Newsletter January 2020

Greetings for 2020 from the PCU committee! Here is a summary of all things PCU over the past year. But first, we announce our 2020 Annual General Meeting:

Taking place on 25th April 2020, at The Casa in Liverpool, our plenary speaker, Susie Orbach, is a long-standing member of PCU. This is the first AGM we have held outside of London and our first AGM since we have become a listed Union. Please come and also encourage other members you know to come and support the PCUnion at this important event. We are looking forward to seeing you there! For more information and to register:

PCU’s Status

With our 600 members, PCU became a listed trade union in October 2018. The listing was ratified by members at the Members Meeting 14/7/19.  This has consolidated and enhanced our status as an organisation, will help us to build links with other unions and gain access to legal support and training. In November 2019, following consultation with our members, PCU became affiliated to the General Federation of Trade Unions. With 26 other affiliated Unions, the GFTU specialise in supporting smaller, specialist trade unions. The value that we can add to GFTU, and the value that we, as a new growing union could receive from affiliation, is potentially enormous.

Tony Garnett

We would like to express our deepest condolences to Victoria Childs, PCU Committee Member, whose partner, Tony Garnett, died on 12th January 2020. Tony was a pioneer of British social realism in film and television and a long-standing supporter of trade unions. We are especially grateful for Tony’s generous and kind support to the PCU committee over the past two years.

Member Support

Phil Cox has written an overview of the field of complaints:

‘Over the last year most of the voluntary holders of professional registers have enacted changes. Yet within the realm of counselling, psychotherapy and psychology, the general trend in the number of complaints made continues to be upwards. UKCP’s Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) stands out as an approach that manages to deal with most complaints informally. BACP has removed the ‘name and shame’ page from its hardcopy publication, and introduced an informal route to dispose of ‘lesser’ complaints. Beyond counselling and psychotherapy, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has acknowledged the harm embedded and expanded through the vigorous prosecution of complaints against a professional body’s member. In 2018, Professor Sir Norman Williams commented that “Healthcare professionals go to work to alleviate suffering not to add to it. They work in complex, high-risk environments, invariably as part of a team, and when things go wrong it is rarely the result of one individual’s error.” The RCN has produced an innovative process whereby nurses deemed to have made errors will be supported within a team, and the learning’s underpinning problems can be applied to prevent perceived harm. This is in tune with reports that practitioners fear being named and shamed and so may hide issues that we could all learn from.

Looking ahead, it seems likely that 2020 will see an increasing tension between social activism such as Extinction Rebellion (XR) and what most professional bodies may consider tobe bringing the profession into disrepute. Professional complaint procedures represent the point where the social, political and personal intersect and the point where we can unpack issues of power in counselling and psychotherapy. One of the most urgent political issues of our time is our care for the environment. Othering and the environment reflect our stance towards race, gender, disability and all the myriad forms of differences that make us human (Milton, 2018). Therapists are increasingly asking ‘what happens to my career if I am arrested for civil disobedience’ such as peaceful protest at an XR event? Will I be accused of bringing the profession into disrepute? The greater the harm the higher the stakes, which shapes the discourses used to control professional resources and mismanage our planet. This will be explored at the National Counsellors Day 2020 (22nd June at Amnesty International, London), an event partly organised by PCU members.’

In the last year, many members have been supported by PCU representatives in cases involving complaints, for workplace issues/grievances and for issues arising in training.  Sasha, as Membership Secretary is first contact for members seeking support. The kinds of difficulties can range from incidents at work, bullying & harassment, and poor practice within oppressive employment circumstances, to concerns about members’ own safety from clients. Our 2019 AGM saw two PCU members talk about their experiences of being supported through the complaints process by PCU. This year, PCU has produced a document for members to use to strengthen their position in regards to confidentiality and safeguarding in the workplace:

PCU have also established a working partnership with a legal firm, Truth Legal, to give PCU members and their families access to legal services at reduced rates. There has been very good feedback from members who have used Truth Legal’s services in complaint procedures. Truth Legal has also been involved in advising PCU members on their rights as volunteers. With a wealth of information on employment law rights, they have put together a document for PCU on the issue of unpaid work - do you have any employment rights in this situation and what can you do if you believe you are being taken advantage of?

Supporting members through these difficulties is a core part of our work as a union, and we will continue to develop our resources in this area, particularly extending our training through GFTU.

PCU has a small and dedicated band of member support volunteerswhose work is greatly appreciated.We are looking to expand the team of volunteers, so do get in touch - you might be able to use your experience to help fellow therapists….

The Future of Therapy

In 2019, the two issues of conversion ‘therapy’ and regulation seemed to dangerously merge. Phil Cox writes: In the background, the Counsellors and Psychotherapists (Regulation) and Conversion Therapy Bill (HC Bill 252) Parliamentary Bill intended to provide that: the Health and Care Professions Council be the regulatory body for counsellors and psychotherapists; to prohibit conversion therapy; to make consequential provision for the protection of children and adults; and for connected purposes failed to complete its passage through Parliament before the end of the session. This means the Bill will make no further progress ( Yet there continues to be moves amongst some to regulate Counsellors and Psychotherapists. PCU is keeping an eye on this unfolding process.’

