Working online and over the phone requires additional knowledge and different skills to those needed for face-to-face (in-person) practice, so practitioners working remotely should ensure that they are:

‘……. competent to deliver the services being offered to at least fundamental professional standards or better’ (Ethical Framework, Working to professional standards, point 13)

In February 2021, we published the 'Online and phone therapy (OPT) competence framework'. These competences set out the knowledge, understanding and skills required for OPT practice.

The 'OPT training curriculum', which is underpinned by the OPT competences, was published in May 2021. The curriculum is aimed at training providers delivering OPT training. It has different options for student counsellors and qualified practitioners with varying levels of existing competence, ranging from initial core training to an extended course, or top-up training and CPD.

You can use our OPT competence framework to map your existing competence and identify further training and development needs. If you feel you're competent in all areas of the framework, you don't need to undertake further training. However, if there are any gaps in your knowledge or skills, you'll need to take some additional training or CPD to comply with the Ethical Framework. We don't currently have an OPT course accreditation scheme so, if you intend to undertake formal OPT training, we recommend you look for a course informed by our OPT competences or curriculum.

The speed of IT development means that any published guidance can only reflect a specific moment in time, so practitioners should regularly explore and assess technological innovations and their potential impact. It is a practitioner's responsibility to continually update their practice with regard to OPT competences to ensure they are ‘working to professional standards’ (Ethical Framework, Good practice points 13 and 14).

Open University 'How to do counselling online' primer

There are several short OPT CPD courses designed for those already working remotely or to supplement formal OPT training. These include some 'emergency' trainings designed to help practitioners upskill in response to the pandemic.

The ‘How to do counselling online: A coronavirus primer’, produced by The Open University in partnership with BACP in April 2020, was specifically developed to enable practitioners to move their practices online when face-to-face work was suddenly not possible. This primer was not intended to act as a replacement for a full OPT training course but can still be used to supplement OPT training.