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British Medical Journal condemns forced psychological testing and training of claimants

An article in the latest edition of the British Medical Journal condemns the ‘coercive and punitive’ use of psychological tests and training on benefits claimants, as the DWP moves closer to treating unemployment as a mental health issue.  Claimants are even being forced to attend highly questionable Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) workshops.

Power of positive thinking
The authors of the report look at the misuse of psychology and the role of psychology professionals in helping to force claimants on the work programme into mandatory training and unpaid work.

In particular, claimants are encouraged to believe that they are unemployed because of their own shortcomings, especially a failure to think positively and strive to be better.

Those who do not engage with psychological programmes can find their JSA or ESA sanctioned for ‘lack of motivation’.

As a result of this approach, claimants are bombarded with positive thinking messages not only on training courses but also by daily texts and emails, such as:

Nobody ever drowned in sweat

Go hard, or go home

It's always too soon to quit

The sin isn't falling down but staying down

Success is the only option

Smile at life

This can be the greatest, most fulfilling day you've ever known. For that to happen, you have to allow it

Some claimants, however, far from feeling uplifted by these ‘motivational quotes’ have described feeling anger, humiliation and depression. For claimants with serious health conditions, exhortations such as “Nobody ever drowned in sweat” could even be life-threatening.

Psychological testing and training are used as a way of controlling people. As one claimant explained

“I've been claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance for about 8 weeks. I haven’t sworn or shouted at anyone. I have had 3 advisor interviews already; yesterday my adviser asked me to see their psychologist. I did not consent. I've been told that I shouldn't look into things too deeply...& that I am asking too many questions.”

This particular claimant was given a choice between seeing a psychologist or being put straight into a mandatory work placement.

Another claimant explains:

“My ‘advisor’ said I needed to see a psychologist because I was tearful and anxious after having my JSA cut for 4 weeks despite having a young child to look after by myself. When I said I did not trust anyone who finds it acceptable to starve others as a punishment, he told me that I was paranoid and again, needed to see a psychologist.”

Mandatory NLP training
Some claimants are forced to attend psychology based workshops:

“I duly attended the offices of A4e and (along with 6 other “customers”) was treated to INSPIRE. This turned out to be a session on Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) run by an outside company claiming to be “Master Practitioners in NLP”. I was “mandated” to attend under threat of loss of benefits and was effectively unable to leave the session because of the same ever present threat.”

Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) was dreamed up in California in the 70’s and is based on allegedly copying the way that highly successful people behave. It has no scientific legitimacy whatsoever – many people would regard it as sheer quackery. There are many companies advertising online who will provide an NLP Practitioner Certificate – allowing you to teach NLP - on completion of just 7 days’ training.

The article in the BMJ comes in the same week that the British Psychological Society (BPS) has demanded a complete overhaul of the work capability assessment. Whilst such a call is welcome, a complete overhaul of the BPS so that it actually prevents its members forcing their views and techniques down claimants throats would be equally well received.

You can read and download the full BMJ article here.


#10 Bill24chev 2015-06-23 10:33
I am concerned about this so have done a bit of research my self.

First of all Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) is not recognised as a Physiological Intervention and “Master Practitioners in NLP” are not recognised as Psychologists by the British Psychological Society (BPS).

If the DWP (or members of staff etc.) are claiming that this therapy is carried out by Psychologists they could be committing an offence under the HCPC rules for Protected Titles. Psychologist is a Protected Title, see

You can make a formal complain to the HCPC

The BPS recommend that before any “Psychological Intervention” is undertaken you should check that the Practitioner is registered to practice with the HCPC.

Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) does have an association that may perform a regulatory function but Master Practitioners in NLP” are not listed as practitioners regulated by the HCPC but they may be registered with the HCPC in some other capacity if they meet the requirements for another profession which could of course be a Chartered psychologist.
#9 Eli48 2015-06-21 20:01
How long does it take to train as a Psychologist? Is it safe for admin clerks with minimal training to be analysing claimants and messing with their psychological state?
Reminds me of Pol Port in Cambodia getting uneducated labourers to play at being surgeon and cutting people open!

