Toothless Regulation

By Lindsey Last edited 128 months ago
Toothless Regulation

The Health Professions Council is a statutory body set up to regulate 13 health professions including dieticians, radiographers, paramedics and arts therapists. As they say, when you need one of these people,

You need to know that they meet professional standards. You also need to know that someone will take action if things go wrong.

Unfortunately, the farcical nature of such regulation has been highlighted today by the case of Derek Gale, working out of Loughton and in the City, who has been suspended from the register of Arts Therapists pending an investigation into his methods which the Council deem "inappropriate".

As there is no statutory regulation of psychotherapy or counselling with all their multifarious approaches, names and training schools, there’s nothing to stop Mr Gale continuing to practice as a couples therapist, psychotherapist, counsellor, life coach or whatever else he wants to call himself, with whatever unusual methods he prefers, as long as he doesn't describe himself as "Arts Therapist".

While some people may find being encouraged to smoke pot and have naked counselling sessions quite liberating, we can see that it might also be frightening and intimidating and likely to compound whatever issues the client went in with. However, as his lawyer states, quite rightly, Mr Gale may not be mainstream but that doesn’t make him criminal.

Choosing a therapist is a potential minefield, especially when you're feeling mixed up and vulnerable. There are many different organisations with registers of practitioners and professional qualifications that appear to provide some assurance to the layperson but, at the end of the day, if a practitioner is dodgy, pervy or even just really shit at their job they can continue to practice and charge ridiculous fees (Mr Gale’s attentions will cost you at least £65 an hour) and potentially make things worse. Even if a practitioner is caught breaking the law, the minute the rogue therapist is out of jail they’re free to set up in practice again, assuming bad press and the lynch mob don’t catch up with them.

There’s no easy solution to all this but at least the talking therapy professions are trying to get themselves in order and, we know that there are many qualified, professional and effective practitioners out there. Our advice is visit the BACP, UKCP and BCP for guidance before placing your mental health in the hands of any sort of therapist, even if they’ve got a nice motorbike.

Image from the Health Professions Council public information leaflet.

Last Updated 07 August 2007


Hi Lindsay,

I'm one of the clients referred to in the article in the Times yesterday. I guess that given the reference to his motorcycle, you know Mr Gale.

Regarding the advice you give, I did actually go to the BAC (one of the previous bodies along the lines of the BACP etc) who actually recommended me to him back in '91. So going through one of the umbrella organisations is no guarantee that you get a good therapist.

Having been through the experience I have I can imagine that the recommendation from one of those organisations might be of dubious quality - after all what have they got to base the recommendation on. The therapist can spin a story to them and if they've been 'practicing' for a long time there doesn't seem to be any need for assessment of competency for the role. The assumption seems to be that if they have been working that long, they must know what they're doing.

At least the HPC are trying to do something about the situation, whereas the system of self-regulation through the AHPP has proved to be a joke in very bad taste. The HPC should be give the role of regulating the whole of psychotherapy in the same way as it does doctors, paramedics, dentists etc so that these people cannot continue under a different "brand" name.


Hi ian & thanks for your comment.

I'd like to say up front that I don't know Mr Gale - I simply found his website and photos of him there variously posing with his motorbike and scuba diving etc. The pictures were there to illustrate the man and therapist I believe, although what value they have is beyond me.

I think, having some experience of the sector, therapy itself and the professional organisations, that they tend not to "recommend" therapists as such exactly because of this problem. These organisations will give you lists of registered therapists in your area. They will confirm that the therapists will have got registered through approved training schools and completed a stated number of requirements. There is generally a continuing professional development element to this but it's extremely hard to quantify and monitor. The organisations will give you this kind of limited information but ultimately it's up to you to decide who you see (unless you're being referred by your GP but this can be lengthy and quite limited).

What I meant to do in bringing these organisations to people's attention is to encourage people to source information about different therapies and professional standards. To raise awareness of the problems around the field. Also, to shop around. Some of these sites have good generic advice for those seeking a therapist for the first time. From my experience, talking on the phone with several different practitioners and having a first, trial session with one that I warmed to was useful. But it's still no guarantee. I was lucky.

Unfortunately, I don't think the HPC will touch the talking therapies until they voluntarily self regulate in a more coordinated manner - ie. they all come together under one umbrella rather than many. And I'm afraid I can't see this happening any time soon. Which is not good news for the person who needs to talk to someone.

I'm so sorry you've had a bad experience and hope that telling these stories will help raise awareness and prevent other people having similar issues. Thanks again.



I am also a complainant against Mr Gale, though fortunately not an ex client.

I have been in the complaints process with his other regualtorary body, the UK Association of Humanistic Psychology Practitioners (UKAHPP), for nearly two years now and the way that I have been treated is border line abusive in its own right. The core problem is that they are a voluntary body created to protect the interests of themselves and other therapists. They have no vested interest in protecting the public whatsoever.

