparently never planned or done.

During the course of the litigation the Department of Health has maintained a neutral stance and put plans to introduce legislation on hold to await the Court’s decision. The HPC will now have five weeks to file further evidence before the case is listed for a full hearing in the Spring.

Professor Darian Leader of the Centre for Freudian Analysis and Research, one of the six practitioner groups, said today:

“It is very unfortunate that the HPC has chosen to use its existing registrants’ fees to fight this case to date. We are told by its solicitors that its legal costs already run to £47,000. This money could be used to produce a meaningful report on how best to regulate the talking therapies. Instead it is being used to defend an empire-building decision that today’s ruling exposes as being legally questionable and, in our view, is perverse and unsustainable. The HPC was charged with investigating the regulatory needs of practitioner groups such as ours and deciding whether statutory regulation was appropriate at all and, if it was, whether it was the right regulator. It simply evaded those questions. We hope the HPC will now show itself to be appropriately sensitive to the indication given by the Court, withdraw its current proposals for regulation and step aside so a body that is actually capable of improving standards and protect the public in this difficult field can be created.”

Notes for editors:

1. The groups' solicitor, John Halford of Bindmans LLP can be contacted on 0207 833 7827 or
2. The claim was brought by the Association for Group And Individual Psychotherapy, the Association of Independent Psychotherapists, the Centre for Freudian Analysis and Research, the College of Psychoanalysts-Uk, the Guild of Psychotherapists and the Philadelphia Association.
3. The campaign has been supported by many well-known artists, writers and philosophers, including Rosie Boycott, Tracey Emin, Brian Eno, Sophie Fiennes, Bella Freud, Esther Freud, Antony Gormley, John Gray, Oliver James, Anish Kapoor, Hanif Kureishi, Lee Hall, Susie Orbach, Cornelia Parker, Adam Phillips, Will Self, Gavin Turk and Slavoj Zizek.


July 2008

As part of the move towards regulation of psychotherapists and counsellors by the state via the Health Professions Council (HPC), the Department of Health has involved Skills for Health (SfH). Skills for Health is the Sector Skills Council for the UK health sector. They claim that their purpose is to help the whole sector develop solutions that deliver a skilled and flexible UK workforce in order to improve health and healthcare. Arising from this, they have set out to specify competences and national occupational standards (NOS) for psychotherapists and counsellors, whether working in the NHS or in private practice. SfH claim that national occupational standards define what a person who is competent at a particular activity is able to achieve and that they also indicate the knowledge and understanding that such a person will need. 

The website of SfH may be accessed by clicking this link. 

SfH published an initial outline of how they proposed to go about the above project. To access this outline, please click here. (link now dead)

SfH have also published a newsletter regarding development of the NOS. To access this,  please click here. (link now dead)

Recently, SfH published some draft NOS for psychotherapists, including those who work in what they have decided to term the psychodynamic modality, which is presumably intended to include psychoanalysts and psychoanalytic psychotherapists for whose ability to practise in the way they have always done so, there are worrying if not fatal implications. To access the draft NOS in Word format, please click here. (link now dead) 

The College has now prepared an important appraisal and critique of the above draft NOS. To access this, please click here.

The College has also issued the following Press Release in relation to these matters:



Under proposed new government guidelines, most forms of psychoanalysis could become illegal in 2009. The Government aims to regulate talking therapies next year and has already started the process of assessing the field. The Health Professions Council has been given the task of regulating talking therapies, with its partner Skills for Health (SfH) charged with developing National Occupational Standards for therapeutic work. Nearly all the psychotherapy and psychoanalytic organisations protested that HPC was inappropriate for talking cures, yet this has been totally ignored and HPC imposed as the regulator.

The psychodynamic and psychoanalytic organisations in this country are already regulated by two main bodies (UKCP and BPC) which have been developed through the profession over the last twenty-five years. Each of the member organisations of UKCP and BPC has strict codes of ethics, practice and complaints procedures, and is inspected periodically by the regulatory body. Yet the new developments will render the existing regulatory structures for the most part obsolete. With this comes a new vision of what psychodynamic and psychoanalytic work actually is.

