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Are Psychotherapy and Counselling Really More Regulated Than Coaching?

Are Psychotherapy and Counselling Really More Regulated Than Coaching?

We’re often asked about the regulation of coaching and whether it’s likely to be regulated in the future.

Around this question, we often also hear the assumption that psychotherapy and counselling are regulated and that this seems to make coaching less credible.

So, here’s a surprising truth:

Neither psychotherapy nor counselling is regulated.

Or, at least, not in any legal sense.

This often comes as a surprise to people and we sometimes face vociferous insistence that these practices are indeed regulated and that coaching is the only unregulated practice.

That such confusion and ambiguity exists so many decades after professions like psychotherapy came in to being is interesting and suggests that whether something is actually regulated is less important to people than the assumption that it is!  The assumption alone makes a difference.

Strangely, we have noticed that many people inside the professions themselves believe them to be regulated.

But, actually, what they are is self-regulated.

Indeed, this is the case with all three professions of counselling, psychotherapy and coaching.

Whilst the specific combination of “registered psychotherapist” is protected (to avoid blatant and outright deception), the word “psychotherapist” by itself isn’t.

The reality is that anyone can claim to be a coach, counsellor or psychotherapist with little or no training and be perfectly entitled to do so. We might not like that fact but it remains the reality. These terms are unprotected and anyone can adopt them whenever they want.

For many, particularly considering the vulnerability of people who might present in psychotherapy, this is a major concern – for instance, see Amanda Williamson Counselling.

For others, the lack of regulation is a blessing and even the growth of self-regulation is seen as a threat. Implausible Professions edited by House and Totton is a fascinating read on this perspective.

The UKCP itself says: “Therapists do not have to register with UKCP or any other organisation, which means that anyone can call themselves a psychotherapist.” For the full article go to,
https://www.psychotherapy.org.uk/about-ukcp/our-register

Now for the good news!

In all three areas of practice, robust self-regulation and accreditation has been developed to mark out well-trained practitioners who abide by particular codes of ethics and behaviour.

On the counselling and psychotherapy side, the well-established UKCP and BACP provide oversight, and on the coaching side, the ICF, the EMCC and Association for Coaching provide similar quality assurance. And there are plenty of other specialist professional bodies on both sides – perhaps part of the problem!

To be recognised as an accredited psychotherapist, counsellor or coach, you’ll undergo coach training or a psychotherapy/counselling qualification and join such a body. You will have to meet their rigorous criteria for accreditation and, by doing so, you will be considered an accredited coach or therapist.  To be clear though, and to risk repeating myself, these are self-managing bodies and one professional body’s criteria can differ wildly from another.

Whilst none of this stops anyone just setting up as coach or therapist and adopting the title, it does give the public and clients the ability to distinguish between the trained professionals and the self-taught, who might lack the rigour, ethical frameworks and effectiveness of the accredited individuals.

Of course, ultimately training and qualification is about skill development and whilst accreditation might be a must for some, it all starts with being the most effective coach or therapist you can be.

It can be a surprise to find out that such impactful and trust-imbued practices are free for anyone to practise but the question we each need to address is “who do I want to be as a coach?” – the professional accredited practitioner or the self-styled untrained amateur.

The fact that you’re reading this would imply this matters to you and that you understand the growing importance of accreditation within these professions, even where, legally, it is not a statutory requirement.

Should you wish to find out more about the Animas approach to coach training, why not attend a free introduction to transformational coaching where we’ll discuss all this and more.

Author Details
Nick is the founder and CEO of Animas Centre for Coaching and the International Centre for Coaching Supervision. Nick is an existentially oriented coach and supervisor with a passion for the ideas, principles and philosophy that sits behind coaching.

Nick Bolton

Nick Bolton Animas

Nick is the founder and CEO of Animas Centre for Coaching and the International Centre for Coaching Supervision. Nick is an existentially oriented coach and supervisor with a passion for the ideas, principles and philosophy that sits behind coaching.

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