The Problem of Licensing, Accreditation and Chartership


In psychology group behaviour dictates we cluster together to find support and safety. In this paper we will review the need for societies, associations and clubs that organise a profession such as education, psychology and other forms of social support. In particular we will look at the business of creating rules and regulations to supervise and control members that fool the public into thinking they are protected or safe from abuse by the scam of licensing, accreditation and charterships. In summery to show that such insidious practices are in fact no guarantee of professionalism or quality control.


As far back in history as you care to go people grouped together for survival, inter-group support and comfort. In the early days of education the Church in England organised schools for the poor and set forth a standard and rules, concerning content, quality and a strict authoritarian established teaching regime. As time has gone by successive governments who took over the role of education from the Church increased legislation, rules and standards to the point that many teachers in the modern world leave the profession because they spend more time satisfying statistical requirements than actually teaching the children. The public are told that these rules and standards are in place to protect their children and investment in education but in fact are more likely to be political motivated arrangements to show successive governments succeeding in raising educational standards in exchange for votes. A typical example is the current success in A level results in the UK, rising to the point of excessive results that leave employers and universities accepting everyone almost as an outstanding performer, when in fact teachers know that their time is spent meeting examination result type teaching and not education. This means it is impossible to judge quality candidates as the best and worst student have identical results in the form of grades. How did this happen – very easy – make the exams successively easier each year until impossible to fail. Other professions however grouped privately, such as psychotherapy in Vienna under Freud (1895) created societies to discuss and control the growth of the talking cures. Here the object was not to set rules but to internally support learning and application of the psychological sciences by mutual agreement of the members. There were no experts as such, there were not bodies to regulate the application of the methodology as the early members where mutually finding their way. However 100 year later we abound with societies that set rules, agendas and ethical standards to the members with very little control by the members themselves. What is the point of these organisations, who gave them authority over workers in a profession, who agreed that they could have exclusivity?


Partly the growth in private organisations was the laziness of government to regulate so many differing types of industries and also the need to focus on economic control that directly effected the countries global affairs. So the more indirect industries such as medicine, psychology and counselling were left to their own devices and eventually given government approval to police the individual industries by consent. Consecutive governments of differing philosophies were more or less engaged in business and left self-regulatory control to these self declared groups. Some governments believed in micro control and nationalisation of businesses – others denationalisation and self regulatory rules that allowed them to distance themselves from the obligation to the public as their voters – easier to blame or criticize others if you are not directly controlling their affairs. One of the by-products of this self regulation was the different ways to raise money to keep the association or group going. The first and foremost was of course membership fees, this provided the basic income and way of disseminating information amongst the membership. Then levels of membership determining experience, influence and seniority gave rise to a class system followed by divisions for specialities that drove more rules and regulations and of course more income. At this stage most societies or associations were still membership driven for needs and support. However the need to control and regulate became an issue after criticism of experimental styles, complaints about abusive relationships, power struggles in determining who should be seen as powerful and authoritative. This is really were licensing, accreditation and chartership became a social status mark of the individual members standing in the group. However they are often marketed to the public as a standard to be relied upon. This however is far from true – they are a money making exercise pure and simple. If we look at educational accreditation this says the outside body or association sets a set of standards that the educational establishment such as a university must meet in order to be recognised as having minimal agreed environments covering teaching methods, educational value, ethical guidelines and outcomes. However it is the word – minimal that we have to be clear about. From an income stand point the accrediting body needs everyone to pass so that it can maximise its profits. It is like any other business in this respect. This has actually meant that many universities are judged by the lowest possible standard to make sure every establishment passes the accreditation and so making the whole process meaningless. Only in a system that accepts failure and closures of a university can you really claim that accreditation has real value to the public. Yet there is no record of any university closing down from the failure to gain accreditation by the ruling body. Licensing is slightly different as some countries have a system and others do not – not every country accepts and wants this way of working. In the USA to have a psychology licence merely means you have passed the minimum educational requirement for a given state and have a clear police record. You licence is not valid in any other state or country – yet many so called licensed psychologist proclaim this in other countries as attesting to their quality of work – which it was never designed to do – licensing does not mean you are any good at your job. In fact most medical doctors and licensed psychologists who end up in prison are all licensed and accredited – so there is fact is no protection to the public from anyone who decides to transgress the common or criminal law. In the UK for psychological work – Chartership is the equivalent of licensing and has all the same faults – in fact is worse in the sense that no legal standing exists for its existence. It fools the public and other professionals alike that this person has something more than the average psychologist – which is completely misleading – as they have only paid for a title that has no guarantee of service or professionalism – again most psychologists in prison have these titles.

What does this all mean?

