Therapy and Politics – Acknowledging the Relationship and Owning the Discomfort

Here we are on the brink of one of the most extraordinary and important elections for a generation. Our society is almost unrecognisable from that of twenty years ago, as we were approaching the millennium. Technology now connects us inextricably, and I think that this ability to connect with one another has driven great movements, promoting voices and/or influencing positive policy change for historically oppressed groups including LGBTQ+ communities and people of colour. Alongside this has been the undeniable rise of right-wing politics in the mainstream, Trump, Johnson and Farage gaining popularity, and right-wing ideas influencing the direction of this country, from Brexit to the NHS.

The questions that I can see being mooted amongst therapists, both overtly, and more indirectly, are: what role does politics have for therapy and for therapists? Should we, and indeed can we, separate ourselves from the political? What impact does our political activity have on clients?

I see a great deal of discomfort on therapist forums as we broach the political. Are we “sullying” the profession by talking about party politics? Is being vocal about our political allegiances going to be damaging to our clients? Is there an ethical difference, for example, between my saying “I am anti-austerity.” and saying “I am going to vote Labour.”? Is one less ‘professional’ to admit to than the other? Are they both okay? Or should we not be talking about politics at all?

I might as well come right out and say it: my personal opinion is that we cannot separate the political from the professional. It is my view that in counselling and psychotherapy, the political runs to the very heart of what we do.

Austerity impacts on the lives of clients, it impacts on the counselling services on offer, and it impacts on the lives of therapists too.

IAPT is political. We need to talk about the fact that, according to a new survey, 41% of IAPT workers are being asked to manipulate performance data. All of this is inherently political and if we are not talking about it, we are missing an opportunity to challenge harms which are being enacted on clients and on the profession.

The voluntary culture of counselling is political, as is the accreditation of uncapped courses. SCoPEd is extremely political. Ethics, and the therapeutic values we uphold, from autonomy to authenticity to respect are steeped in politics. This profession does not exist in a vacuum, it exists in a deeply political context.

BUT I have experienced significant discomfort about it. And I am not alone. When I trained as a therapist, I probably thought to myself “It is best that my clients never know my political views, and therefore they should not be shared publicly”. And while, of course, a therapy session is not an appropriate place to whip out a party political leaflet, I have a much more nuanced view of how we manage the uncomfortable marriage of therapeutic neutrality (if such a thing exists, or even ought to exist), and our wider political selves.

My clients, past, present or future, could Google me. If they did, they would probably read about my views on SCoPEd. They would probably read that I oppose it on the grounds that it promotes inequality, and further espouses an elitism, which I believe already exists in the profession. They would read that I disagree with the way in which it encourages a system of unpaid labour post-qualification, and they could probably make some pretty accurate assumptions about my political views.

They might also note that I have joined the PCSR steering group, an organisation whose stated aims include challenging racism, sexism, homophobia, classism and all discrimination, as well as “developing ideas about how economic, political, ecological and cultural issues can be integrated into theory and practice”.

These are authentic parts of who I am, and they follow me into the therapy room whether I choose to hide them or not.

So no, I don’t introduce myself to clients by outlining my political opinions, and no, I do not judge clients who express different views to my own. But I acknowledge that we all see political issues in the therapy room every day. From the economic, to the social, to national politics, it appears in the therapeutic relationship and we work with it in our practices whether we name it or not.

Recently, when the Met police were outrageously arresting Extinction Rebellion protestors engaged in peaceful protest, UKCP erroneously released a statement which suggested that members who were arrested for peaceful protest could be bringing the profession into disrepute. This created understandable challenge from members, and the UKCP later said that the statement had been sent out in error. It seems to me that the fact that it was written at all says enough about the attitude to activism by some in the profession, particularly certain professional bodies. Incidentally, BACP were unable to categorically state that arrest for peaceful protest would not bring the profession into disrepute, whereas NCS were immediately forthcoming with a categorical statement that arrest for peaceful protest would not constitute disrepute.

