Rationale: A Statement of Reasons for this EAP Project

  1. The Free Movement of Professionals across Europe
    1. The original basis for the Common Market, and subsequently the European Union, was the free movement of labour across Europe. To this end, the system of Functional or Professional Competencies was developed. These are basic competencies that every member of a trade or profession would normally be expected to be able to perform, irrespective of the different training or qualifications in any particular country. Therefore, once someone’s competency in that particular job or profession had been recognised, that should be acceptable elsewhere. Many European trades and professions have already established the particular ‘competencies’ for that trade or profession, and this is an on-going process for the other trades and professions.
    2. Some professions have had a Sectoral Directive, which applies in every EU country for that profession, to facilitate the free movement of that profession and the mutual recognition of their diplomas, certificates and other evidence of formal qualifications. These professions are (currently) doctors, dentists, nurses, midwives, pharmacists, veterinary surgeons, lawyers and architects. For further information about Sectoral Directives, click here.
    3. On February 11th, 2004, the European Parliament voted for the implementation of the profession of psychotherapists to become a harmonized profession within the whole European Union (then 15 member countries, from May 1st, 2004, 25 member countries). The training basis would be the guidelines of the EAP’s European Certificate for Psychotherapy. The current national legal regulations in Austria, Germany, Sweden, Netherlands, Finland and Italy were confirmed, but, since the directive went beyond these and would enable psychotherapists in the future to work within all European Union countries, these countries were against it. (To see a text of this document, click here.) However this particular Directive never made it through the whole process as these Sectoral Directives were seen as being rather ‘clumsy’ and are now avoided by the EU, where possible. There were also some objections from the profession of European psychologists.
    4. The situation now is that, with respect to the various professions in Europe, where there is a regulation of a profession by a relevant country in the European Union (Member State), there is a specific process of recognition, laid down in European Directive 2005/36/EU (click here), for recognising professionals from another EU country. Where there is not regulation in that relevant profession in the relevant Member country, the General System of recognition applies.
    5. The 'General System' is the system for the mutual recognition of professional qualifications, established by Directive 89/48/EEC and supplemented by Directive 92/51/EEC (click here). It is designed primarily for those who are qualified to practice a profession in one Member State and wish to have their qualifications recognized in another, in order to practice the same profession there. The General System applies when a Member State requires a qualification in order to practice a profession on its territory (with the exception of the 7 professions already covered by a Sectoral Directive). Since Directive 1999/42/EC (click here) entered into force, crafts and commercial professions and certain services have also been partially covered by the General System.
    6. What all this means, essentially, is that – if a person is ‘state registered’ as a professional in one EU country – then (a) that person has the right to work in that profession in any other EU country, and (b) despite any national law relating to that profession in that other EU country, (the relevant officials in) that country should accept the psychotherapist as a state-registered professional, and should have a clear process of acceptance established.
    7. However, the system of the EU free labour market is not working very well for many professions and the EU is (at last) acknowledging this. Recently (7 Jan, 2011), a consultation paper came out on the Professional Qualifications Directive and the internal market system, inviting comment and answers to a number of important questions. You can read this paper here.
  2. Restrictive Practices
    1. As mentioned, some of the current national laws about psychotherapy restrict the practice of psychotherapy in that country to certain qualified professionals. These restrictions cannot apply to a 'trans-national' - someone who is 'state-registered' in another EU country and wishes to work as a psychotherapist in the legally restricted country.[8]
    2. More European countries are moving towards the concept of "state-registration" for psychotherapists: however these new laws generally enshrine the wider perspective of there being many different modalities within psychotherapy, and trainings that are not limited to 'other professionals' but that are open to lay people with the appropriate educational qualifications (i.e. not restrictive, but well-regulated).
