We (the BPC, BACP and UKCP) promised to share with you the recurrent themes of the feedback we received in the recent SCoPEd consultation as soon as we could. As mentioned, we had some 3,000 individual comments on top of some 7,000 responses to the questionnaire. It seems, however, that we haven’t made it clear enough what this project is for and how it came about. So let’s start there with some important context and clarity.
Many of you who have been members and Registrants of our three organisations for a while will remember a time not so long ago when the very idea of BACP, BPC and UKCP even speaking to one another would be hard to imagine. After three years of developing collaboration we are finding our feet based firmly on what unites us rather than what divides us.
We have joined together as three of the leading counselling and psychotherapy organisations to improve access for clients/service users and optimise their wellbeing. We are committed to advocating for and promoting client/service user choice. We are passionate about what our profession stands for – a united force for society. Therefore, we wish to be seen as change agents, working jointly because the challenges confronting those in need are far, far greater and much more urgent than our organisational differences. In short, we are working together for a profession that serves the future, not the past.
The fact that we meet and discuss common areas of concern centred around breaking down all barriers to the public accessing the expertise of you, our highly-trained and qualified members/ registrants, has not gone unnoticed and is changing perceptions. Even in the infancy of our collaboration, we’ve met together with key policy influencers to discuss workforce strategy, among other issues. They’ve fed back to us that the reason we now have access to them is because we are talking to one another and forging mutual solutions and areas of policy overlap. Together we now represent around 65,000 counselling and psychotherapy practitioners and our sheer plurality is very powerful when you see how many different approaches and modalities are reflected in and through us.
We have heard and appreciate many concerns and much speculation about the purpose of the SCoPEd project and wish to reassure you. We could have set out our stall with more clarity from the outset. In order to promote our members/ registrants most powerfully it was felt we should look to use the evidence available to map out the entry points and requirements to the professions.
Our goal is to identify shared policy initiatives and joint campaigns geared at protecting and promoting the status and quality of all our practitioners when we’re under acute threat because the public urgently need us. We recognize the extraordinary lengths and sacrifices our members and Registrants have made to be able to join our respective organisations, and the incredible expertise and life experience you bring to your clients, service users and patients.
By working together, we can best bring our three organisations out of the shadows and into the full view of commissioners as representing a ready-and-waiting workforce. And we want their investment in funding so our memberships can attend to the wellbeing of people in dire need of our services. That is all SCoPEd set out to do – to encapsulate in one document what is currently the case. The work is in no way complete as you’ll see when you read on. But we wanted to share with you how positively the staff and leaderships of our three organisations have worked together – all united towards the public’s wellbeing.
We also, of course, want to share with you the remainder of the feedback we received following our consultation with members and stakeholders recently. Thank you for your involvement with this. The independent research company, Critical Research, has completed the analysis of the comments, which came from 6% of the memberships. And we have started the process of feeding this data into the project, analysing the comments from members and stakeholders and assessing the evidence.
What has become very clear from the feedback is that there are some crucial areas that can be enhanced, and we are taking steps to respond to these. This includes taking the opportunity to look with fresh eyes at the language used, by recruiting additional experienced members to the Expert Reference Group and enhancing our focus on ensuring this work will assist our members and Registrants in gaining employment, ensuring the public receive the service they need. To find out more click here.
The key themes from this initial feedback are explored further below, along with some of our next steps and commitments to you, all of our valued members and Registrants.
Andrew Reeves, Chair, BACP
Susanna Abse, Chair, BPC
Martin Pollecoff, Chair, UKCP
Hadyn Williams, Chief Executive, BACP
Gary Fereday, Chief Executive BPC
Sarah Niblock, Chief Executive UKCP
The initial consultation results told us that:
40% of respondents believe the draft framework would make it easier for patients or clients to find the right kind of help to meet their needs. While 24% felt it would make it harder.
54% felt the draft framework would make it easier for employers to establish which counsellors and psychotherapists to employ in their service. With 23% feeling the framework would make it harder.
61% of the respondents felt that the draft framework would make it easier for trainees to understand the pathways open to them for core training with adults. 23% felt the framework would make it harder for trainees.