I am concerned about these mixed messages, and lack of clarity, not least because autonomy and authenticity are central values, and ‘professionalism’ in counselling and psychotherapy needs to embody the values we espouse, unequivocally. Professionalism must not become synonymous with compliance. If we were not able to challenge injustice, or question the status quo, our profession would not be able to move forward at all. Indeed, there would have been no Carl Rogers, whose development of person centred therapy challenged psychoanalytic dominance and was borne of a period of political and social change. Carl Rogers described himself as a rebel, and his courage, integrity and tenacity to challenge the status quo is widely celebrated. In my opinion, now is not the time to lose that courage.

I think this is a difficult area for many therapists and what I have seen recently expressed about party politics seems to confirm this (not to mention the response by many to the challenge to the SCoPEd framework). I think we need to own that discomfort, name it and feel it, but we also need to acknowledge the centrality of politics to our profession, how it impacts us at every level. And therapists as a whole need to be talking about it. We don’t have to agree, but we need to be able to discuss. If we ignore politics, it won’t cease to exist, in therapy or in our lives.

So this is an invitation to therapists, and clients, and supervisors, and tutors (and whoever else is uncomfortably straddling political spheres and the world of counselling and psychotherapy) to see, touch, explore and own the huge area on the Venn diagram where these worlds overlap. It’s okay to talk about it, as much or as little as feels comfortable, it’s important to understand it, and in my view, it’s vital we don’t pretend that it doesn’t exist.

The Latest Twist on the SCoPEd-a-coaster

It has been an eventful ride since I last updated these pages. I’m sure many readers of my blog will already know that our resolution asking BACP to discontinue its association with SCoPEd achieved an amazing 1780 votes, amounting to 3.5% of the membership. I fully expect (when the BACP finally respond to my request for the historical voting figures) that our resolution will have attracted the highest ever number of votes on a resolution.

An unprecedented membership engagement! Member interest clearly demonstrated. So when do we get to vote on the resolution at AGM? Well, we don’t. Two years ago, a resolution passed which asked the BACP to stop advertising volunteer roles on their platforms, the BACP said they “believed it was not the solution for addressing the wider employment issues.” and were clearly unhappy with its passing. The following year, the bar had been raised from 25 votes (around 0.05%) to reach AGM voting, to 5% of the membership, or roughly 2500 votes. 100x greater than the previous target.

To give an indication of the impossibility of the 5% target. Here are the statistics from the 2017 resolution which appears to have precipitated SCoPEd:

2017 resolution 4 part 1

2017 resolution 4 part 2

So at this crucial second stage of voting, (having received the 0.05% needed to get to this stage), this resolution passed with approximately 1.89% of membership support. If this is indicative of the levels of general membership engagement, our 3.5% was spectacular, and 5% seems an impossible and prohibitive target. It should be highlighted that the purpose of the first stage is to indicate membership interest in the topic. If members haven’t demonstrated their interest over the last few months, I don’t know what ever will.

In spite of the disappointing result, a great deal of good has come from the campaign. The original implementation date for SCoPEd was expected to be spring 2019, and I believe this period of ongoing consultation, and addition of…erm…one person centred therapist to the psychoanalytic-leaning ERG is, in no small part a result of the organised way we have been able to hold the BACP to account. That is a massive achievement in itself.

I want to talk a little bit about the way in which the SCoPEd discussion has played out on social media. It seems to me, in parallel to national events, the emergence of SCoPEd has exposed deep divides within the profession, and, perhaps surprisingly, those divides have translated to some quite uncomfortable exposure of the professional shadow, in my view.

There has been a lot of ‘othering’ of colleagues online during the discussions around SCoPEd. It seems to me that each side sees the other as outrageous and wrong, when actually, I suspect we all actually want what is best for clients, and need to develop a respectful way to articulate our differences, and listen to others regarding the ways this might be achieved. I have seen glimpses of respectful discussion, for example, in my online conversations with Andrew Reeves, but not nearly enough. I think it is the responsibility of everyone to do better.

I would particularly like to highlight the weaponising of armchair diagnosis to discredit colleagues; having been on the receiving end of this myself, I can tell you it is the most horrendous abuse of power, and has been deeply hurtful to me personally. I have seen speculation about unconscious motivations appear on both sides of the debate. I would like to see something introduced to the BACP ethical framework, similar to the APA’s Goldwater Rule, which specifically addresses public diagnosis and speculation on the psychological processes of others. I think that publicly pathologising to discredit those legitimately seeking to bring an issue to a membership vote is a serious ethical breach, which raises questions about our attitude to pathology and to activism as a profession.

