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uACT Campaign LaunchuACT Campaign Launch


Event description
Universal Access to Counselling and Psychotherapy: a campaign to bring back relationship to therapy and support in the community

About this event

The campaign for universal Access to Counselling and Psychotherapy (uACT) launches on Saturday 29th January 2022, 10am – 1pm.

Join us, and add your voice to a campaign to bring care and connection back to the heart of our communities. Let’s push back against the ruthless rationale of the market and the undermining of the genuine, meaningful relationships that are fundamental to people’s basic needs.

See our mission statement here.

In the UK, counsellors and psychotherapists are working at one of the fault lines of a crumbling social contract. We are in the grip of what Government and the media call a “mental health crisis”, to which the response is diagnostic labels, pseudo-medical treatments and interventions designed to promote “happiness” and “wellbeing”. We believe this is dehumanising, creating a focus on individual ill-health that separates us and draw us away from the restorative potential of deeper human connection.

For decades now, the hostile takeover of NHS counselling and psychotherapy by a narrow range of “evidence-based” psychological therapies has been eroding real therapeutic relationships, which have now been all but stripped out of NHS and third sector mental health services.

The Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme has reorganised front line, primary care psychological services into a “cost effective” menu of short-term, utilitarian behavioural exercises.

IAPT uses misleading data to report success, inflating “recovery rates” and using standardised measures to claim recovery regardless of whether service users perceive any meaningful improvement or feel recovered. In fact, one fifth of clients receive only two sessions, and some never see a therapist – face to face or online – because their treatment comes in the form of a self-help workbooks and apps.

Meanwhile, the IAPT workforce is burning out, demoralised and worn down by a working culture often more focussed on form-filling, data manipulation and hitting targets than helping people. 2015 figures from a British Psychological Society survey reveal that being employed as an IAPT therapist is worse for your mental health than almost any other job in the UK. It is a failing provision, serving a failing social system.

In secondary care (where people are referred by their GP or primary care provider), almost all longer-term therapy provision has been removed in favour of cheaper, short-term Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and manualised treatments.

Mental health services are chronically under-funded and under-staffed, with services for children and young people particularly badly affected. Around 75 percent of young people experiencing a mental health problem are forced to wait so long their condition gets worse, some receiving no treatment at all, while specialist services are turning away one in four children referred by GPs or teachers. We must do better.

For decades, across society, the financial and political interests of the dominant ideology have been prioritised at the expense of the emotional, psychological, and material wealth of most people. We see this reflected not only in mental health provision, but across all domestic policy, from education to health and social care; housing to social welfare and benefits; and the trend away from liveable wages and decent working conditions.

Counsellors and psychotherapists with a critical understanding of these developments have been campaigning for years to protect and promote relational therapy as a space for open and mutual exploration of meaning and engagement in our lives – even while the machinery of utilitarian, transactional policy making continues to expand.

It is time for therapists and others concerned about the quality of relational life in our society to come together and take a stand.

Join us on 29th January to share our experiences and ideas about how we can ACT together to:

• stand up against the unilateral imposition of utilitarian psychological therapies

• campaign for more client-centred and community-based responses for everyone in need of psychological support, and

• share with each other alternative ways of working, as therapists with a commitment to the social model of emotional life and its struggles


10.00 : Chair’s welcome

10.05 : uACT: context and hopes Paul Atkinson

10.15 – 11.45 : Speakers Alia Butt and James Davies followed by questions and discussion.

11.45 – 12.00: Break

12.00: Setting the scene for break out groups

12.05 – 12.30 : Break out groups to discuss ideas for campaigning .

12.30 – 12.55: Plenary – sharing ideas for campaigning, networking and planning for the future

12.55 – 1.00: Closing remarks

Onlinevents is organising Zoom tech and administration


Alia Butt is a psychotherapist and a highly specialised CAMHS practitioner within the NHS. Convener of NHS Staff Voices, part of Keep Our NHS Public and a policial activist working across campaigns including Women Will Not Be Silenced.

James Davies gained his PhD in social and medical anthropology from the University of Oxford in 2006. He also qualified as a psychotherapist, working in organisations such as the NHS. James is a Reader in social anthropology and mental health at the University of Roehampton, London. He is author of the bestseller Cracked: why psychiatry is doing more harm than good, and the more recent Sedated: how modern capitalism created our mental health epidemic.

For more information email: [email protected]

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