BACP Chair Andrew Reeves shares his personal views on the Scope of Practice and Education project (SCoPEd)

“SCoPEd came from a hugely important collaboration with two other professional bodies in our field - UKCP and BPC. Many who have been members for a long time will relate to the misery of professional organisations fighting each other and the cost that had for our profession and our clients. I unconditionally support the collaboration.

“SCoPEd itself, in principle, is a great idea - trying to make sense of the mixed training field and taking a step to help others understand it too, including funders and employers. I agree with some of the criticisms: is the language too medical? - absolutely and this would need to change (I have worked for 35 years outside of a strict medical model) and I disagreed with the titles that were used, and how they were used.

“My initial training as a counsellor was on a Level 4 programme and it was one of the best courses I have ever done. I will fight vehemently against hierarchy and understand how SCoPEd wrongly slipped into that frame. That would need to change.

“Yet the other side of the coin is that many who have written to me saying the status quo simply isn't working have often been those people who have so strongly criticised SCoPEd, without suggesting an alternative. The majority of criticism has called for it to be scrapped, but so few have offered anything in its place. We need to move forward from where we are as a profession - things like accreditation are being reviewed, the membership offer is being reviewed, but bigger things need to happen too. I would have loved a resolution for the AGM this year that demanded BACP do something different.

“We had to begin somewhere and take a risk with something - similarly to client work itself: it is about trying things out and, if they don't work, consider why they haven't worked and how it might be adapted.

I think the first iteration of the document is far from perfect and has some inherent problems to deal with, but that can be done with reasoned debate and discussion. Scrapping it entirely and starting afresh is not without major problems: we could very easily be left behind (again).

“Consulting with 50,000 members from a blank slate is one thing, but they are not the only stakeholders here: there are hundreds and hundreds of training organisations, as well as employers (if we really want to make headway for fair pay for counselling). SCoPEd, even in its current form, has already led to a direct invite for our involvement with workforce planning for the NHS, for example.

“People know it is a document that needs a lot of work, but it is being perceived as an important statement of intent that we are trying to sort out the mess we have around training standards etc. We seriously shouldn't underestimate what can be achieved here if we work on building something.

“In my view, consultation is critical but effective consultation requires something to consult on. Simply going out with an open question would, methodologically and logistically, be hugely problematic and would be potentially hugely expensive, with no guarantee of meaningful gain. At least this document gives us something to work on.

“I know some people have concerns about the methodology, and the principle of competency frameworks per se. While I have taught research methods to Masters and doctoral counselling students for years, I cannot claim to be an expert on the Roth and Pilling approach. But people have problems, philosophically with all sorts of methods in research; that could be an endless argument.

“As for the collaboration, I will argue with every breath to keep that going, and not because I am 'proud' of it - although I am delighted that so many committed people have made it happen. It is a hugely important development that will, I am confident, develop over time to bring in a full range of stakeholders and organisations. We have moved from people refusing to sit in the same room as each other. Do not underestimate the politics in our profession; that we could all simply sit around a table and make it work is simply not the case - relationships take time to build and developments happen in incremental steps.

I have been a therapist for 30 years - anyone who thinks we would be better off without this collaboration and to start afresh, in my view, does not take into account the catastrophic damage done to our profession over many years and how that has caused us to be where we are. I'll stop there because you've probably heard enough from me. It will ultimately be for members to decide, but I personally can't support the idea of scrapping SCoPEd because it would, in my view, set us back not to square one, but to an even more precarious place - I have seen it happen before.

“I would like to encourage members’ constructive, challenging and imaginative ideas about how we can build on this starting point.”

See more about the SCoPEd project