10 February 2015

A new name for the Professional Standard Authority's registers for counselling and psychotherapy

Recently I was informed by my professional body, the BACP, that my logo to show my membership on their PSA Accredited (Voluntary) Register has been updated and I am to switch to using the new logo online by 31st March 2015 at the latest. The cut off date for updating literature is 30th November 2015.

Here is my new logo:

(Updated logo as of September 2018 I became senior accred in 2019)

So I quite like the new logo as it has the immediate gravitas lent to it by dint of the Professional Standards Authority (PSA) actually being clearly labelled. Hopefully this will lead to more clients being aware of the existence of the registers and realising their importance. Secondly, the word "Voluntary" has been dropped from the register names entirely. This is interesting. I did wonder whether this was a step closer towards making statutory regulation easier for the profession to swallow (for more on the issue of statutory regulation read my post on the regulation of counselling and psychotherapy). 

Seeing as the PSA have been so responsive to questions I have previously put to them I thought I would stop guessing/assuming and ask them why the change of name. I was given the following response:

In December 2014, Accredited Voluntary Registers became Accredited Registers. The Professional Standards Authority made this change following feedback from stakeholders , who found the word ‘voluntary’ confusing. We have also made it clearer that it is the Professional Standards Authority who has accredited them by including our name within the Quality Mark.
“People working in health and social care must make a personal decision to belong to an Accredited Register. The Professional Standards Authority advises members of the public to use people who belong to an Accredited Register.

Confusion… yes well I can see that the word voluntary is possibly a bit confusing there, one could think that the register referred to therapists working in a voluntary capacity.

Something else I think is confusing is the fact that the BACP and NCS (National Counselling Society) both have membership categories for their individual membership referred to as "accredited". For BACP members this means the following:

"(Accreditation) is for individual counsellors and psychotherapists who have successfully completed 450 hours of professional counselling/psychotherapy training with an integral student placement element, have been in practice for at least three years, and have accumulated a minimum of 450 hours of practice covered by at least 1.5 hours of supervision per month. Applicants must be Registered MBACP Members."

Many people are told to "look for an accredited counsellor" in recognition of the criteria required for BACP accreditation.

For NCS members to be accredited it appears that the requirements are pretty much the same as for basic individual BACP membership.*

So on top of this, we have the "Accredited Register". It is my understanding that there are clients who are understandably confused and assume that because a therapist is on an Accredited Register that they are an accredited therapist. 

I have asked the Professional Standards Authority for their thoughts on this and will report back soon.

* I think loosely speaking these are the rough equivalents membership statuses between the BACP and the NCS:

BACP Student member = NCS member
BACP registered membership (Reg MBACP) = NCS Accredited Member
BACP Senior Accredited = NCS Fellow

It is my understanding that the criteria for UKCP membership is the requirement of more extensive training than either BACP or NCS individual/basic membership.

Please let me know if this is any way inaccurate.

More posts on the regulation issue:

If I had the power to regulate counselling (April 2015)

Regulation - a client and therapist friendly way forward? (November 2014)

The problems with a voluntary regulatory scheme (Sept 2014)

Spreading the word on AVRs - the Professional Standards Authority responds (Sept 2014)

The Regulation of Counselling and Psychotherapy - What the Public Want (June 2013)


Hazel said...

I think calling it the Accredited register is confusing for clients. I also see confusion amongst therapists. I'll be interested to hear of their response.

Patrick Killeen said...

I’d say that the PSA’s and the NCS’ use of the term is closer to the usual meaning of “accredited” than the BACP’s.

Google says “accredit” means “2 (of an official body) give authority or sanction to (someone or something) when recognized standards have been met”. By including you on its register the BACP it is doing exactly that; which means that “Registered Member”, “Accredited Member” and “Senior Accredited Members” all refer to people that the BACP accredits by recognising that they meet their standards. So you don’t have to be an Accredited Member of the BACP to be a member of the BACP who is accredited by them. (When you add in “BACP Accredited Courses” and “BACP Accredited Organisations” the waters get very muddy indeed.)

The BACP’s response to this situation appears to be to quietly ignore it, if you look at the website for the BACP register it doesn’t say what the different categories of registration mean, and if you look at the main BACP website then you only find information about the different categories in pages aimed at members not at clients. As yet I’ve been unable to find any sort of a client’s guide to the different BACP membership category.

I think that the BACP has found itself in a tough spot with this terminology: the PSA scheme was already using the term “Accredited” when the BACP chose to join it and I suspect that the PSA is unlikely to change its branding to fit in with the preferred wording of one of the registers it deals with, and some existing Accredited Members seem to be very attached to their title and would resist a change (especially if the change resulted in Registered Members appearing to be “accredited”).


Patrick Killeen said...

P.S. I just followed the link in the article to the BACP Accreditation page, it’s pretty well signposted in the navigation so I don’t know how I missed it.

It’s still a confusing situation though, and I stand by the rest of what I said.

Amanda Williamson (She/her) said...

