Are some accredited counsellors more accredited than others?

There’s been a lively debate on the comments thread to a blog post I did back in September 2014. I’d written about Chrysalis Courses, a counselling training provider which had been struck off by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy. Chrysalis continues to be registered with the National Counselling Society, which has become an Accredited Register with the Professional Standards Authority. Some of those leaving comments seem to be former students, unhappy with the quality of training they received. Others have raised criticisms what they perceively to be an excessively-close relationship between Chrysalis and the National Counselling Society.

Both the National Counselling Society and British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy have routes to become accredited counsellors. But what does the word “accredited” actually mean, and does it necessarily mean the same thing between different registers?

The BACP enables people to become first Registered, then Accredited members. By comparison, for the NCS, Accredited Member is the first level of registration. Amanda Williamson, who is BACP Accredited, has commented on the different between being NCS or BACP Accredited.

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.
I looked up the requirements for an NCS training course. It seems to suggest that only 100 hours of clinical practice are required to be accredited, compared to the BACP’s 450.
On a side note a while back I was idly pondering the idea of doing a course in Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing, a type of therapy mainly used for trauma. When I was browsing around training providers I noticed this.
  • Psychotherapists and counsellors must hold accreditation or submit proof that they they have submitted their application for accreditation for one of these professional bodies: UKCP, BACP, BABCP, IACT/IACP, BSCH, ACC (Higher level), NCP (Mental Heralth Practitioner). IAHIP.or Counselling Society practitioners may be asked for references.

Not exactly a vote of confidence, that this provider wanted references from National Counselling Society members, which they don’t seem to feel a need for from people registered with UKCP, BACP etc. This seems to chime with some of the comments left on my previous blog, that people found their NCS qualification simply wasn’t as good as one from the BACP.

These days there are 18 accredited registers with the Professional Standards Authority. Those which are relevant to counselling or psychotherapy are the UK Council for Psychotherapy, the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, the National Counselling Society, the National Hypnotherapy Society (which is closely linked to the NCS), British Psychoanalytic Council, Association of Child Psychotherapists, Association of Christian Counsellors, British Association of Play Therapists, COSCA (Counselling and Psychotherapy in Scotland) and Play Therapy UK, all with differing requirements for membership.

To give an example, the Association of Christian Counsellors has as its most basic level of registration the title of Accredited Counselling Practitioner, with the next level up being Accredited Counsellor. Though to become an Accredited Counselling Practitioner, you still have to complete 300 hours of clinical practice, 200 more than with the NCS.

This variation of standards between what classes as “accredited” concerns me, as it’s likely to be confusing to the public, as well as to people trying to decide where to train.

2 thoughts on “Are some accredited counsellors more accredited than others?

  1. “Accredited” is word that has been so misused in counselling that it doesn’t really mean anything anymore. The literal meaning of the word “accredit” (according to Google) is “(of an official body) give authority or sanction to (someone or something) when recognized standards have been met”. The BACP, for example, are particularly bad at straying from this definition, which can be illustrated by the following fact. You don’t need to be an “Accredited Member” of the BACP to be a member of the BACP who is accredited by them. If you become a Registered Member of the BACP they sanction your claim to be a counsellor or psychotherapist by recognising that you have met the standards that they have set so, under the normal definition, they accredit you. This isn’t something new, there’s a Therapy Today from 2009 complaining that the BACP use of the word “Accredited” was confusing.

    If you are a member of the public looking for a counsellor then you can safely ignore this confusion by choosing a counsellor who is on a PSA Accredited Register (or at least that’s what it’s been set up for). If the person you choose isn’t appropriately experienced or competent to handle your particular situation then she will be bound by her professional body to identify this and not work beyond her competence, and hopefully she will be able to point you in the right direction.

    If you are choosing a counselling course then it’s down to you to do the necessary research before committing yourself, there’s no equivalent of PSA Accredited Registers for training. My advice would be either: look carefully into the counselling associations, choose the ones that suit you, and then find a course that they will accept; or start with an introductory course in counselling skills and put off committing yourself to years of expensive training until you’re sure it will take you where you want to go.


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