The public should be aware that licensing of professions, accreditation of institutions and charterships and nothing more than titles and have no basis in protecting the public from shoddy workmanship, poor facilities or identifying members with criminal intent. If as an individual or establishment who pays a third party, for a means of telling the public that some organisation without legal standing is a recommendation to you or a university then you are directly conning the public and your paying clients. One of the UK’s most prolific serial killers was a licences practising doctor (Harold Shipman) who murdered over 250 elderly people. Overseen by the medical counsel as fit to practice, licences to administer medical care – a so called trusted profession. Yes all those rules, all those titles, all those associations, did nothing to protect his victims. If as seen these accrediting organisations and associations are not a guarantee of safety or quality of care or education then what is the purpose of keeping them except for the self interest of those who run them. The only real reason for any organised group is information, shared experience, insight to their professions or companionship of liked minded people. No organisation should have the power to ban an individual from working where they have no legal standing. In psychology in the past the associations have ostracised those who challenge the status quo or publish research that does not agree with their shared view, or decided a rule was outdated or just plain silly. Such as the being criticised for giving a cup of tea to therapy clients on the grounds it breaks boundary issues – it is this sort of nonsense that shows the mockery of non-legal standing groups. These kangaroo courts have been given untold power to prevent competition and victimise members who do not tow the line. If you are thrown out of the society it can prevent you gaining employment because the employing bodies think that a member in good standing can be trusted – where as in fact as the courts and prisons show us it is the very members who are in the inner circle who often wielding power are the most corrupt – you only have to see the international football association (FIFA) to see this case, as many of its top officials have been accused or convicted of corruption. So what should replace these systems or associations that have no real public value and mislead more often than clarify their standing. Why do the membership themselves support the system in the first place – money begets money – if you have a paid for title, then you can charge the public more and state you are more than just your qualifications – you are special and therefore more trustable? The public not realising you paid to be licensed, you paid to be chartered, you paid to be associated or accredited. If the public knew that is was just a paid for title – then they would be more aware to ask for more information such as real client recommendations or references.

Should we replace?

After 100 years of developing societies, clubs, professional groups we perhaps need to redefine what we want these organisations to actually do for the membership and the public alike. First I am not advocating the complete destruction of the association model. However I do think limitations on their role should be clearly defined. They should not be able beyond a membership certificate apply any other labels, or a titles of recommendation system. Their role should be as it was originally designed to be – information, sharing, like minded enquiry but not rule driven membership beyond the recognised qualifications for the ordinary membership i.e. in most cases training or learning in that field of endeavour – for example in psychology a University degree (B.A. B. Sc, M.A. M. Sc PhD) beyond that no titles should be allowed. You are only what you trained to be and no more. Existing common and criminal law already requires businesses licensing (for tax purposes), regulations in law and liability – therefore no ethical rules or association rules can be enforced that have not a ruling by a legal entity such as the courts of justice. In other words if it is not written in law or case law by a court it is not enforceable. Taking away their powers over the membership would lead to a more equitable situation where members are free to split with the main body and form a rival association and so through competition make members more empowered, if the association does not provide what a member is looking for then they have other alternatives. No government should be allowed to give away power to a third party who have no authority from the public who vote for leadership not organisations who are run by people who the public has not control over or support for simply by the ignorance of not knowing who gave these associations power in the first place – in the UK this is often done by what is called a Royal Charter – totally undemocratic system of favouritism which leads to a monopoly on the profession which in any other business would be illegal. This should be scrapped as a class ridden idea that paying for a Royal Charter somehow makes the association more legitimate than any other – becomes the same problem with accreditation that is it is about how much you pay for the privilege and not any guarantee of quality. I titled this paper with the word – scam – in this I meant that most of these systems of accreditation, licensing and charterships are merely a way to collect money while not safe guarding the public at all. Any association that makes that claim should be suable – when Harold Shipman murdered 250 people the medical association should have been liable to every single family for compensation as they licensed, recommended by association and supported his work. In fact if in law – all associations carried liability for their membership then quality control would be the first thing they would redefine. At the moment they can give titles, accreditation and charter to anyone without any risk at all. If I fail at university should I not be able to sue the accreditation body for recommending this establishment as being a guarantee for success or if after graduation from an Ivy league or Ox-Cam established university I cannot find a great job I should be able to ask for the accreditation body to make up my salary and benefits? In fact some of the non accreditation universities around the world often have superior teaching and methodology as they are not answerable to the system of accreditation in the first place.


This paper is opinion – it is a challenge to established thinking about the system of associations and their like. I have not referenced here as this is a personal statement about a corrupt system that fools the public and is no guarantee of value, professionalism, safety or quality of the associations titled membership. I expect to be criticised by many who have a stake in the status quo – they are talking from a standpoint of ego and money interests. Remember they paid to be the person that they want the public to accept them as! The only rules we should accept are those in law -legal binding – contractual in the sense of a customer and their client. Many accreditation bodies will defend their position as guaranteeing standards when in fact no one fails the standard because they could not afford for their customers to fail – otherwise the system would crash in on itself. If the current system is to be maintained then all associations, accreditation bodies and others doling out titles should be legally bound to pay compensation if any client receiving service is not satisfied with the result. Of course none will ever do this as they cannot control their members on a daily basis, how can they spot the serial killer, the thief, the rapist and many others who are in prison but once in good standing held a licence, accreditation or chartership! Next time someone says they are licensed or some such nonsense – beware – quality and professionalism is not a guarantee.