The Person Centred Association in Action

Here you learn about some of The Person Centred Association (PCA) in Action commitments to develop and promote the Person-Centred Approach in the UK and worldwide. You might also have an overall view of the constant work that the coordinating group does with the co-operation of PCA members.

Working to ensure that national developments such as IAPT include person centred and experiential therapies ...

We were a founder member of Partners for Counselling and Psychotherapy comprising fourteen organisations from across the counselling and psychotherapy profession with a shared purpose: To hold open a space to protect counselling and psychotherapy from restrictive standardisation and homogenisation, supporting the wide range of good practice in the field.

Campaigning to ensure that person-centred experiential therapies are accurately represented on the national stage ...

In October 2020, we sent the following open letter which was signed by over 400 organisations and individuals:

SCoPEd: Insufficient and Incongruent

An open letter to BACP

As Person-Centred therapists and supporters of the Person-Centred Approach, we have become increasingly concerned about the development of the SCoPEd project for counselling and psychotherapy. Person-Centred Therapy (PCT) constitutes one of the most widely practised approaches within BACP and yet SCoPEd has marginalised and excluded Person-Centred therapists almost entirely. After the first consultation, we were assured that PCT – an approach supported by decades of research (e.g. Cooper, Watson & Hölldampf, 2010; Elliott et al, 2013; Murphy & Joseph, 2016) – would be more accurately represented in the second iteration of the proposed framework, but in fact little of any substance has changed and there has been no willingness to fundamentally reassess the project’s approach. We now call on BACP to halt SCoPEd and to open a more inclusive dialogue about the future of our field.

Person-Centred therapists are committed to creating the therapeutic conditions for constructive change and the fulfilment of potential, not only with individual clients and trainees but for the therapy field as a whole. How, then, can we best nurture the diverse ecology of therapeutic practice in the UK? This is an important and complex question that the SCoPEd project fails to answer successfully by attempting to ‘map’ training and practice onto a simplistic ‘competency framework’. For us, this signals a failure of imagination and a lack of creativity, but it also demonstrates a troubling commitment to a predetermined outcome.

Far from creating the conditions for growth, the project has proven to be divisive, elitist and exclusionary, not least by privileging some theories, practices and professional identities over others, while simultaneously turning a blind eye to the complex histories and professional politics that feed its erroneously hierarchical understanding of therapy training and practice. SCoPEd creates a professional self-concept that is incongruent with how many practitioners, trainees and clients actually experience the human relationships at the heart of therapy, irrespective of theoretical orientation.

This is not solely about our own interests as Person-Centred therapists. The marginalisation of the Person-Centred Approach in the SCoPEd project is an exemplary case study in how – whatever its intentions – the proposed framework fails to accurately promote, represent or clarify understanding in the field of counselling and psychotherapy in the UK. Rather than ‘mapping’ the territory, SCoPEd distorts our professional landscape into a politically expedient shape at the expense of a whole swathe of practitioners whose work is misunderstood, downgraded and delegitimised.

From a Person-Centred perspective, we are particularly concerned about the following issues:

1) It is a key Person-Centred value that no one group is better equipped to be a therapist than any other. Counselling and psychotherapy is already a disproportionately white, middle class profession but SCoPEd looks set to further entrench these deep structural inequalities by lending even more status to certain titles and trainings at the expense of others. This will inevitably drive up costs, exacerbate elitism and further exclude from the upper tiers of the framework’s hierarchy those experiencing socio-economic disadvantage, discrimination and oppression.

2) Until very recently, well into the project’s development and in our view far too late, the three SCoPEd membership bodies – BACP, UKCP and a relatively small body dedicated solely to psychoanalytic practice (BPC) – have excluded all other membership organisations, interest groups and stakeholders.

3) The composition of the so-called Expert Reference Group (ERG) is deeply problematic. Originally, the ERG had seven psychoanalytic therapists and no Person-Centred therapists. Then an eighth psychoanalytic therapist was added, together with one identifying as Person-Centred/Pluralistic. The ‘independent’ Chair is drawn from the British Psychoanalytic Council. This is not a grouping that can be expected to understand or faithfully represent the complexities and nuances of the family of Person-Centred and Experiential therapies.

4) SCoPEd uncritically adopts the notion that the best way forward for our field is to develop a ‘competency framework’ using a methodology designed originally to manualise CBT for the IAPT project in the NHS (Roth & Pilling, 2008). The Person-Centred Approach has long critiqued manualisation, which potentially dehumanises the co-created, relational art of therapy and, in this case, risks reducing it to a mechanistic, psychoanalytically-informed healthcare intervention.

5) The Roth & Pilling methodology relies on a narrow and self-referential range of ‘evidence’, which distorts the outcomes of its ‘research’ so that assumptions from psychoanalytic psychotherapy become in the SCoPEd framework ‘evidence-based’ assertions about the relative competency of therapists with different trainings and philosophies (Murphy, 2019).

6) Given the theoretical bias in the ERG’s composition and the values inherent in the project’s chosen methodology, it is no surprise that the competence framework itself almost erases a Person-Centred understanding of therapeutic practice.

