The discussion around paid and unpaid work is of vital importance to us at BACP and it’s encouraging to see that the debate has been continued among our members following the publication of Sally’s article Working for free.

Thank you also to those of you who have got in touch with us to share your thoughts. By letting us know your opinion on this complex issue, you’re helping us to better understand the challenges you face so we can support you more effectively in your professional career.

It’s one of our strategic objectives as an organisation to improve your professional credibility and employment prospects. A large part of our work is dedicated to championing the counselling professions so that the work you do is recognised and appropriately rewarded. Here's some of the work we’re doing right now on your behalf, and our upcoming plans.

Increasing the paid workforce

We lobby on behalf of the counselling professions with Government, politicians, stakeholders and commissioners. Our work to secure a counsellor in every school in the UK and our tireless lobbying to support, protect and grow a counselling workforce within the IAPT programme are attempts to positively improve opportunities for paid employment for our members.

We’ve worked hard to make sure that BACP remains among the professional bodies recognised by the Department of Health in relation to standards for counsellor psychological therapists working in the NHS. If you’re a registered BACP member, you already meet the standards required for NHS employment in this role.

Registration and accreditation

Being on the BACP Register shows that you exceed the minimum level of competence that a client has a right to expect from a practitioner. From here, you have the option of applying for accredited status, which enables you to show that you have completed more hours of training, practice and supervision and have gone through our rigorous application and assessment process.

We understand the personal financial commitments that need to be made to pursue a career in the counselling professions, and the further commitments that seeking to gain accreditation demands.

Your choice of whether to apply for accreditation will be based on several factors, including what sector you wish to work in and what type of employment you’re looking for. Our role is to support and facilitate those of you who wish to demonstrate a level of competence above and beyond BACP registration, and this is where our accreditation scheme comes in. We know that working towards accreditation often means that you need to take volunteer roles to complete your placement hours.

Recruitment criteria is a matter for individual employers, and some employers choose to make BACP accreditation a requirement. However, we don’t think that not having BACP accreditation should be a barrier to paid employment. That’s why, in our lobbying to Government, our work with NHS employers and in our public engagement work, we promote being on the BACP Register as the kitemark of a trained, qualified counselling professional.

The value of volunteering

Some of you choose to offer your therapeutic skills in a voluntary or semi-voluntary capacity. For example, you may be in private practice and offer concessionary rates or free counselling to people on low incomes, or you may volunteer for a charity that helps people who would otherwise be unable to afford counselling. We’re incredibly grateful to you for the positive impact that your philanthropic work has on the lives of others. Your clients, and the communities you work in, are healthier because of the selfless work you do to help them.

The overnight removal of all volunteer positions would have quite serious unintended consequences for clients who rely on services and for those seeking placements to gain practice hours. However, we are committed to moving towards a position where qualified counsellors are paid for the work they do at every stage of their professional journey.

Following a motion at our AGM, we have stopped advertising unpaid posts through Therapy Today and our website.

Next steps

You may be aware that we are working on a collaborative project with UKCP and BPC to agree a shared competency framework for counselling and psychotherapy which will be linked to our membership and Register structure. This is the SCoPEd project. If this work is successful we'll be able to promote the respective skills of all our members from a solid evidence-base. The key here is to link client need to the therapist’s scope of practice. At the moment the lack of any underpinning framework makes this is very difficult to do.