By Liz Stephens
Regulation of mental health practitioners must be extended to help stamp out abuse, according to mental health charity Mind.
On the day that psychologists are to be regulated by the Health Professions Council (HPC), the charity has claimed that patients will continue to be unprotected if such regulation is not extended to counsellors and psychotherapists.
Psychological or "talking" therapies remain one of the least regulated areas of mental health practice in the UK. Currently anyone can set themselves up as a counsellor or psychotherapist.
Unlike psychiatrists, who are qualified doctors specialising in illnesses of the mind, and psychologists, who have a university degree in psychology, a psychotherapist or counsellor currently doesn't need to have formal training or join a professional organisation.
There is no single body to monitor malpractice and numerous complicated complaints systems make it difficult for patients to take up claims.
The government has promised HPC regulation for psychotherapists and counsellors by 2011 but there remains some professional opposition to the plans.
Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, said: "People go to see a counsellor or psychotherapist when they are in distress and it is unacceptable that at their most vulnerable they are not being properly protected.
"It is clear that self-regulation is not working and the government must press ahead with its plans to overhaul the system."
Currently there is no legislation preventing a psychotherapist or counsellor who is removed from the register of one organisation from continuing to operate under that title.