Freudians having bad dreams about the end of the couch
Sessions of Freudian analysis will be illegal under regulations being introduced by the Government, therapists have warned.
By Jasper Copping
"Talking therapies" such as counselling and psycho-analysis will be subject to a tough regulatory regime which will dictate how appointments must be run, and will require therapists to prove how they are tackling their patients' symptoms.
However, psychoanalysts believe the open-ended, exploratory nature of their consultations means they will not be able to operate legally and will in effect be outlawed.
Psychoanalysis, which was pioneered by Sigmund Freud, involves practitioners helping patients to explore their subconscious minds, rather than the treatment of specific symptoms.
Darian Leader, president of the College of Psychoanalysts and a member of the Centre for Freudian Analysis and Research, said: "The new system may be OK for people like cognitive therapists, who concentrate on trying to get rid of things like depression or eating disorders in a certain number of sessions, but psychoanalysis does not have such set outcomes.
"Our approach is that we don't know where we are going to go, or how long it will take, we just have to see what emerges. It is an exploration of one's history that, unlike things like cognitive therapy, doesn't aim at the removal of one's symptoms."
Under the new rules, which are due to be introduced next year and to take effect from 2011, psychoanalysts will be regulated by the Health Professions Council (HPC), which already oversees groups such as physiotherapists, radiographers, speech therapists and paramedics. There will be more than 450 guidelines which psychoanalysts will have to operate within.
Analysts say the new rules seek to govern the profession as if it were a course of drugs or physiotherapy. Mr Leader added: "For a traditional Freudian analyst, these rules will be unworkable. If they are accepted, it will no longer be possible for analysts to work in this country."
Therapists will not be able to "opt out" of the system. Those who fail to comply with the guidelines face the prospect of legal action.
There are at least 5,000 psychoanalysts in Britain. Most of their work is private practice, but some treat patients from the NHS.
Opponents of the regulation plans have submitted a petition to Downing Street. In response, Number 10 said: "Statutory regulation exists to protect the public from poorly performing practitioners."