For HPC and SfH, psychoanalytic work is seen more as an intervention to be applied - like a drug - TO patients than a long and painstaking work done BY patients. This view of therapy as an external intervention is reflected in the government's plan to 'give' therapy to young Muslims they suspect of harbouring aspirations to terrorism: psychotherapy becomes a tool of social control rather than a choice made by the individual to explore their own life.

A consultation process was begun by SfH in 2007, and the results just published in draft form.More than 450 rules have been listed for psychodynamic and psychoanalytic therapy. They dictate every aspect of how therapists should organise their sessions, how they should 'monitor' themselves and how they should carry out their work. They go into minute detail about the timing of interventions, the setting of the therapy, its aims - and even the expression of appropriate 'feelings'. Such an application of externally-imposed rules - most of which were expressly contraindicated by Freud, Jung and the analysts who followed, such as Klein, Lacan and Winnicott - removes the very foundation on which such therapies are based, namely the freedom of both parties to work together authentically and creatively. If these rules are accepted, then it will no longer be possible for analysts - and many therapists - to work in this country.

The SfH project shows how analytic work is being forced into the current culture of outcomes, where everything can be predicted in advance and evaluated in relation to the expected results. Analysis, however, involves an open-ended relationship, where results may emerge that were never predicted or even thought of by the person in analysis. The very distinction between conscious and unconscious motivation that lies at the heart of analytic work is ignored by the proposed regulations which encourage a 'false self', a box-ticking clinician, always fearful of being watched by the authorities and anxious to please them. If analysis has an aim, it is to help patients free themselves from irrational forms of authority, exactly those that now threaten to constrain the work of analysts.

According to the government roadmap, HPC will establish a list of reputable practitioners, which will mean effectively those who adopt their particular formulations as to what psychoanalysis is about. All the documentation published to date by HPC shows a serious misunderstanding of the nature of analytic work, together with a new insistence on 'good character' defined in highly rigid ways. If this goes ahead, then members of the public will no longer have the freedom to choose their analyst. Rather, they will have to select a practitioner from a list which only includes those who practise a particular form of therapy.

How did this situation come about after the long process of consultation with the profession? The working parties at SfH which have drafted the new rules are made up almost exclusively of members from one single highly partisan grouping, concerned to define psychoanalytic psychotherapy in a very narrow frame. This narrow frame fits a particular technique developed by the Chair of the SfH National Strategy Group together with the Chair of the SfH Working Group known as 'Mentalization Based Therapy' (MBT). Some research shows evidence for the value of this technique for particular NHS patient categories, but it represents a tiny minority of the total psychoanalytic therapy that is undertaken, mostly in the private sector. Its techniques and ethical framework are entirely opposed to most traditional psychoanalytic work.

The Working Group and the National Strategy group, under these chairs, have excluded contributions which do not meet this narrow frame. SfH had promised seats on the working parties to representatives of other groupings, yet these were then withheld and SfH have admitted that they have not chosen to develop their work democratically. Requests for documents about the consultation process obtained under the Freedom of Information Act have shown astonishing failure to follow proper procedures and the hijacking of the consultation by a small and ambitious group of individuals.

Thousands of therapists have been writing to MPs and politicians about the current situation, seeking a recognition of the fact that analytic work cannot be reduced to a set of rules to be mechanistically applied to a patient with predictable outcomes, but involves an exploration of the meaning of an individual's history which can never be guessed in advance. Analytic work, for the majority of analysts, should be regulated by the bodies established by the profession and not by the State.

For more information contact:

Haya Oakley (Site for Contemporary Psychoanalysis) - 07929 559 817
Julia Carne (Psychoanalytic Consortium) - 07774 903204
Darian Leader (Centre for Freudian Analysis and Research) -
Sian Ellis (Association for Group and Individual Psychotherapy) - 07949 088 963
Joe Suart (The Guild of Psychotherapists) - 07772 510 475
Anne Worthington (The Guild of Psychotherapists) - 07904 870 962
Jason Wright (Association of Independent Psychotherapists) - 0793 274 7724

1 July 2008

BCM Box 2629
Tel: 01799 584231



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