In this, I also note the position of power that the BACP finds itself in when it assumes the responsibility to moderate online debate. It took the BACP days to close the thread on their Facebook group, by which time there had been 109 comments. In my view, this is an enabling position which amounts to complicity in contributing to my personal distress. The Psychotherapy and Counselling Union have expressed concern about the BACP’s handling of this issue on my behalf. The response from the organisation so far has been wholly unsatisfactory in my opinion. I will happily share their response on my blog, once I have pre-warned the BACP of my desire to do so, and offered them the chance to make further comment.

After the resolution results came through, I received an email inviting me to join the SCoPEd team for a meeting, in order to start a dialogue. I have not had positive experiences of one-on-one engagement with the BACP with regards to SCoPEd and the power imbalance I am likely to experience in attending such a meeting by myself is befitting of the power issues inherent in the whole process of SCoPEd. I have not said yes or no to such a meeting yet; I am considering my options, and of course will provide an update on this either here, or on other social media.

I want to give my heartfelt thanks to Tara Shennan, who has also faced a lot of flak in putting this important topic to a members’ vote, as well as the brilliant organisations Counsellors Together UK, Psychotherapy and Counselling Union, Psychotherapists and Counsellors for Social Responsibility and The Alliance for Counselling and Psychotherapy, who have been so generous with their time and support throughout this process.

The road does not end here. The BACP have expressed a desire for a dialogue, and I will do my best to make sure that can happen in a fair and safe way. There is a lot more campaigning to do; I await the second iteration with interest, and there are many of us on hand to ensure it receives the careful analysis and scrutiny it requires.

SCoPEd: Talkin’ ‘Bout a Resolution

As many people reading this will no doubt already be aware, Tara Shennan and I have submitted a BACP AGM resolution asking BACP to end its association with the SCoPEd project and that any future move towards developing competency framework must be undertaken with full membership consultation from the outset.

So what has led to this unprecedented action? The more I have dealt with the BACP, the more frustrated I have become by their seemingly pre-rehearsed lines and steadfast refusal to entertain the idea that SCoPEd is in fact not in the best interests of clients, therapists, the BACP or the profession. There is another Q&A planned for BACP members, and I fully expect to hear the same lines we have heard over and over again: ‘entry points’, ‘evidence-based’, ‘creating opportunities’, ‘we got the language wrong’, ‘we’re listening’ and so on, without directly addressing any of the problems that have been raised with these lines, such as the disprovability of the ‘evidence’, the fact that ‘accredited therapist’ is not an entry point, the lack of evidence that this will create jobs, and so on.

I haven’t taken the decision to submit the resolution lightly; I am aware that the profession I love is at an extremely difficult point in its history, and that the result of this resolution represents a crossroads for BACP, its members, clients and the wider profession. It is rather surreal to find myself so centrally involved in this pivotal moment. But I can see the crossroads ahead, and I can see the path that the BACP are aiming for. It is a path which forces psychotherapists to accept an increasing alignment with the medical model, that casts counselling as psychotherapy’s poor relation and dismisses counsellors as incapable of some of the most basic therapeutic skills. It is a path of IAPT, of elitism, of hierarchy, power and endless volunteering. It is not a path I am willing to let therapy go down.

The first round of resolution voting opens on 19th August and closes 10th September. If you are a BACP member, you will receive an email from BACP (or someone from BACP, or mi vote) providing you with a unique voting link. This vote will decide whether or not the resolution will get through to an AGM vote. If you are a BACP member (including student member) we really, really, need your vote on this because the bar has been set very high – we need 5% of the entire BACP membership to vote for our resolution. That is approximately 2500 members. Unlike BACP, we do not have means to contact all of the members to make them aware of the importance of this vote. So please spread the word, amongst colleagues, friends, fellow students, at networking meetings, conferences, on social media, please keep talking #SCoPEd and help us overcome the massive imbalance of power we are facing in this campaign.

