why I am in favour of SCoPEd…

I read in a social media post that it struggled to find many articles that were in favour of SCoPEd. I think that balanced debate is important, particularly as voting is about to start. This has prompted me to share my opinion here. I am passionate about good practice and about our profession and have no agenda other than to contribute to the development of counselling and psychotherapy.

I am disheartened by the abuse that has been experienced by those speaking up in favour of SCoPEd and by those in favour of scrapping SCoPEd. I do wonder whether people have been reluctant to speak up for fear of abuse. There is no place for abuse in our profession.

But I also feel heartened by the amount of passionate response. That we care enough to be angry makes me feel optimistic for our profession and for the work we do.

Firstly, I would like to differentiate between the recently published iteration of the framework and the intention, aims and potential of SCoPEd. To be clear, I am absolutely NOT in favour of the current version of the framework. I have been a critical voice of it myself publicly and I submitted a passionate and extensive letter of constructive criticism to the SCoPEd team.

But my understanding from having watched the videos and read the various statements is that there is no danger of this framework ever coming to fruition. The BACP and the SCoPEd team have clearly acknowledged the issues and have said that the framework will be revised. I think the response from members in a sense has already worked, as SCoPEd in its published form has been stopped.

What I am in favour of is what I see as the intention, the aims and potential of the SCoPEd project, which as I understand is to try to address some of these issues;

  • Currently anyone can call themselves a counsellor or psychotherapist. This really does concern me. Whilst SCoPEd isn’t directly addressing this, I think a clear structure and framework for practice and training could begin to.

  • There is no clear agreement on what exactly counselling, and psychotherapy is, and less agreement about what we do and why.

  • I often see posts from counsellors saying, ‘but are they a qualified counsellor’. This highlights a lack of understanding within the profession that there is no agreed level of qualification. I can say I am ‘qualified’ with a short 4-week online course if I choose to. I would not be able to join certain membership bodies, and I could not advertise on certain sites, but I could practice. I do not have research to show how many people are doing this, but I do know several people in my locality who are. If you compare two practitioners with the same qualification there is not necessarily any real equivalence in what they have studied, and that is before we even look at differences between FE and HE trainings.

  • An example of these two points is that I have just seen a poster that offers a free ‘Reflective listening’ service and says, “Reflective listening is a form of psychotherapy…a chance to offload”. ARRGGH! Firstly, in my opinion there is no such thing as reflective listening, there is active listening, and there is reflection which is an attempt to check understanding. Two separate things. Secondly listening is an element of psychotherapy, it may be therapeutic, but it is NOT counselling and/or psychotherapy. I have no idea if the person offering the service is a trained practitioner, or an untrained practitioner and there is nothing unethical about what he or she is doing – but it is not counselling or psychotherapy. I think this is confusing for the public and in degrades the professional skills of counselling and psychotherapy to only ‘supportive listening’ and that contributes to a wider misunderstanding of what we do.

  • There is no agreement on what a training should contain. I have met person-centred counsellors who have never heard of the six conditions. I have met CBT therapists who don’t know what positive regard is. This concerns me. All trainings should cover a set of basics. Whilst I am not offering research here to support my point, I am sharing my opinion which arises from having met many students and worked on and validated many courses over several years as a lecturer, trainer, university course leader, an examiner for two FE awarding bodies, and an external examiner for a university.

  • The voluntary registers were designed to try to resolve some of these issues, but in my opinion, they have compounded the confusion. For example, I know a hypnotherapist whose training contained some counselling skills. He advertises that he offers hypnotherapy and counselling, he belongs to a register and he has a PSA tick. Online we look equivalent. In fact, he even looks more qualified than me as I don’t offer hypnotherapy. This concerns me.

  • I see a growing tribalism and division in the profession and a lack of understanding of the common ground and differences between modalities. In a sense I think that SCoPEd’s suggested framework and passionate responses to it is evidence of this.

  • There are differing ideas on whether counselling/counsellors and psychotherapy/psychotherapist are equivalent. The differences are, in my opinion, a result of modality, approach, philosophical stance and historical bias. For example, I might not use diagnosis in my practice, but this does not mean I am less skilled, or less capable than a practitioner who does. I think this needs to be clearly addressed and articulated within the profession. Rogers coined the term counselling because he was prevented from calling this new approach psychotherapy as he didn’t have a medical degree, (see here under history) and there is no discernible difference between the two.

  • Generally, there is more that we do as therapists that is similar than is different. Different modalities have different terms and conceptualisations. For example, one therapist may choose to identify ‘attachment disordered’ clients and work in specific ways. Another therapist may work with the same client and describe the client as having a ‘fragile process’ and work in a different way. A person-centred counsellor may find the term ‘attachment disorder’ judgemental. A psychodynamic counsellor might see not working with ‘attachment’ as a failing or incompetence. But both are working professionally with the same presentation. As a profession I think we need to be more respectful, knowledgeable and inclusive of all bona fide modalities.

  • I think there is more invested in this process than just the BACP voice. If we pull out, I think there is a danger that changes can happen without us. I am angry that at higher levels, such as parliamentary group projects, counsellors and the BACP have often been excluded. We need to find a way to have a voice and to be able to influence the profession and mental health provision in the UK.

    I recognise there is much that is wrong with what has been published, but I do genuinely respect the people that are trying, for the first time to work on a much-needed framework. It isn’t easy for organisations with different opinions to come to a consensus. But I think that is what is needed. I think that we need to develop a trans-theoretical framework that unites the profession without degrading or homogenising practice. I believe that SCoPEd has the potential to do that, which is why I support it.