The Eagle has Landed – This Side of the Pond: Interest in the British Press

An article by Audrey Gillan was published in The Guardian on 9th. June 2004:

Battle of the couches

The article deals with the controversy surrounding the foundation of The College and presents comments of practitioners from both sides of the argument. The following is a commentary on some of the arguments raised.

The first point made against The College is the similarity of the new website address for The College to that of the long-established website address of BPAS. The latter address is based on the word “psychoanalysis” while The College address is based on the word “psychoanalyst”. There are many website addresses throughout the world which include the word “psychoanalysis”. So far as The College is aware, no website address for any organisation anywhere in the world includes the word “psychoanalyst”. The College website address is therefore entirely distinctive and possibly unique. It is certainly not in the interests of The College for it to be confused in any way with BPAS or any other organisation. In this connection, the President of BPAS now appears to concede that his society “probably overreacted” in relation to their published disclaimer about The College.

Later in the article, Professor Peter Fonagy of BPAS while, refreshingly, claiming not to have strong feelings that psychoanalysts should belong to any one institution, nevertheless calls for the government to intercede and introduce some clarity. This is an extraordinary suggestion coming from someone in an organisation which has, until now, sought exemption of their members from any form of state regulation, whether as part of the current dialogue about the regulation of psychotherapy generally or the regulation of psychoanalysis in particular. The argument is that there exists the potential for great damage to vulnerable people at the hands of those not properly qualified to practise psychoanalysis. The College entirely supports that view. However, within the present context, this argument is disingenuous because government regulation of who is entitled to use the label “psychoanalyst” will not overcome this problem. It is not the use of one label or another (whether it be psychoanalyst or psychoanalytic psychotherapist) which has the potential to cause damage to vulnerable members of society but rather the manner in which clinical treatment is conducted. No amount of regulation will ever be able to prevent any psychotherapist (or counsellor, for that matter) from practising psychoanalysis in the consulting room; no matter what label they may use. If such a regulation existed, it would be impossible to enforce, even if there existed powers for serious and damaging intrusion into that which takes place in the consulting room.