14 October 2018

Why I oppose the movement to automatically make all Registered BACP Members Accredited

[UPDATE: the resolution did not receive enough support to go forward, thankfully]

A resolution has been put forward to the entire membership of the BACP as follows:

"We are asking members to vote that the title of 'BACP registered' is changed to 'BACP Accredited' for all counsellors in recognition of their qualified status, commitment to professional and ethical standards and in line with other PSA accredited registers."

The closing date has been extended to lunchtime Monday 15th October.  If there is enough support for this resolution then it will go to a vote at the BACP AGM on 16th November 2018.

I oppose this movement as I believe it has been done with inadequate consultation with service users and other members.

There is some confusion in the profession as the National Counselling Society, a much smaller and more recently formed professional body, automatically grant their registered members Accredited status without the experience and criteria that the BACP require of their Accredited members. The UKCP,  another professional body for therapists who have a PSA Accredited Register, has a completely different membership system. I believe that it is only the NCS who award "Accredited member" status to newly qualified therapists. This NCS anomaly has been very useful for therapists who wish to call themselves Accredited without going through the procedures and criteria required by the BACP who have had a system in place for many years to allow qualified therapists to demonstrate and provide proof of their extensive experience and self-reflection.  I have questioned this confusion for several years. I do not see that this resolution is the answer and I believe that the main factor for people behind this proposal is to be able to attain BACP Accredited status without going through the Accreditation process. 

If the resolution goes through it will be in part due to many Registered members enjoying this leg-up where all they have to do is click a button.

I know of some Registered Members who oppose this because they value the BACP Accreditaiton scheme and would like to apply as and when they feel ready to do so. I know many Registered members who are very experienced and skilled at their job. In fact, I regularly refer clients to three excellent therapists I know who are BACP Registered but not BACP Accred. This is because I know them personally and am familiar with how they work. They are consistently busy and have no commercial need to attain Accredited status. Outside of this familiarity I would advise clients to select an Accredited member because there will have been a proven level of experience and self-reflection. Although I had a consistently busy private practice I personally went for Accreditation for professional development and found it an extremely valuable process. I wrote about that here.

There is a need for some kind of evolution however this movement seems to be focused solely on a goal of helping newly qualified counsellors get jobs rather than looking at the needs of service users. The issues of jobs for therapists needs to be approached from a completely different angle. That is about government policy and looking at the culture within counselling organisations.

It is claimed by the movement that is discriminatory that those that have undergone the Accreditation process might be more likely to find work than newly qualified. It also continually asserted that only privileged therapists can afford to apply for BACP Accreditation. It is not from a position of privilege that I gained my Accreditation. I had a cleaning job and worked at weekends to supplement my low income when starting out. If you can do a decent counselling qualification you can do BACP Accreditation.

Many Accredited counsellors are understandably concerned that their hard-earned status will be devalued. Moreover, if the BACP are being pressurised to make huge adjustments to be more like the NCS, some are concerned that they will be devalued as an organisation.

Fundamentally, I am all for a wider discussion on the confusion caused by the NCS and Professional Standards Agency now being important participants in the profession. However, I am fundamentally opposed to this particular movement which I believe to be ill-conceived and bullish. The therapists behind this resolution would do well not to be posting in public spaces such disparaging things about other BACP members. I find it highly unsavoury, disrespectful and unprofessional to openly refer to people opposing this resolution in such terms as “losing their shit”, and having “hot flushes” and “clearly needing therapy” (a rather inappropriate insult) and that they are “passing round the popcorn”, in relation to reading the forum, and describing therapists as “willy waving their accreditation”. Further, accusations of people respectfully opposing the resolution as “gaslighting”  and“abhorrent” are undermining of the work we do with people who are genuinely abused.

What many of us are wondering is, if the BACP Accreditation system is unfair, and the NCS is a supportive and according to some, such better organisation, perhaps the answer is for those who are angry with the BACP membership tiers system to resign their BACP membership and join the NCS. I do not see it as problematic if the membership of the BACP is reduced and it continues to represent therapists with similar intrinsic values and principles. 

One of the worst things about this debate has been the way in which it has been argued. I am deeply concerned about how this reflects on the entire profession. The BACP Ethical Framework for Good Practice is not some flimsy document that pays lip service to integrity. It should be the underpinning for how we represent the profession, inside and out of the therapy room, as members of the BACP.

I do not believe the BACP to be a perfect organisation. It would make me rather weird if I did. There are flaws and I believe that it is appropriate to challenge and try and change things for the better, but with respect, integrity and dignity. My colleague Roslyn Byfield campaigned for the inclusion of the necessity for therapists to have Clinical Wills in the Ethical Framework. She did this respectfully and appropriately. It worked.

If/when this has all gone away perhaps we can have an adult debate about the many issues that this resolution is attempting to address.

9 comments:

Unknown said...

Here here. Well said Amanda!

pwkilleen said...

It’s not the NCS that has caused this problem, it’s been caused by the fact that for years the BACP has misused the word “Accredited”. As Pam Laurance pointed out in 2009, in her letter entitled “Problems with the word ‘Accredited’” [Therapy Today, Dec 2009, Letters], the word “accredited” has a much broader meaning than the BACP’s use of the word in “BACP Accredited”.

In a nutshell, everyone on the BACP’s Register is accredited by the BACP by virtue of the fact that they are on the Register: the ultimate source of the confusion is that you don’t have to be and “Accredited Member of the BACP” to be an accredited member of the BACP. The NCS have now brought the problem to a head by calling all their accredited members “Accredited Members”.