The second round of voting is the actual AGM vote. Again you will receive an email from the BACP or mi vote with a unique link to cast your vote. Online voting for the AGM opens 1st October and closes 4th November. If you are intending to attend the AGM, you may vote in person instead. Rather than needing a particular percentage, for this round we need a simple majority. This means we need to get more votes in favour of the resolution than there are votes against. Again, we need everyone’s support and vote in this round. BACP will be doing everything they can to encourage people to vote against the resolution, so it is hugely important to make your voice heard in this, the deciding vote.

If we are successful in securing a majority in the AGM round, BACP will be legally bound to implement the resolution and discontinue their association with the project. This would be a fantastic result for therapists, clients and for counselling and psychotherapy. It will also be an important message for the membership bodies to hear – the bodies must not lose sight of their responsibility to members, and we will make our voices heard.

For those who haven’t seen it (and even for those who have!) here is the wording of our resolution:

Summary

It is proposed that the BACP discontinue their association with the SCoPEd project, which portrays counsellors as less competent than psychotherapists and questions their capacity for independent judgement. Furthermore, we propose that any future move towards developing a competency framework must be undertaken with member-consultation from the outset.

 

Explanatory Statement

We propose that BACP discontinue their association with the controversial SCoPEd project, and that any future move to develop a competency framework should be undertaken with member-consultation from the outset.

Communication with members has been poor, and many members are unhappy with the way the research has been conducted. The joint project between BACP, UKCP and BPC was developed without any initial member-consultation. The majority of the expert reference group are psychoanalyst/psychodynamic therapists, and several modalities are unrepresented, including person-centred therapy.

The tiered system presented in the project favours trainings associated with two of the bodies involved with the project – UKCP and BPC. While the authors of this resolution do not suggest any impropriety from researchers, we suggest the absence of declarations of potential conflicts of interest is a serious ethical limitation of the research.

The SCoPEd framework places counsellors and psychotherapists on a competency continuum which deskills counsellors, and is not reflective of the ways in which members work in reality.

Claims that SCoPEd will provide clarity for clients, therapists and other stakeholders are called into question by members who report feeling confused by the project. The SCoPEd team have said the terms ‘counsellor’ and ‘psychotherapist’ are not titles, while presumably the evidence they draw upon in the research would use these terms as titles.

BACP have said that the tiers are ‘entry points’, yet ‘Advanced Counsellor’ is only attainable for the vast majority of members through accreditation or equivalent post-qualification experience, which is not an entry point. Facebook chats and Therapy Today articles appear to have only obfuscated further. Members are concerned about what SCoPEd means for the future, because the BACP are not providing clarity about this.

Additionally, concerns have been expressed about the use of medicalised language in the framework, which does not reflect the diversity of modalities and therapeutic approaches amongst members. This comes as movement to challenge the medicalisation of distress gains traction in the field (See: Power Threat Meaning Framework, Johnstone and Boyle, 2018).

If this resolution is successful, the BACP will discontinue its association with the SCoPEd project. This will mean that the tiered framework will not be implemented for BACP members, and the BACP will not spend members’ fees and resources on its further development or implementation. The authors of this resolution propose that this is in the interests of the organisation, its members and clients.

If this resolution is unsuccessful, we do not know what this will mean for the future of the BACP or the profession. At the very least, it is likely that courses leading to UKCP and BPC membership will be seen as preferable from the perspective of new students, employers and perhaps even insurers, since SCoPEd declares therapists entering the profession with those qualifications to possess higher competencies around assessment, ethics, ruptures, unconscious processes and more. The authors suggest that these propositions are damaging, do not reflect the realities of training and practice, and are based on flawed research.

 

And for anyone who got the reference in the title, or didn’t but is curious anyway, here’s a bonus bit of listening: Talkin’ ‘Bout a Revolution

 

The Medicalisation of Therapy – What can we infer from the language of SCoPEd?

The recent conferences and events highlighting the impact of IAPT, and discussions around the medicalisation and industrialisation of therapy on social media, have left me wishing to directly address the significance of the medicalised language of SCoPEd.

