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Stephen Palmer & Michael Cavanagh

In the United Kingdom (UK), from the 1 July 2009, the Health Professions Council (HPC) started to regulate practitioner psychologists and protected the following specific titles:

  • Clinical psychologist;
  • Counselling psychologist;
  • Educational psychologist;
  • Forensic psychologist;
  • Health psychologist;
  • Occupational psychologist;
  • Sport and exercise psychologist.

In addition it regulates and protects two generic titles:

  • Practitioner psychologist;
  • Registered psychologist.

This was history in the making for psychology practice and its statutory regulation in the UK. Effectively from now on the HPC has become responsible for protecting the public by keeping a Register of practitioner psychologists who have to meet its standards for training, professional skills and behaviour (see HPC, 2009a). A survey ( the consumer research for the HPC was carried out online by Tickbox.net/Opinion Matters between 9 June and 11 June 2009 amongst a nationally representative sample of 1137 adults aged 16+) undertaken on behalf of the HPC found that, ‘95 per cent of the UK public would feel more reassured knowing that practitioner psychologists will be statutorily regulated’ (HPC, 2009b). So at least the ‘UK public’ or to be more precise, 95 per cent of the 1137 survey participants, can now be reassured as the profession is now regulated. However, if the register is to protect the public, especially the vulnerable, why is the title ‘child psychologist’ not included? It’s a question many have asked. Or another alternative is just to protect the title, ‘Psychologist’.

The progress of this statutory regulation of psychologists has not been straight forward. Many psychologists approved of the idea of going on a statutory psychological register but have been less keen to be registered on what is seen as a health professions register. Is this register applicable to occupational psychologists? At a cursory glance through the booklets that registered psychologists have been sent since R-day (Registration Day) it becomes clear to see how the documents relate to the health professions such as chiropodists, physiotherapists, paramedics and so on. For example, the public will be pleased to hear that psychologists including occupational psychologists (HPC, 2008, p.13) ‘must not refuse to treat someone just because they have an infection … you should protect your service users from infecting one another.’ Currently in the UK if a coachee informs me (SP) that they have Swine Flu, I’m not prepared to see them although happy to use telephone coaching if they feel up to it. Of course, psychologists will be flexible and interpret the generic 14 standards of conduct, performance and ethics (HPC, 2008) to the best of their ability and apply them to their field of practice. Fortunately it is recognised that some of the standards might not directly apply to all the registrants (see HPC, 2008, p.4).

The first registration fees are due on 1 September 2009 so psychologists may reflect upon what action to take. If an occupational psychologist decides to voluntarily deregister then what would be the impact upon their practice:

  • Can still use the title ‘Psychologist’? Yes.
  • Can still use the title ‘Business psychologist’? Yes.
  • Can still practise as a psychologist in private practice? Yes.
  • Can still practise as a ‘Coaching Psychologist’? Yes.
  • Can still use the term ‘Chartered Psychologist’? Yes.

Therefore, as long as occupational psychologists do not use the protected title then the impact seems relatively low unless their employer or service purchaser expects registration. However, many psychological service purchasers such as banks or insurance companies may not see any benefit of occupational psychologists being on a health register. This is in contrast to a clinical, health or counselling psychologist working within the National Health Service or for a private health provider as employers will expect psychologists to use the protected titles. For this group of psychologists, registration is almost essential where as being Chartered maybe less relevant. The coaching psychologist title is not protected and currently anybody can use it, whether they are a psychologist or not.

Going back in time, there was some resistance within parts of the British Psychological Society to allow the Special Group in Coaching Psychology to become a Division. If this had happened it would probably have led to chartership of coaching psychologists and automatic transfer to the HPC Register.

What next? If the UK coaching psychology movement really wanted to become an HPC Registered profession then theoretically it could still happen. Coaching psychologists would need to consider the pros and cons of a statutory health registration system and whether or not it is the best fit for coaching psychology. Perhaps a separate non-statutory register would be better, similar to the Society’s Register of Psychologists Specialising in Psychotherapy as long as graduate psychologists could work towards being placed on the register. Fortunately the Society’s Special Group in Coaching Psychology has not closed the door on the various options and we can look forward to hearing more about their deliberations later this year.

One hypothetical concern - within a couple of years it is proposed that the professional titles ‘counsellor’ and ‘psychotherapist’ will become regulated by the HPC. If the title ‘coaching psychologist’ is also regulated in the future, it could have unintended consequences. For example, why not regulate the title of ‘coach’ too? It could seem a logical progression from one viewpoint. It tidies up the talking-helping professions. It is not necessarily a logical development from the practitioner’s perspective to have all the talking-helping professions from psychotherapy and psychology to counselling and coaching regulated under one health professions register umbrella. While this may sound unlikely, one can never be sure of the long-term impact of decisions taken and their subsequent outcomes. One supportive argument in favour of such registration could be that according to the research, coaches do work with populations that have mental health issues even if the work is not focused on these issues or disorders (see Cavanagh, 2005).

