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Open letter from person-centred community calls on BACP to halt the SCoPEd project

An open letter from hundreds of person-centred practitioners and supporters of the Person-Centred Approach has been published, calling on BACP to halt the controversial SCoPEd project for counselling and psychotherapy and to ‘open a more inclusive dialogue about the future of the field’.

The letter (reproduced in full below and also sent to UKCP, BPC and NCS) is signed by over 400 therapists, academics, educators and trainees, among them BACP Fellows, BACP Accredited and Senior Accredited members , UKCP registered therapists, NCS members and leading person-centred writers from the UK, Europe and the United States. 21 organisations have also signed, including person-centred groups from across Europe.

As the letter spells out, the project and its proposed competency framework is ‘divisive, elitist and exclusionary’ and marginalises Person-Centred Therapy, one of the most widely practised therapeutic approaches among BACP members. As the letter states:

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.’

Read the letter and full list of signatories below.


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.

II. 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. Ross-on-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)

Psychotherapy & Counselling Union (PCU)

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)


Individual signatories

Ray M. Adomaitis Ph.D; Licensed Psychologist, Washington
Sabine Ahlen MBACP Registered; NCS Accredited
Laura Aitken MBACP (Accred)
Maria Albertson, Founder, Counsellors Together UK (CTUK)
Ashley Allcorn A.M., LSW; B Temaner-Brodley PG Fellow, CCA, Chicago
Lee Allen MBACP Registered
Vicki Allen MBACP Registered
Jacqueline Anderiesz-Tyrrell MBACP (Accred); BA (Hons)
Lisa Andrews A.M., LCSW; B Temaner-Brodley PG Fellow, CCA, Chicago
Dan Angel MBACP Registered; NCS Accredited
Paul Atkinson, Free Psychotherapy Network
Jax Ayling MBACP (Senior Accred)
Richard Bagnall-Oakeley UKCP & BACP Registered
Julia Bailey MBACP (Accred)
Williamina Baillie MBACP Registered
Sarah Baimbridge MBACP (Accred)
Charles Baines MBACP (Accred)
Helene Baker MBACP Registered, NCS (Acc)
David Ballantine MBACP Registered
Sal Bannister MBACP (Accred), NCS (Acc); counsellor/psychotherapist
Keith Barber UKCP Registered
Jennifer Barlow MBACP (Accred)
Eleanor Barnes MBACP (Accred), MCOSCA
Larry Barnett MBACP Registered; BSc (Hons), FdSc
Alison Barr MBACP Registered; Director, The Green Rooms
Diz Barton MBE MBACP (Senior Accred); UKCP Registered
Jay Beichman Ph.D; MBACP (Senior Accred)
Alaina Bercilla CCA Intern, Eastern Michigan University
Paul Berry MBACP Registered
Kris Black MBACP/UKCP Registered, ISN, IAP, LLB (Hons); Founder, Radical Dialogues
Martyn Blair MBACP Registered
Jon Blend UKCP Registered
David Blowers UKCP Registered
Dr Peter Blundell, Senior Lecturer, Liverpool John Moores University
Gloria Boadi MBACP (Accred), NCS Accredited
Arthur Bohart Ph.D; Santa Clara University, California
Mihaela Bonațiu, Chair, ARPCP
Margaret Borszcz MBACP (Accred)
Mae Boyd MBACP (Accred)
Heather Grace Bond Ph.D
Carla Boulton NCS member
Anne-Marie Bradley MBACP (Accred)
Fr. William Bradley, St. Joseph’s Mission, Stafford Springs, CT, USA
Yasmina Bradshaw BACP student member
