Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Caveat emptor: counsellors, psychotherapists and life coaches.


When someone like Professor Ian Hickie raises the alarm about rogue psychotherapists, counsellors and 'life coaches', it is a reminder that any individual seeking help from such a person should exercise caution.

At the very least, practitioners should be publishing details of their qualifications on their websites – along with membership of professional peak bodies such as ACA or PACFA.

Many don't. For example, Odelia Carmon and Boudi Maassen promote their services as psychotherapists on the Natural Therapy Pages, yet provide no credentials whatsoever.

Others list qualifications either irrelevant, or vague. Alana Fairchild lists her 'tertiary degrees in Law and English Literature' along with claims that she has been 'trained in counseling and psychotherapy, meditation, astrology, dance, spiritual healing and direction...the psychic arts, vibrational healing and subtle healing therapies'.

Sandra Van Winkelhof mentions no qualifications, or membership of any professional organisation. Yet she makes a series of nebulous claims in 'EQ' jargon, implying expertise in post-trauma and drug addiction treatment. She also promotes herself as a practitioner of NLP, or Neuro Linguistic Programming – which is associated with hypnosis and quite dangerous in the wrong hands.

Quite a few are promoting dubious memory 'recovery' techniques. Dianne Sykes offers past life healing, while Tracie O'Keefe offers past lives therapy.  Such approaches may be harmless – or not – but they certainly involve some form of hypnosis. Marlaine Nicholson-Smith at least makes that clear – although she does claim that hypnosis 'unlocks' the purported past life memories.

Matthew Meinck is one to avoid. He was the unqualified psychotherapist exposed by Sarah Ferguson on an award-winning Four Corners program in April 2010 – yet whose Chittering Valley Retreat appears to be still in business. Where's Meinck...and what's he doing? Many observers would be fascinated to know.

'Sandplay therapy' sounds innocuous enough. But one of its proponents, a Shunyam Peinecke, behaved so badly he was struck off the register of psychologists.

Note: As an introduction to some of the terms used by the psychotherapy industry in Australia, it is well worth reading the Crikey Clarifier by Stephen Andrew and Zoƫ Krupka.