Maybe we will resort to tried and trusted treatments of centuries ago during the dark ages and cut into peoples skulls to let evil spirits out !!!
Three years for a psychology degree with honours, if full time, six years if part time. Then three years clinical training. They need to be chartered too. Any where from six years to ten at least. I have a psychology degree, so I am more qualified than the quacks at the Job centre. If they are not qualified and have clinical training, they should not be diagnosing anyone!!!
#8 Eli48 2015-06-21 19:48
[quote name="Allen
"]Im a mental health nurse and have post graduate degree in counselling and psychology. Im also in the support group due to to medical problems. so no doubt they will send me on a 'course'

Alan, you are in the support group, so they cannot make you do anything. However, if they fail you at your next assessment, you will have to claim JSA whilst you appeal, unless you manage to get back into the support group. So in JSA claim, they can make you do courses, or workfare.
#7 Allen 2015-06-21 14:07
Im a mental health nurse and have post graduate degree in counselling and psychology. Im also in the support group due to to medical problems. so no doubt they will send me on a 'course' which I need not as I have a degree in the subject. Be wary lots of online courses for training in psychology for a couple of hundred pounds and you are qualified. If you are sent on a course ensure that the therapist is accredited with a regulatory body. this offers you further protection as they will have to subscribe to a code of ethics and are subject to a complaints procedure. To name a few - British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP), British Psychological Society (BPS), the United Kingdom Association for Humanistic Psychology Practitioners (UKAHPP), College of Sexual and Relationship Therapist (COSRT).
#6 Paul Richards 2015-06-20 22:30
Hi all,
I have just found this re a march on Streatham Job Centre which is scheduled to occur next Friday, 26th June.
The link makes interesting reading and the pressure must be kept up upon them (and also the Government Austerity Cuts!)

#5 Blackcat 2015-06-20 21:41
Glad to see people are questioning NLP. [At last] NLP has actually been around since the Korean war, the enemy made such a good job of interrogating their prisoners and 'turning' them, the Americans have actually used their methods themselves.
I worked at a University in the 70's and an organisation which I cannot name for legal reasons invited people to seminars where the delegates were sworn at,refused access to the Lavatory,and told to reveal their most secret sexual fantasies in public,with an aim to 'reframe'them
They have moved on. A very famous politician and his wife had a resident 'life coach' who was an NLP practitioner, who told them not to have their son vaccinated,and got her mother to do a spot of Pendulum swinging.
There is an awful lot of bogus science about at the moment and the ruling bodies need to step in and restore some sort of discipline. A Dr at the University I worked at claimed he had discovered the formula for pulling the perfect Christmas cracker,well he didn't,that was worked out by an old cleaner who lived at the Church Army and he demonstrated it every year.
After having worked with these people for a long time, be very very wary of them.
Anybody need legal advice? Try Mr Justice Richard Turpin QC That is exactly how you should see these people.
+1 #4 JayC 2015-06-20 17:47
How long does it take to train as a Psychologist? Is it safe for admin clerks with minimal training to be analysing claimants and messing with their psychological state?
Reminds me of Pol Port in Cambodia getting uneducated labourers to play at being surgeon and cutting people open!

Maybe we will resort to tried and trusted treatments of centuries ago during the dark ages and cut into peoples skulls to let evil spirits out !!!
+2 #3 Gawayn 2015-06-18 20:48
I was put on a similar course called "Working Well". This was a week long course for ESA claimants with mental health conditions. The course itself was superficially "benign", if not particularly useful (the vast majority of it was stuff I knew before) and mopre than slightly patronising, Although there was no mention of NLP, there was however a subtle - though still distinct - psychological "undercurrent" to it which seemed to suggest that we ourselves were at least partly responsible for being out of work, if not perhaps for having our own health conditions ourselves. I strongly suspect these kinds of courses are going to become more common and more extreme from the welfare outsourcers.
+3 #2 Alan22 2015-06-18 11:26
It's as bad as can be. I was threatened with some sort of ' confidence building' course by a work programme provider so I made a fuss and was considering getting legal advice, and the provider backed off. They're on very dodgy ground here, and must know it, but they are also aware that people on benefits, especially those with mental health issues, are vulnerable and likely to consent to this sort of rubbish. I'd advise anyone threatened wiith these courses to ask lots of questions about who runs the courses, what qualifications they have and so on.
+4 #1 naheegan 2015-06-17 15:03
After doing some extensive reading about NLP and reading the B&W July Newsletter today, I now have a comment to make about NLP.
I found the comprehensive information about NLP on wikipedia, with many references to follow.
The consensus of scientific opinion is that NLP is pseudoscience, with no evidence to support claims made by practitioners of NLP. Indeed, the claims for what it can cure are varied and include some obviously dubious 'conditions': phobias, depression, habit disorder, psychosomatic illnesses, myopia, allergy, common cold,and learning disorders!
In view of what I have read, the use of psychological assessment and possible mandatory NLP 'therapy' by DWP as a qualifying factor for receiving benefits doesn't seem to be employing a helpful modality for claimants, but more of another barrier and hoop that claimants must navigate in the already 'bewildering and complicated system of benefits'. To that end, I really think it is simply another near-impossible wall that claimants might have to scale and a money spinner for the private businesses that would be contracted to implement it.
I'd have more to say about the varied cultures that claimants hail from and how not all cultures have the same attitudes and values regards work, employment, or what may be quality of life factors in individual cases of depression; but that's another topic for another forum.

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