Locked Gateways – The Final Iteration of SCoPEd

The final iteration of SCoPEd is here and it is every bit as rigid, self-defeating and objectionable as expected. One would be forgiven, in fact, for mistaking it for any of the previous iterations, as very little of significance has changed. The requirement of “450 client hours during training” for column C is still there. This essentially permanently gatekeeps almost all BACP/NCS members who have not completed UKCP and BPC training out of column C. We are not aware of any BACP or NCS accredited training which has such a client hour requirement, and the vast majority certainly do not. When we consider that the BACP were, as recently as last year, implying that post-qualification experience would be enough for a BACP accredited member with a Masters to become a column C therapist (see image A) we can clearly see the futility of multiple consultations with members based on (at best) ambiguous information from the professional bodies.

Image A

To summarise some of the key competencies which SCoPEd Framework suggests not all qualified therapists possess:

Competencies not credited to ACC registered members; BACP registered members; HGI registered members or NCS accredited registrants:

1.13.Bi Ability to take an active role as a member of a professional community and participate effectively in inter-professional and multi-agency approaches to mental health where appropriate

1.13.Bii Ability to work in multi-disciplinary teams with other professionals to enhance therapeutic outcomes

2.1.B Ability to use an initial and ongoing clinical assessment strategy that is informed by a consistent, coherent and in-depth theoretical approach

2.8.B Ability to devise and use a comprehensive risk assessment strategy

3.10.B Ability to work with issues of power and authority experienced in the ‘unconscious’ or ‘out of awareness’ processes of the client or patient as part of the therapeutic process

3.13.Bi Ability to critically reflect on the client’s or patient’s process to enhance the client’s or patient’s self-awareness and understanding of themself in relationship

3.13.Bii Ability to be aware of, and respond to, emotional shifts occurring in each session, with the aim of maintaining a level of emotional engagement appropriate for each circumstance

3.16.B Ability to actively use own responses to the client or patient in a way that is therapeutic and consistent with the theoretical model or approach

3.24.B Ability to consider and manage complex issues arising when ending therapy in the light of the client’s or patient’s previous experience of endings

4.15.B Ability to utilise audit and evaluation tools to monitor and maintain standards within practice settings

4.16.B Ability to draw upon and evaluate published research on counselling and psychotherapy, and integrate relevant research findings to enhance practice

This is without even getting started on what ACC accredited members; BACP accredited members; BPC psychodynamic counsellors; NCS accredited professional registrants and UKCP psychotherapeutic counsellors are apparently not required to be able to do. The reframing of the competences as “requirements” rather than “reflection of what all therapists in a column can do” may seem promising; ‘allowing’ therapists to work to other skills is a double-edged sword, however, because it is likely that this will leave lower-tier therapists working to the same standard as their higher tier counterparts, without recognition for their additional skills.

Here are some of the questions this final iteration, and the asserted “requirements” for each tier, leave us asking:

  • Are we really being led to believe that BACP and other professional bodies are qualifying therapists who are not required to show they can comprehensively assess risk? If so, why on earth is that happening? Do qualified therapists really not have to be able to use their own responses in the therapy room? Manage endings? Respond to emotional shifts in sessions? To draw upon literature? Are you sure? Where is the evidence that this is not being taught? And if the evdence is there, surely the correct course of action is to rectify it, not map it!
  • Several of the competences not listed in column A are in fact listed in column B. Since column B includes therapists who have been through (sometimes costly) internally-assessed ‘accreditation’ processes, perhaps the professional bodies would like to explain how these processes evidence the competencies listed in column B but not A? How, for example, does accreditation demonstrate a counsellor’s ability to “take an active role as a member of a professional community”?
  • How will this framework be understood by clients and employers? If an employer has applications from a column B therapist and a column C therapist, surely anybody reading this framework would assume that candidate C has competences that candidate B doesn’t, whatever the truth of the matter is. This seems to counteract the stated aim of “ensuring that clients, service users and patients can make informed choices”. It is, in fact, confusing, if not misleading to present a framework in this way, and add as a footnote “Members can practise competences from other columns if they have the skills to ethically do so”.

The switch of emphasis from informing “stakeholders” to informing “clients, service users and patients” is a curious one. A long-standing criticism of SCoPEd is that it completely ignores the needs of clients. Just last year the BACP stated in a written Q&A that SCoPEd was not meant as a public-facing document. But now it is? It was written for stakeholders but now it is for clients? Is this an afterthought to appease those of us who have serious concerns about the implication of SCoPEd for clients? If so, we believe that it is rather a feeble attempt.” Rather than a change in semantics, it perhaps would have been more pertinent to pay closer attention to the most fundamentally damaging issue this framework has always presented: elitism.

What can never be addressed by tinkering with this existing framework is the plain fact that more expensive and elitist training routes are privileged in the columns. This means that people with money to outlay to do expensive trainings will be placed higher up the framework even if those on lower columns are “[practising] competences from other columns if they have the skills to ethically do so” – this essentially will boil down to doing the same work on a lower pay grade. We believe that the people who are most likely to be disenfranchised by this are trainees and therapists from marginalised backgrounds, especially those from working class backgrounds and minoritised groups, whom we represent within our organisations. This is a disaster for clients who already struggle to find counsellors and psychotherapists who look like them, sound like them and have similar cultural experiences and frames of reference.

We challenge the professional bodies to evaluate the demographics of each column and ascertain whether each column does, as we suspect it will, become whiter, more middle class and more male than the last.

This is the entrenchment of existing power dynamics in Counselling and Psychotherapy. This is the cementing of the status quo. We do not see how this final iteration improves upon the last, nor how it benefits anyone other than training establishments and their most affluent trainees and graduates.