For Criterion 8 we want you to demonstrate your knowledge and understanding by describing your way of working. Tell us about your rationale for practice, the role of your self-awareness as a practitioner and your understanding of issues of difference and equality.

The criterion is broken down into three sub-criteria. You may write to each sub-criteria separately under headings or address the whole criterion. The total word limit is 1,400 words. 

Whichever format you choose, make sure you reference each of the sub-criteria clearly so that the assessors can see where the evidence for each sits. But don't over reference - if you reference all three sub-criteria after a paragraph, it won’t provide a clear indication that you've understood the criteria.

We don't require case material as Criterion 9 provides an opportunity for you to illustrate your way of working in practice. We're looking for an overview of your approach for all of your practice and the different client groups that you work with.


8.1 Describe a rationale for your client work with reference to the theory or theories that inform all your practice

We want you to describe in your own words what you do and why you do it, with all your different client groups. You should explain the different theories that underpin your practice to show your conceptual understanding but you don't need to give a lengthy account of each theory. We have a good understanding of a broad range of theories and concepts but we need you to demonstrate your own understanding. You need to explain to us how you are using those theories rather than the theory itself.

When you've been qualified for some time, your approach is likely to have developed through your experience, CPD and any additional training. So while your past training is relevant and important, we're most interested in how you practice today. You may have trained and worked within one theoretical orientation, or your practice may incorporate several different approaches. Your rationale – and your way of working - is unique to you.

Linking theory and practice

The most common reasons for being deferred on this criterion include:

  • not providing a clear link between your way of working and the theory that informs your approach. Don't get too hung up on the theory - tell us what types of interventions you use with your clients and why.

  • if your rationale is based on different theories, not explaining how you bring these approaches together to form a consistent way of working. For example, saying ‘my core approach is person centred but I also use CBT techniques when appropriate’, doesn't explain how these two very different approaches are brought together to make a coherent whole or what ‘when appropriate’ actually means. 

    Or telling us you have a ‘toolkit’ of different techniques and approaches without saying what these are, what theories underpin them and why you might use them. It's important you tell us how any differences are reconciled and your rationale for using a particular approach or intervention.

If you describe yourself as 'integrative’, it may help to list the different words connected to your way of working - such as core conditions, self-actualisation, non-directive, transference, scaling, parent, adult, child, negative automatic thoughts, maintenance cycle. You need to consider the different theories that underpin these concepts and how they sit together - and with - your main theoretical base. Explain what prompts your use of interventions from these different approaches and how you bring them together to form a coherent approach.

Client groups

It's also important to consider all the different client groups you work with. For instance, if you work with individual adults and with children and young people, your way of working with these different groups is likely to differ in some ways. If you work with couples, families or groups, or if you practise in both short and long-term settings, you may modify your approach to fit the specific needs of these client groups. Tell us how you adapt your approach and any of the particular considerations that impact on your way of working with them. So for example, with children and young people, different developmental stages may inform your approach or use of interventions.

You should also consider any alternative ways you provide counselling, such as telephone counselling or any form of online working, and what impact the context or setting may have on your way of working.

It may help to describe your client groups and explain your ways of working to a colleague. They can help you articulate your approach by prompting you and asking questions. Talking into a recording device may also help in the early stages of writing.

Using theory words and jargon is only useful if their meaning is clear. You don't need to include quotes from literature sources or provide a bibliography.

8.2 Describe the place of your self-awareness within your way of working

Explain how you use yourself within the therapeutic relationship. Here it's important to show an awareness of your own process and describe how you work safely without your own reactions and experiences getting in the way.

You need to refer to your rationale described in 8.1. This may include using specific terms relating to self-awareness that are consistent with your theoretical approach, such as congruence, immediacy, reflexivity, projection, transference and countertransference. These words may be used to describe the nature and importance of your self-awareness and of how you observe and understand your use of self during the therapeutic process.

This list of words is not prescriptive and you don't have to use such terms. We're interested in how you see the role of your own self-awareness in your way of working in your own words.

8.3 Describe how issues of difference and equality impact upon the therapeutic relationship

Show your understanding of the impact that issues of difference and equality can have on the therapeutic relationship and how you consider these in your work. Explain how you, in a general sense, address such issues in your thinking and way of working.

We don’t want you to list many different issues saying ‘I have lots of experience of working with difference’ or ‘I treat everyone the same’. Nor do we want an example of some work you did with a client who was different from you, as we're looking for evidence of your awareness in relation to all your clients. You need to explain how you consider both explicit and implicit issues of difference and equality in your work, and in particular those that are relevant to your area of practice. For example, some issues are visible such as age, gender, race and physical disability. Others may be audible, like language, or perhaps invisible in the case of social class or religion.

You might consider the balance of power in the counselling relationship and how you seek to address this. This might include how clients see themselves in relation to the world and to you. You could also consider the similarities between yourself and your clients and how you guard against over identification.

To ensure consistency, it's important to consider all the different client groups you practise with and the different contexts or settings in which counselling takes place. So for example, a middle class male counsellor who works with predominately female children and young people within a deprived area may pay particular attention to age, gender, language, class and culture and to how these issues can potentially get in the way of the work if left unattended.

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Do I need to explain my theoretical approach for the assessor?

We have a good understanding of a broad range of theories and concepts but we need you to demonstrate your own understanding. You need to explain to us how you are using those theories rather than the theory itself.

How much detail do I need to go into when explaining my theoretical approach?

We want you to explain the main theories and concepts you use rather than just making a list of them. So if, for example, you say you're an integrative therapist, it wouldn't be sufficient to just list the three or four theories that you integrate. We don't expect you to go into great detail but we would like you to explain any acronyms or unusual abbreviations that you use in your way of working or place of work.

What form should the rationale for client work take? Is it a piece of academic writing?

Imagine you have a client ring you up in some distress. They say 'I've got this problem and I'd like to come for counselling but I've never had any counselling before. If I come to see you could you tell me how, you know, you work or could you tell me what to expect?' You'd probably be able to explain your way of working fairly easily and tell the client what you do in the counselling room. That's the sort of approach we're looking for.

My way of working is very varied and I use lots of different theories – how do I explain that?

You need to explain how you generally work with clients and what interventions you might make. If you’re using more than one theory, tell us how and why you move between those theories and what informs your choice of intervention.