In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many counselling and psychotherapy training courses moved to online teaching delivery and remote supervised placements. Since March 2020 we've provided some flexibility in the requirements for core training and membership to enable training to continue while lockdowns, local restrictions and social distancing measures were in place.

With many counselling services now planning to adopt a hybrid service delivery model, we’ve reviewed our position on online teaching delivery and remote supervised placement hours to ensure that students are suitably prepared for the changing professional landscape.

Changes apply for new student cohorts from September 2021.

Changes to requirements

Our requirements for membership and core training will allow the option of some online teaching delivery and remote supervised placements. We will accept a mix of:

  • face-to-face and synchronous (live) online taught sessions, with a maximum of 30% of total tutor contact time delivered online
  • face-to-face and remote supervised placement hours, provided the majority are carried out face-to-face

Students or practitioners who want to apply for BACP membership will be asked how their training and placements were delivered. To find out more, please see the criteria for BACP membership.

These requirements do not apply to those who trained during the pandemic while the flexibilities were in place - this is our ‘post-pandemic’ position. We'll continue to monitor the situation and will introduce additional flexibilities if lockdowns or restrictions return.

This guidance is for core practitioner training courses that want to:

  • include some online teaching as part of the course delivery
  • prepare students for remote working using online and phone mediated technology and remote supervised placement hours

BACP accredited training courses should refer to:

OPT addendum for course accreditation (docx 0.1MB)

Definition of tutor contact time

Courses can include some online teaching delivery provided that no more than 30% of total tutor contact time is delivered online via synchronous, live methods. The rest of the course must be delivered face-to-face.

For example, if a course usually consists of 450 hours of tutor contact time, up to 135 hours can be delivered using synchronous online methods with the remaining 315 hours delivered face-to-face in the classroom.

Tutor contact time refers to the timetabled course time where students receive direct, face-to-face or synchronous instruction from course tutors. It includes timetabled tutor-led lectures, tutorials and seminars and structured, timetabled hours spent on guided learning.

Guided learning time

Guided learning time is where a tutor is present to give specific guidance towards the qualification or module being studied, either in the classroom or via live, synchronous online delivery.

Guided learning time can include:

  • tutor-led lectures, tutorials and facilitated study
  • directed assignments
  • skills practice sessions
  • facilitated workshops
  • discussion groups
  • timetabled group supervision
  • experiential groups

Facilitated study could include:

  • tutor guidance for students in open learning centres
  • tutor-facilitated research or research awareness
  • learning workshops
  • web-based tutorials

Guided learning time can also include time spent by course tutors assessing students’ competence, for example in live practice assessments, and  staff-student community meeting time. It excludes learner-initiated (self-directed) private study and any asynchronous online learning. 

Online (synchronous) teaching delivery

For online teaching delivery, courses should:

  • have appropriate data protection policies and procedures in place covering online teaching delivery and remote placements
  • during the admission procedure, ensure applicants have a private space to attend online training, conduct skills practice sessions and deliver remote client sessions (if required)
  • ensure course tutors are competent in delivering experiential learning online
  • have appropriate technology, software and IT support to prevent unnecessary interruptions
  • have adequate data security
  • have a policy for online teaching that includes:
    - student attendance - for example, fully present with cameras on
    - student netiquette - for example, not engaging in private text-based communication with other group members during taught sessions, microphones on mute when not speaking

Teaching online and phone therapy (OPT) within a core training programme

Definition of OPT

This is counselling or psychotherapy practice that relies on technologically mediated applications and processes for some or all its delivery. It may involve the use of phones (traditional or smart), tablets or a computer (desktop, laptop) with an internet connection. 

These enable interactions to take place remotely, implying that practitioner and client will not share the same physical space. Some of their administrative communications may also be asynchronous.

Technologically mediated communication may be the foundation for either a part or all of the therapeutic work.

For further guidance, please see the User guide for the Online and phone therapy (OPT) competence framework.

Good practice

To ensure good practice in delivering OPT training: 

  • course tutors must have knowledge and experience in working with clients remotely
  • courses should teach and assess all the core subject areas and learning outcomes (option 1) within the OPT curriculum
  • student teaching should include ethical practice for working online, for example online netiquette, appropriate social networking behaviours and managing their own digital footprint
  • the course assessment framework should include assessing student competence for both face-to-face and remote working - see the core learning outcomes (option 1) in the OPT curriculum

Courses may bring in external expertise to teach specific OPT elements, where there are knowledge gaps in the teaching team. However, courses are responsible for assessing students’ competence for OPT working throughout the course and at completion.

Supervised placements

Students being taught OPT as part of their core training must have a supervised placement in which they can conduct both face-to-face and OPT sessions. 

These can include a combination of face-to-face and remote supervised placement hours, as long as students are suitably prepared for both face-to-face and remote practice before working with real clients. The majority of supervised practice hours must be conducted face-to-face with clients - the remainder can be a combination of online video or video and phone. For example, if the course requires 100 hours of supervised placement hours, at least 51 hours must be conducted face-to-face (ie in the room).

Phone therapy is typically a specialism acquired post-qualification as some of the competences differ slightly to face-to-face and online-video practice due to the absence of visual cues. To ensure core practitioner training continues to develop face-to-face competences, we recommend students gain a mix of face-to-face practice experience along with either online video and phone or just video practice. It's up to the course to decide the proportions of supervised placement hours for the different modes of delivery.

Additional requirements for supervised placements:

  • text-based, asynchronous online practice cannot be counted towards the supervised placement hours in core practitioner training
  • before starting client work, students should be assessed individually for their readiness to begin working with clients, including working remotely
  • due to the particular legislative, insurance and safeguarding considerations for international practice, students should only work with UK based clients
  • on adult focused accredited courses, OPT placement hours should only be carried out with adults, not with children and young people (under 16 years old
  • courses should have clear procedures for practice placements, including procedures for remote working and any requirements for homeworking
  • agreements between students, the placement provider and the course, should include details of where the responsibility lies for data protection for the student's remote practice, and of the placement's remote working support structures, including:
    • where OPT sessions will be conducted, with a clear policy for homeworking if relevant
    • if the placement will supply the student with appropriate equipment for conducting remote sessions. If not, a clear policy and procedure for the use of personal equipment that includes data security and protection is required.
    • how students can debrief after OPT sessions and where to take concerns about their remote client work
    • information about additional support services and onward referral pathways that students can share with OPT clients when required
    • procedures for when the technology fails during an OPT client session
    • how clients are assessed for their suitability to work with students, and for working online or over the phone (and for blended working if permitted by the placement and the course)

Supervision of OPT placement hours

Where remote placement hours are allowed, the mode of supervision should be the same as that for the client work, so a mix of face-to-face and OPT supervision will be needed.

All students will need appropriate supervision with a supervisor who has knowledge of, and experience in, delivering OPT sessions. The supervisor’s competence should be aligned with the BACP Supervision competence framework, which includes the OPT supervision competences.