Remote working

Training hours

While your training institution is unable to provide in-classroom teaching, we’ll be accepting live online teaching that is facilitated by tutors in a virtual classroom towards your required training hours for membership and accreditation.

Placement hours

Requirements

The current 100 hours supervised practice requirement is a national standard for entry to the profession. We’re encouraging courses to be as flexible as possible to enable you to complete these hours, for example via an extension or mitigating circumstances policy.

Where possible, we’re asking courses to consider delaying placement start dates until 2021 to give you the best chance of getting started with clients face to face.

If this is not possible, we’ll allow online or phone sessions to count towards your qualifying hours on a temporary basis. However, it's up to your course provider, as well as your placement, to decide whether this aligns with their protocols and standards. Any practice hours that are not approved by your course cannot be counted towards accreditation.

During the pandemic we’re not putting any limit on the number of remote sessions allowed, provided you can return to face to face work as soon as is reasonable, practical and safe to do so.

Your remote placement hours must still be:

  • carried out with genuine clients, rather than peers from your course for example
  • in an appropriate setting with appropriate clients
  • assessed (or marked) as an integral part of your training
  • supervised

The focus of any training and practice should be on using online video platforms or the phone, not text-based or email counselling which requires additional skills and knowledge.

Competence

You may begin work with clients remotely if you’ve been taught and assessed in basic competence in online or phone working, including:

  • contracting
  • boundaries
  • risk assessment and managing risk
  • working with and managing disinhibition
  • working with silence (particularly for phone work)
  • working safely and securely online
  • confidentiality
  • relevant UK legislation, for example GDPR

You must also have appropriate supervision in place with a supervisor who has experience and confidence in working online or over the phone. We recommend a ratio of one hour's supervision to eight hours counselling, and that you speak with your supervisor fortnightly.

This is a short-term measure and does not mean that you’re qualified as an online counsellor. However, you may be able to continue to work in this way after completing your core training by taking further training to address any gaps in your competence.

Assessment of competence to work face to face with clients

As the pandemic continues, you may get to the end of your training with only online or phone placement hours. If you’re on an accredited or approved course, your training provider must ensure that your qualification includes assessment of your competence to work face to face. They may do this by extending the training period or adding an additional level of assessment for face to face working.

We’re strongly urging courses that aren’t BACP accredited or approved to follow a similar approach to ensure all students on core practitioner training courses will be competent and qualified to work face to face with clients on completion of their course.

This is necessary to:

  • set and uphold a consistent standard in line with our professional duty to protect the public
  • meet the requirements for BACP individual membership
  • maintain access to face to face employment opportunities and future career progression
  • ensure that those who qualify during the pandemic period are able to work within limits of competence in the future by being ‘competent to deliver the services being offered to at least fundamental professional standards or better’ (BACP Ethical Framework for the Counselling Professions, Working to professional standards, point 13)

If you’re unsure whether your course will qualify you to work face to face with clients, we recommend you discuss these issues with your training provider.

See our guidance to find out how your training provider may assess for competence to work face to face.

Working with children and young people training requirements

There is now more flexibility related to placement hours with the 16 to 18 age group, providing students have:

  • taken part in additional learning provided by training providers and been assessed as competent
  • a placement provider that supports this work and appropriate insurance is in place
  • a supervisor experienced in providing online or phone counselling
  • taken part in additional online training as recommended by us

Clients

Before you begin work with a new client, they must be assessed by an experienced practitioner in the placement for their suitability to work with a trainee and for working remotely.

You may need to register with the ICO if you’re using your own devices to practice.

We advise that you begin working with clients who will be able to attend face to face sessions once restrictions are lifted.

Clients must be based in the UK as there are additional legislative and insurance issues for practice in other countries.

If you're on a children and young people training course, we recommend that you only work with clients aged under 16 if you already have a relationship with them. You can undertake placement hours with the 16 to 18 age group if you meet the training requirements above.

Support

Your course and placement provider should work together to ensure that you have appropriate support for working remotely. You should:

  • have support in place for debriefing or taking concerns about your remote client work
  • know what to do and where to go if you have concerns about client risk
  • have access to a list of additional support services and referral pathways that can be shared with clients when needed
  • have online or phone counselling sessions adequately spaced to take account of the intensity of working in this way

Supervision

In principle, having supervision online can count towards your required hours, but check the requirements of your training organisation.

You may feel a need for additional supervisory support during this time. We’d encourage you to discuss and agree your supervision requirements with your training course, supervisor and placement provider if necessary.

Peer supervision alone is not recommended for trainees.

Returning to face to face training and working

Your course and placement provider should enable you to return to face to face work as soon as possible - but only when practical and safe to do so.

You and your placement should consider the ethical implications of asking you to undertake face to face work, particularly in relation to your health, self-care needs and fitness to practise, and what's in the best interest of each client group.

If you have specific health concerns, are caring for vulnerable people or have any concerns about the safety of a placement (for example not able to socially distance), you should not be forced back to face to face work.

When considering whether to see clients face to face, you can refer to the Ethical Framework, in particular Care of self as a practitioner, point 91:

We will take responsibility for our own wellbeing as essential to sustaining good practice with our clients by:

  • monitoring and maintaining our own psychological and physical health, particularly that we are sufficiently resilient and resourceful to undertake our work in ways that satisfy professional standards