For example:

I. Despite the temporary and somewhat disingenuous removal of practitioner titles in the second iteration, SCoPEd clearly differentiates ‘counselling’ and ‘psychotherapy’, terms which in the Person-Centred Approach are used interchangeably. Indeed, from Carl Rogers’ earliest writings onwards, differentiation has tended to be viewed critically (Rogers, 1942; Thorne, 1999). Until very recently this was also BACP’s position but the organisation has now performed an astonishing and unevidenced U-turn on the issue.

III. Moreover, the framework portrays ‘psychotherapists’ as being not just different but more competent than ‘counsellors’ across a whole range of practice issues, formalising a divisive hierarchy of practice that devalues post-qualification experience and training. It also grants ownership of the language to those who support this hierarchical differentiation and delegitimises those, such as Person-Centred therapists, for whom these terms have different meanings. Proposing (as yet unspecified) ‘gateways’ between the titles does nothing to level this inequality – if anything it highlights how therapists have been organised into an imposed system of tiered enclosures, through which only those with sufficient resources will be able to move upwards.

III. PCT in the UK is commonly – though by no means exclusively – practised under the title of ‘counsellor’, which the hierarchy effectively downgrades. But the professional and political history of this identity (see Rogers, 2019) has nothing to do with the competence or ability of Person-Centred therapists to co-create and sustain therapeutic relationships at depth (e.g. Mearns & Cooper, 2017).

IV. Throughout the framework, a psychoanalytically-informed, instrumental treatment approach – one at least partly located in the medical model – is positioned as superior to holistic, phenomenological, Humanistic approaches. The highest level ('psychotherapist’/ column C) competences are skewed towards psychoanalytic theory and practice, most obviously in their references to the ‘unconscious’. The addition of the phrase ‘out of awareness’ and other minor language tweaks do not go anywhere near far enough to redress this inequality.

V. The privileging of psychoanalytic approaches belies the claim that the SCoPEd framework is ‘evidence-based’. There is no clear evidence that psychoanalytic approaches achieve higher levels of competence, greater depth of practice or have better ‘outcomes’ for clients than Person-Centred therapies, which are well researched and strongly evidence-based (e.g. Cooper, Watson & Hölldampf, 2010; Elliott et al, 2013; Murphy & Joseph, 2016).

VI. Using UKCP and BPC-approved course curricula as the primary sources for the ‘psychotherapist’/column C competences devalues the alternative – but nonetheless philosophically coherent – approach found in Person-Centred training, which has different emphases, e.g. the value placed on group work (not just individual therapy) in personal development. There is, after all, no evidence that higher academic levels of study, more personal therapy, attending mental health placements and working from a psychoanalytic theoretical base in training result in more meaningful therapy experiences for clients.

VII. The related notion, visible in the SCoPEd competences, that only practitioners who meet the ‘psychotherapist’/column C criteria are able to undertake the most complex therapeutic work, is contradicted by the fact that many trainee and newly qualified counsellors (from all theoretical approaches) will already be working ethically in placements with issues such as complex trauma. It also ignores the pioneering work of Person-Centred practitioners both in psychiatric settings (e.g. Prouty, 2008; Warner 2014) and in the area of ‘post-traumatic growth’ (Joseph, 2011).

Summary:

We cannot support SCoPEd because it imposes an understanding of therapy that we do not share and for which there is a lack of good evidence. The project’s organisational processes and research methodology have created a framework that erroneously equates practitioner competency and therapeutic depth with specific theoretical approaches, training conventions, practitioner titles and organisational memberships/levels – all of which evolved for professional reasons that have little bearing on the richly diverse, lived experience of therapeutic relationships. In its legitimising of redundant hierarchies, SCoPEd misrepresents the profession of counselling and psychotherapy, fails the Person-Centred Approach, devalues the work of thousands of trained counsellors in the UK and risks further impeding diversity in our field. We ask BACP to halt the project; to reconnect with its own membership; to consult more widely across the field about the best way forward; to fully embrace diversity of thought and practice; to genuinely prize the work of therapists of all kinds; and to put therapeutic values rather than political expediency back at the heart of its approach.

References:

Cooper, M; Watson, JC; Hölldampf, D (2010) Person-Centered And Experiential Therapies Work: A Review Of The Research On Counseling, Psychotherapy And Related Practices. Ross-on-Wye: PCCS Books.

Elliott, R., Watson, J., Greenberg, L.S., Timulak, L., & Freire, E. (2013). ‘Research on humanistic-experiential psychotherapies’. In M.J. Lambert (Ed.),Bergin & Garfield‘s Handbook of Psychotherapy and Behavior Change (6th ed.) (pp. 495-538). New York: Wiley.

Joseph, S (2011) What Doesn’t Kill Us: The new psychology of post-traumatic growth. New York: Basic Books. Joseph, S (2017) ‘The Problem of Choosing Between Irreconcilable Theoretical Orientations: Comment on Melchert (2016)’ American Psychologist 2017, Vol. 72, No. 4, 397–398. Mearns, D & Cooper, M (2017) Working at Relational Depth in Counselling and Psychotherapy. 2nd edition. London: Sage.

