We’re delighted that counselling and psychotherapy organisations are to be represented on the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) Advisory Group giving greater recognition to the crucial role counsellors and psychotherapists have within the NHS.

The move is something that we and other professional bodies have long called for.

It’s a really important development that signals a shift in the value of counselling and psychotherapy as part of the NHS mental health workforce. 

We hope having this representation will help as we continue to campaign for more paid training routes and employment opportunities within IAPT for all our members – registered or accredited –  and as we push for an increase in access to a wider choice of therapies through IAPT services.

The IAPT Advisory Group is part of the NHS England structure and is made up of representatives from the NHS, Health Education England, training providers and different modalities.

The representation of the professions will rotate between the professional organisations, which include us, Association of Christian Counsellors (ACC), British Psychoanalytic Council (BPC), National Counselling Society (NCS) and United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP).

We’ll be the first organisation to take up this role – and will be represented by our Chief Professional Standards Officer and Deputy Chief Executive Fiona Ballantine Dykes.

Important moment

Fiona said: “This is an important moment for the professions.

“It gives us a stronger position in which to help broaden opportunities and influence positive change in IAPT that will benefit both clients and our members.

“It shows there’s an increasing recognition within IAPT of the importance of counselling and psychotherapy. This comes at a particularly important time as the expansion of IAPT services is being accelerated.”

Last month we welcomed the news that NHS England and Improvement and Health Education England is investing in new High Intensity posts in IAPT services across England as part of a special initiative to accelerate the expansion of services.

These new jobs were announced after extensive conversations between NHS and IAPT representatives, ourselves and other professional bodies.

We’re continuing to work with NHS to explore opportunities for our members who want to work in the NHS. 

Removing barriers

An important ongoing project is focussed on removing barriers into IAPT which includes looking at training routes, payment, progression, opportunities and what information is needed to encourage and increase the numbers of counsellors and psychotherapists. 

We welcome the changes that are being made and the potential for future progress.

Kathy Spooner, CEO of ACC, added her voice on behalf of ACC members in welcoming these developments and the shared vision of greater employment opportunities for counsellors and psychotherapists within the NHS.

She added: “Importantly members of the public will also be able to benefit from the expertise and experience of counsellors and psychotherapists when accessing NHS services. It is heartening to be able to work collectively across our different membership bodies with mutual trust and respect." 

A spokesperson for BPC said: “BPC sees this as an important step towards improving and widening choice and access to all IAPT recommended therapies and a recognition of the value of the psychotherapy workforce in the NHS."

Meg Moss, CEO at NCS, said: “We want our members to have the widest possible choices and opportunities when it comes to the workplace, and we’re happy that counselling and psychotherapy are achieving greater potential recognition within IAPT through cooperation with ACC, BACP, and UKCP in this way.

"The work of our organisations doesn’t end here, though, and we’re hopeful that by working together across this area of shared interest we can further increase opportunities for work for all of those on an Accredited Register.

"We’re committed to improving opportunities for registered members whose practice is primarily autonomy-centred as well as those comfortable with the process-centred approach currently favoured within IAPT.”

Adam Jones, Policy and Public Affairs Manager at UKCP, said: “We are delighted that the counselling and psychotherapy professions will now be formally represented on the IAPT Expert Advisory Group, alongside last month’s announcement of new High Intensity roles.

"These results are testament to a highly collaborative model of working between the professional bodies, as well as with NHSE and HEE. These developments will be crucial to ensuring a genuine choice of therapies for the 1.7 million people referred to IAPT each year.