54% also felt that the framework would make it easier for professional bodies to promote their members’ skills, compared to 21% who felt it would make it harder.
Of these over 7,000 respondents around half left comments, the main themes of which are explored below:
The framework creates a hierarchy
One member said: “It would be unfortunate, if the public gained the impression that 'counsellors' were for 'everyone' and psychotherapists are for those with severe illnesses or medical diagnoses.”
A trainer told us: “I would have a concern if the framework became rigid in its application because this can lead to a rather fixed or tick list approach to assessment and can also militate against development.”
According to analysis, 36% of member comments indicated an understanding of a hierarchy from the research - which looks to map existing training, standards and practice requirements for core training in counselling and psychotherapy with adults.
We want to create a world that understands and values therapy and believe that defining the entry-points can help this. We are passionate about what our profession stands for – a united force for society. We want to put our members and registrants at the front and centre to help those who need us.
We want the framework to enhance the public’s access to therapy - to enable the process of matching client need to therapist skill. The evidence we have found recognises that there are differences between a newly qualified therapist at level 4 and someone who undertakes a longer more in-depth training with higher practice requirements - allowing the therapist to gain more experience as well as meeting higher level competences. The framework, therefore, is an attempt to describe the current state of play based on available training standards. It was created using a bespoke methodology, originally based on that of Roth and Pilling, details of which are available here.
The descriptors (‘titles’) for the entry points are not helpful and may have added to this feeling of hierarchy. We got that wrong and are really grateful for your feedback, which we hope will help to rectify this.
Work with members in the next few months, alongside the Expert Reference Group (ERG) and Technical Group to discuss the column titles to ensure they are fit for purpose. We will respond to members’ concerns about the modalities of those working on the Expert Reference Group – as a direct result we will be recruiting two new members for the group. You can find more details about the advert and the details of how to apply here. The new members of the ERG will help with revisiting the descriptions (titles) of entry points as well as the overall language of the framework. We will also continue to look for assistance from members and stakeholders - especially from groups who felt the language did not align with their practice.
It creates structure
One member said: “Long overdue, I feel this will be so helpful and clarify so many aspects of the counselling & psychotherapy professions.”
A training organisation told us: “I think this is an excellent idea both for practitioners and for client groups. I can see how this will be of great benefit to training providers also as it gives a clear map forward. in my opinion, it is in the area of training that we need most clarity and standardisation.”
Above everything else stakeholders felt that the framework would create structure where previously there has been little – 38% mentioned this. Members tended to agree, with 20% adding their view. We are committed to advocating for and promoting client choice. As a collaboration we discuss common areas of concern, centred around breaking down all barriers to the public accessing your expertise. This has not gone unnoticed and is changing perceptions. Even in the infancy of our union, we’ve met with several key policy influencers including Health Education England, among others, to discuss workforce strategy. They’ve fed back to us that the reason we now have access to them is because we are talking to one another and forging mutual solutions, like SCoPEd and areas of policy overlap. Together we now represent around 60k counselling and psychotherapy practitioners and our sheer plurality is very powerful when you see how many different approaches and modalities are reflected in our memberships.
Continue working alongside our members to work towards creating a structure that will continue to open doors for our professions, and those working within it.
There is a risk of this undermining counselling
One member said: “It really is hard enough to get employed with a salary that reflects the training. Perhaps this would make it harder”
A trainer added: “Careful thought needs to be given to making progression routes accessible - so we don't (unintentionally or unconsciously) erect barriers to development and progression - particularly if they would disadvantage the development of a more diverse profession that reflects wider society.”
We want to reassure you that we value every single one of our members and the array of skills they bring. As three of the leading counselling and psychotherapy organisations we would not embark on a project that would do anything other than benefit our memberships. With a framework we can represent the knowledge and skills of registered members, and what they offer the public at the heart of counselling practice – for the first time. We are determined to work to enhance the value of the counselling professions, to create opportunities for our therapists, raising the importance of all of your work. This is a huge shift in the way counselling and psychotherapy has previously been spoken about, and we acknowledge that this has caused some anxiety, but please be reassured that this is about increasing opportunities for all members, not undermining counselling, as 30% of people who commented were concerned about. As mentioned previously we think the column ‘titles’ are wrong, and we will work to rectify this to ensure counsellors do not feel undermined by this work.