I have been lied to in writing, threatened with having my case dropped, had my case dropped and re-instated. Their General Secretary is a former business colleague of Gale and they have not even managed to form an investigative panel that is not tainted by someone that has had some form of relationship with Gale. They have lied to witnesses and pressured them to drop their statements.

I am trapped in a Kafeesque nightmare of their construction but I am not going to give them the pleasure of me letting them let Gale off the hook. He has already claimed that he has resigned from their association even though, to their credit, they claim he hasn't been allowed to.

I would also just like to point out a serious error in the BBC online article. Mr Rosen is not Gale's lawyer, he a cohort and "friend". Mr Gale stated at the hearing that it did not warrant him spending more on legal fees. This can be checked in the transcript of the hearing that is available from the HPC. Just phone them up and ask for the Gale case transcript and they will e mail it to you.




One of the problems that I see is that the public don’t have enough access to information. If a person goes to an unethical therapist, it is not that it’s just a waste of money and time, but the therapist can cause psychological damage and that damage can be serious. A therapist can affect the way a person thinks and if that person is influenced to think negatively their emotional state is likely to follow and they can end up not feeling good about their life. If a person then makes decisions from this negative place, their whole life can be affected. When I had a bad experience and wanted help, I didn’t know who to turn to. I now have a RESOURCE PAGE on my website which has links to information, questions to test your therapy, articles and books to read, if you are not sure that the therapy you are receiving is helping you or if you've had a bad experience and are looking for ways to recover. http://www.thefivequestionsyou...
The SIGN THE LIST page has a list you can sign if you have ever had a bad experience of therapy or a self development type workshop. http://www.thefivequestionsyou...

There are therapists who are petitioning against government regulation of psychotherapy, and being critical of the Health Professions Council, the HPC have at least taken action and promptly in this case. But as you say, a person can continue to practice, and this is a problem which needs addressing, urgently.

Gena Dry author of The Five Questions You Must Ask Your Therapist


Quote from

'Speaking from his Loughton clinic, Mr Gale said: "The Health Professions Council, an organisation which I hold in high esteem, is dealing with this matter and I do not feel it would be appropriate at this stage to interfere with their due process." '

If Mr Gale holds the HPC in 'high esteem' why is he defying their Interim Suspension Order and continuing to work? Why is he asking all of his clients now to sign waivers saying that they 'are of sound mind and seeing Mr Gale of their own volition'?

If Mr Gale holds the HPC in 'high esteem' why did he avoid giving testimony under oath at his suspension hearing? Why did he see fit to bring his oldest friend as his representative, who incidentally has no direct personal experience of being a client of Mr Gale, instead of a lawyer?

If Mr Gale holds the HPC in 'high esteem' why did he try to resign as a 'tactical move' from this body in case a complaint was made to them? Why did he then threaten to sue them for breach of his 'human rights'?

Guy Smith, complainant to the HPC, former client of 6 years. Caveat Emptor.


Hi again Lindsay.

Thansk for clearing that up about the motorbike comment. I believe that the pictures have value in his eyes in that they feed his mans ego.

You are right to pull me up about the word "recommend". What happened was that I, one evening when feeling particularly low after a messy breakup, called the BAC to find out if there was someone in my area who I could go and see just to get over the short term gloom I was in. They read me a list of names from their register and the style of therapy they gave. It wasn't a recommendation, but at the time, having phoned an independent body (?) it felt like one.

I am glad that you are out there helping to put the spotlight on this issue.


I'm surprised it hasn't been mentioned here, but a good starting point for anything to do with psychology is the BPS (British Psychological Society) which is the professional body for psychologists in Britain. It is not all-powerful, but it isn't toothless either.

From the website: "By its Royal Charter the Society is charged with national responsibility 'to promote the advancement and diffusion of a knowledge of psychology pure and applied and specially to promote the efficiency and usefulness of members of the Society by setting up a high standard of professional education and knowledge'." Membership of the BPS can be considered to be a reasonably sound indication of professionalism, competence, etc.

The BPS officially accredits courses in Counselling Psychology (as well as other types of applied psychology less relevant here) and maintains a Register of Chartered Psychologists. The title of "Chartered Psychologist" is protected by law. (The titles "psychologist", "psychotherapist", "therapist" etc. are not, unfortunately.)

The BPS does not supervise psychotherapy/psychotherapists as such (dealt with by the UKCP), but I strongly recommend reading this section of their website about psychotherapy. They do however, again, maintain a Register of Psychologists Specialising in Psychotherapy, which may be useful.


Correction: Mr Gale threatened to sue his other governing body, the AHPP, not the HPC. My mistake.