Ben Brett MBACP Registered, Dip.Couns
Alan Brice MBACP (Senior Accred)
Rita Brophy MBACP Registered; Integrative Counsellor
Helen Brown, student counsellor, University of Warwick
Jane Brown MBACP Registered
Daniel Bruck MBPsS, University Sao Francisco, Brazil
Chris Bulpitt ACC Accredited
Terry Butler MBACP Registered
Beatriz Cadavid MBACP Registered
Sarah Callen DipCo., MSc.; Co-Editor, Person-Centred Quarterly
Rose Cameron MBACP (Senior Accred)
Caroline Capon NCS member
Isabel Carballal CPCAP L4 Therapeutic Counselling Dip
Jenny Carlisle MBACP (Senior Accred)
Lorna Carrick MBACP (Senior Accred); Counselling Programme Director, University of Strathclyde
Ian Carty
Nancy Cerritelli BACP student member
Sally Chisholm, Lecturer, Supervisor & Counsellor, Keele University, Metanoia Institute
Agapitos Chrysochoos, PCA counsellor
Celia Clark NCS Accredited
Dot Clark MBACP Registered
Becki Clitsome, Student Member BACP & NCS
Dilys Codrington NCS Member; Psychotherapeutic Counsellor
Peter Coffey MChem (hons), MRes
Jo Cohen, Assoc. for the Development of the Person-Centered Approach
Susan Coldwell MBACP (Accred)
Sophie Coleman
Paul Colley, therapist & supervisor; conscientious membership body objector since 1994
Kim Cooper MBACP (Accred)
Sandra Cooper MBACP Registered counsellor; BA (Hons)
Dr Elizabeth Cotton, Surviving Work
Tom Cowan, Student Member BACP
Geoff T. Cox MBACP (Accred); MA
Mary Coyne UKCP Registered; person-centred psychotherapist
Andrew Cranham UKCP Registered
Daniela Crasan ARPCP
Stephen Crowther MBACP Registered
Christine Cullen MBACP Registered
Leigh-Anne Cummings-Flint
Alisha Cunningham NCS student member
Maria Mirella D’Ippolito, psychologist & psychotherapist, Rome, Italy
Amy Dann NCS Accredited
Catherine Date MBACP Registered
Jayne D. Davidson MBACP (Accred)
Dominic Davies, CEO Pink Therapy; Fellow of NCS and NCP, former Fellow of BACP
Jennifer Davies MBACP & UKCP Registered
Kim Davies MBACP Registered
Maria Davies MBACP Registered
Rebecca Davies nee Howes MBACP Registered
Samantha Davies NCS Accredited
Ryan Dawes MBACP Registered; Mphil, PGDip
Veronica Day MBACP Registered
Mathias Dekeyser
Glenna Demeter NCS Fellow Accredited member
Trees Depoorter, Chair, VVCEPC
Helen Ditchburn BACP student member
Melody Dixon-Oliver MBACP Registered
Lesley Dougan, Senior Lecturer/MA Course Lead, Liverpool John Moores University
Magda Draskoczy, Person-Centred therapist and trainer, Hungary
Sam Driscoll MBACP Registered
Ashleigh Dunford-Bishop MBACP Registered
Charles Durning MBACP Registered
Rachel Dyer-Williams MBACP Registered
Cheryl Edwards MBACP Regsitered, NCS member
Erin Ekeberg A.M., LSW; B Temaner-Brodley PG Fellow, CCA, Chicago
Roisin Elder MBACP Registered; PGDip
Derryn Ellingham MBACP Registered
Ivan Ellingham Ph.D, CPsychol (Counselling & Clinical Psychology), HCPC
Clayton Elliott MBACP (Accred)
Beth Evans UKCP Registered
Claire Fewster NCS Accredited
Melanie Fieldhouse MBACP Registered; PGDip
Christine J. Finch NCS Accredited
John Fletcher MBACP (Accred), UKCP Registered
Palada Florentina ARPCP
Jane Flotte A.M., LCSW; B Temaner-Brodley PG Fellow, CCA, Chicago
Florenta Foca ARPCP
Leeanne Fowler UKCP Registered; NHS counsellor & university lecturer
Heidi Francis Ad Prof Dip PC, MNCS Accred
Peter Freeman MBACP Registered
Pamela Frith MBACP Registered
Sally-Anne Fuller BACP member
