September for me brings with it a sense of a new beginning, which I think stems from my school days. I always want a new pen and a fresh, clean piece of paper. As much as I enjoy the summer break, there is also something nice about getting back to structure!
Structure for me this year will be presenting at the International Association for Counselling (IAC) conference in Istanbul, early this month. I am presenting on online counselling and its state of play in the UK, alongside Anne Stokes, who is one of the leading educators in this flourishing field.
Much of this issue of Therapy Today is devoted to the wider international counselling scene, and many of you may ask why it’s important. Perhaps the development of online therapy gives us a useful framework to consider some of this. When you work online, you cease to work in a specific location. At times you may be working with a client who is based outside your own country. BACP is set up to hold standards for therapy within the UK, to offer a safe harbour for both professional and clients. We don’t have jurisdiction beyond our shores. Online counselling happens in cyberspace and, I would argue, it is equally important to offer the same safe harbour in this landscape as we do in terrestrial UK.
Recently BACP has become far more present in the international counselling arena. Fifty years ago Hans Hoxter (after whom our educational bursaries are named) started an organisation called the International Round Table for the Advancement of Counselling (IRTAC). Its predominate focus was to provide a space in one particular country, on an annual basis, to have a dialogue about counselling (sometimes just the function of listening) and how it was perceived by other countries. Ideas were shared and then IRTAC left. Over time this turned into IAC (the International Association for Counselling) and it still does something very similar – running dialogue conferences in places in the world where counselling exists but could use some support.
With the advancement of both technology and the increased experience of counselling worldwide, it’s become a priority to be involved in such international dialogues and to have some very serious conversations about how we work globally and how we collaboratively manage an international cyberspace where therapy is taking place. With this is mind, BACP CEO Laurie Clarke and I attended a workshop in Malta earlier in the year to work alongside IAC to help them think strategically about some of the international counselling challenges and how IAC can work with national professional bodies to find solutions.
I think it’s important to say that this international approach isn’t about a bunch of Western individuals wanting to impose a Western view of counselling on the rest of the world. One of the reasons that I support the work of IAC is because it has strong principles of equity and cultural appropriateness.
Maintaining a balance, as we all know, is important. Laurie and I keep a close eye on the focus of BACP. For many years we as a profession have been inwardly focused on negotiating registration, and there is always much work to be done on our own patch – questions to be answered, things to reviewed. The work never ceases, but it’s also important to maintain our connectivity with what the rest of the world is up to with regard to counselling, and balance internal work with international engagement. We can give a lot and we can also learn perhaps even more through this connectivity.
Returning to that ‘fresh sheet of paper’ feeling, I just want to remind you that, if you are not yet on the BACP Register, then perhaps this is your beginning of term task! If you are BACP accredited or have done a BACP accredited course, you are eligible to go straight onto the Register, but you do need to sign the terms and conditions. You should have an email in your inbox inviting you to sign an embedded electronic form. If you haven’t had this email, then contact BACP Customer Services or visit the BACP Register website. If you don’t meet these criteria, you may need to do the Certificate of Proficiency. Again, you’ll find all the details on the BACP Register website.
Amanda Hawkins is Chair of BACP