Within the field, the MOU2 coalition, which PCU is a member of, has continued to address the concern around conversion therapy, signing organisations up to their memorandum and pushing for legislation to protect clients. Richard met with the Equalities Office in July 2019 to discuss our position on this issue and PCU has expressed alarm to Penny Mordaunt that there are no therapists on the recently formed National Advisory Panel to the appointment of National Advisor for LGBT Health.

2019 has also seen the formation of Partners for Counselling and Psychotherapy, of which PCU is one of the 11-member organisations that came together in response to ScoPEd and the linked issue of the All-Party Parliamentary Group ‘to hold open a space to protect counselling and psychotherapy from restrictive standardisations and homogenisation, supporting the wide range of good practice in the field.’

NICE ‘exceptional’ second consultation on its depression in adults draft guideline: PCU has been supporting the work that Dr Felicitas Rost, President, Society for Psychotherapy Research(SPR) UK, has been doing to keep the pressure up on NICE regarding this consultation, organising 31 stakeholder organisations as well as individuals to give their support and sign a position statement.

Regional Groups and Events

Juliet Lyons and Richard Bagnall-Oakeley had the opportunity to discuss the impacts of political direction on therapists and therapies at‘Political Turmoil: What’s Showing Up in Your Practice?’ a confer event on 18 October 2019. At Aashna, in the last year, a number of PCU members have been actively involved in co-ordinating an inspiring series of events 'Let's Get Uncomfortable', exploring issues of race, culture and power in therapy trainings.

PCU East London continue to hire out the Common House for monthly meetings and we plan to continue to hire the Common House monthly. We hope to have more events soon, so please get in touch with the committee if members have any needs, ideas, suggestions for events... ( PCU would like to start a PCU North group. Given the current political climate, it seems more and more important that we can come together to ask how are we organising to care for each other. How do our institutions support mental health and mental health workers - us? With the environmental crisis foremost in many of our minds, we notice how therapists want a voice in these matters and are angered when they feel silenced. Please get in touch if you would like to be part of this.


2019 was a significant year for the Support Not Separation coalition, which PCU supports, with over 100 MPs signing a letter for a judicial review.PCU supports SNS demanding an end to forced adoptions, the unjust taking of thousands of children into care, court secrecy, and cuts to legal aid. There is a PICKET the FAMILY COURT,first Wednesday of every month.12.30 -1.30pm42-49 High Holborn, London WC1V 6NP.SNS write: ‘Mothers and children are legally entitled to financial and other support to stay together but are not getting it.Instead millions are spent tearing children from their families. Poverty and domestic violence are not ‘neglect’. End sexism and racism against single mums.’ We are looking for a PCU member to continue this link with SNS.

Elsewhere in the field, the Care Experienced Conference saw an unprecedented coming together of those brought up in care, working together to ask the Government to put their experiences at the foremost of policies that impact children that are in or have been in care. The impressive report

that came out of this conference was supported by the Children’s Commissioner.

PCU letters of support: The Psychotherapy and Counselling Union has written letters including the following: to UKCP, regarding the right to non-violent, ethically based political action;

to the Home Secretary regarding the reported treatment of Mr Julian Assange by the British state and prison authorities;

to BACP’s Head of Communications to express our grave concern that members supporting the resolution that the BACP should end its involvement with the SCoPEd project, have been subjected to personal abuse on BACP's social media forums

Committee Members

We would like to thank some long-standing Executive Committee Members who have left this last year for their enormous contribution to PCU. We are hugely grateful to Jamie and Viviane for designing and building the website and Jamie’s continued support with the website; to Viviane Carneiro for the striking and elegant art-work involved in designing the new PCU leaflets and website – images from which are used in this Newsletter. We also said goodbye to Phil Cox, lead on member support. We are hugely grateful for Phil’s patient and skilful work supporting members through complaints and grievances and wish him well as Chair of the British Psychological Society’s Psychotherapy Section. Robbie Lockwood has also stepped down, having organised the first PCU regional meetings in East London, but continues his involvement in this project.

We now have nine Committee members, who are all volunteers: Richard Bagnall-Oakeley, Andy Price, Juliet Lyons, Victoria Childs, Sasha Kaplin, Audrey West, Eleanor Lindlar, Maxim Ilyashenko, Reem Shelhi, alongside our new administrators, Kate Shayler and Milton Satler. Eleanor has taken on the role of health and safety officer. We will be looking for new committee members to join us in the months running up to the AGM. In particular, we would like someone to work with our treasurer, Andy Price.

Get Involved

The Union is a collaborative organisation, based on mutual support and skill-sharing and we would like to encourage our fellow members to continue to make suggestions, and think about strategies on how to implement those suggestions. This could be forming a working group, or a local group, to facilitate groups, run or support campaigns for and within PCU or something else.  Help us ensure that the PCU is  driven by our members.

Psychotherapy and Counselling Union (PCU)




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