Murphy, D (2019) ‘The Questionable Evidence Base of SCoPEd’. Blog retrieved 26/09/2020 here: <https://allianceblogs.wordpress.com/2019/01/31/the-questionable-evidence-base-of-scoped/> Murphy, D, & Joseph, S (2016) ‘Person-centered therapy: Past, present, and future orientations’. In D. J. Cain, K. Keenan, & S. Rubin (Eds.), Humanistic Psychotherapies: Handbook of Research and Practice, Second Edition (pp. 185 - 219). Washington: APA.

Prouty G (2008) Emerging Developments In Pre-Therapy: A Pre-Therapy Reader. Monmouth: PCCS Books.

Rogers, A (2019) ‘Maps, Languages & Lost Continents: Person-Centred Therapy And The SCoPEd Project’. Blog retrieved 26/09/2020 here: <https://allianceblogs.wordpress.com/2019/07/31/maps-person-centred-therapy-scoped/>

Rogers, C (1942) Counseling and Psychotherapy: Newer Concepts in Practice (p. 4). Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Roth, AD & Pilling, S (2008). ‘Using an evidence based methodology to identify the competences required to deliver effective cognitive and behavioural therapy for depression and anxiety disorders.’ Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy, 36, pp. 129-147.

Thorne, B (1999) ‘Psychotherapy and counselling are indistinguishable’ (pp. 225-232) in Feltham, C. Controversies in Psychotherapy and Counselling. London: Sage.

Warner, M (2014) ‘Client processes at the difficult edge’. In P Pearce and L Sommerbeck (eds), Person-Centred Practice at the Difficult Edge. Rosson-Wye: PCCS Books

Organisational signatories

The Person-Centred Association (TPCA)

UK Person-Centred Experiential (UKPCE)

Person-Centred Therapy Scotland (PCT Scotland)

The Association for the Development of the Person-Centered Approach (ADPCA)

European Network for Person-Centred & Experiential Psychotherapy and Counselling (PCE Europe)

Counsellors Together UK (CTUK)

Psychotherapists and Counsellors for Social Responsibility (PCSR)

Pink Therapy

Aashna Counselling & Psychotherapy

Free Psychotherapy Network (FPN)

Alliance for Counselling & Psychotherapy

Counselling for Social Change

Kaleidoscope Counselling Scotland

Radical Dialogues

Dutch Association for Person-Centred Experiential Psychotherapy (VPeP)

Flemish Association for Client-Centered & Experiential Psychotherapy and Counseling (VVCEPC)

Panhellenic Association of Person-Centred & Experiential Professionals (PEEPVIP)

Polish Society of Integrative Experiential Psychotherapy (INTRA)

Rogers Centre – Foundation for the Autonomous Person (Hungary)

Romanian Association for Person-Centred Psychotherapy (ARPCP)

Russian Community of the Person-Centred Approach (RCPCA)

Minutes from The Person Centred Association meetings...

The Person Centred Association is constantly working to support its members and promote the PCA in the UK and worldwide. If you are a member, you can access minutes of recent and past Association CG and AGM meetings logging in to your online account here.

The Directories of The Person Centred Association Members...

The Person Centred Association has developed a widely inclusive directory to welcome all its members. You may choose to join one or more of the four groups: practitioners; supervisors; trainers; students and associated members. Click here to learn more about your options and about how to join our growing directories.

Grant to support meta-analysis research into the efficacy of Person-Centred and Experiential Therapies...

The Person Centred Association granted £20.000 to support the meta-analysis research of the outcomes of person-centred and experiential therapies developed by Prof. Robert Elliott and Beth Freire, from Strathclyde University in Glasgow, as a sign of its commitment to promote and develop the PCA. Click here to read the summary of the results.

The Person Centred Association raising awareness about the regulation process of counselling and other talking therapies in the UK...

The Person Centred Association wishes to facilitate access to as much information as possible about the current move towards statutory regulation of the psychological therapies in the UK. The opinions expressed in the links and articles below, however, are from their respective authors and, unless stated otherwise, do not necessarily represent the views of the Association.

Past actions...

BAPCA Regulation Working Group's letter to Marc Seale, Chief Executive of the Health Professions Council - May 2010 > Reply Letter by Marc Seale

Coordinating Group's Response to BAPCA Members' Open Letter: The Future of the Person-Centred Approach in the UK and the Case against HPC and State Regulation

Results of BAPCA Survey on Statutory Regulation
BAPCA Coordinating Group presents the results of a survey carried out to identify members' views on the regulation of psychotherapy and counselling.

BAPCA Report: Meeting with Shadow Health Minister, November 2009 - Allan Turner and Teresa Cosgrove represent BAPCA at the meeting in the Grand Committee Room at Westminster Palace called by Anne Milton, MP and Shadow Health Minister.

BAPCA Report - The regulation of psychotherapists and counsellors, Stakeholder’s event in Manchester on 31 March 2009

BAPCA as a partner in the conference 'Psychological Therapies in the NHS: Science, Practice and Policy' 27 & 28 Nov 2008, London - Read BAPCA Report

Last updated: 06 November 2020

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