Dr Anna Louise Fry Ph.D, MNCS Accredited
Samantha Fulton MBACP Registered
Stavroulla Gabriel MBACP Registered
Jamie Geary
Sharon Gibbons, formerly MBACP Registered, now NCS
Donna Gibson MBACP Registered
Marc Gibson NCS Accredited
Alexandre F. Gieseke MBACP (CYP); Graduated Basis for Chartered Psychologist – GBC – MBPSs
Lizzie Gilbert MBACP Registered
Nick Glenister MBACP Registered
Trish Golding MBACP (Accred)
Jojo Gosney MBACP (Accred); MA
Natalee Goodman BACP student member
Keith Grayson MBACP Registered
Sue Griffiths MBACP (Accred)
Monica Gundrum, psychotherapist, Belgium
Dr Ellen Gunst Ph.D, psychologist and psychotherapist, Belgium
Rob Hack BACP student member
Jules Haley, Person-Centred counsellor
Sonia Hall MBACP Registered
Deborah Hare NCS Accredited Member
Caroline Harland MBACP Registered
Elizabeth Harris MBACP (Senior Accred)
Richard Harris MBACP Registered
Steven Harris MBACP Registered
Dr Jeff Harrison, Senior Lecturer, Liverpool John Moores University
Mark Harrison NCS member (ex-BACP, departed in response to SCoPEd)
Dr Andrew Hart CPsychol, Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society (AFBPsS)
Colin Hartland MBACP Registered
Michelle Harwood MBACP Registered
Jan Hawkins MBACP (Senior Accred)
Catherine Hayes MBACP (Senior Accred); Assistant Professor in counselling
Lee Healbury
Sebastian Heid MBACP Registered; trustee, the Person-Centred Association (TPCA)
Paula Hendricks MBACP Registered
Suzy Henry, Chair of the Person-Centred Association (TPCA)
Arne Heylen, Client-Centred therapist, Catholic University Louvain, Belgium
Amanda Hignett BACP student member
Antonia Higgins MBACP Registered
Michelle Higgins MBACP (Accred)
Jo Hilton, Clinical Fellow, University of Edinburgh
Kerrie Hipgrave MBACP Registered
João Hipólito, Professor, Universidade Autónoma de Lisboa, Portugal
Cara Hitchcock MBACP Registered
Brennan Holt MBACP Registered
Jacqueline Homonko MBACP (Accred)
Darren Hopgood MBACP Registered & NCS Accredited
Kirsty Horne NCS member
Sophie Horrox MBACP (Accred)
Angela Hotchkiss, Person-Centred counsellor
Richard House Ph.D, Chartered Psychologist, former Senior Lecturer in counselling & psychotherapy
Bernard Howell MBACP Registered
Lin Hudson MBACP (Accred)
Gillian Hughson NCS member
Kathy Humberstone MBACP (Accred); Senior Lecturer, University of Derby
Lee Humphreys BACP student member
Jane Hupston MBACP Registered & NCS
Fiona Hutchings MBACP (Accred)
Lynne Hutton MBACP Registered
Darren Jackson
Gillian James MBACP Registered
Marie Jefsioutine MBACP Registered
Marlene Jenas MBACP Registered
Julie Jenner UKAHPP, UKCP and EABP registered
Julia Jenkins MBACP Registered
Dr Peter Jewel, Person-Centred counsellor and supervisor
William Johnston MBACP Registered
Shirley Jolley Retired Person-Centred counsellor, TPCA
Ruth Jones MBACP (Accred)
Stephen Joseph Ph.D, Professor of Psychology, Health & Social Care, University of Nottingham
Kay Juviler-Bacon MBACP (Accred)
Ewa Kaczorkiewicz, Psychotherapist & Psychologist, Warsaw, Poland
Edwin Kahn, ADPCA
Ali Keen MBACP Registered
Dawn Keenan, trainee counsellor, Liverpool John Moores University
Susan Kelly MBACP Registered
Emma Keir MBACP (Accred); CMCOSCA
Josephine Kerr MBACP Registered
Howard Kirschenbaum, Professor Emeritus, University of Rochester; biographer of Carl Rogers
Grace Klein, ADPCA
Julia Kohnert MBACP Registered
