It was very good to read about the process that led to the rebranding of our division and to hear of the trouble taken by the executive and the members generally. It reminded me of two previous rebranding exercises in the 1970s when APCC became one of the first divisions of the newly formed British Association for Counselling (BAC), and in the 1990s when ‘Spirituality’ was added to our title. The same care for the process helped us on those occasions and I expect it will now.

I was interested that relatively few members were concerned about our ‘name’ or our ‘brand’. Are the name and the brand more the concern of our organisation than of its members? Does BACP need to hold its marketplace in the therapy world? ‘Brand’ is a reasonable word for shopping but does no favours to caring and counselling. Who started the rebranding exercise and is it working? It will be good if more of the members interested in spirituality join us in the coming months. I am less convinced by the argument that all the divisions should look alike. This is more like the ‘ordering’ of a religion and as an instinctive non-conformist I like to be different and unique as well as a part of the whole.

The research paper from William West, Terry Biddington and Phil Goss on ‘Counsellors and religious pastoral carers in dialogue’1 reminded me of so many times in APSCC when this dialogue has been on our agenda. When APCC was founded in the 1970s, pastoral care was envisaged as the foundation of all ministry, because it brought together pastoral practice, practical theology, the social and human sciences, counselling and psychotherapy. There were definite tensions between practitioners of care, who worked mostly with individuals and families, and those with political and theological doubts, about the ‘therapeutic’ emphasis for pastoral care, which left unquestioned the corporate forces in society which drove people into needing pastoral care. Were counselling and care to be a new opium for the people?2 Pastoral counselling grew out of pastoral care as practitioners learnt more about people’s emotional and psychological needs. For the most part APCC provided resources that satisfied both carers and counsellors and helped them value each other’s role. The advent of counselling skills, as something counselling could offer as training for carers, exposed
a pecking order of caring roles – psychoanalyst, psychotherapist, counsellor and carer – at times these have stirred up ‘helper’ competition and rivalry.

I liked the use made of the goldfish bowl in the research described by West et aland was reminded of a similar exercise at the first BAC AGM. There we met in small groups to share our expectations of the Association and then each group was represented in a fish bowl to share with and listen to one another. I recall the treasures of our discussion being collected on masses of newsprint. What stands out for me in the research is the relationship between pastoral care and supervision. 

‘ far as I can see, and from what I’ve heard as well, the whole area of pastoral work is not well supervised and perhaps it can’t be.... There just isn’t the awareness of the supervisory role or certainly, in terms of the Anglican Church, there’s no expectation that parish priests are in a supervisory role for any of the pastoral care that they are giving, and there’s no structure that allows that.’ (P)1 – I was frankly amazed to read P’s experience. APCC was founded to help foster better pastoral care and provide the training and supervision to support that. In the Southwark Anglican diocese, from the 1970s, supervision groups for pastoral care and counselling met fortnightly for supervision of their pastoral work and at one time there were 13 of these groups, involving over 100 pastors, lay and clerical3

Nationally, Clinical Theology (now the Bridge) offered small group training and supervision on a similar basis. Since those days interest in and time for supervision of pastoral work may well have been on the wane but the many Anglican advisors in pastoral care are a focus for training and supervision and in at least two Anglican and one Roman Catholic diocese in the south all clergy are offered supervision for their pastoral work. Is there a north-south divide regarding supervision or perhaps just a postcode lottery? A number of books have been written about supervision and lifelong learning4,5,6 and more recently the Association for Pastoral Supervisors and Educators was formed and is offering training and accreditation for supervisors and educators7. Amongst healthcare and prison chaplains, supervision is highly valued and in the expanding world of spiritual direction as well. Thresholds would be a good medium for news of all these developments and many more.

John Foskett is a retired supervisor, counsellor, carer and chaplain. He is president of BACP Spirituality and the British and Irish Association for Practical Theology (BIAPT).


1. West W, Biddington T, Goss P. Counsellors and religious pastoral carers in dialogue. Thresholds.2014; Summer: 21-25.
2. Pattison S. A critique of pastoral care. London: SCM; 1988.
3. Foskett J. The story of the Southwark pastoral care and counselling scheme. Contact. 2005; 148: 5-14.
4. Leach J, Paterson M. Pastoral supervision: a handbook. London: SCM; 2010.
5. Ward F. Lifelong learning: theological education and supervision. London: SCM; 2005.
6. Foskett, J, Lyall D. Helping the helpers. London: SPCK; 1988.
7. Including a regular newsletter.

Other resources for pastoral care and counselling – theory and practice

Practical theology journal. This is the official journal of the British and Irish Practical Theology Association: see

Health and social care chaplaincy journal: see

Mental health chaplain newsletter 

Mental health, religion and culture: see Routledge journals.

Journal of pastoral care and counselling: see


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