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


Health

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.

Applause

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."



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