12 February 2015

Accredited this, accredited that - the PSA's response to the accreditation confusion

counselling psychotherapy exeter - info on accredited register and accreditation
Two days ago I wrote about the Professional Standard Authority's (PSA) Accredited Registers (ARs), formerly known as the Accredited Voluntary Registers, asking why they had dropped the word "voluntary". In that post I mused on the confusion that inevitably arises around the word "accredited" in that we have the Accredited Registers within which a member or registrant may or may not have accredited status within the professional body they are registered with. For example, the BACP have an AR, so a therapist on that register can state that they are on an Accredited Register. That registrant will also have a certain level of BACP membership which could be ordinary member, accredited member or senior accredited member. I also mentioned the difference between the BACP and NCS's criteria for their individual members to achieve accredited status.

I asked the PSA what their thoughts were around this confusion and received a prompt response thus:

The Accredited Registers programme exists to assure the public that registers of people working in health and care are held to high standards. One way Accredited Registers improve standards in health and care is by giving registrants opportunities to develop their knowledge and experience beyond their initial qualifications. This is also a way for registers to differentiate themselves from each other, supporting members of the public to make informed choices.
The Professional Standards Authority is aware of the potential for confusion in the different uses of the word ‘accredited’. We are working closely with the Accredited Registers to prevent this confusion by providing clear information to the public. This will include a guide to different types and levels of qualifications in health and care, which we will publish in the coming months.

I asked the PSA for clarity:

I am a little confused by the first paragraph and the 'giving registrants opportunities to develop their knowledge and experience' part. My experience of being on the BACP Accredited Register since early 2013 is that I have to re-sign it yearly to confirm that I am attending CPD and am supervised and insured, in order to retain registration. However I do not see where developing knowledge and experience beyond qualifications comes into being on an AR. I would value an explanation of how this works in practice. I believe that I am perhaps missing something.

And their spokesperson clarified accordingly:

My understanding on the first paragraph is that Accredited Registers are free to offer registrants an 'accredited membership' or any kind of enhanced membership. The Authority welcomes these where they encourage registrants to develop knowledge and experience, helping to improve standards. BACP's accreditation and endorsement scheme is a good example.

So there we have it. There is an acknowledgement of the potential for confusion and, in the pipeline, some clarity and communication to help inform the public, which I look forward to sharing when the time comes.

Amanda Williamson Counselling in Exeter Reg MBACP Accred

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)

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