Things have moved on since Pam Laurance wrote that letter, the BACP’s Register is no longer simply a society of therapists vouching for its own members, the BACP’s Register is now itself accredited by a statutory body, the Professional Standards Association (PSA). The fact that a practitioner is on a PSA Accredited Register means that not only is the that person vouched for by the governing body in question (which may or may not have the public’s best interests at heart), but also he or she is being vouched for by the PSA, an independent statutory body with the job of looking out for the public’s interests.

The addition of the statutory endorsement means that BACP Registration (and NCS Registrations etc.) now carries a weight that BACP Accreditation has ever done because it’s not just a register of therapists (albeit well intentioned therapists) vouching for themselves anymore. With that in mind, as an outsider to the BACP this kerfuffle looks like an internal storm in a teacup.

There is a silver lining to this debate, it demonstrates the BACP’s big advantage over the NCS for professionals looking for a governing body. The reason this debate is happening is the BACP is a democracy owned and run by its members, so a few members can get an issue like this included in the BACP’s AGM. The NCS on the other hand is more like a benign dictatorship, whatever the society’s owners says goes and members have no real power, which is something to consider when choosing who to entrust your professional reputation to.

Patrick

Amanda Williamson said...

It isn’t the registrants on the PSA Accredited Registers who are accredited by the PSA, the PSA accredit the Registers. Professionals registered on an Accredited Register are *registered*.

pwkilleen said...

The implicit assumption in my post is that by registering a governing body's register the PSA is giving them the authority to vouch for practicioners on the PSA's behalf.

It's not just the register that gets to use the PSA's logo, individual practicioners get to use it as well. Everyone on an Accredited Register gets the PSA's stamp of approval, albeit awarded by proxy.

Hazel Hill said...

It is good that the resolution did not get to voting stage. Let's hope a working committee will now be set up (with those for and against) to talk through the word accreditation and a positive way forward. I agree that a professional route is needed to the membership, and the learning from BACP accreditation is invaluable. I agree also with Patrick about NCS. Membership of NCS just lines the pockets of the directors of NCS. At least with BACP, we as members do have a voice.

Anonymous said...

The BACP accreditation scheme undermines all BACP members and reflex the poor standards of the BACP in the first place. The BPC don't do it. They don't have to because they respect the level of training they accredit to their qualified members in the first place. Getting a BACP qualification or becoming a BACP member is relatively easy in comparison to the rigorous standards demanded of BPC trainees. The problem isn't the BACP accreditation scheme, it's the poor standards of the BACP. J. BACP Member and BPC Trainee.

Amanda Williamson said...

Thanks for the input J. I’m not sure how the accreditation scheme undermines BACP members. You are right in that it’s more straightforward to join the BACP rather than the BPC which is a more academic route. I think that the accreditation scheme is useful in the context of the BACP as a professional body and differentiates different levels of experience. It’s a different system as indeed is the case with all the professional bodies with an accredited Register. Until such time as therapy is regulated it won’t be standardised.

Anonymous said...

It shows a lack of faith in its own membership. One I think it should be worried about. Culling through accreditation is not the way to go. Improving standards of training is however. BPC is not more academic. It is very clinically focused and requires many more hours of personal therapy before you can apply to do the training. You need to demonstrate triple the amount of clinical work in comparison to my BACP course. Clocking hours on my BPC training does not count at all. You need to show on-going work with three patients for a minimum of one year in a group and individual supervision whilst in twice weekly personal analysis. BACP training standards are no where near as rigorous. Accreditation is a money making scheme for the BACP and simultaneously an admission of their own poor standards. BACP accreditation sadly only proves to be divisive to the membership and confusing to the
public. J.

Amanda Williamson said...

I respect your perspective but don’t agree with it. BACP are working alongside UKCP and BPC on the SCoPEd project to have some form of standardised training. Are you aware of this project?
I think there is, and should be, room for therapists other than psychoanalytically trained. This model does not work for some so whilst I appreciate that more extensive clinical and personal work is required to be a competent psychoanalyst, this isn’t an appropriate modality of therapy for all. There is probably a place for psychoanalysis but there’s also a place for other less intense forms of therapy. Psychoanalysis is as open to criticism as other forms of therapy. Getting the balance right between competency of therapists and keeping therapy safe is a delicate balancing act. In fact it has been argued that the intensity or psychoanalysis and dependency that might be fostered is not good at all for some people. (Shouldn’t I be Feeling Better by Now by Yvette Cooper is a useful read).
I believe that much of the discontent arising from within the BACP membership is at least in part as a result of the likes of Chrysalis Counselling and the NCS (who were started up by the founder of Chrysalis to accredit his own courses as they didn’t meet BACPs standards) bringing the threshold standards of training down. BACP have quite a foothold in the eyes of users of counselling services and do have a higher threshold than NCS.
There is definitely room for improvement in BACP but I would prefer to see more rigour rather than less which is what the proposers of this movement are demanding.
Finally, how can you assert that the BACP Accreditation scheme is a money making scheme for the BACP? You do realise that they are a charity right? And do you know how much it costs and what is entailed? You seem to be contradicting yourself in saying that the BACP standards are lower than some registers, which they are for basic registration, and yet the mechanism whereby a practitioner demonstrates much more extensive clinical experience, personal/professional development and supervision through BACP accreditation is dismissed by you.

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