SCoPEd - A letter to the Shadow Cabinet Minister for Mental Health and Social Care
Some of you might be aware of the current debate in counselling and psychotherapy generated by the SCoPEd project. If taken to fruition, the stratification of counselling and psychotherapy suggested by SCoPEd panel is likely to have important (and negative) consequences for counsellors especially those currently accredited by the BACP as both Counsellors and Psychotherapists.
As part of my response to this project, I decided to write to Barbara Keeley, MP and Shadow Cabinet Mnister for Mental Health and Social Care. I intend to write to the The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Mental Health and Inequalities) in the near future too. However, as the initial proposal for statutory regulation of counselling and psychotherapy was a Labour initiative (white paper in 2007/8) and the SCoPEd project would seem to be a pre-emptive attempt to set the stage for future regulation, I thought it incumbent on the Shadow Cabinet Minister to be aware of the current fracturing state of the profession.
Regardless of the theoretical differences of opinion amongst counsellors, psychotherapists and counsellor / psychotherapists, we appear to be missing an opportunity to raise the profile of all helping professionals and to underline the vital and equally valuable work done by different members of our professional community. Stratifying the profession in the way suggested, fails to recognise the varied needs of the communities we serve and makes questionable assumptions about the work of thousands of counsellors and psychotherapists alike. The SCoPEd project has missed an opportunity to both recognise difference and celebrate collegiality. This is an opportunity missed and it will affect our clients when committed counsellors are barred from jobs and training positions on the basis of theoretical difference and poorly evidenced claims.
The text of my letter posted on Ms Keeley's web contact form can be read below:
'I am contacting you in your capacity as Shadow Minister for Mental Health and Social Care to alert you to potential damaging proposals to change the voluntary registration of qualified counselling professionals arising from SCoPed project undertaken by the BACP, UKCP and BPC.
As the initial interest in professional registration of counsellors and psychotherapists was first raised by a Labour government in 2008, I think it is incumbent on the current Shadow Minister for Mental Health to be aware of proposed changes to the voluntary registration processes for counselling professionals. If agreed, these changes are likely to have serious negative consequences for both counselling professionals and the many vulnerable clients they serve.
As you may be aware, during the consultations on the proposed statutory regulation of the profession in 2008, strong arguments were made in favour of the equivalence of professionals from differing approaches and training backgrounds i.e. that following a period of 'core professional training' and sufficient clinical experience (min. 450 hours) equivalence would be given to members of the BACP with regards to the use of the titles 'counsellor' and 'psychotherapist'. This notion of equivalence is now being dismantled and if brought to bear is likely to impinge on the recruitment of trainees and the retention of experienced practitioners in the profession. Experienced practitioners such as myself, now find their experience, commitment and professionalism undermined by the political and economic manoeuvring of a small group of people within the profession as a whole. All of which is detracting from the real challenges facing this country with regards to mental, emotional and psychological wellbeing of the population in general.
As you may be aware, counsellors are among the lowest paid of the counselling professions and many third sector organisations employ large numbers of voluntary counsellors who work with some of the most vulnerable people in our country. Changes to commissioning and funding of mental health services since the introduction of IAPT have resulted in a serious shortfall of provision in the NHS for clients with the most enduring emotional and psychological problems. Many of these clients are routinely signposted to counselling organisations in lieu of adequate provision from statutory services yet counselling colleagues face a professional downgrade despite their vital work on the front line of mental health.
The process for determining the current proposals has been shown to have been flawed (National Counselling Society; Alliance of Counsellors and Psychotherapists) and is likely to lead to a damaging stratification of the profession by undermining the work of a large number of counselling professionals from a wide range of counselling approaches and training backgrounds.
As Shadow Minister for Mental Health and Social Care, I am calling on you to investigate this process and to seek balanced views from all parties. As a Labour member, I believe the changes proposed are antithetical to the Labour values of social justice and equity. They are certainly antithetical to the philosophical underpinnings of counselling approaches that seek to reduce oppressive structures in society. Moreover, and perhaps most importantly, they are motivated by economic interests fuelled by the marketisation of the National Health Service and this issue has wide ramifications for the future of mental health provision in this country which I'm sure are of interest to the Labour Party.'
If you are interested in defending the work of counsellors and in taking a stance that says counselling and psychotherapy are equal endeavours, then I would encourage you to write to those who might, in the final instance, implement the decision to regulate our profession.