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Our Response: Meeting with the SCoPEd technical group, 3 February 2021

by Janet Tolan
Published on 19 April 2021

This letter outlines our response to the meeting of 3 February

We welcomed the opportunity to meet with the SCoPEd Technical Group (TG) to discuss our concerns about the project. However, as Person-Centred therapists and supporters of the Person-Centred Approach, we continue to be concerned about the development of the SCoPEd project for counselling and psychotherapy. The project is moving in a direction that, in our view, is fundamentally opposed to Person-Centred Therapy. The reasons for our objections are detailed in our previous open letter. However, following our meetings with the SCoPEd TG and considering further communications about SCoPEd in Therapy Today and on the BACP website, there are some further points and proposals which we would like to share with you. 

The Person-Centred group (PCG) are not opposed to SCoPEd as a ‘mapping exercise’, but we believe that this project has gone far beyond a simple mapping. We are increasingly concerned about the project’s aims, specifically the implementation of the ‘framework’ with ‘gateways’ between the tiers. The PCG acknowledge that the mapping of current training routes and courses could yield potentially useful information to help broaden our understanding of counselling and psychotherapy training in the UK. We acknowledge that this information could be used to inform future decisions about counselling and psychotherapy training. However, the PCG object to a hierarchical competence-based framework of practitioner categories that is neither representative of, or meaningful to, day to day counselling and psychotherapy practice. 

Numerous organisations have called for an independent impact assessment, the aim of which would be to understand the effect that SCoPEd is currently having on the profession, and the potential impact it could have if it were implemented as a hierarchical competence framework. In our meeting with the TG, the project representatives argued that SCoPEd was having no impact currently because it was only a mapping exercise. However, we know that practitioners (both qualified and trainees) are actively seeking training and retraining opportunities based on the direction of the SCoPEd project; whilst training providers are redesigning courses based on the project’s current trajectory. On the BACP website it states, “We’d expect future training to take account of the framework when planning courses for new trainees and for offering top-up progression courses” (BACP, 2021). This indicates that the project does expect educational providers to respond and adapt their courses to fit into the hierarchical and tiered framework. This expectation and the response from educational providers will, in our view, cement an elitist hierarchy in counselling and psychotherapy education in the UK, which is not based in research evidence.  Furthermore, we believe that it will also stifle originality, creativity, and innovation in course delivery and design, as courses become overly homogenised. 

Therefore, we continue to call for an independent impact assessment that examines both the current and potential impact of SCoPEd on counselling and psychotherapy education, practice and employment in the UK, with a particular focus on the issues of equality, diversity and inclusion (including the impact on diversity of therapeutic modality). This ought to include a provisional assessment of currently qualified counsellors and psychotherapists, assessing which tier (A, B or C) practitioners could find themselves in, followed by an examination of these statistics in relation to practitioners’ protected characteristics, class, ethnicity, job role (e.g., NHS, private practice), therapeutic modality, and current membership body. This initial information will help ascertain the potential impact of SCoPEd on practitioners. 

Furthermore, in the interests of transparency, we ask for the publication of all evidence that contributed to the development of the framework, and the publication of both: (1) stakeholders who were asked to input into the project/consultation; and (2) stakeholders who did input into the evidence/consultation. We acknowledge that individual organisations may not be able to be specifically named due to GDPR issues. However, an anonymised representation of stakeholders could be provided which details: organisation/group type; organisational size; and any bias in terms of modality. 

In summary, the PCG ask for the SCoPEd project to be halted until the following assessments have been completed:

  • An independent assessment of:
    • the current proportion of counsellors and psychotherapists in columns A, B and C (based on the current SCoPEd framework)
    • the distribution of therapists across columns, based on therapeutic modality, job role (e.g., NHS, private practice), protected characteristics, class, ethnicity, and their current membership body.
  • An independent impact assessment which examines:
    • the impact of SCoPEd on students’ choice of training routes in 2019, 2020, and 2021. 
    • the impact of SCoPEd on course design by educational providers in 2019, 2020 and 2021.
  • We also ask for the publication of:
  • All evidence that directly informed the development of the framework
  • Details (anonymised as necessary) of: (1) stakeholders who were asked to input into the project/consultation; (2) stakeholders who did input into the evidence/consultation.
  • the costs for the SCoPEd project, so that members of all organisations can see how their membership fees are being spent.

The PCG would be open to joining a broader discussion about the direction of the profession. However, this would only be after the SCoPEd project had been finalised as a map of training routes (not practitioner categories) and the independent impact assessment proposed above had been completed.

BACP (2021) https://www.bacp.co.uk/about-us/advancing-the-profession/scoped/scoped-faqs/#gateways

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