Does the mental health sector need tighter regulation?

Workplace mental health organisation, Mente, have called for individuals and businesses to conduct full due diligence on any mental health services they are looking to use.

Mente recently spoke to BBC journalist, Jordan Dunbar, about their concerns on the potential for people to cash in on what is a very topical subject. His Radio 4 production details a number of individuals’ experiences with unethical therapy and discusses how statutory regulation should be considered.

Psychotherapy can be hugely valuable to people, helping them to recover from mental health problems and improve their wellbeing. The number of people accessing therapy is substantial. NHS Digital reports that over 1.4 million people were referred to NHS mental health therapy in 2017-18. There has also been a 65% increase in demand for private counselling services since 2016.

However, there are currently no laws against anyone operating as a private psychotherapist or a counsellor in the UK. Neither psychotherapy or counselling is subject to a statutory regulator, which means that technically anyone can call themselves one.

Therefore, people are able to set themselves up as private psychotherapists or counsellors with minimal training, or even no training. Therapy sessions with inadequately trained therapists can leave the client feeling overwhelmed, sometimes serving only to exacerbate their mental health problem.

Voluntary registers do exist, like the BACP and UKCP, which are a good place to start if you are looking for mental health support. But tighter regulation could help to protect the public from those who are insufficiently trained and lack the experience and knowledge to keep clients safe. It could help to raise standards and ensure that individuals are getting suitable and genuinely useful mental health support.

It is also possible for someone who has been struck-off a voluntary register for unethical psychotherapy to continue to practice, as being removed doesn’t mean that you have to stop calling yourself a counsellor or psychotherapist.

For the time-being, Mente advocate for businesses and consumers to do full due-diligence and screening on any mental health professional, from therapists to workplace workshop providers.

On tightening regulation, Mel Joseph, managing director of Mente, said “Our concerns about unregulated individuals using inappropriate titles were backed up by Jordan’s documentary. Unless you are actively working in the mental health space, or have had a poor experience with someone who was unqualified, you may not realise that this is a real and pressing issue. We suggest that if you need any support for any aspect of your health, then seek an appropriately qualified professional who can be found on a professional register. While we all have the ability to support someone through a challenging time, if someone has developed a mental health problem, then appropriate care must come from a qualified professional to avoid further harm. We have been vocal about the issue for a long time, and until further regulation is introduced, we will continue to work with the professional community and voice our concerns publicly.”

For more information about this, or about Mente, visit