About Professional Licensing

What is professional licensing, and what does it mean for prospective clients of an online therapy or counselling service?

Professional Licensing and Online Therapy or Counselling Services

As a fully qualified counsellor and a Member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (MBACP), my qualification to provide counselling and therapy services under the laws of the United Kingdom is analogous to the ‘professional license’ required by the laws of some other countries, most notably the United States, as a prerequisite for providing the same service.

I offer online services wholly in accordance with the ethical framework of the BACP. I also hold Enhanced Disclosure from the UK’s Criminal Records Bureau, a clearance level “reserved for positions involving the greatest degree of trust”. (See the Disclosure Service or the main CRB site.)

Why Do Some Countries Regulate Counselling and Psychotherapy by Professional Licensure?

For historical reasons — largely dating back to political moves in the 1920s by the American Medical Association, responding to a perceived threat to its authority from the influence of Europeans like Sigmund Freud and his followers — the United States has followed a very different path than many other countries when it comes to the statutory regulation of mental health professions.

In countries with statutory regulation, holding a license indicates that a practitioner has completed a level of training specified by a licensing board. Unfortunately, licensing provides no guarantee whatsoever about the quality of the service you will receive. Indeed, scientific studies have repeatedly shown no positive correlation between the types of educational achievement required by licensing bodies and actual clinical effectiveness. (For an overview of some of those factors which are associated with clinical effectiveness, see this review of Hubble et al. (1999).)

CounsellingResource.com provides additional background on the counselling and psychotherapy licensing controversy, including the role of professional prestige and politics, in its section About Therapy.

One final note: in my view, a counsellor’s determination to adhere to a recognized ethical framework (such as that of the BACP) is more important than the specific details of their educational background.

This specific article was originally published by on and was last reviewed or updated by Dr Greg Mulhauser on .

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