During therapy

I want to complain

I tried to take legal action

The service should view complaints as a way of improving the service to best meet what patients need.You can use this section as a guide to provide yourself with information on what you can do if you want to complain about an aspect of your therapy, your therapist’s practice, or raise concerns about something that you are experiencing during or after therapy. You may also find it helpful to read the related guides ‘Should my therapist be doing this?’, ‘What should not happen?and Who can help me if I have concerns? 

In the UK it is possible for anyone to call themselves a therapist (or variations of this term, such as psychotherapist, counsellor). For this reason it is good practice for therapists to register with, or become ‘accredited’ by, one of the organisations that set and monitor the standards expected of someone carrying out a particular type of therapy. It is important to note here that registration or accreditation of a particular organisation isn’t the same level of involvement as membership

Registration/accreditation typically involves the presentation of evidence of training, competence and supervision that is examined in detail before being approved. Membership is open to a broader range of interested people who may not have has any training or assessment of competence, but who may be bound by some of the guidelines for good practice of that organisation. 

In the UK, the NHS trains and employs a number of therapists. Many of these will already be health and social care professionals (i.e. mental health nurses, psychologists, doctors, social workers, occupational therapists) and will be registered by the relevant organisations, as well as - or instead of – a therapy specific organisation. These professions have certain standards and if a clinician is found to have breached them, they are de-registered and unable to use the title of the profession any more (N.B. This does not apply to the term ‘psychotherapist’, which is not protected). 

There are several options available to you if you wish to make a complaint. Some organisations, such as the NHS, have clear policies on how complaints should be handled and the types of responses you can expect from whom, by when. There are often specific departments, or people, within these organisations that you can contact directly for advice on this process. 

If the person you wish to make a complaint about is a member of one of the health and social care professions - wherever they are working - there are specific processes to follow depending on the requirements of the professional body. The professional bodies and their web-addresses are shown below; 

Profession Professional Body Complaints Process
Medical Doctor
(including Psychiatrists)
General Medical Council (GMC) http://www.gmc-uk.org/concerns/making_a_complaint/23361.asp
Psychologist Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) http://www.hpc-uk.org/complaints/
Nurse (or Midwife) Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) http://www.nmc-uk.org/patients-public/Reporting-a-nurse-or-midwife-to-the-NMC/
Social Workers (England) Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) http://www.hpc-uk.org/complaints/
Social Workers (Scotland) Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) http://www.sssc.uk.com/Protecting-the-Public/making-a-complaint.html
Social Worker (Wales) Care Council for Wales (CCW) http://www.ccwales.org.uk/how-to-complain-about-a-worker/
Art Therapist Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) http://www.hpc-uk.org/complaints/
Occupational Therapist Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) http://www.hpc-uk.org/complaints/


Organisations that provide membership and accreditation for psychotherapists 

Therapist title Therapy types  
Counsellor Counselling and Psychotherapy British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP)
Psychotherapist - Psychotherapy - Psychodynamic psychotherapy - Psychoanalytic psychotherapy United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP)
Cognitive Behavioural Therapist (‘CBT therapist)/ Cognitive Therapist Behaviour Therapist Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Cognitive Therapy Behaviour Therapy British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies (BABCP)
Cognitive Analytic Therapist Cognitive Analytic Therapy Association for Cognitive Analytic Therapy (ACAT)
Family Therapist Systemic Therapist Family Therapy Systemic Therapy Association for Family Therapy and Systemic Practice*

 *Complaints via UKCP 

As there are many types of therapy, if your specific therapy is not listed above, we would advise you to contact the UKCP to identify the professional body that provides accreditation of the therapist you have seen. 

If you want to complain about an aspect of your therapy, there are a few pieces of information it will be helpful to gather, as this will make it easier to identify the most appropriate place to take your complaint. 

Information helpful to gather before making a complaint 

  • Is the therapy working for the NHS, for another organisation or independently (‘privately’)?
  • Is the therapist registered with any professional body?
  • Is the therapist registered with, or accredited by, with a psychotherapy organisation? 

After considering these questions, there may several options available. For example if the complaint were about a cognitive behavioural psychotherapist, who was also trained as an occupational therapist, and working in the NHS then a complaint could be made to the therapist’s employer, the BABCP and the HCPC. However, in practice, the usual place to start would be with the person’s employer. 

If, however, the complaint were about a therapist who was working independently and who was not accredited or registered, and was not a member of any organisation, it is more difficult to know where to start. In this circumstance, the only course of action available might be to take legal advice.