Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point
On Air
Low Graphics

Thursday, February 18, 1999 Published at 19:33 GMT


Psychotherapist wins right to abuse hearing

Patients who need counselling are often very vulnerable

A psychotherapist who alleged some of her colleagues were guilty of abuse has won the right to have her accusations investigated.

The case could have important implications for the regulation of psychotherapy in the UK.

Professor Petruska Clarkson went to the High Court on Thursday in a bid to force the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) to investigate her claims.

In July, its governing council had refused to look into the allegations, but at the High Court hearing it agreed to a U-turn - a move welcomed by the judge Mr Justice Collins.

Professor Clarkson, who has produced more than 150 publications on psychotherapy, has been campaigning for statutory regulation of the profession for years.

No minimum standards

Currently, anyone can set themselves up as a psychotherapist.

No minimum standards or training are required, although government reports have recommended statutory regulation because of the possibility of patient abuse.

Several bodies exist which register practitioners, but they operate on a voluntary basis.

They include the UKCP which has been attempting to push up standards through registering training sessions.

Trainees on the courses are recommended for membership.

Professor Clarkson made ethical charges against some of her colleagues to the UKCP three years ago.

The charges included allegations of sexual abuse of trainees, derogatory treatment of a colleague and publishing false and misleading information.

She said: "There are disturbing figures about clients and trainees being abused by psychotherapists."

Her husband Vince Keter represented her at the High Court on Thursday because she was ill.

He said demand for psychotherapists had been mushrooming in recent years, as had complaints about practitioners.


At the end of the case, psychotherapists who support Professor Clarkson's stance applauded her as she left the court.

She said: "We feel vindicated by what has happened today.

"It is very important that ethical codes of conduct for psychotherapists are implemented entirely fairly."

Mr Keter described the judge's ruling that the UKCP's decision was open to legal challenge as "a real breakthrough".

The UKCP had argued that its judicial review proceedings should not come under the jurisdiction of the High Court.

The British Confederation of Psychotherapists, the other body which registers practitioners, says it will be debating the issue of statutory regulation in June.

Secretary Lawrence Brown said: "The court has recognised that there is a public interest in the functioning of self-regulatory bodies for psychotherapists. This is an important step."

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

Health Contents

Background Briefings
Medical notes

Relevant Stories

23 Oct 98 | Health
Abused by the complaints system

Internet Links

British Confederation of Psychotherapists


Psychotherapy links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

Disability in depth

Spotlight: Bristol inquiry

Antibiotics: A fading wonder

Mental health: An overview

Alternative medicine: A growth industry

The meningitis files

Long-term care: A special report

Aids up close

From cradle to grave

NHS reforms: A guide

NHS Performance 1999

From Special Report
NHS in crisis: Special report

British Medical Association conference '99

Royal College of Nursing conference '99