PCU letter to UKCP re the right to protest, 14/11/9

14/11/19 to Marin Pollecoff and Sarah Niblock at UKCP 

The Psychotherapy and Counselling Union wish to express our ongoing concerns about recent statements  from UKCP's Chair regarding the new UKCP Code of Ethics. 

We note that the original statement (in the October online update), which appeared to warn members against participating in Extinction Rebellion protests, was described as 'the incorrect version' following an angry public reaction from a number of UKCP members. This partial retraction begs the question of why such a politically biased and inappropriate statement was written in the first place.

Although the 'corrected' version implies that it is unlikely that UKCP would regard participation in non-violent direct action as a disciplinary matter, the possibility remains that 'violence, vandalism or destruction to property' could be viewed as 'bringing the profession into disrepute'.

We note that, in some recent court cases, writing slogans in chalk has been described as 'vandalism' and that participants in non-violent occupations of buildings or 'sit-ins' may be accused of damaging property.

In our view, the notion of 'bringing the profession into disrepute' is deeply problematic, open to highly subjective interpretations both by members of the public who may bring complaints under this heading, and by members of UKCP's disciplinary panels. 

As a voluntary register of psychotherapists, it is not within the UKCP's remit to make judgements about its members' activities in their private lives, if these do not involve harm to others. Given psychotherapy's history of institutional discrimination towards minority or non-normative sexual practices, for example, there is a need for clarity and transparency about what is adjudged to be  'disreputable'. There is a risk that codes of practice whose primary purpose should be to ensure that psychotherapists and counsellors behave ethically towards their clients in therapy, may be used inappropriately to police the behaviour of individuals outside the therapy room.

We urge UKCP to confirm that non-violent, ethically based political action is not considered to contravene the Code of Ethics. We further ask for clarification of the circumstances in which a member might be found to be 'bringing the profession into disrepute', whether or not these relate to political actions.

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