I am writing to explain the reasons for termination of my BACP membership
I am writing to explain the reasons for termination of my BACP membership. I have been accredited since 1998 and became senior accredited some years ago. I have been prompted by a letter, ‘NICE-approved therapies only’ (Therapy Today, October 2011), where an anonymous colleague has written a contribution to the RCT debate. I am in almost total accord with the views and opinions expressed in this letter, and it quite accurately describes the position I find myself in. I have been in continuous NHS employment since 1996 and as a counsellor felt marginalised within the NHS structure. I had worked as a Primary Mental Health Worker within CAMHS for six years (band seven) but when I wished to apply for a clinical post within my department, I was ignored, and in response to my complaint was told that my training and experience did not equip me to work as a clinician in CAMHS. I approached BACP for help at that point and although a BACP representative tried to advocate, this was unsuccessful.
As there were no counselling vacancies available in adult mental health, I had no choice but to train as an IAPT CBT practitioner in order to secure employment.
I had in fact been looking for a counselling post within the NHS for several years to no avail. My decision to train in CBT was therefore a strategic manoeuvre according to the current developments in the NHS provisioning of psychological therapies rather than a modality choice. Now that I am working as a CBT psychotherapist (band seven) and have a permanent secure post, I am pleased that I am able to do clinical work which enables me to integrate my previous experience that constitutes my core professional identity.
I have not taken a decision to terminate the BACP membership lightly as I value my alliance with counselling and will always be an advocate for counselling. However, I feel strongly that BACP has let me down, and others who have been employed in the NHS or would have liked to work as NHS counsellors, because we are not valued, our qualification is seen as lacking, and generally we are not considered for promotion.
Personally I believe that BACP’s decision to end the requirement for personal therapy in order to be eligible for an accreditation was a mistake with the regrettable consequence of counselling being perceived as secondary to psychotherapy. This step might have increased BACP membership, but the price of wanting to be too inclusive has led to producing too many counsellors, whereas at the same time there has been a decline in employment opportunities. This altogether, in my opinion, has devalued the profession in the eyes of other professionals and the general public.
As we are experiencing major changes in the current NHS structure, I feel for my fellow counsellors who fear for their job security. Recently the managers in our service have proposed that our counsellors should not have individual supervision, but make do with peer group supervision in an attempt to increase productivity and save money. Understandably this was met with an outcry and concerns. Subsequently the counsellors have sought help from BACP but to their dismay have been told that peer group supervision does meet BACP criteria for continued accreditation.
The point I am endeavouring to make is that when counsellors need BACP to back them up and strengthen their position within the NHS hierarchy, BACP is not able to be assertive for the counselling profession. BACP has shown a lack of strong leadership in its failure to assert counselling’s position within IAPT and fighting for recognition by NICE, demonstrated by the failure to actively increase standards, promote research and RCTs, and this has left counselling behind and at risk of becoming a dying profession in the current competitive market. Unfortunately this is reflected in Therapy Today, in my opinion, in that the journal does not meet the needs of experienced members. My impression is that it is better aimed at students and beginners.
In my list of grudges against BACP I have to include unrealistic standards that do not reflect the reality of counsellors working at the coalface of the NHS. When I was working towards supervision accreditation, I found I was unable to pursue this because group supervision and individual hours could not be combined. This lack of flexibility did not meet my needs as I was supervising both groups and individuals when working as a PMHW in CAMHS, and I did not have enough hours to apply for accreditation. Hence I was forced to seek this recognition elsewhere. Therefore I have become a member of BAPPS. I suspect that other supervisors are in a similar position.
Regarding reaching recognition of seniority as Senior Accredited this is not recognised or valued within the NHS. I still remember how proud I felt when I became BACP Senior Accredited but this achievement meant nothing for my career prospects and was therefore rendered totally meaningless. BACP has done nothing to make it a meaningful recognition.
I will miss however the BACP Healthcare journal (HCPJ), which has been trying to keep up to date and does offer interesting articles, but nevertheless has also failed to assert counselling as a competitive valued treatment recognised by other health professionals.
Obviously having been trained in CBT, I am also a member of BACBP. Therefore, I have needed to review my memberships and have come to the conclusion that being a member of BACP does not give me value for money and enough benefits to justify the expense. Despite my loyalty and commitment to counselling I have, with regret, resigned my BACP membership.
Cognitive behaviour psychotherapist and psychotherapeutic counsellor
© British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy 2011.