The psychoanalytic skew of SCoPEd’s expert reference group has been well documented, and this apparent bias is reflected in the tone and language of the framework itself. Strikingly, the language appears to become increasingly medicalised the further up the competency continuum you go, suggesting that an approach to therapy which aligns itself with a medical model is associated with higher levels of competency.

Some key examples can be found in section 2: Assessment (see below)

scoped assessment

The reality is that many non-‘advanced’ and ‘advanced’ counsellors are working at column C on this, and many other therapists, from all columns, reject diagnostic models altogether. The debates around pathologising distress are well-known, and the SCoPEd group seem to have completely disregarded how limiting, exclusive and irrelevant this framework is to large sections of the profession, and clients too.

Of course, the SCoPEd framework is an outrageous misrepresentation of counselling and psychotherapy theory and practice. So what have the BACP said they will do about this, in response to an unprecedented tidal wave of criticism? Well, technical group chair Fiona Ballantine Dykes has stated that they plan to recruit new members to the ERG to help with the language.

There are some pretty significant problems with this plan. Firstly, the research has been done. Presumably the findings are based on the research, ergo the language is a reflection of what they have found in the research. So how can they change the language without changing the research?

Secondly, this is about more than language. This isn’t just a few misplaced words. The entire thrust of the research is about differentiating counselling from psychotherapy, and enshrining diagnostic-leaning trainings in the process. Take a look at the placement requirements for the top tier:

scoped placement

We are talking about a requirement for psychiatric placement experience, and at the very least, mental health familiarisation, even for the middle tier (as an entry point). So therapists, including many of a person-centred orientation, who reject the concept of therapy as a branch of mental healthcare, will never achieve the top tier. As a reminder, these titles are not owned by anyone; what right do these organisations have to define what we do?

I am deeply concerned that the same three organisations behind SCoPEd are instrumental in the development of the new All-Party Parliamentary Group. When a group with such rigid and inaccurate ideas about therapy, who have continued to steamroller a project without member-support, get their foot in the door of parliament, I think serious questions need to be raised about what they are doing, and why.

Important: Tara Shennan and I have submitted a BACP AGM resolution for the discontinuation of BACP’s association with the SCoPEd project. If you are a member of the BACP please vote for the resolution when the voting opens on 19th August, and again at the second stage in October. BACP resolutions are really difficult to get passed, and we need a lot of support now and going forward. Follow me @aclientfirst Counsellors Together UK @UK_Counsellors and the Alliance for Counselling and Psychotherapy @Alliance4CP to keep up-to-date with the campaign.

The BPS Psychotherapy Section Conference 2019 – The Outsider: Inclusion and Exclusion in the Therapeutic Relationship

Colleagues at the British Psychological Society’s Psychotherapy Section have offered me an exciting opportunity to collaborate and work alongside the BPS Psychotherapy Section, helping to guide and contribute to their position on SCoPEd. The prospect of working with BPS psychotherapy section is particularly attractive to me because of their commitment to the values I believe therapy must continue to embody – diversity, respect, equality and the value of relationship. Held in London on 18th October 2019, The BPS Psychotherapy Section’s 2019 conference “The Outsider: Inclusion and Exclusion in the Therapeutic Relationship” offers a number of £20 reduced-price tickets, both to students and to people who self-identify as belonging to marginalised groups. I think this is a fantastic way to honour the philosophy of the conference, promote inclusivity, and provide an opportunity for the voices of a diverse group of colleagues to be heard.Additionally, 10 FREE tickets are being offered to students who wish to present a poster on any topic relating to psychotherapy. I love that students are being encouraged to share their work and passions in this way!Please read the information on the conference below, which has been written by the BPS Psychotherapy section chair-elect Dr Phil Cox, and get involved! Hope to see you there!

