I stumbled across an interesting video on the BBC website this morning which asked the question ‘Can anyone call themselves a therapist or counsellor’. The common sense answer to this is ‘no’, obviously someone must be properly qualified, accredited and accountable to a bona fide governing body to be able to sit down with someone and talk to them about their deepest and most vulnerable thoughts and feelings.
Well, common sense be damned because the reality is that, as things currently stand, anyone can do six or twelve week course with the ‘Online University of Cleverness and Counselling – based in the foothills of the Himalayas and run by a Yak named Dave’ and then advertise themselves as a counsellor and start seeing clients.
Technically, someone could set themselves up as a counsellor or therapist without doing the above course and just pretend that they have a qualification or are a member of a governing body and they still will not be breaking the law in any meaningful way.
These people are morally and ethically abhorrent, as well as being arrogant and dangerous, but in the eyes of the law, they cannot be punished for their actions. Even if they see a client and exacerbate any mental health issues that were there, that client has no recourse and no way of censuring or ensuring the ‘counsellor’ does not do it again to anyone else.
Strange isn’t it? If we were talking about a GP, or a surgeon, it is clear and obvious that anyone wanting to practice in these fields would need to be qualified and trained before they were let loose on the general population. There is also be a clear pathway around complaining about your treatment if it did not come up to an acceptable standard.
Psychiatrists are regulated to the same standards (even though I have met many psychiatrists I would not trust to be left alone in a room with a box of lego without hurting themselves. For balance I have to say I have also met some amazing psychiatrists I would trust implicitly and are amazing with their clients), so I know when I am dealing with a psychiatrist they have achieved certain levels of training and education. Yet with the counsellors and therapists I encounter on training courses or CPD events, I do not and cannot have the same certainty around their qualifications and experience.
For myself as a therapist, this is confusing and leads me to be wary sometimes when in these kinds of environments. So how must it be for a client, who is struggling in some way with their mental or emotional health and has gone onto the internet to find someone to support them, only to encounter all sorts of acronyms and posh sounding therapies (MBACP, BACP Accred UKCP registered, existential therapy, psychoanalytic, transpersonal, neuro linguistic, body/art/drama/dance therapies)? Confusing is my guess.
There are some good governing bodies out there. The Royal College of Psychiatrists does what it can to ensure its members do not do too much damage to the people they come across. For counsellors and therapists, the two main organisations are the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) and the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) (and a myriad of smaller organisations vying for power and position). The BACP and UKCP are currently working hard to come up with a way of regulating the training and qualification of new counsellors and therapists, but it is a slow process and does not fully address the issue of the people out there who are calling themselves therapist and counsellors yet are nowhere near qualified enough to do so.
Before anyone engages with a counsellor or therapist, I would recommend that they first ensure that they are listed as qualified with either the BACP or the UKCP. I am a member of the BACP and know that if a person is Accredited with them they have either passed a BACP Accredited course, or they have completed the accreditation process with the BACP which means there have achieved a high level of training and also have a certain level of experience as a counsellor or a therapist.
If you are not sure about a therapist’s qualifications, ask them which governing body they are a member of and the get in touch with the organisation and ask them to confirm their credentials before engaging with them.
Most of all, I would say, go with your gut. As a general rule of thumb if something about the person or the setup doesn’t feel right then I would not engage with someone if you are not feeling safe or comfortable.
The vast majority of counsellors and therapists are ethical, qualified and safe, but please also be aware that that should not necessarily be assumed and sometimes it pays off to do a bit of research before engaging with a counsellor or therapist.
There is a link to the BBC video online that inspired this today below:
This blog got me thinking about my own training and I found the below on an old email. It is the course content for the four year training I did. It bought back a few memories and made me smile, but also made me realise how valuable my training was and how much I treasure it. Most of the module titles are still used by myself in some way every day I am at work, not necessarily consciously, but they are there in my mind somewhere and influencing the work I do with my clients. It makes me feel a little bit proud that I took the long and difficult training route I did as I am the better therapist (and person) for it.
Goal Setting, Contract Making – Ethics and Professional Practices, Ego States 1 (Models of Ego States), Making Contact: Psychological hungers, Ego States 2 (The Child Ego State), Relating To The Past: Transference and Countertransference, Understanding And Working With Emotion: Rackets, How The Past Influences The Present: Script, Active Problem Solving: Passivity School, Understanding Personality Types: Process Communication, Knowing What Happens Next: Planning Applications, Ego States 3 (The Parent Ego State), Relating To The Past: Transference and Countertransference.
Goal Setting ,Culture, Counselling and Psychotherapy, and Ego States 1 (Diagnosis and Assessment),Ego States 2 (Pathology), Human Growth and Development 1,The Analysis of Communication : Transactional Analysis Proper, Understanding Relationship Patterns: Game Analysis, Changing the Past in the Present: Redecision School, Relating Meaningfully: Integrative Transactional Analysis, Ego States 3 (Working with Ego States),Human Growth and Development, Being Effective in Groups: Group Analysis, Committing to Life, Blocking Tragic Outcomes, Group Presentations
Year Three (Advanced Psychopathology)
Models for assessment and diagnosis – DSM 4, Depression and Anxiety States, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Suicide, Eating Disorders, Psychotic States, Personality Disorder, Disorders of the Self – narcissistic processes, Disorders of the Self – schizoid processes, Disorders of the Self – borderline processes
Year Four (The Therapeutic Relationship)
Models for Understanding the Helping Relationship, The Developmentally Needed Relationship 1 – Stern’s Domains of Relatedness, The Developmentally Needed Relationship 2 – Attachment Theory, Working With Transference and Countertransference, Internalization and Externalization: Projection, Introjection – Transference and Countertransference, The Core Relationship: Existential Approaches, The Transpersonal Dimension, Modes of Therapeutic Action Introduction to Research, The Values of Psychotherapy – Ethics and Professional Practices