One of the most vexing questions surrounding counselling and psychotherapy in Ireland over the last 20 years has been the subject of educational and professional standards.
The principal difficulty with unregulated professions is that of differing standards and a lack of standardisation. Within the fields of counselling and psychotherapy in Ireland, there are currently over 20 different professional bodies all aiming to represent the needs of their members and to advance counselling and psychotherapy according to their own individual ethos, while at the same time all claiming to represent the best interests of the public. Likewise, counselling and psychotherapy are currently not protected titles, therefore anyone who wishes may legally (though clearly not morally or ethically) refer to themselves as either of these titles. Therefore there is currently no legal impediment to using such titles and thus limited legal protection of the general public.
Having so many diverse Associations attempting to voluntarily regulate practice is clearly problematic for a range of reasons. Firstly some Associations fail to make a distinction between Psychotherapy and Counselling and continue to have the same qualification requirements despite the recommendations of the PTF to government in 2008.
In turn this means that the ranges of qualifications are currently being used in Ireland, without the public having the assurance of uniform standards of skill, competency and knowledge.
The Psychological Therapies Forum succeeded in making shared recommendations to Government in 2008. Achieving that consensus between such a diverse body of professional associations was an achievement. Likewise, since that time a number of developments have occurred which are significant.
- In 2011, HETAC (now QQI) – building on the recommendations of the PTF, commenced a process of setting award standards for educational programmes in these fields.
- In late 2012, Minister Alex White issued a statement in Dail Eireann committing to statutory registration of counsellors and psychotherapists as early as possible
- In that speech the Minister clearly specified that these “QQI qualifications will be the minimum qualifications required of counsellors and psychotherapists to register under the Health and Social Care Professionals Act 2005”.
- The development of award standards by QQI have now been released for public consultation in August, 2013
- The role of CORU in overseeing the professions of Counseling & Psychotherapy is now much clearer.
- The commitment of the Minister to work with CORU to ensure that there will be “no delay” in bringing regulatory frameworks about.
In essence this will bring about a set of professions which will finally have developed and implemented standards and whose on-going practice will be overseen by a regulatory agency with statutory authority.