Lisa Kmita MA; Prog. Leader, University Campus North Lincolnshire
Judy Knight MBACP Registered
Farah Kurdi-Villate CCA Intern, University of Chicago
Nicolas Krivine
Lynne Lacock MBACP Registered; Senior Lecturer
Colin Lago BACP Fellow; M.Ed, D.Litt
Adam Laidler MBACP Registered; psychotherapist
Leonore Langner, Chair, PCE Europe
Janey Lansdell MBACP Registered, NCS member
Emma Largesse MBACP Registered
Richard Lasson, Social Worker, Mental Health Support
Barbara Leach Former MBACP (Senior Accred), now retired
Maggie Leathley MBACP Registered; BSc MA PGDip
Rev Dr Jeff Leonardi, counsellor, supervisor, Honorary Research Fellow
Sonica Li, American Counseling Association (ACA), ADPCA
Germain Lietaer, Emeritus Professor, Catholic University Leuven, Division of Clinical Psychology
Jacqui Light NCS member
Mary Lim MBACP Registered
Francesca Lo Verso MBACP Registered
Georgia Looker, level 4 PCT Counselling student
Corrina Lord MBACP (Accred)
Kate Loughran MBACP Registered
Ruth Lyne MBACP (Accred)
Suzi Mackenzie MBACP (Senior Accred)
Colin Mackillop MBACP Registered
Vickey Maddrell, postgraduate student, LJMU
Angela Madeley NCS member
Lisa Major NCS student member; trainee on MA
Barbara Malinen, psychotherapist, supervisor and trainer
Bogumila Malinowska MBACP (Accred)
Lorna Marchant BACP Fellow
Laurel Marks MBACP Registered counsellor
Vivien Marsh MBACP (Accred)
Mary Martin MBACP Registered
Fiona McAlister MBACP Registered
Ali McBride MBACP (Accred)
Jennifer McCann UKCP Registered psychotherapeutic counsellor
Lorna McCarthy MBACP (Senior Accred)
Karon McCarthy-Sadd
Kate McGarry MBACP Registered; PCT Scotland
Elizabeth H. McGauley Sarfaty M.Ed
Susan McGinnis MBACP Registered
Alan McNeill MBACP (Accred), PGDip Couns; NHS primary care counsellor
William Mendez
Beatrice Miller, Chair, PCSR; Person-Centred Therapist
Tina Miller MA; sociologist, social worker, and family life educator
Katie Miller-Cole MBACP Registered; PCU member
Graeme Mills MBACP (Accred)
Catherine Mitchell MBACP Registered
Joanna Mockfrord, Person-Centred Experiential trainee
Mihaela Momoiu MSc; UKCP Registered psychotherapist
Kathryn A. Moon, Licensed Counselor, Chicago, Illinois, USA
Judy Moore Ph.D, MBACP (Senior Accred); former Director, Centre for Counselling Studies, UEA
Dr Shirley Moore BACP individual member
Hilary Moors MBACP Registered
Trish Morgan BACP student member
Kerry Morris MBACP Registered
Rosswitha Morrison MBACP Registered
Kate Morrissey MBACP Registered
Mike Moss MBACP Registered
Vicky Mould NCS (Prof Accred)
John Moulder A.M., LSW; B Temaner-Brodley PG Fellow, CCA, Chicago
Danusia Mulligan MBACP Registered & NCS Accredited
Alison Munro MBACP Registered
Dr David Murphy, Associate Professor, University of Nottingham
Anne Murphy MBACP (Accred)
Claire Murray MBACP Registered
Travis Musich CCA Intern, Illinois School of Prof. Psychology, National Louis University
J. L. Myatt MSc, MBACP Registered
Lynn Naidoo MBACP Registered
Wendy Neil, Person-Centered Counsellor, MNCS, BA (Hons), MSc, DIC
Anna Nelson-Smith MBACP Registered
Paula Newman MBACP (Senior Accred) counsellor and supervisor
Georgeta Niculescu ARPCP
Sally Nilsson, Human Givens Practitioner
Len Northfield MBACP Registered; MSc, PGDip
Stacy Nye MBACP Registered
Donna O’Connor MBACP Registered; psychotherapeutic counsellor
Charlotte O’Hanlon BACP student member
Jeremy O’Sullivan MBACP (Accred)
