The commercially-driven endorsement of the ScopEd framework by BACP and other representative bodies is an attempt by directive therapists to falsely claim that they are better than the person-centred (non-directive) ones, who are leaving in protest, disgust and dismay.
There are rumblings of revolution in the world of British therapy. Some people who should have known better and cared more have done something very silly, and as a result a lot of the best person-centred therapists are considering leaving the largest ‘representative’ bodies because, well, they have not actually represented us.
Many therapists are still very tied to the idea that more scout badges = better therapy. They can’t imagine engaging with a client as equals. It is so much easier to classify you as… whatever, than to try to actually understand you, like the person who can name a bird but doesn’t know how to experience it. Rogers warned that the major underlying motive for many clinicians is often really just to prove how bright they are. (Read more about the person-centred approach here). And they will use you, the vulnerable client/patient, in this selfish game.
So there’s a lot of reading to do if you want to become a directive clinician. But there’s more madness yet. Directive psychotherapy training takes longer than non-directive psychotherapy training for a reason that is very odd: the strange idea that a trainee therapist requires hundreds of hours of personal therapy, many times more therapy than is required by over 90% of clients! (One might wonder why someone so messed up would feel confident enough to embark on a new career). This bizarre requirement is a direct hangover from the ideas of Freud, over 100 years ago(!) But hey, we’re human, aren’t we? We feel good when we can afford something that others can’t.
It has been very well proven over a very long time that such ‘expert’ knowledge is based on flawed science. Diagnostic categories are increasingly acknowledged as not scientifically valid, so any related scout badges cannot automatically be regarded as helpful. It is also very well established that such expertise-driven, directive (‘therapist-knows-best’) approaches are no more effective than relationship-driven approaches. And the directive approaches run a much higher risk of inciting complaints and grievances: the therapist didn’t listen to me, the therapist misdiagnosed me, the treatment didn’t work…
In many countries the term psychotherapist is a protected title, allowing those who hold such an exalted status to reap the financial rewards of being on the right side of what the economists call a ‘barrier to entry’ in the market. But who is the best person to decide who is a good clinician? The UK, in accordance with its tradition of classical British liberalism, in which the best person to decide what is best for you is you, has long held that the best judge is the consumer. A medical doctor who has passed lots of exams might well be better than one who hasn’t, but therapy does not work like this. It is a verified scientific fact that therapy does not work like this. This is because the relationship is more therapeutic than any ‘treatments’. In other words subjective perspectives are more important than objective ones. Yet life as a therapist involves a continual bombardment from those marketing some new training course. Not only are most of these courses adding little to what a competent non-directive clinician can already bring to their client, the average therapist does not earn much.
Such realities have not deterred those in the business of selling spurious, fad-ridden training courses and endless personal therapy to fellow therapists. Leading professional bodies in the UK (including the UKCP, BACP and NCS) have recently agreed how the scout badge hierarchy is to be, what scout badges you will need, and who gets to call themselves what. What they did not do was to start by asking, ‘who are the most effective therapists, and why?’. And they didn’t ask how come non-directive therapists are as effective as those who use a scout-badge-driven, ‘assess-and-treat’ approach? Instead, for reasons that look really quite unethical, even corrupt (to some eyes), they have decided that only the ‘assess-and-treat’ / directive types of therapist are real therapists. This merrily ignores all the science, including the discoveries of Carl Rogers and many since, which strongly indicates that the relationship does the healing not whatever is done to the client by way of ‘treatment’. The certificates don’t do the healing. Yet it now is the duty of UK therapists to spend thousands of pounds and hours on supporting the cannibalistic and parasitic practice of selling more training and therapy to those who should not need it.
It was also decided that to be a good therapist one must undergo (and of course pay for) hundreds of hours of personal therapy, regardless of whether or not this is needed. Which, ironically, does not fit at all with the assess-and-treat attitude underpinning the whole enterprise – what conditions is this treatment expected to address? Another painful irony is that therapists will get the therapy that might otherwise be available to the public. Endless discussions took place over many years leading up to these decisions, but these discussions were not well-attended by those who represent the huge number of person-centred/ non-directive/ Rogerian therapists/counsellors/coaches. Indeed the organization that arguably best represents the non-directive therapist in the UK, the Association for Humanistic Psychology Practitioners, seems to have been actively excluded from the discussions.
These sad developments might well lead to the creation of a new professional body to represent the interests of non-directive psychotherapists, if existing bodies like UKCP, BACP and NCP cannot demonstrate a sound understanding of the person-centred/ non-directive modality, and a willingness to act in the interests of all psychotherapists, including the non-directive ones. We never had an organisation to speak for us. Carl Rogers didn’t want that, and there are still no plans to set one up. So non-directive therapists are divided, as the unherdable cats they are, but they have not been conquered.
This issue extends beyond the profession itself. If it truly takes 4 years to train a psychotherapist then very few will be able to afford it. We will never have many therapists who are not financially supported by The Main Breadwinner: i.e. the industry will become even more dominated by the wives of rich men. Perhaps other voices are also needed. Let me rephrase that. Other voices are definitely needed.
There are much wider concerns though, about the public interest. It’s not just good therapists who are impacted by ScopEd. Those who most desperately need therapy/counselling – those who can’t easily afford it – are left worse off than ever, as therapists increase their fees to pay for all the increased nonsense that they now have to go through.
So I, like many non-directive therapists, have felt inclined to sack the BACP as my representative body. I have other reasons for doing this, besides those outlined above. For example I have lost a client because they have been advised, by a court-appointed psychologist of all people, to see someone ‘who specialises’ in domestic abuse. Somehow this court psychologist was utterly ignorant about therapy/counselling, and even in the 2020’s seemed unaware that non-directive psychotherapy is as effective as the other kind. My client was distressed because he felt he was making good progress with me. I contacted the BACP about this, in the hope that they are in the business of defending the interests of their members. Yet the person I spoke to at BACP Ethics was also completely clueless about the person-centred approach, telling me, ‘well you wouldn’t do couples work if you weren’t specially trained in that, would you?’ Doh! There are no specialist ‘assess-and-treat’ training courses in the person-centred approach. And why would there be? As Rogers demonstrated, these therapeutic attitudes have proven both necessary and sufficient largely regardless of what the client/ patient brings or how they might be diagnosed.
There are many other horror stories about how the BACP has let down its Rogerian members. They have even, with Stalinist irony, accused me of bringing the profession into disrepute simply for trying to bring these ethical issues to the public’s attention.
My own opinion, for what it is worth, is that there are far too many people competing in this sector. Very few can actually make a living at it, yet the universities continue to create vast numbers of under-utilised therapists. I would prefer fewer, better therapists, who were each busy enough to be able to charge less. But this cannot be at the expense of non-directive, relational approaches which are just as effective as any other, and are much loved by the suffering public.
Do we need self-appointed, self-serving rent-seekers to declare who is, and who isn’t, a therapist? I say no. I believe the best person to decide who is a good clinician will always be you, the client.