Regulation of the profession of Psychotherapy

Safeguarding your emotional health and well-being!

By Jean Manahan

In an ideal world, where people are endowed with not only the skills and capacities to be great at their chosen profession but also with the moral compass to make right choices at all times, there would be no need for external regulation of any kind. Unfortunately this is not the world we live in.

As a result, we need professional associations which monitor the activities of their members through clear guidelines around training standards, on-going skills development, accreditation and a robust code of practice or ethics along with complaints’ guidelines.

Electricians have their association, the motor industry theirs, health workers, G.P.’s, dentists and so on, practice in accordance with their approved professional bodies’ guidelines. The difficulty arises when a voluntary code of practice is not sufficient to side-line those who are not approved for practice and who set themselves up as practitioners leaving an unsuspecting public at the mercy of either shoddy workmanship or practice.

This is where the State can intervene to provide an official register which reassures the public that those on the register are appropriately trained and have reached the minimum accreditation standard required in their profession. CORU is the State agency which oversees the registration of social and healthcare professionals such as Occupational Therapists, Social workers, Physiotherapists and so on.

In the case of the Psychotherapy profession, it is crucial that the public understand that, at present, therapists are regulated on a voluntary basis by their professional associations. Anyone looking for a psychotherapist should check that they are members of a recognised professional body. There can be an impression that the profession is unregulated. However, this impression is entirely incorrect.

The Irish Council for Psychotherapy (ICP) – a representative body representing the vast majority of psychotherapists in Ireland – supports the introduction of statutory registration in addition to the current voluntary regulation for the profession, mainly as a way of ensuring that only those who are appropriately trained and accredited are entitled to practice as Psychotherapists and to use the title ‘Psychotherapist’. In this way, the current, rather loose usage of the title will cease and the public will have more clarity as to who is actually entitled to call themselves a Psychotherapist.

Until this happens ICP would encourage the public to check out the credentials of anyone calling themselves a Psychotherapist. They should have a minimum of seven years preparation which includes a Master’s Degree along with four years clinical training. It would be surprising as well as highly unethical if untrained people could call themselves G.P.’s, for example. The same applies to the practice of psychotherapy.

The ICP website has an index of approved accredited practitioners and also a list of the major associations that regulate their members. The minimum standards of training for psychotherapists on the ICP register are in accordance with the standards of the European Association of Psychotherapy. They are accepted across Europe as the minimum entry point for practice. The public can find out more by going to