It will be very interesting over the next decade to see how the accreditation and regulation of coaching psychologists and coaches develops in Australia, UK and beyond (the section on the regulation of psychologists in the UK has been a personal reflection of SP and does not necessarily represent the views of any professional body). We hope that ICPR will keep us up-to-date with any of these developments around the world in coaching psychology. And so, from professional issues to this issue of the journal …

This edition has a diverse range of articles for your reading pleasure. We begin with two empirical studies. In the first of these, John Franklin and Justin Doran present the findings of a double-blind randomised controlled study into the impacts of co-coaching on objective performance in tertiary studies. Franklin and Doran looked at the efficacy of two different coaching conditions aimed at improving performance on a range of selfreported variables and objective performance as rated by blind raters. This is the first double-blind study in the coaching literature and such studies are sorely needed. We hope to receive many more double-blind studies in the years ahead!

Jonathan Passmore and Susan McGoldrick present the results of a qualitative study into supervision using the grounded theory approach. They examined transcripts from one supervision session and interviews with three supervisors and three coaches in monthly or quarterly supervision. While their sample size is small they do point to some important considerations in supervision - not least of which is the importance of supervisor training.

Barbara Moyes carries on the discussion about supervision in a very interesting and stimulating paper. She examines the way in which supervision is constructed in the coaching literature and beyond. In particular she considers the impact of therapeutic models of supervision on coaching supervision. Like Passmore and McGoldrick, Moyes’ article highlights the importance of articulated models of supervision. Clearly there is much work for the burgeoning coaching profession to do in this area.

Andrew Armatas opens up an area of practice in coaching that may be seen as somewhat controversial - the use of hypnosis in coaching. Hypnosis is a topic that tends to arouse debate in psychology generally. This may well be the case in coaching too. Is the use of altered states of consciousness incompatible with the coaching process as it is commonly understood? Is hypnosis a valid intervention in its own right, or merely an adjunct to other interventions? Armatas’ consideration of the State/Non-state debate in hypnosis provides a valuable contribution in the overall debate about hypnosis in coaching and is well worth a read.

Alanna O’Broin and Stephen Palmer have offered an interesting article looking at the coaching relationship from the Cognitive Behavioural perspective. They note that the empathy and the role of the coachcoachee alliance is an under-researched topic in cognitive behavioural approaches. The bulk of work on the client- helper alliance has been conducted in the therapeutic literature and O’Broin and Palmer call for more work on this within coaching. As they outline, this is an important topic that holds promise for a more sophisticated understanding of what makes coaching effective and how we may move practice forward in the future.

David Lane and Sarah Corrie have written an article that highlights an important area of practice in coaching - formulation. This has been a neglected topic in the formation of the coaching industry, and even today most coaches have little understanding of formulation or case conceptualisation. Despite this, formulation is at the heart of professional practice. Lane and Corrie present a model for the development of formulations that can be used within a wide range of theoretical approaches. This has the potential to be a valuable contribution to coaching practice.

This issue of the ICPR finishes with theoretical and philosophical examination of coaching and coaching psychology by Reinhard Stelter. Reinhard places the coaching in a philosophical historical and social context. He suggests that coaching fits the needs of our highly diverse and restless post-traditional societies with their emphasis on personal development in both the private and social spheres. Stelter argues that values, meaning making and dialogue should be considered as forming foundational elements in coaching. In this we see an example of how coaching is extending its understanding beyond simple goal attainment or performance enhancement to a more sophisticated and holistic model of change.

We commend the articles in this issue for your consideration and look forward to seeing you in December at the 2nd European Coaching Psychology Conference which is being held at The Royal Holloway, University of London.

Correspondence
Stephen Palmer
Coaching Psychology Unit,
Department of Psychology,
City University,
Northampton Square,
London, UK.
E-mail: palmer@centresofexpertise.com

Michael Cavanagh
Coaching Psychology Unit,
Department of Psychology,
Sydney University,
Sydney, Australia.
E-mail: michaelc@psych.usyd.edu.au

References
Cavanagh, M. (2005). Mental-health issues and challenging clients in Executive Coaching. Retrieved 18 August 2008 from: www.groups.psychology.org.au/Assets/Files/article_cavanagh.pdf

HPC (2008). Standards of conduct, performance and ethics. London: Health Professions Council.

HPC (2009a). Health Professions Council. Retrieved on 18 August, 2009 from www.hpc-uk.org

HPC (2009b). Health Professions Council. Retrieved 18 August 2009 from:
www.hpc-uk.org/mediaandevents/news/index.asp?id=256

  

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