Hi Patrick

Thank you for your comment. I too have question marks around the BACP's lack of direct communication in light of the confusion that has arisen. I don't agree with your saying that the BACP's meaning of accreditation is further away than the PSA and NCS's definition. To be on the Accredited Register or NCS Accredited there is little actual quality control going on as far as I can see. You just need to tick some boxes; have a qualification, insurance and supervision in place. There is no measure of actual competence or whether "recognised standards have been met" in terms of actual practice, which I believe the BACP accreditation process does address.

I applied for accreditation after the BACP joined the register and I did consider not bothering in light of the Accredited Register and all this confusion. I ended up doing it in case I ever wish to join an EPA, because my gambling agency work officially requires BACP accreditation (I joined whilst I was "working towards" accreditation) and, not leastofall, because I personally found the BACP accreditation process to be an important step in self-development as a practitioner. I welcome opportunities to really assess what I do and how I work. In going through the process I really got to understand the point of it.

I can understand your assessment that some accredited members of the BACP might resist a change whereby their BACP Accreditation is rendered pointless as it does require a significant amount of time, work and commitment. It would also mean that clients are not given a straightforward way of choosing a more experienced and BACP endorsed practitioner.

That said, I believe that the most important message to get out there is that this is not a regulated profession and at least with the Accredited Register there is some accountability and recourse for clients in the unfortunate instances of unethical/exploitative practice.

Patrick Killeen said...

Hello Amanda

The PSA publishes the standards that it expects registers to meet on its websites, it also publishes its assessments of registers against those standards; and although the NCS is vague about what its standards for membership are, it is accredited by the PSA and one of the standards that it had to meet was “Standard 8 (parts a-h): setting standards for registrants”, so in spite of appearances to the contrary it looks that it does have standards after all (if it didn't have the PSA looking over its shoulder I wouldn't trust the NCS).

It is just the way that the BACP uses the word “Accreditation” that I am questioning, it is a valuable process with a confusing name. There is a big difference between “Accredited Member” (with capitals, a class of BACP membership) and “accredited member” (all lower case, a member who is accredited). When you apply to become a Registered Member you are applying to be accredited by the BACP, the thing that you refer to as “the BACP accreditation processes” could more accurately be described as the processes to become an Accredited Member. People who are au fait with the BACP setup generally avoid confusion by only using the word “accredited” to mean “Accredited”, but once you move out of the context of the BACP the distinction becomes important.

Changing the name of the Accreditation scheme wouldn’t render it pointless, it would still be just as valuable as it is now, but it would still be contentious and some people may perceive it as a devaluing move.



Patrick Killeen said...

I just found this letter to Therapy Today from 2009 complaining that the BACP use of the word "Accredited" was confusing long before the PSA register was thrown into the mix.


Hazel said...

Some great points here. I agree Amanda it does feel that there is a difference between joining the register to whether you do it via BACP or NCS. It may be helpful if they both shared the same criteria to joining the register. I agree Patrick, BACP have found themselves in a tough position. I personally would support BACP changing the name of their own Accredited counsellors. I'm pleased that I did my BACP accreditation, not only for professional purposes but also for my own self-development. I doubt clients will know the difference so let's hope the register does provide better protection for them. I guess it is about us as practitioners educating the public.

Patrick Killeen said...

Having dug around a bit I think the BACP’s problem goes deeper than just the use of the word “Accredited”. Back in 2003 the head of media relations for the BACP said in an interview:

“If you want to be sure of a psychoanalyst's credentials, check them out with the Institute of Psychoanalysis. If it's a psychotherapist, make sure they are accredited with the UK Register of Counsellors and Psychotherapists. The BACP website carries details of training, our ethical code and style of work. To become a member of the association, we require a minimum of 900 hours' training and practice; we've instituted a checking system and BACP accreditation is renewable annually.”

So back then their advice was make sure your counsellor is accredited, but now they are saying make sure your counsellor is registered and you don’t need to be an Accredited Member to register. That’s a big change in policy but when challenged about it they dodged the question and said “BACP accreditation is not being ‘watered down’ or changed in any way; it remains the mark of the mature counsellor who has submitted their work for quality assurance through the accreditation scheme.” http://www.therapytoday.net/article/show/3224/

It true, that as professional development goes Accreditation is just as valuable as it has always been, but when it comes to getting the BACP to vouch for your competence as a counsellor it is no longer necessary. At the moment it looks like they are using the confusion around the word “accredited” to hide an unpopular policy change, but at some point they are going to have to come clean.

Fionac said...

I am reading around this and can see this post is a few years old. But what do people think about NCS' accreditd Professional membership, where 450 taught hours, and 450 practice hours are needed. Same as BACP accreditation?

Amanda Williamson (She/her) said...

Hello Fiona

Apologies for the late reply. I see that the NCS have a relatively new tier of membership called Professional Accredited which is the equivalent to BACP Accredited. Its confusing though as the NCS Accredited level is the same as BACP basic registrant level. Until the professional bodies have a standardised approach to representing differing levels of qualifications and experience it will remain confusing.

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