Sarah Oak MBACP (Accred); member of MK Rogerian Group
Todd Odell M.A.; Senior Therapist, Chicago Counseling Associates (CCA)
Stephen Ong, Person-Centred therapist
Gemma Owen MBACP Registered
Lynn Palethorpe MBACP Registered
Joana Pancada MBACP Registered; MA
Nicola Parry BACP student member
Ian Parker, in solidarity, President, College of Psychoanalysts – UK
Geraldine Pass MBACP Registered
Saf Patel MBACP Registered
Fiona Paterson MBACP Registered
Lorna Patterson MBACP (Accred)
Rachael Peacock, MUCKP Person-Centred Psychotherapist
Sally Pendreigh MBACP (Senior Accred); Person-Centred counsellor
Natali Petkova MBACP Registered
Sarah Pettifer MBACP Registered; therapist and trainer
Gabriella Philippou, Person-Centred Chamber, Pancyprian Association for Psychotherapists (PAP)
Mary Phoenix MBACP (Accred)
Susan Pildes, Senior Trainer, Chicago Counseling Associates (CCA)
Lisa Pinder MBACP Registered; psychotherapist & counsellor
Caroline Plummer MBACP Registered
Maggie Pollard MBACP (Senior Accred)
Chip Ponsford
Martin Poole, trainee therapist
Denis Postle ARCA, Independent Practitioners Network (IPN)
Kevin Powell MBACP Registered
Karen Prescod MBACP Registered
Sue Price NCS member
Dr Gillian Proctor, Lecturer, University of Leeds, and independent clinical psychologist
Steph Quinn MBACP Registered
Rob Radcliffe MBACP Registered
Heather Rai PG Student, University of Nottingham
Pretish Raja UKCP Registered; co-founder, Aashna Counselling & Psychotherapy
Suzi Rankin
Catarina M. Rato MBACP (Senior Accred)
Lyn Rhodes MBACP (Senior Accred)
Anne Richards MBACP Registered
Antonia Richardson MBACP Registered; MUKCP
Helen Richardson MBACP (Accred)
Kathleen Richardson, diploma student
Ruth Richardson MBACP Registered
Nicola Richter MA; MBACP (Senior Accredited), UKCP Registered, MBPsS, Fellow of HEA
Lindsay Riley MBACP Registered
Alison Rimmell MBACP (Accred)
Cashel Riordan MBACP (Accred)
Anne Robertson MBACP Registered
Cy Rodger MBACP Registered
Andy Rogers MBACP Registered; PGDip; therapist, supervisor & author
Blue Roth LCSW; Staff supervisor & therapist, Chicago Counseling Associates (CCA)
Kaye Rowe MBACP Registered
Andy Rushton UKCP Registered
Peter Ryan MBACP (Accred)
Professor Andrew Samuels, former Chair, UKCP
Pete Sanders, author, retired counsellor, supervisor and trainer
Hamilton Sargent MBACP Registered
Martin Sawers, Humanistic & Integrative Psychotherapist (UKCP), IAPT Counsellor
James Schindler-Ord MBACP Registered; BSc
Jane Schindler-Ord MBACP Registered
Carolyn Schneider A.M., LCPC; Director, Chicago Counseling Associates
Julia Scott MBACP Registered; NCS Accredited
Trodi-Ann Scott BACP student member
Becky Seale MBACP (Senior Accred)
Judith Seddon MBACP (Accred); RGN
Tracy Sedgeworth MBACP Registered
Alberto S. Segrera, Emeritus Professor, Universidad Iberoamericana, Mexico
Daniela Ploesteanu Sfirlea ARPCP
Radha Shah MBACP Registered
Mike Shallcross MBACP Registered
Rosemin Shariff MBACP (Accred)
Sandra Sharman MBACP Registered
Kath Shaw MBACP & UKCP Registered
Hannah Shepherd NCS Accredited
Katie Ship MBACP Registered, FdA
Jessica Shipman, ADPCA
Lynne Short MBACP (Accred), Counsellor/Psychotherapist
Lois Sidney, formerly MBACP Registered
Molnár L. Simon, Rogers Centre – Foundation for the Autonomous Person (Hungary)
Helen Skelton UKCP Registered
Al Skiffington-Smith MSc; UKCP Accredited Psychotherapist
Pete Smallwood MBACP (Accred)
