accreditation and legality in the UK – part 2


Legality in the UK – the legal status of the designations ‘psychotherapist’, ‘counsellor’ and ‘therapist’

At this time there is no legal status for a psychotherapist in the UK:

“In some countries, most notably the United States, individual practitioners are required by law to be licensed in order to practise counselling or psychotherapy. Holding a license means that a practitioner has completed a level of training specified by the licensing board. In the US it is illegal to offer services unless licensed… a counsellor offering services in the US without a license is breaking the law.
“Other countries, including Australia and the United Kingdom, do not regulate the profession by means of licensing; in the UK, there is no such thing as a ‘licensed practitioner’.”  Counselling Resource

What this means is that to call yourself a therapist, counsellor or even psychotherapist in the UK is not illegal regardless of the training and experience you may or may not have. As much as the governing bodies of the UKCP and BACP might like to give the impression that you can’t practice as a psychotherapist in the UK without a full training and UKCP or BACP accreditation, this is not the case. It is perfectly legal for anyone to set themselves up as a counsellor or psychotherapist, and while I wouldn’t advocate doing so, nevertheless this is the case.

Further thoughts on this in light of the forthcoming training in trauma constellations in London

Those wishing to study the work of Franz Ruppert by joining the training in London may have questions about any ancillary training they may require. My thoughts on this are as follows:

As much as a psychotherapeutic background is unquestionably useful, it also can cause difficulties for the trauma constellations student, because the perception we gain studying Franz Ruppert’s work is quite different from the perception and practice generally and historically taken on in psychotherapy. There are some very big differences, and the established psychotherapist will have to do some serious adjusting of their ideas, leaving some old favourites behind and taking on new, somewhat radical and initially conflicting ideas. However the psychotherapy or counsellor student may find themselves unsettled for a short space of time, but eventually can make these shifts fairly easily.

At the same time most psychotherapists and counsellors coming into personal contact with Ruppert’s work are pretty quickly impacted by the fact that the work often takes them to a place and understanding of themselves that they have not been able to gain through conventional psychotherapy or counselling.

Some people who do not have a psychotherapy background ask me if they should do a psychotherapy or counselling training in order to practice.

The first thing I would say is to repeat what I have written above: it is perfectly legal to work as a trauma constellations therapist without a psychotherapy or counselling background.

The second thing I would say is that in my view the worst possible thing to do would be to attempt to train as a psychotherapist and a trauma constellations therapist at the same time. You would have to split yourself between two very conflictual world views and I doubt that the learning would be easy. It would more likely confuse you.

On the other hand if you do the trauma constellations training and later on decide that you need some basic counselling skills or psychiatric knowledge (understanding diagnoses, and how to cross the divide to be able to talk to other psychotherapeutic professionals) that is a quite different project. You would be coming to it having a solid grounding in a theory and practice of trauma from which to discriminate as to what is likely to be useful to you and what is not.

So I guess what I am saying in brief is this: a psychotherapy background is not necessary in order to train in the work of Franz Ruppert, nor is it a legal requirement, and you would still be able to practice quite legally without it, but you might at some point wish to have further input to improve your knowledge and practice.

Please, if you have any other questions on these topics do email me… and you can add your thoughts to this article by submitting a comment below. All comments are held for moderation so don’t expect your comment to appear immediately.

The training website is


accreditation and legality in the UK – part 2 — 9 Comments

  1. You can’t actually talk about licensing of psychotherapist in the USA as a whole, it varies by State. In Colorado, they have a Grievance Board which registers unlicensed psychotherapists (and others). As long as you take a 1 day course in mental health law and register with the board, you can practice. I did this for 4 years when I lived in Colorado. Similar systems may exist in other states, but I haven’t checked.

  2. David: yes I actually missed that bit out of the quote, the bit about it varying from state to state in the USA, because I thought it was too long for a quote, and I was rather more interested in focusing on the UK, but of course you are correct. However I didn’t know that it varied to the extent you are talking about in the case of Colorado… that is very interesting, if somewhat bizarre in terms of any kind of national policy. Nice to hear from you and have your contribution.

  3. Hi Vivian

    All most all of the systemic constellation facilitators in the States are not licensed therapists. In the Washington DC area where I live the percentage is about 10 percent. The way around the licensing issue is that no one claims to be doing therapy unless of course he or she is actually a therapist.

    Even then in an open workshop format that is about personal growth even a therapist would not claim to be doing therapy. The workshop is about education. This approach is nearly universal for a wide range of modalities that are loosely classified as part of the “personal growth” movement. Constellations here are trying to find their place in a very crowded field. Next time you visit DC pick up a local magazine called “Pathways” and see if you have the patience to count the number of different offerings listed between its covers. The number and diversity of techniques and workshops would make you think you landed in California.

    • Harrison: thanks for your input. However I think the issue is different in the work that I do and teach. This work developed by Franz Ruppert is clearly focussed on trauma as a psychological phenomenon, and in that sense in my view we are a good step closer to the psychotherapy domain than one might be considered to be as a facilitator of family or systemic constellations. I do think that the work that I do is a form of psychotherapy, and so raises important issues of practice and competence.
      While I know, of course, that trauma issues are always present in a family constellations context, nevertheless the focus on orders of love and across generational reconciliation rather than direct attention to the intra-psychic integration of traumatic splits in my view allows family constellations to occupy a less clearly defined space.
      The blog piece is aimed at answering direct questions about the ability to practice in the UK, and the need or not for ancillary knowledge and skills for those wishing to practice in this more psychotherapeutic arena.
      Thanks for your comment, offering me the opportunity to clarify a couple of things.

  4. Vivian,
    Thank you for clarifying this. I was in marriage therapy for over a year and also saw this self proclaimed UKCP member on my own. He is now living with my now ex wife and 7 year old son in a full sexual relationship. I tried to complain to the UKCP, but as he wasn’t a member there was nothing they could do. Not only that, as he wasn’t a member they flat out didn’t care. As it stands I am tortured daily and rarely sleep as this man with no morals, integrity, ethics or decency spends time alone with my son. As I see it, anyone can call themselves a psychotherapist and abuse their position of absolute trust with absolutely no consequences. How can this be right?

    • Dear Philip, what a sorry state of affairs. It is true that in the UK anyone can call themselves a psychotherapist, and lie about being UKCP registered, and even if they are UKCP registered the only thing I think that the UKCP can do to a member in a situation such as this is expel them from membership, but they can still practise. You could of course resort to the courts to claim custody of your son, or challenge their right to custody. In the greater picture of course it is not right, and I feel for you in your dilemma.
      my very best wishes

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