Letter: Counselling can be effective

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your account ("Counselling loses face in NHS review", 18 August) of the NHS Centre for Reviews and Disseminations Report concentrated on its concerns about the limited usefulness of counselling. Yet the report as a whole contains much evidence for the efficacy of psychological approaches in working with such varied client groups as newly unemployed people, bereaved children and pregnant women.

The moral is that counselling should not be regarded as a panacea but as one form of psychological treatment among many. It needs to be offered in the context of a complete range of psychological treatments offered by mental health professionals such as chartered psychologists so that people can be sure they will only receive counselling in situations where it has been shown to be effective. This approach also has the advantage of making it more likely that clients will receive the social support that is often vital to the success of treatment programmes. Many NHS departments of clinical psychology, including my own, employ counsellors as part of the treatment team.

The worrying case history that accompanies your account emphasises the folly of allowing people to set themselves up as "counsellors" or "psychologists" with no legal safeguards for the public. Representatives of the British Psychological Society are to meet Paul Boateng, the junior health minister, to urge him to bring in statutory control for the profession. Such control, which already exists for doctors, dentists and pharmacists, would do much to protect the public against unscrupulous or incompetent practitioners.

ADRIAN SKINNER

Chartered Clinical Psychologist

Harrogate Health Care

NHS Trust

The writer is Vice-Chair, Division of Clinical Psychology, British Psychological Society

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