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Understanding the regulation of psychologists

16 Ion 2023
Rachael Gledhil

Rachael Gledhill

Head of Policy and Standards

We regularly receive questions from the public about whether the HCPC regulates psychologists, or others who provide therapy or counselling services.

In this blog, we explain what it means to be a regulated professional, who the HCPC does and doesn’t regulate, and what to do if you have a concern.

What does it mean to be a regulated professional?

In the UK, a profession is regulated by law where there is a legal requirement to have certain qualifications or experience in order to undertake certain professional activities or use a protected professional job title.

Decisions about which professions are regulated and which professional job titles are protected are made by the government and by parliament.

The job title ‘psychologist’, is not, by itself, protected by law. However, there are 9 different protected titles for practitioner psychologists which the HCPC does regulate:

Protected titles for practitioner psychologists

  • Practitioner psychologist
  • Registered psychologist
  • Clinical psychologist
  • Forensic psychologist
  • Counselling psychologist
  • Health psychologist
  • Educational psychologist
  • Occupational psychologist
  • Sport and exercise psychologist

These 9 titles are protected by law, which means that anyone who uses one of these protected titles must be on our Register. We can take action if concerns are raised about anyone on our Register.

Some professionals use the term ‘psychologist’ or other titles such as counsellor, psychotherapist or therapist. These are not protected titles, so professionals using them do not need to be on the HCPC’s Register. Those who are not on our Register are not regulated by us.

What is the role of the HCPC?

The HCPC protects the public by regulating 15 health and care professions in the UK, including over 26,000 practitioner psychologists. In order to use one of the 9 different protected titles for practitioner psychologists, a professional must be on our Register and must have met and continue to meet our Standards.

If an individual registrant does not uphold these Standards, we have an established process for raising, and handling concerns, and we can impose a sanction, a condition on their practice or remove them from our Register.

How can I check if a practitioner psychologist is regulated?

You can search our Register online for the name of anyone who is currently registered with us.

If an individual is using a protected title and is not on our Register, is falsely claiming to be registered with us, or falsely claims that they have qualifications in a profession we regulate, this is a criminal offence.

If you are concerned that this might be the case with an individual you know, you can find out more information about the misuse of title on our website along with information about how to raise a concern.

Professionals not regulated by the HCPC

Professionals who are not regulated by us, but who are working in psychological practitioner and applied psychology roles that are not regulated by law, may be listed on other voluntary registers. They may use titles such as counsellors, psychologists, psychotherapists and therapists, which are not protected.  

The Professional Standards Authority (PSA) holds a list of accredited voluntary registers which they have independently assessed against their own standards. HCPC registrants may also choose to be on an accredited register, but not all members of accredited registers are regulated professionals.

If you are in doubt about whether someone is regulated by the HCPC, please check our Register.

What to do if you have a concern

In these cases we can look into the complaint or concern and take appropriate action.

If an individual is not regulated by us (and is not using a protected title that HCPC regulates) you could check whether they are on an accredited voluntary register and raise your concern with the organisation overseeing that voluntary register. If the individual is not on a voluntary register, it may be appropriate to contact your local authority or, in a serious case, the police.

As a regulator, it is our job to ensure that health and care professionals we regulate are effectively trained to deliver safe and effective practice and remain safe to practise throughout their career.

Regulation is designed to protect patients and service users when receiving care and treatment. If you have any further questions, please get in touch with our Policy team at

Tudalen wedi'i diweddaru ymlaen: 16/01/2023