What can you do if you are worried about the incursion of Critical Social Justice (CSJ) ideology into clinical and counselling psychology? Trying to address the problem directly with professional bodies that have been captured by this ideology, such as The British Psychological Society, can be a frustrating and ultimately futile endeavour. A more fruitful course of action may be to contact the appropriate regulatory body in your country. Regulators have a duty to protect the public and can take action if professionals on their register do not meet their standards.
In this short article I will share with you my experience of raising concerns with our regulator here in the UK – the Health Care Professions Council (HCPC). The HCPC regulates practitioner psychologists and sets standards for individual practitioners, education and training programmes. Although they are a UK regulator, I believe that some of the issues described here will be relevant in other national contexts.
I wrote to the HCPC in January this year, after reading about a UK clinical training course that is encouraging its trainees to be social justice activists while also setting out to ‘decolonise’ its curriculum. In my letter I expressed concern that the aims and assertions of CSJ ideology appear to be at odds with many of the HCPC’s Standards of conduct, performance and ethics for practitioner psychologists. I cited a number of specific standards that I believe are being breached. For the purposes of this article here are the main points I made:
- The politicisation of clinical psychology and the training of psychologists to become social justice activists is beyond the scope of clinical practice, incompatible with the scientist-practitioner model and a potential risk to clients.
- CSJ’s rejection of objective scientific enquiry poses a serious threat to the provision of efficacious and evidence-based psychological treatments.
- The widespread adoption of CSJ has the potential for causing harm to the profession, to the NHS and other mental healthcare services.
I supported these points with evidence, including documentation promoting social justice activism in UK clinical training courses, a link to a recent BMJ article about the dangers of ‘decolonisation’ and two research papers encouraging psychologists to use therapy as a tool to teach white people how not to be racist.
In a subsequent email I drew the HCPC’s attention to The Cass Review interim report on gender identity services for children and young people which highlights the risks of health professionals unquestioningly adopting a ‘gender-affirming’ approach. The report also refers to research data that forms the basis for treatments for gender dysphoria being “interpreted from a particular ideological and/or theoretical standpoint”.
The HCPC replied to my letter, stating: “We take the concerns you have outlined seriously, and so to follow up on the issue you have raised, we are intending to raise the issue of CSJ Theory in our discussions with the psychologist professional bodies we liaise with.”
They acknowledged: “Your letter has raised some wider issues such as our approach to CSJ Theory’s application in approved programmes, and the use of CSJ Theory in practice. CSJ Theory is not specifically referenced within our standards.”
Finally, the HCPC requested: “If you have specific concerns about an education provider’s practice of CSJ Theory, you can raise those with us via our education team, and we can look into this further. More information about how to raise a concern with an existing programme can be found here. Likewise if you have a concern that a specific registrant is not meeting their HCPC standards, we would strongly encourage you to raise a concern with our fitness to practise team here.
I would strongly encourage you to do the same. The HCPC noted that mine was the first contact they had received regarding CSJ. This is an opportunity to make sure that it is not the last. Make your voices heard. If you have any concerns about CSJ being taught on a clinical training course or about an HCPC registrant who is promoting CSJ ideology, now is your chance to report them to the regulator. For those of you who do not practice in the UK, please contact the regulator in your area. If we don’t act now, this ideology will change our profession beyond recognition.
By Dr Carole Sherwood