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Inquiry focuses on ‘urgent need’ to regulate counselling

Irish Times Saturday, June 14, 2008 by RÓISÍN INGLE

THERE IS an urgent need for statutory regulation in psychotherapy and counselling, the largest professional body in the sector has said, following an industry inquiry into a Dublin counselling centre.

In a statement yesterday welcoming the findings of the investigation into practices engaged in by counsellor Claire Hoban and her employer, Roebuck Consulting Ltd, the Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (IACP) said that the outcome “brought into sharp focus” the need for regulation.

The investigation was carried out by Roebuck’s former accrediting body, the National Association for Pastoral Counselling and Psychotherapy (NAPCP).

It found that Ms Hoban had “seriously, flagrantly and frequently” violated their ethics code and revoked her membership. Last October it emerged that clients of Roebuck had been asked by Ms Hoban for sums of up to €250,000 for “life-mentoring” services.

In its statement, the IACP acknowledged the levels of “distress and upset” felt by consumers and practitioners in the sector. “The IACP have been involved in meetings with other psychotherapy/counselling bodies in Ireland and will be submitting a proposal for statutory regulation to the Government in the autumn. The IACP are steadfast in our aim to achieve statutory regulation in Ireland for the profession.”

The organisation, which represents over 3,500 practitioners, assured the public of its commitment to high standards. It is now planning a public awareness campaign to educate consumers on the questions to ask when choosing counsellors and encouraging them to complain to accrediting bodies if they are not happy with the service they receive.

Roebuck Consulting Ltd has not yet responded to the accusations of ethics violations. However, in a statement to this newspaper yesterday, Roebuck co-director Bernie Purcell said the company had never been a member of NAPCP and therefore could not have had its membership cancelled, as NAPCP had stated in its findings.

She also took issue with NAPCP’s withdrawal of accreditation for their training course in the area because she said the company had already cancelled the course last October.

A spokesman for NAPCP, which has an estimated 600 members, accepted that while Roebuck employee Claire Hoban’s membership was cancelled, the company itself was never a member of the organisation and the suggestion that it had been was the result of an administrative error.

“We are happy to clarify this,” he said. “Our investigation was centred around Claire Hoban and the NAPCP-accredited course that was run in Roebuck. Even though the company cancelled the course we felt it was in the public interest and in the interest of our members to conclude the investigation.”

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