    3. By establishing the Professional Competencies of a European Psychotherapist, anyone who can show that they have demonstrated (in their training) the professional competencies of a European psychotherapist, should - at some point in time - be able to work in any EU country, without further requirements.
  3. A Common Platform for Psychotherapy
    1. A ‘Common Platform’ for a profession is an attempt by the EU to overcome the difficulties of a Sectoral Directive. It requires an agreement for that profession between at least 2/3 of the European member states, such an agreement then to be ratified by the European Parliament. It is a collection of criteria on professional qualifications able to bridge any substantial differences between the different member states. Its purpose is to predefine the qualification criteria, so as to obviate later compensatory measures and it cannot in any way be used to force national authorities to modify or harmonise their national legislation. It is a nice idea, but very complicated, and to date (after 10 years) there have been no Common Platforms established for any professions.
    2. The EAP has been attempting to establish the basis for a ‘Common Platform’ for psychotherapy in Europe upto the start of 2011. We believed that this was the proper way forward, and that the EU would eventually resolve the technical difficulties of the the 'Common Platform' structure. Further details about the EAP's work on establishing a Common Platform are available here.
    3. However, the EU has had - what best might be called - a 'rethink' on the Common Platform structure, as there have been no professions able to establish one, and thus the Common Platform process is now'on hold'. The EAP is presenting its point of view to the EU's review process and details of this can be obtained from EAP Head Office. The EU should respond in Oct 2011.
  4. EAP's Progress to Date: The EAP has already established:
    1. The 1990 Strasbourg Declaration on Psychotherapy;[1]
    2. A "Statement of Ethical Principles" for a European Psychotherapist;[2]
    3. An agreed set of quantitative training standards that establish the basis for the European Certificate of Psychotherapy (ECP), as a post-graduate professional qualification in psychotherapy, in accordance with the standards of the EU. [3] The ECP has been awarded to nearly 6,000 psychotherapists in Europe. It has also been used as the basis for professional training in psychotherapy in several other countries (inc. Japan, Mexico, Lebanon, etc.) and as the basis for the Psychotherapy Certificate of the World Council of Psychotherapy (WCP).
    4. Criteria for assessing a European Accredited Psychotherapy Training Institute (EAPTI), which trains people in psychotherapy to ECP level. Also criteria for a number of ‘International Experts’ capable of making an assessment of such a training institute.[4] The EAP has already appointed about 18 International Experts and recognised about 54 EAPTIs in 19 different European countries;
    5. A Template for a National Psychotherapy Law: This is a template for a law for psychotherapy organisations in any particular country who wish to help promote a pluralistic framework for legal regulations about psychotherapy in that country. [5]
    6. A Migration Survey: On the recommendation of the European Commission a pilot study on the migration of psychotherapists in the European Union was conducted by the EAP in 2007.[6]
    7. A Survey of European Psychotherapy Training (SEPT), which is a European-wide survey to assess the impact of the European Certificate of Psychotherapy. SEPT is a Leonardo da Vinci Project, funded by The European Commission.[7]
  5. The Project to Establish the Professional Competencies of a European Psychotherapist: In the light of all this, establishing the 'Professional Competencies of a European Psychotherapist' is the next logical task in this long and complicated process.

Please come back soon and review our progress on this website.

[1] See EAP website: www.europsyche.org - see also Appendix 1a.
[2] Passed in 2002 and available from the EAP website: www.europsyche.org: see also Appendix 6.
[3] The ECP document: see Appendix 4.
[4] The TAC document: see Appendix 4.
[5] The Template on a National Law: see Appendix 5.
[6] Migration Study: See EAP website: www.europsyche.org: EU Matters.
[7] SEPT: See EAP website: www.europsyche.org: Research.
[8] One person (Heinrich Lanthaler) who was state-registered in Austria has successfully challenged the Italian law on psychotherapy (requiring people to be a psychologist) on this basis: this case has established a precedent that is now being used in other similar cases in Italy.There are also cases coming before the courts in Germany.

Working Group on Professional Competencies: committee@psychotherapy-competency.eu