by Amanda Williamson
When I was in training and looking at different career paths it became clear that BACP accredited status was the goal in respect of being able to get paid work being employed as a counsellor or to receive referrals via Employee Assistance Programs.
I trained for an Advanced Diploma in Integrative Counselling at the Iron Mill Institute in Exeter, a BACP accredited course. Rather naively I believed that completing a BACP accredited course would result in my having BACP accredited status. It doesn't. What it means is that the Iron Mill's Advanced Diploma in Integrative Counselling meets the BACP high standards of training. So quite soon into the training I realised that in order to achieve accredited status I would first of all need to qualify which involved:
- Attending the 2 yr course and completing all the written assessments
- Attaining 150 counselling hours as a volunteer counsellor
- Attending monthly supervision whilst practising
- Attending personal therapy of 40+ hours
and then to achieve accredited status I needed to have:
- Been in practice for at least 3 years
- Attained at least 450 counselling hours under supervision
The application for accreditation is a project in itself involving four written pieces and a whole lot of logging (client work, supervision). You also need a supervisor's report and to find a suitable sponsor who will submit their sponsorship form separately. It's a lot more complex and time consuming than I can possibly say in a short paragraph.
I was ready to apply in May 2013 having enough years experience and around 1000 client hours. However, I had to delay the whole process for around a year due to the professional difficulties I had encountered when I reported an agency for unethical practice. The agency, which subsequently had BACP membership removed twice (there were other complainants) went on the attack and sent threatening correspondence and lodged professional complaints against anybody who had raised grievances with them who also happened to be BACP member. This whole process involved a police investigation and took around 2 years. None of the complaints raised by the agency proceeded to a hearing as the BACP could not find any evidence of unethical practice in any of those who were complained about.
Finally, this year, with the hearing against the agency and that whole traumatic business out of the way I decided to work on my accreditation application. I found it very time consuming and tedious. The written pieces were actually more tricky than I thought to write - harder than the essays during training. We have to demonstrate within a word limit exactly how we are working and demonstrate our awareness throughout of the BACP Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy. We have to describe professional development we have engaged in and demonstrate how this has informed our practice. A lot of it is about reflective practice, our use of supervision and our self-awareness. This is quite difficult to convey in an essay! I found myself tweaking each piece in turn, spending many hours honing them, so that they, as a collective, provide a coherent and authentic representation of myself as practitioner.
The largest written piece is the case study where we demonstrate our use of theory, self-awareness, the Ethical Framework and supervision. These days the BACP ask that your supervisor reads the case study too and recognises it as being a reflection of the work done. So no making stuff up, exaggerating or bending the truth.
I had second thoughts about applying. Was it necessary? Was it worth the expense? With the new Accredited Voluntary Registers won't accreditation become superfluous? Do clients know the difference between members and accredited members? Was I doing it because I was on some sort of subconscious conveyor belt and it was an automatic step rather than a well thought out, considered manoeuvre?
I decided to be very honest in my written work about the challenges I had faced and how I had carefully negotiated any impact of the dreadful business involving the agency on my practice. I capped my client load, had extra supervision and saw a therapist weekly during the height of the process. I also explored the learning that I had gained from the experience and how the adversity opened up the pathway to revisiting old wounds and being able to process them more effectively than ever before. I was advised by a colleague to keep that stuff out of my accreditation application but it seemed incongruent not to include it.
I submitted it in May 2014. The waiting time for processing is around 4 months so I sent it all off and…
Failing at the first hurdle...
Due to how long it had been since downloading the original application and actually submitting it the fee had gone up so first of all I had to pay the short fall. Then in August I was told that I had not labelled my essay clearly enough in terms of referencing the Ethical Framework and had managed to miss out a few lines on the client log. After remedying those I was told it would be submitted to a moderator at the next available opportunity.
A difficult week
On 23rd September I had a difficult day because somebody had requested a meeting to describe my experiences at the Palace Gate Counselling Service. I am unable to disclose who but I agreed as a matter of ethical duty/public protection. However, it was incredibly difficult having to describe exactly what happened to somebody I had never met before. I had been in a good place of putting the whole thing behind me but this seemed like a set back. I felt emotionally battered afterwards.
And then on 24th September a firm envelope plopped through my letterbox. I was a bit nervous at first; unexpected large envelopes have often meant rather horrible communication via the aforementioned agency over the last couple of years. Picking it up, and seeing that is was sent from the BACP I quickly opened it and there it was.
Nothing could have prepared me for the emotional reaction. Here was a great big piece of validation from my professional body. They had read my warblings, seen my supervisors'reports (I have two supervisors) and my sponsor's report and decided that I was worthy of accreditation which they describe thus:
"Accreditation offers kite-mark status for individual practitioners, professional training courses and therapeutic service provision, who are able to demonstrate that they are meeting a wide range of criteria, set to recognise high standards of knowledge, experience and development."
I had told myself that achieving accredited status would not really mean anything to me.
That night………..I took a look at those written pieces that I had submitted four months before. I read my very honest descriptions of the professional struggles with the unethical agency, my authentic reflection on client work, the ongoing learning and self-reflective practice and…
Had I not been so honest in my written pieces then perhaps my reaction would not have been quite so huge. But it was that I had been so utterly genuine about my ups and downs since practising, and that the BACP moderator had accepted and understood how I worked.
After a baptism of fire into the industry and the horrendous 2 years that had blighted my career until very recently, this was a HUGE relief and an extremely positive step forwards for me.
It meant more to me than my original qualification.
Practicalities wise this does not really make much difference to me on a day to day basis
However, the BACP accreditation process is a very well thought out initiation into the higher echelons of counselling and psychotherapeutic practice.
I highly recommend it as a process to fellow practitioners for fundamental personal and professional self-development.
NB Individual BACP Accreditation should not be confused with the Accredited Voluntary Registers (AVRs). The AVR scheme means that the Professional Standards Authority has bestowed accredited status to the register, not the practitioners registered on it.
Likewise, The National Counselling Society offers accredited status but as far as I can see, this is equivalent to the BACP Registered Membership with a much less stringent criteria than the BACP Accredited Membership status. I am not being protectionist here. The criteria for the BACP Accreditation scheme can be seen here, and the NCS Accreditation application here.