Our counselling skills competence framework is designed for people who are not professional counsellors but who need to use some level of counselling skills within their jobs. Here we explain why the framework is needed and how we hope it will help people.

What are counselling skills?

The definition agreed by the competence framework’s project team is that counselling skills are a combination of values, ethics, knowledge and communication skills used to support another person’s emotional health and wellbeing.

A wide range of people use counselling skills often to enhance a primary professional role, and they’re not exclusive to counsellors. Their use is dependent on who is using them and the setting in which they’re used.

What is the difference between counselling skills and counselling?

There are people across the country who work in many different settings – such as in care homes, hospitals, clinics, community centres - and use counselling skills in their professional roles, but are not qualified, professional counsellors.

For these people, their primary professional role is the focus of their work. Counselling skills are embedded into how they carry out their jobs and helps improve standards. They may use their counselling skills within their day to day role as they meet the people they care for. These could be one-off or ad-hoc meetings or could last longer and happen over time.

A counsellor uses counselling skills, but counselling is their primary professional role. Counsellors do in-depth training which includes theories of the self, the mind and relationships to understand and help clients work through a wide range of presenting problems. Counselling sessions are usually at a regular time and place which is formally agreed with the client. A counsellor agrees to work within an ethical framework for counselling.

What is the counselling skills competence framework?

The framework defines the scope and standards for people who use counselling skills within their primary professional role.

It identifies the skills and knowledge needed to use counselling skills safely and effectively in a wide range of roles and settings.

It focuses on how the competent use of counselling skills provides the ability to:

  • recognise when someone needs to talk
  • respond using appropriate skills to facilitate a safe listening space
  • refer by sensitively signposting or referring when someone needs further help or assistance, such as from a counsellor or psychotherapist

Who is it for?

This framework will be useful for individuals who offer care and support to others. It’ll also be useful to employers, training providers and commissioners who fund the services.

We think this framework will be a positive development for our members. We believe having a clear competence framework for counselling skills will help raise the profile of psychological wellbeing and promote the profession – including increasing referrals and signposting to counsellors and psychotherapists.

Why is the framework needed?

There are currently no recognised standards, training or training requirements for people who use counselling skills within their professional roles.

We believe this framework is much-needed to improve quality and standards of care, to ensure the safety and wellbeing of both service users and professionals. We hope it’ll be incorporated into training and qualifications and embedded into how people in these caring professions work.

This will help people using counselling skills to recognise the needs of the person they’re supporting in relation to their own role and limits of ability. The framework will ensure they are able to work effectively, or signpost, or refer to another service such as, counselling and psychotherapy.

It’ll help promote emotional and psychological health and well-being for those in need and for society as a whole.

How could this framework be used?

We’re really excited about how this framework could be used and the difference it could make in people’s lives.

We’re currently speaking to training providers to explore how it can be incorporated into counselling skills qualifications.

We’re also speaking to organisations, including those within the health and social care sector, and national agencies to see how they could use this framework within their work.

The framework will set standards for using counselling skills and help identify and clarify aspects of job roles and responsibilities.

It will also be useful in the development and evaluation of qualifications and training programmes; for recruitment, staff development and appraisals; for those commissioning services; as a reflective tool and for personal and professional development.

Why is BACP involved in this?

We’ve always had an interest in counselling skills as an important first stage in practitioner training, but also because of how these skills are used in other pastoral and care roles and by other professionals. In fact, we used to have a Code of Ethics for Counselling Skills.

We think that offering a framework for counselling skills will help to improve how people are listened to and supported in a range of settings, and will be beneficial to the wider populations’ mental health and wellbeing, our members, and our professions as a whole.

How will this impact members?

As well as being of clear benefit to those who use counselling skills in other professional roles and the people they interact with, we think this framework will be a positive development for our members. We believe having a clear competence framework for counselling skills will help raise the profile of psychological wellbeing in the community and promote the professions – including referral and signposting to counsellors and psychotherapists – and drive demand to these services.

Why publish this now?

We’ve been working on this framework over the past couple of years and it was due to be published in spring 2020.

The coronavirus pandemic has meant that our focus over the past couple of months has been supporting our members through this crisis. But we’re also aware that the coronavirus pandemic has meant increased demands and focus on the vital role of key workers as they face unprecedented working situations while supporting people through this crisis. This will continue as the situation progresses and using counselling skills in their day to day roles will be crucial as they help those in need.

We believe the counselling skills framework will help health and social care organisations and awarding bodies incorporate these skills into training and qualifications. This means professionals will have high standards of counselling skills and are able to recognise, respond and refer safely; supporting individuals as they and their love ones face the emotional consequences of the pandemic.

We’ve published the framework and user guide on our website so we can share these with organisations which have already expressed an interest in it, as well as those we believe may want to incorporate it into their training.

How did you put it together?

The research was carried out by looking at a wide range of literature on counselling skills and drawing on existing knowledge and training materials, with the findings then analysed.

A group of experts from a wide range of backgrounds including education, health and social care, sector skills councils, charities and local authorities then came together to form an Expert Reference Group (ERG).

The ERG used the analysis of the research findings to construct the competence framework for counselling skills. The framework was then examined by peer reviewers, who work in a range of professional settings, and their feedback was incorporated into the final framework.

How can I share my thoughts on the framework with you?

We’re keen to hear your views on the framework and how it can be used. We’ve already had some interesting and helpful feedback by speaking to some of our divisional executive committees and talking to members at Making Connections.

If you’d like to get in touch about the framework, email us at professional.standards@bacp.co.uk