[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.