Accreditation in Counselling • Counselling Tutor

Accreditation in Counselling

Accreditation in Counselling

‘Accreditation’ is a word that often causes a lot of confusion in the world of counselling and psychotherapy – which is understandable, given that it is used to refer to a range of different schemes.

Types of Accreditation

You might see registers, services, courses and individual therapists being referred to as ‘accredited’. It’s important to distinguish between each of these types of accreditation, and to understand that accreditation does not transfer between these four areas.

For example, belonging to a professional body with an accredited register, working in an accredited service or training on an accredited course doesn’t make you an accredited therapist.

Accredited Registers

In the UK, there is no licensing system for counsellors. This means that ‘counsellor’ is not a protected title and therefore that anyone can (legally, if not ethically) set themselves up as a counsellor.

The Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care (PSA) runs the Accredited Register scheme, to which professional bodies (e.g. the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy – BACP, and the National Counselling Society – NCS) can apply for accreditation of their registers, so that clients know they are working with a practitioner who adheres to professional standards.

Most employers and many insurance companies and directories (where private-practice therapists can advertise their services) require practitioners to belong to a professional body that is part of the PSA’s Accredited Registers scheme.

Being on a professional register requires that you undertake a minimum amount (typically 30 hours) of continuing professional development (CPD) each year, that you have professional indemnity insurance, and that you receive adequate clinical supervision.

Belonging to a professional body with an accredited register, working in an accredited service or training on an accredited course doesn’t make you an accredited therapist. Individual accreditation is a separate process that you need to go through.

Accredited Services

Counselling services can apply for service accreditation via a professional body, as a way of showing that the service is of a high standard. Given the time and cost involved in doing this, not all services will choose to do so.

Accredited Courses

An accredited course is one that has been approved by a professional body. This does clearly offer an assurance of the quality of the course materials and teaching – so long as the professional body is a recognised one. However, many other courses that are not accredited may well be of at least the same quality.

Some providers of low-quality courses create their own professional bodies to make the courses look more prestigious than they really are. A good general guideline is to trust only professional bodies who belong to the PSA’s Accredited Registers scheme.

If you qualify on a course that is not accredited, then you will need to meet the requirements of your chosen professional body when you apply to join them, and potentially do a short test, such as the BACP’s Certificate of Proficiency (which is free of charge).

Meanwhile, people who have studied on accredited courses can bypass the requirements for joining the professional membership body that accredited the course.

Some providers of low-quality courses create their own professional bodies to make the courses look more prestigious than they really are. A good general guideline is to trust only professional bodies who belong to the PSA’s Accredited Registers scheme.

Accredited Practitioners

As noted above, belonging to a professional body with an accredited register, working in an accredited service or training on an accredited course doesn’t make you an accredited therapist. Individual accreditation is a separate process that you need to go through.

The various professional bodies for counselling and psychotherapy have individual accreditation schemes that enable members to submit a portfolio describing their learning and work; a fee may be payable too. Those who are deemed from this submission to be working to an appropriate standard are awarded accredited-member status.

Different professional bodies use different terminology to describe individual accreditation. For example, the BACP refers to ‘accredited members’ while the NCS refers to ‘accredited professional registrants’. To be sure of current requirements, it’s best to read about these on the relevant professional body’s website.

Some employers specifically ask that applicants for counselling roles are accredited or working towards accreditation. Private practitioners may find that members of the public are less aware of individual accreditation.

Whether or not you decide to apply for accreditation is very much an individual decision. Many counsellors go through their entire careers as registered – but not accredited – practitioners.

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Accreditation in Counselling

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