Psychotherapy Section’s 2019 Annual Conference

Welcome to the Psychotherapy Section’s exciting and innovative 2019 Annual Conference, entitled: The Outsider: Inclusion and Exclusion in the Therapeutic Relationship. Join us in a day of exploration with the Psychotherapy Section during which we seek to deepen our understanding of the complexity of the therapeutic relationship and the unconscious barriers that exclude outsider and marginalised groups.To remain philosophically aligned with the conference topic, there are reduced price tickets to just £20.00 for those who self-identify as belonging to marginalised groups, and a number of students. 18 October 2019 9:00 am – 4:30 pm, BPS Offices, 30 Tabernacle Street, London, EC2A 4UE https://www.bps.org.uk/events/outsider-inclusion-and-exclusion-therapeutic-relationship

Free conference entry for 10 poster presenters

We are giving away up to 10 conference free entry tickets to people who would like to present a poster about any topic linked to psychotherapy. Posters can be for any stage of the research process. I (Phil) can offer support and guidance on how to prepare or present a poster. Students on any counselling/psychotherapy or psychology course are particularly welcome – we are not looking for a work of art, just to support you. You’ll have the opportunity to stand by your poster during breaks and answer questions – it’s a great way to develop how to explain your research and ideas – it’s also great exam/viva voce practice. Feel free to contact me PsycheLetter@bps.org.uk

Dr Philip Cox (D.Psych, CPsychol, EuroPsy)

HC

PC reg, BACP (Snr Accred)

BPS Register of Applied Psychology Practice Supervisors

BPS Psychotherapy Section Chair-elect

BPS Psychotherapy Section e-letter editor & Facebook co-editor

Psychotherapy & Counselling Union consultant for professional complaints

SCoPEd – Potential Conflicts of Interest

Something has dawned on me today that has really shed new light on SCoPEd and raised new questions about its reason for being. It has been staring me in the face, yet I have overlooked it. I have spent months examining how SCoPEd is unethical/flawed/wrong, but I have paid little attention to why these three professional bodies would get together and create a piece of research that is so lacking in rigour, and so out-of-touch with the realities of practice.

I cannot pretend to know for certain the motivations of the organisations behind SCoPEd, however, I can highlight potential conflicts of interest in the research that should be at the forefront of our attention.

The SCoPEd framework places UKCP and BPC courses at the upper end of the competency continuum. It places competencies such as “Ability to assess and formulate when working with chronic and enduring mental health conditions” (2.1b); “Ability to demonstrate the skills and critical awareness of unconscious process and ethical understanding, to work therapeutically with ruptures and difficulties within the relationship” (3.10) and “Ability to evidence reflexivity, self-awareness and the therapeutic use of self to work at depth in the therapeutic relationship and the therapeutic process” (5.1c) solely in the column describing those who enter the profession through a UKCP or BPC course.

An employer reading this is likely to want to hire somebody with a UKCP or BPC membership, since they can do anything a counsellor can do and more. A client reading this might look for a therapist with a UKCP or BPC membership. And somebody wishing to train is likely to want to do a course which will grant them UKCP or BPC membership because they want to be attractive to employers.

So therapists, aware of the scarcity of paying jobs in the profession, are likely to feel more inclined to pay UKCP/BPC training establishments to train them, and pay the two organisations to accredit them for years to come. This illustrates a potential financial incentive on the parts of UKCP and BPC to reach the findings presented in the SCoPEd framework.

Should organisations be carrying out research where there is a potential financial conflict of interest for them? The BACP’s Research Ethics Guidelines (2018) says:

“Researchers should be particularly alive to the risk of a conflict arising between the best interests of the participants and the personal interests of the researcher or the organisation for whom the researcher works. Personal or work interests (such as financial considerations) should never be allowed to override the researcher’s duties and obligations to the participants and such conflicts of interest must be identified, declared and addressed immediately in order to avoid poor practice or potential misconduct.”

Neither the SCoPEd framework document nor the SCoPEd methodology document declare or address the potential conflict of interest outlined above.

The World Health Organisation, in their 2009 document Research ethics committees: Basic concepts for capacity-building raise particular concern about the potential of financial conflicts of interest to influence the findings of research. They say:

“Financial interests may threaten the integrity of the research process. They may influence the design of the study, the way it is conducted, the interpretation of research data and the presentation of the final results.
Empirical studies have established a statistically significant link between source of funding and research outcome. Industry-sponsored research is more likely than non-commercially-sponsored research to lead to a conclusion that a new therapy is better than the standard therapy. There is systematic evidence of under-reporting of negative studies. There is also evidence of conscious manipulation of research questions and dissemination of results. Unfortunately, financial interests have also led academic researchers to put their name on publications written by specialist agencies working directly for the sponsor of the study.”

