MATT VALENTINE-CHASE – STATEMENT on BACP Membership
The majority of professional therapists are members of professional bodies. I was no different and saw my professional membership as being a vital aspect of my commitment to my clients. I am currently not a member of any professional body. It is a very big step for a therapist to leave their professional governing body. I did so in 2017. Following you will see an outline of why I, along with many of my colleagues, simply couldn’t continue to pay the BACP for professional membership.
I was a member of the BACP for over a decade from 2000-2012, then I took a break from working, rejoining the BACP in 2015. To my horror, the organisation had become a draconian, out of touch business that, to my mind, failed to protect clients and worked more to protect members. As example, there were many cases of senior accredited members having complaints against them upheld - but retaining their accreditation status (see ‘Accreditation’ for further details). This defeats the object of accreditation – which is supposed to mean that members have reached ‘exemplary’ standards of practice.
In 2016 (but also previously as this issue had been around for a while) the BACP were the last organisation to speak out against gay conversion 'therapy' and made several failings around this issue, one such failing - to extend their stand against gay conversion therapy to trans and asexual ‘conversion’.
Further to this, their 'updated' framework (in July 2016) that was supposed to go further to protect and include the LGBTQAI community and the sex work community failed dramatically. It seemed to have been written by practitioners with little knowledge or understanding of the communities. The BACP were approached by several leading practitioners in this field, their pleas to further their LGTBQAI and sex worker inclusion were ignored.
This was in part the catalyst for a mass exodus of long-time members, especially those specialising at working with the LGBTQAI community - Dominic Davies, probably being the most prominent therapist to leave in protest in 2016 - Read His Statement Here
This has been well hidden from the public and I have worked with many clients who have seen BACP accredited and standard members who failed to understand their sexual identity, gender identity or sex working status.
It is important to understand that reaching a level of accreditation, for some professional bodies, does not mean a higher educational attainment or years of experience - for the BACP, as an example, there is an extra charge of £230 for accreditation, in addition to the £170 per year membership fee. To describe the accredited members as having reached a higher level of expertise is simply misleading. The BACP do not, ever, tell the public that the therapist has paid extra for this.
Those of us who are not members of professional bodies, and especially those who do not have accreditation, are seen as 'less than' and this is resulting in elitism and exclusion.
Counselling and Psychotherapy – there is a difference
Another issue I struggled with for some years was the ‘rebranded’ BAC (the British Association for Counselling) to the BACP (the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy). Psychotherapy is an advanced, medical-model intervention. You need to be a trained psychiatrist, psychologist or specifically trained psychotherapist (who are often psychologists and/or trained psychiatric medical professionals) in order to be a bonda fide psychotherapist. My belief is that the BACP rebrand blurred the lines between the two and confused the public. I believe that this could result in counsellors calling themselves psychotherapists (and this does happen – a lot) which could prove unsafe for patients seeking psychotherapy – the training for which is usually seven years, rather than counselling, which is usually four years (to reach the accepted standard Dip.Couns. in the UK).
There is nothing wrong with ‘just’ counselling and the training for which, depending on the institution, can be and often is formidable. It is important for the therapist, however, to know their limits and to know when to refer a client to a medical professional. If the therapist is calling themselves ‘a psychotherapist’ – harm can occur and the therapist can become deluded as to their limits and role.
If you are seeking a medically qualified psychotherapist, it is advisable to see a GP, psychiatrist or psychologist, who are far better placed to refer to an appropriate professional.
Another issue on professional membership to consider is cost. - most bodies charge in advance and there is no option for monthly payments. Part time and voluntary therapists often cannot afford this so if there were an appropriate, ethical, transparent professional body for them to join, cost may cause a barrier for the therapist. It is interesting that the BACP do offer monthly payments. I wonder if I allowed that to sway my opinion when I first joined. Sometimes I question this. I also question why we join professional bodies in the first place. If it isn’t to protect the client – what is the point?
I very much appreciate you taking the time to read this. I hope that it explains why I am no longer a member of the BACP, and why I currently do not have professional membership. I hear from my colleagues that the NCS (National Counselling Society) is a good option so I shall keep this in mind. I do, however, feel that many practitioners join professional bodies just to ‘look good’. This does not sit well with me. If I come across a (or, who knows, launch my own) professional body that resonates – I will most certainly keep you posted.
Dip.Couns. Cert.Couns. Pract.Cert.TLT®