Our goal is to identify shared policy initiatives and joint campaigns geared at protecting and promoting the status and quality of all our practitioners - the public urgently need you. We recognise the extraordinary lengths and sacrifices you have made to train with us, and the incredible expertise and life experience you bring to your clients, service users and patients.
By working together, we can most successfully bring our three organisations into the full view of commissioners as a ready-and-waiting workforce. We want their investment in funding for students and trainees to attend to the wellbeing of people in dire need of our services. That is all SCoPEd set out to do – encapsulate in one document what is currently the case.
Improve the presentation of the framework to ensure that it does not risk any perception of undermining counselling. We will continue to work with members to focus on this area of the feedback. We are committed to enhancing members’ employment opportunities and our Policy teams will continue to work together with this focus.
It would help with public signposting to the profession
One member said: “Being able to distinguish between level of training and experience is essential. This framework offers a clear structure by which trainees, employers and clients/patients can make appropriate decisions regarding the type of counselling they need.”
A voluntary sector organisation said the framework was: “Very useful in informing our knowledge of what counsellors and psychotherapists offer and what their competencies should be thus helping us to work with individuals and organisations who may want to make use of counselling and or psychotherapy.”
Some members also though it was hard to understand as it is at the moment (24%). One member said: “I think the framework will be very useful for clarification within the profession but not sure it will help clients much - too complex.”
A number of key stakeholders told us they saw benefits for clients, patients, employers, training providers and the public in this framework – 17% specifically mentioned this in their feedback.
If the public understand what our members can offer, we believe they will more easily be able to get the help they need. Ten per cent of members comments supported the 40% from the quantitative analysis in this view of the potential signposting uses of the framework.
We would like to use this work to showcase our professions. If we can help signpost which therapist will help clients/patients with their concern we can more easily get them the support they need.
Produce documents with different audiences in mind to ensure the understanding of what our professions offer is clear - that will increase the public’s ability to get the help they need. We will ask the public for their views by including them in future consultation.
Previous experience has been overlooked
One member said: “Trying to fit me into one column of this framework does not fit my situation and would not represent me accurately. I am therefore unhappy about this framework being adopted.”
An education organisation and employer said: “There is no counsellor working for us who cannot meet the majority, or all, of the descriptors listed for psychotherapy.”
We agree. As this framework only looks at entry level, it does not look at the range of important experience and skillset of therapists after they start working in the field. 29% of comments picked up on this. We have been asked about how this framework fits with therapists after they gain experience. We haven’t started looking at this. This framework was to map the landscape based on existing standards and literature and we wanted members to be involved in this project from the earliest stage. However, we can reassure you that if the framework was adopted we understand the need to consider the vast knowledge and skills existing member have acquired since first qualifying. BACP, BPC and UKCP value all of their members’ expertise.
start to look at clarifying what the framework could mean after entry point, if it is supported by members, so that we can reassure you that your skills and experience would be acknowledged and valued where it met the standards. We will work with members and stakeholders in these next steps. We put our members at the heart of what we do and always seek to conduct work that will be of benefit to them.
It creates clarity around titles
One member said: “I am unhappy that at BACP, all counsellors are classed as counsellor/ psychotherapist, even when they have no psychotherapy training. I believe there is a difference in the two, and often training providers, professional bodies and counsellors do not differentiate, which makes it frustrating to have worked so hard to become a psychotherapist…I hope the framework will help with this.”
Some members commented a belief that the framework could help clarify titles. The work looks to clarify training and practice standards mean, but titles have been a strong theme of the feedback.
continue to work with members and stakeholders in focus groups to look at improved language to describe entry points and titles.
It provides motivation to continue with CPD
One member said: “I personally loved this framework and it has given me something to aspire to.”
The framework looks at entry level to the professions. We intend this to be an empowering and enabling framework that values and supports each and every member.