As members who follow social media will know well, there has been a huge debate about the consultation over SCoPEd, our joint project with the British Psychoanalytic Council (BPC) and UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) looking at the existing entry-level training standards and practice requirements for counselling and psychotherapy.
The consultation was a massive undertaking, involving 60,000 members across all three organisations, and we’ve had a gratifyingly healthy response – more than 7,000 responses from members across all three organisations, and more than 70 responses from stakeholder organisations.
We can report the initial findings now. Further independent analysis of the qualitative findings is still under way as Therapy Today goes to print, but all three organisations felt it was important to share the results at this stage.
The initial analysis of the quantitative responses from members tells us that:
- 40% of respondents believe the draft framework would make it easier for patients or clients to find the right kind of help to meet their needs; 24% feel it would make it harder.
- 54% feel the draft framework would make it easier for employers to establish which counsellors and psychotherapists to employ in their service; 23% feel the framework would make it harder.
- 61% believe the draft framework would make it easier for trainees to understand the pathways open to them for core training to work with adults; 23% feel it would make it harder.
- 55% feel that the framework would make it easier for professional bodies to promote their members’ skills; 21% feel it would make it harder.
Thus, we have an early indication that we should progress this work, to explore, alongside our memberships, where it could lead us. We know that there is more work to do.
Once we have understood the detail of the qualitative feedback (we had comments from some 3,000 respondents), we will begin further engagement with you, our members, and stakeholders to plan how we can develop the work.
All three organisations recognise the strength of feeling that the many emails, blogs, comments and posts on social media express. We have offered further clarification and answers to some of the questions and concerns on the ScoPEd pages of the BACP website. But we’d like to raise some important points here.
We have been challenged to be brave. You have told us that the status quo is no longer working – unpaid work, confusing training routes into the profession, lack of clarity for client choice and more. SCoPEd is an evolving process to try to challenge this status quo and move the profession forward, for the benefit of members, clients and employers – and, we hope, for your benefit.
As the representative of some 47,000 counsellors and psychotherapists, we feel a responsibility to work with our members to drive the profession forward. The collaborative project stemmed from a real attempt to do this, and a genuine belief that, if three leading professional bodies in the counselling and psychotherapy professions could agree common standards, this would be an important step that could benefit clients, trainees, members and employers. We of course acknowledge that we would not communicate it to these audiences in the same way that we have started our discussions with you around this draft framework.
We knew this work would not be easy. If you feel it is insufficient or inaccurate as it stands, please contribute. Tell us how it might be developed. If we simply challenge the work and do not embrace it, we run the danger of remaining in the status quo. We want to promote you, your work and your incredible ability to make a difference to people’s lives. We can do this now, and we are doing it, but if there were more clarity, we could see a huge step forward in our professions being truly recognised for what they can offer.
There are people out there who need our support. Is it not right that we step forward and face this challenge head on, to ensure we are there when they need us?
It’s not our intention to create a hierarchy, although we realise we may have not articulated this in the best way in this draft framework. The aim is to come up with a clear framework that allows employers and commissioners of services to match client need to therapist skill.
BACP faces a difficult choice. We could continue to argue that there is no difference between the offerings of counsellors and psychotherapists at the entry point to the professions. But as we started to look at the evidence, we could see differences at the entry point and quite different trainings. Our aim was therefore to try to articulate these differences.
We value equally the variety and incredible talents of therapists. This of course includes those at entry level. All of these therapists have the ability to change the lives of their clients in incredibly positive ways.
The categories are not saying that one therapist is more important than another; they simply show that different therapists have different training experiences and expertise at the start of their career; this is no different to any other professional group.
The draft framework recognises and values the wide range of routes and academic levels – vocational and academic – in counselling and psychotherapy, which is something that we feel is hugely important in adding to the vast tapestry of skills you offer. The framework is an attempt to describe the current state of play.
Every counsellor and psychotherapist who belongs to BACP, BPC and UKCP at entry level fits well within this draft framework, and every category of therapist should be entitled to gain paid employment within the professions. It is not our aim to disadvantage any of our members.
The SCoPEd project is looking at entry points to the professions. We value the hours of hard work you have put in, the experience you have gained and the talents you clearly show. SCoPEd will not limit or devalue your individual journey. This draft framework is not designed to look at therapists beyond entry point. Training and experience mean that new therapists can of course progress as far as they wish from their entry point. A ‘qualified counsellor’ at entry point would not be tied to that category as their experience developed.
Plurality and choice
The draft framework captures the diversity of the different traditions and trainings in counselling and psychotherapy, which we tried to reflect in the work. We value all our members and the work you do, and we want the framework to reflect the breadth of what you offer at entry point. We are really looking forward to seeing your views on how this may be enhanced. Our aim is to reduce ambiguity and introduce greater clarity, which we sincerely believe will enhance employment opportunities for therapists and choice for clients.
We have received some challenges in relation to the strength of our evidence base. In producing the draft framework, we tried to adopt an evidence-based approach. Our aim was to look at what was there and see if we could map what the evidence showed.
We drew on the widest possible range of relevant standards, which are all listed in the methodology document. These include those of other professional associations, the National Occupational Standards, IAPT competences, QAA benchmark standards, awarding body qualifications and many more.
The working group, which was a balanced mix of counsellors and psychotherapists, then did the detailed work of mapping and drafting of competences based on the evidence available. Details of the groups involved in SCoPEd are on the BACP website.
You may wonder what has changed since 2009, when the discussions about statutory regulation were taking place and came up with different conclusions. The difference is that this is a more inclusive evidence base of existing competences, training and practice standards. There have also been other changes in the training field and additions to the competence landscape over the intervening 10 years.
Another key difference is that this draft framework focuses on the differences between competences at entry. It does not look to identify the vast amount of skills and experience that counsellors and psychotherapists are able to gain after they qualify and progress through the profession.
Language and titles
Perhaps we haven’t got the language right. We used the language that we found in existing standards, and accept it is not perfect. However, the competences are intended to be generic and written at a high level, so that users can articulate the detail in the language that fits with their approach and tradition.
We welcome feedback on any more appropriate language to capture this more effectively. We want to work with you, our members, to develop this and decide what should happen next.
The use of terminology to describe the different entry points was difficult. We tried to avoid using existing terms or giving a sense of hierarchy, and at the same time tried to stay faithful to the evidence. The titles of ‘qualified counsellor’, ‘advanced qualified counsellor’ and ‘psychotherapist’ are intended purely as descriptive. It is for members and stakeholders to decide whether this framework could be useful and, if so, what terminology to adopt as it develops.
We would like to thank everyone who took the time and dedication to respond to the consultation. We received a wide range of views from members of all the organisations and are looking forward to feeding these views back into the project. We are committed to working with our members on this important project, so your passion is hugely appreciated. We are very pleased to have such a strong starting point.
There will be a continuing consultation process as the work is progressed. We welcome your feedback and ideas, so please do get involved.