Government Proposals on Statutory Regulation

For over a decade now all those involved in counselling and psychotherapy – including the Psychological Therapies Forum of which APCP is a member – have been calling for statutory registration. This has now been advanced significantly by the Government in declaring its intention to put both professions under the auspices of CORU based on qualification advanced by Quality and Qualifications Ireland.

Here is an extract from the 2012 amendment concerning Health and Social Care Professionals by the Minister of State at the Department of Health:

“I thank Deputies for the valuable and thoughtful contributions made on Second and Committee Stages. Deputies highlighted the urgent need to bring counsellors and psychotherapists within the ambit of the 2005 Act. I would like to now restate the commitment made by the Minister, Deputy Reilly on Committee stage to make the necessary regulations under the Act as soon as possible. A key regulation in this regard, namely, the regulation to prescribe the qualifications needed to register under the Act, will be made when the minimum qualifications and standards of knowledge, skill and competence for future counsellors and psychotherapists have been set by Quality and Qualifications Ireland. To explain further, the regulation of designated professions under the Act is, in the first instance, activated by the registration of persons with specific qualifications approved by the relevant registration board. These approved qualifications are awarded by the Higher Education and Training Awards Council, HETAC, now subsumed into Quality and Qualifications Ireland, QQI, or by the universities. In the case of counselling and psychotherapy, however, QQI is only now in the process of establishing standards of knowledge, skill and competence to be acquired by those wishing to practice in this field. When these standards have been determined, in consultation with the professional bodies and other stakeholders, the educational institutions offering courses and programmes in counselling and psychotherapy can seek QQI accreditation and, in time, QQI will be able to award qualifications to those graduating from the accredited courses. 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 Minister, Deputy Reilly, will be asking Quality and Qualifications Ireland to conclude its work as soon as possible next year. In tandem, the Department will work with CORU to have all the other necessary arrangements in place so that there will be no delay in establishing the counsellors and psychotherapists registration board when the minimum qualification standards have been set. On Committee Stage, Deputies raised concerns about inadequately trained counsellors and psychotherapists advertising services to the public. While many services, private and public, have quality assurance arrangements in place, as have a number of reputable professional bodies, there is cause for concern that standards are not universally high. Deputies pointed out that these advertisements are often aimed at people in vulnerable or distressing situations. It was asked whether it would be possible to require those advertising counselling and psychotherapy services to alert the public to the fact that counsellors and psychotherapists are not currently regulated under the 2005 Act. This may be a worthwhile temporary measure in the interest of public safety particularly and the Department is now seeking legal advice on the practicalities involved. The Minister, Deputy Reilly, hopes to be able to come to a clear policy position on this proposal shortly.”