I am sure that these organisations would deny that their motivation for SCoPEd is one of financial gain. And I’m sure that the BACP would deny my suspicion that there is a political motivation for aligning themselves with these organisations. However, no matter what their motivations are, it is not good practice to fail to declare conflicts of interest in research, and the BACP’s own research ethics guidelines say so in black and white. Coupled with the undeclared bias in research methodology which I have already spoken about, the SCoPEd project is looking on really, really shaky ethical ground to me.

A Deeper Look at SCoPEd: So, What is an ‘Advanced Counsellor’ Anyway?

In the April edition of Therapy Today, the BACP tell us: “The SCoPEd project is looking at entry points to the professions. […] SCoPEd will not limit or devalue your individual journey. This draft framework is not designed to look at therapists beyond entry point. ”

So according to BACP, these are entry-points, and perhaps through some unspecified advancement, counsellors may progress to become psychotherapists (though where this leaves those who possess the skills attributed to a psychotherapist, yet wish to remain a counsellor, we are yet to discover).

But now at least, we know that the terms refer to entry-points. Clarity at last? I’m not so sure. Looking again at training routes into the profession through the SCoPEd lens, I can clearly see a door marked “counsellor” – it is the door I entered through, with my Level 7 postgraduate diploma in ‘Counselling and Psychotherapy’, which is BACP accredited. I can also see a door marked “psychotherapist” – the UKCP website lists a range of level 7 courses which meet their requirement of 4 years minimum training and 450 client hours (see below – image taken from SCoPEd Competency Framework) But where is the door marked “advanced counsellor”? As you can see, in the table below, advanced counsellor is split into two sections – “accredited counsellor” and “psychotherapeutic counsellor”. So let’s look at both of those.

It’s difficult to argue that ‘accredited counsellor’ is an entry point. The BACP themselves stipulate that at least 150 of the hours submitted for accreditation are accrued “post-qualification”. I’m not sure what it is even doing in a framework purporting to map entry-points to the profession.

What about psychotherapeutic counsellor? Looking at the training requirements for this ‘entry-point’, we need to find a three-year-long (at least 450 face-to-face taught hours), level six course, which requires 450 client hours. I’ve done some digging around, and I haven’t yet found a course that meets these requirements at the point of qualification. The closest courses I can find are the CPCAB diploma in psychotherapeutic counselling, which is a level 5 course (I wonder if the students on these courses are aware they will not meet the requirements set out in SCoPEd to call themselves a psychotherapeutic counsellor) and select few other courses, including a course at the Scarborough training centre, SCPTI, which offers a level 6 advanced diploma, however this only requires 250 client hours, still not meeting the SCoPEd requirements for this entry-point. It seems an extra 200 hours are required by UKCP post-qualification, so again, not an entry point.

I invite anyone who knows of a course that meets the below requirements to point me in the right direction – I genuinely wish to understand how and why advanced counsellor is considered an entry-point into the profession, and whether this is an accessible entry-point for trainees. I feel quite sure that those on BACP accredited courses will not meet the requirements for psychotherapeutic counsellor or psychotherapist (even if the BACP accredited course bears the name ‘psychotherapy’), and that is confusing to say the least.

academic requirements scoped

I think this inconsistency between the public message and what is presented in the framework is important to highlight. To say “it is not designed to look at therapists beyond entry point.” just is not true, otherwise “accredited counsellor” would not feature in the framework at all. So it seems to me like ‘advanced counsellor’ is not an entry-point.

I would really like to see some clarity from the professional bodies about the purpose of SCoPEd. Is it really to map entry-points? If so, why any mention of this middle, seemingly unattainable tier?

This framework will affect therapists, it will affect our practices, and most importantly, it will affect clients. That’s the reason I keep chipping away at this stone. I don’t trust this framework to do clients any good, and I don’t think any project with these kinds of mixed-messages and inconsistencies can be a sound basis for policy change.