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Who is who in the therapy world?

Who is who in the therapy world?

Who is who in the therapy world? – It can be confusing to know who’s who among the many professional bodies in our industry.

These are some of the key players

As the profile of complementary, sports and beauty therapies continues to rise, the number of professional bodies involved in training, regulation and membership can be difficult to get to grips with. During your training and career, you will come across many professional bodies that work together to provide assurance to the public, health professionals and allied practitioners, of the professional standards of complementary, sports and beauty therapists.

Here is a guide to help you:

The therapy lead body

The role of the lead body is to represent the interests of the therapy.

Sometimes referred to as the Therapy Governing Body or Professional Forum, this body comprises therapy experts working collaboratively to develop the educational standards of the therapy.

It is an educational body that:

    • promotes, supports and develops the educational standards of the therapy;
    • does not hold a register of practitioners;
    • is made up of representatives from the professional associations, awarding bodies and other therapy specific professional bodies;
    • supports the therapy through the collaboration of its member professional associations;
    • works with the sector skills councils (e.g. Skills for Health, Skills Active Group, Habia), awarding bodies (e.g. City & Guilds, ITEC), private training providers and the regulator (CNHC) to develop the educational standards of the therapy.

Examples of a lead body or governing body include the General Council for Massage Therapies (GCMT), representing massage therapies; the Aromatherapy Council, representing aromatherapy; and the Sports and Remedial Therapies Council (SRTC) representing sports and remedial therapies.

The voluntary regulator

The role of a regulator is to protect the public. The official, independent voluntary regulatory bodies, set up with government funding to regulate complementary healthcare professionals, is the Professional Standards Agency (PSA) and Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC).

This provides an independent register of practitioners who are:

    • qualified to at least the minimum national occupational standards (NOS) as defined by the therapy lead body/ governing body;
    • adequately insured;
    • participating in continuing professional development (CPD).

The regulator works with other professional bodies to:

    • agree on the minimum educational standards;
    • validate the qualifications of practitioners;
    • act on complaints from the public.

The PSA is an independent body accountable to Parliament, and oversees the UK’s nine statutory health and care regulatory bodies, including the General Medical Council (medical doctors), Nursing and Midwifery Council (nurses and midwives); General Chiropractic Council (chiropractors), and Health and Care Professions Council (arts therapy, chiropody/podiatry, nutrition, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, practitioner psychologists, and others).

The PSA also sets standards for organisations holding voluntary registers for health and social care occupations that are not statutorily regulated, such as complementary therapy, and accredits registers that meet these standards. These PSA-accredited registers are referred to as Accredited Voluntary Registers (AVRs).

    • Acupuncture
    • Alexander technique
    • Aromatherapy
    • Body massage
    • Bowen technique
    • Counselling
    • Cranio-sacral therapy
    • Healing
    • Homoeopathy
    • Hypnotherapy
    • Kinesiology
    • Microsystems acupuncture
    • Naturopathy
    • Nutritional therapy
    • Reflexology
    • Reiki
    • Shiatsu
    • Sports therapy
    • Yoga therapy.

All of these therapies have National Occupational Standards (NOS) that have been set by Skills for Health or SkillsActive – the Sector Skills Councils responsible for setting standards for these particular therapies in the UK. Over time, we are hoping that other therapies that have relevant NOS can be added to the FHT Register, where it can be demonstrated that these are widely used and accepted as a form of healthcare.

There may be more than one AVR representing the same occupation, ie. counsellors may be on the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy register and/or the National Counselling Association register.

The CNHC was launched in January 2009. At the time of writing, those qualified in the following therapies are eligible to join the CNHC register: Alexander technique; aromatherapy; Bowen; massage; naturopathy; nutritional therapy; reflexology; shiatsu; sports and remedial therapy; and yoga therapy.

The professional association

The role of a professional association – such as the FHT, the Guild, CTHA, the list goes on, is to represent the interests of the therapist.

It is a membership organisation and its key objectives are to:

    • maintain high standards within the industry by ensuring its members have, or are working towards, qualifications that meet national occupational standards (NOS) and that they adhere to a code of ethics and professional practice;
    • support and encourage its members to update their skills and knowledge through continuing professional development (CPD);
    • represent and protect its members’ interests by working with other professional bodies within the therapy industry, including the voluntary regulator (CNHC), and government departments (e.g. Department of Health);
    • promote its members and the therapies they practise to the public and prospective employers;
    • provide members access to medical malpractice liability insurance designed specifically for therapists;
    • provide advice and a range of services that meet the needs of each member.

The main problem is because the industry isn’t compulsory regulated a number of professional bodies/organisations just make things up as they go along, not working to the NOS or offering accountability and transparency to the members base. For example a number of professional association do not follow the NOS and allow online therapy training or one day therapy training, which doesn’t meet the therapy requirements set by the voluntary regulator, so the therapist thinks they are qualified only to be told by another  professional association that they aren’t and don’t meet the requirements. Sadly we see this all the time.

Another problem with no regulation is that the Professional Association doesn’t really answer to anybody, so therefore it can be a case of ‘do as I say and don’t ask questions’. This is rather scary when a number of therapists build their businesses around a professional association.

You would also like to think that all staff in a professional organisation are therapists themselves or have therapy training which unfortunately is not always the case. Many employees of professional organisations are experienced in other areas in business and administration, so it is always worth finding out who the therapy expert is within the organisation and direct your questions to them. Always make sure that communication with any organisation is backed up email. 

Sadly, most organisations have now become a very money orientated and have forgotten that they represent therapists and sometimes common sense seems to have disappeared.

In regards to joining a professional body / organisation, we highly recommend joining but which one has to be your choice I’m afraid, so do your homework and chose one that best fits your requirements.