What is going on at the British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy (BACP)? As many of its members are now all too aware, the organisation has recently revealed that it is considering introducing ‘mystery shoppers’ and ‘practice inspections’ into its audit processes for practitioners on the BACP Register.
In an email on Monday 9th January, BACP Chair Andrew Reeves invited BACP members to respond to a survey on changes to the organisation’s register audit processes and CPD requirements. ‘We feel that it is time to make changes to strengthen our commitment to both safeguarding the public and protecting the reputation of the profession’, he writes.
The survey questions say that BACP are considering the use of mystery shoppers and practice inspections to assess members’ policies and procedures, particularly around confidentiality. It also proposed asking supervisors to complete forms confirming ‘frequency and duration’ of their supervisees attendance at supervision and that they have ‘gone through the ethical framework’ with them. If that weren’t enough, supervisors will be sent forms asking if they have any concerns about their supervisees, while registrants could face a ‘revalidation’ process involving some kind of ‘assessment of outcomes of practice’.
“a fundamental shift in the ethical relationship between therapists and their organisations, to a values incongruent one of surveillance and control”
Within hours of the survey being sent out, BACP members were sharing with the Alliance and across social media their deep concerns at such a huge change in policy and procedure; crucially that the proposals represented a fundamental shift in the ethical relationship between therapists and their organisations, from a supportive and challenging one to a values incongruent relationship of surveillance and control.
We wonder whether anyone at BACP has any awareness of the many devastating critiques of this kind approach, not to mention the personal experiences of practitioners from other professions who already work in this kind of culture and can attest to the toxic influence it has upon both their practices – which become increasingly defensive and distorted by the threat of surveillance – and themselves as persons, who become increasingly anxious and burnt out.
Surely of all professions, we would expect those in the field of counselling and psychotherapy to be attuned to these issues, to understand that relationships of trust – such as therapy – are not fostered in a context of suspicion or excessive external controls, and that these proposals would be harmful to both practitioners and clients.
How, then, does BACP imagine such procedures will ‘safeguard the public and protect the reputation of the profession’, as they put it? What is driving its desire to police the field in this way, completely ignoring the possibility that an uncritical over-estimation of its ‘public protection’ function might have a range of unintended negative consequences?
BACP, it would seem, are increasingly keen not to differentiate psychotherapy and counselling from other activities, to celebrate and articulate its uniqueness, nor to embrace and encourage the diversity of thought and practice within its own ranks, but instead to homogenise and take greater control of the field in an attempt to align it with ‘other healthcare professions’, as if it were undisputed that therapy is a ‘healthcare profession’ and should therefore mimic the cultures and practices of its claimed professional neighbours. This drive can also be seen in BACP’s efforts to standardise practice via ‘competency frameworks’ but the survey proposals expose its agenda even more starkly.
What’s the prize here? Winning the battle for influence in the corridors of power? Jobs for members in State agencies and institutions?
As they are keen to point out on social media, BACP are ‘listening’. But to whom and to what ends? What has happened to the largest therapy organisation in the UK that it would even consider proposals that would be the death knell for trust as a core principle in the practice of therapy?
Check out our first blog on the issue here, with one BACP registered member’s responses to the survey. And there’s an interesting analysis of the issue here noting BACP’s ‘ethical blind spot when it comes to practising institutionally what it preaches for its members individually’.