Society Response to SCoPEd project - April 2018


You may have seen the recent announcement by BACP, UKCP and BPC working on a project to set out the training requirements and practice standards for counselling and psychotherapy.

They write;

‘Counselling and psychotherapy are not statutorily regulated.  Professional bodies can apply for their own registers to be accredited  by the Professional Standards Authority (PSA) under its Accredited Registers programme.

The PSA sets standards for organisations that hold a register in a health or social care profession, and the focus of their programme is public protection.

The PSA-accredited registers in the field of counselling and psychotherapy each has its own distinct standards of training and practice. There are also no agreed common entry or training requirements to enter the field.

This causes confusion for the public, for clients/patients, for employers and commissioners of services about what training and experience to expect when employing a counsellor or psychotherapist.

There is also confusion amongst those who are considering training in this field as there are disparate standards, with a wide range of courses available at differing academic levels geared to different client groups and professional roles, and sitting within different qualifications frameworks’


Whilst we agree there need to be minimum standards for any registrant working with the public, we are concerned that there has been no consultation or discussion amongst fellow Accredited Register holders, training providers, organisations or importantly its members – despite the collaboration being near completion on their project.

We wanted to make you aware we have responded with the below open letter. We shall also be in contact soon with training providers and members to further discuss this important issue. 

We welcome any training providers and organisations to add their details in support, members or not. Please do contact the office, details will be updated in due course. 


Re : SCoPEd project

We write to you concerning your stated intention to develop “generic standards for the counselling and psychotherapy professions”.  You write that “the PSA-accredited registers in the field of counselling and psychotherapy each has its own distinct standards of training and practice. There are also no agreed common entry or training requirements to enter the field. This causes confusion for the public, for clients/patients, for employers and commissioners of services about what training and experience to expect when employing a counsellor or psychotherapist.”

Our view is that any project to set common standards should be fully inclusive from the outset, with full and equal participation by all Accredited Register holders in talking therapies, alongside other stakeholders such as the Psychotherapy and Counselling Union, Alliance for Counselling & Psychotherapy, Awarding Bodies and training organisations.

It will, surely, only cause further “public, client and employer confusion” for three of the current Accredited Register holders to agree their own new set of standards without reference to the AR programme, especially when NHS guidelines are now focussed on recommending the programme as the one supported by Government.

In addition, we feel that any new setting of standards should be done with full democratic participation by the memberships of stakeholder organisations, using a member-led approach, rather than a top-down approach. 

Without these safeguards in place, the SCoPEd project will not succeed in setting standards for the profession, but rather, will be an internal exercise conducted on behalf of particular organisations for their own ends, conducted to the exclusion of many.  You are of course, welcome to set standards for yourselves – but not to claim that these should be imposed on, or represent, the profession as a whole, without having equal participation and full support from the wider profession.

We are also concerned that the project could lead to further homogenisation, over -regulation, and further control mechanisms being applied by professional associations on their members.  Instead, we would seek to enshrine equality, diversity and the heart of counselling and psychotherapy in any further attempts to define standards. A mechanistic, technical and manualised understanding of therapeutic work can never do justice to the reality of how we practice.  We believe a pluralistic approach respectful of diversity, variety and individual client choice is fundamentally important, whilst of course maintaining standards and public safety.

We are also concerned that, unless handled sensitively, any such project could easily lend itself to takeover by a corporatist style of regulation where the profession risks fundamental change with no benefit to counsellors, psychotherapists, or their clients.  Do we really want even more prescriptions and controls on practice than there are now?

You speak of the need to avoid “public confusion”.  We are not aware of any great public confusion.  In the employed sector, counselling in any case has been to some extent bypassed by IAPT where a very limited number of approaches are used in a very prescribed way.  This has led over time to a fundamental under valuing of counselling and psychotherapy in its richness and diversity.  What we are aware of is the public wishing to preserve choice with access to therapy in a timely manner – to select the practitioner and approach that is right for them; to be able to see value in the therapeutic relationship above and beyond issues of professionalisation.   We are also aware that counsellors and psychotherapists seek to preserve choice and diversity, and feel that there already exist robust and appropriate standards which allow a place for individuality, creativity and vocation alongside public protection and good practice.  These can be fine tuned by the profession as a whole.

There are already existing standards and reference points including the QAA Benchmark Statement on Counselling and Psychotherapy, The Framework for Higher Education Qualifications, the Regulated Qualifications Framework, Skills for Health National Occupational Standards and the UCL CORE competence frameworks which are not “owned” by any one professional body. These, together with the standards adopted by individual professional bodies, are surely sufficient.

While any organisations are, of course, welcome to collaborate and devise their own standards, what is concerning is that, at the very time that the Accredited Register programme has begun to flourish and allow all register holders to meet, cooperate, and learn to improve standards and governance with the assistance of the Authority, your collaboration threatens to ringfence your own memberships from the wider Accredited Register community, not to mention missed opportunities for equal participation from other stakeholders.  The chance to set standards as part of, rather than taken away from, the Accredited Register scheme would have far greater benefits for the entire profession. 

We support minimum standards for the profession – if they are, indeed, created by the profession as a whole. The risk of setting standards in a vacuum is that it is seen as an internal political exercise.  This risks greater confusion – not less.

Kind Regards

Vicky Parkinson



With support of -

Jeffery Thomas and Monika Jephcott, PTUK 

Tony Ruddle on behalf of Association of Christian Counsellors 

Dominic Davies, Pink Therapy

Andrew Samuels, Former Chair, UKCP. Professor of Analytical Psychology, University of Essex

Alliance for Counselling and Psychotherapy  

Psychotherapy and Counselling Union

Professor Michael Jacobs

Gail Evans, Programme Director at The Academy: SPACE

Leigh Smith, Heartwood Director

Karl Gregory, Severn Talking Therapy

Kathy Raffles, Kathy Raffles Counselling Services

Marie Easden, Chrysalis Courses

Nathalie Asmall, BACP Accredited and Iron Mill College tutor  

Professor Stephen Joseph, University of Nottingham

Dr David Murphy, University of Nottingham

Dr Sue Price, University of Nottingham

Lindsay Cooper, Assistant Professor of Counselling, Course Leader BA (Hons) Humanistic Counselling Practice University of Nottingham 

Dr Katy Wakelin, University of Nottingham

Laura Davies , University of Nottingham

Dr Laura Monk, University of Nottingham

Lesley Wilson

Heather Kapelko

Jane Pendlebury 


Denise Gregory MBACP (Accred)

Phil Turner MBACP (Accred)

Amanda Young Dip Counselling

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