Crikey Clarifier

Apr 6, 2010

The regulation of counselling

With the recent media and government focus on the regulation of counselling and psychotherapy, we thought it timely to learn what these terms actually mean. Psychologist Stephen Andrew and Psychotherapist Zoë Krupka explain.

With the recent media and government focus on the regulation of counselling and psychotherapy, we thought it timely to explain what these terms mean. When you’re searching for emotional and psychological assistance, how do you tell a psychologist from a counsellor, and what’s a psychotherapist anyway? How are they trained? What do they do? And what does regulation mean for you and for the industry?

What is counselling? Counselling means different things to different people. To some it’s a process where specific issues are discussed with an aim to resolution. To others, counselling involves a wide-ranging, interpersonal exploration that can lead to personal growth. A third view of counselling is as a means of social control or punishment, as in “the full-forward has apologised to his teammates’ wives and is being counselled about the incident”.

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5 thoughts on “The regulation of counselling

  1. Little Eric

    Excellent article.
    Don’t forget the ACCP as an alternative to the APS (

  2. abarker

    This was very interesting and informative.

    Can Crikey please do a similair Clarifier on Dietician vs Nutritionist vs Naturopath? I would find it valuable.

  3. Chris Murphy

    You mentioned many ‘Other styles, brands, schools or methodologies’. Would the Enneagram be one of these? Wouldn’t understanding the client’s type on the Enneagram be really helpful for counselling? Is The Enneagram actually used that much by counsellors? My understanding is that currently it is used more in religious than secular spheres.

  4. Jenny Ejlak

    I’m pleased that Stephen and Zoe painted a realistic picture of regulation being potentially both good and bad. Regulation of an industry can be an absolute minefield and the outcomes don’t necessarily protect the public as they are meant to.

    Disclaimer – I have a bachelor degree in Psychology, training in counselling and Af-x therapy and have practiced in both voluntary and paid capacities over the years. I used to be a member of therapist associations but am no longer as I didn’t see any value in it.

    I have known directly or heard second hand accounts via clients of a range of practitioners including those from all the categories listed above. In almost all categories I have heard of practitioners who are good and practitioners who are dodgy, incompetent and unethical. I have tried to deal with ‘colleagues’ who were clearly mentally unstable despite being registered members of professional organisations and I have known of registered psychologists who regularly have sex with their clients but despite this remain registered and eligible for Medicare rebates.

    It is difficult for the public to choose a competent, ethical therapist and lack of regulation does allow for untrained people to charge money for services to vulnerable people. Word of mouth is often the best referral. I’m not convinced that any professional group has got the regulation system right. Not medicine, not psychology and I don’t think counselling will be the first.

    One of the dangers of regulation is that it gives the public a false sense of security – they assume that registered therapies/practitioners are better than unregistered ones. But think about this – if the two currently regulated professions – psychiatry and psychology have the best treatments around – why are mental health problems on the increase? Clearly ‘standard’ approaches are not working, so the last thing we need, as Stephen and Zoe put it, is to stifle innovation.

    If regulation were to be enforced I would probably not be eligible to be registered, yet I have had a steady stream of clients over the last ten years who tell me they get results from me that numerous registered psychologists have failed to achieve. Go figure.

  5. Zoe Krupka

    Great question Chris. The Eneagram is not so much a counselling approach as a typological tool that looks at personality from a psycho-spiritual perspective. It is used in similar ways to the Myers-Briggs profile and can be useful for personal exploration. I don’t know any counsellors who use it in practice, but it does get used in some organisations and spiritual communities. Like any typological tool, it can be a bit of a blunt instrument when used for understanding others, but can be one lens with which to look at ourselves. Wikipedia has a reasonable overview and some useful links.

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