Audrey E. Smith MBACP (Accred) Counsellor/Psychotherapist
Deb Smith MBACP Registered
Elizabeth Smith MBACP (Senior Accred)
Katherine Smith MBACP Registered
Liz Smith MBACP Registered; NCS Accredited
Leona Smith-Kerr MBACP Registered
Wendy Snell MBACP Registered
Sarah Sollis MA
Lisbeth Sommerbeck, Danish psychologist and author
Bill Stanley, Director, Merulae Limited
Amy Star MBACP Registered
Geri Stein MBACP Registered
Susan Stephen MBACP (Accred)
Anna Sternberg MBACP (Accred)
Ian Stockridge MBACP Registered
Duncan Stoddart MBACP (Senior Accred)
Helen Storey UKCP Registered; MSc
Julia Stretton MBACP (Accred)
Kate Stubbings MBACP (Senior Accred)
Joseph Suart, College of Psychoanalysts, Free Psychotherapy Network, PCU
Amanda Sugarman MBACP Registered
Árpi Süle, Editor-in-Chief, Dutch Journal of PCE Psychotherapies of the Netherlands & Belgium
Tim Sumner, student member BACP; Level 4 Counselling Course
Heather Swan MBACP Registered
Julie Taylor
Rachel Teare MBACP (Accred); Counsellor and Psychotherapist
Victoria Telfer-Smith MBACP Registered
Veda Tester MBACP Registered; BSc (hons)
Claire Thomas MBACP (Accred)
Peter Thomas MBACP Registered
Alison Thorne MBACP (Senior Accred)
Gloria Tirelli MBACP Registered
Janet Tolan BACP Fellow; NCS (Senior Accred)
Jo Tomlinson, Lecturer in counselling; MA Comm. Psych.
Siobhan Toner MBACP Registered
Agnes Banatine Toth, Person-Centred counsellor, Hungary
Ian Townshend MA; Retired Senior Lecturer, UCLan
Henri Treece NCS member
Melanie Holland Tucker MBACP Registered
Allan Turner MBACP (Senior Accred)
Bridget Tyson-Carr MBACP Registered
Elizabeth Urie MBACP (Accred)
Debbie Vallance MBACP Registered
Dr Kathleen Vandenberghe, Senior Lecturer, Liverpool John Moores University
Daniel Vanyi, Person-Centred counsellor, Hungary
Christine Vinnicombe MBACP Registered; integrative counsellor
Alan Mark Walker MS, LMFT, Texas
Jenny Watkins UKCP Registered Person-Centred psychotherapist; MSc
Catherine Watson MBACP (Accred)
Natasha Wellfare NCS Accredited
Chris Wels MBACP (Accred); Counsellor and Psychotherapist
Neil Weston MBACP Registered
Graham Westwell MSc; Senior Lecturer, Edge Hill University
Louis White NCS member
Andy Whitehouse, Dip. in Person-Centred Counselling & Psychotherapy
Jacqui Whittingham MBACP Registered
Melanie Whyatt MBACP Registered
Heather Whyte MBACP Registered
Cathrin Wildwood MBACP Registered
Heidi Wilke MBACP Registered
Dr Paul Wilkins Ph.D (Psychotherapy)
Paula J. Williams MSc, Fellow of NCS
Liz Willows MBACP Registered
David Wilson MBACP Registered
Marge Witty Ph.D, Professor Emeritus, Illinois School of Professional Psychology, Argosy Uni, Chicago
Judy Wright MBACP Registered
Julie Wright MBACP Registered
Jin Wu Psy.D; ADPCA; licensed clinical psychologist, Illinois, USA
Rae Yates NCS Accredited
Mei Liou Zarnitsyna, CCA Intern, Loyola University, Chicago
Alicja Zwiercan MA in PCE Counselling & Psychotherapy, University of Nottingham

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UEA Course Closures – An Attack on Values

The University of East Anglia (UEA) has decided to axe its renowned counselling courses, including the flagship intensive Post-Graduate Diploma in Person-Centred Therapy, from which I graduated in the late 90s.

It is twenty years since I applied for a place on this course, two decades since I first held the role of ‘counsellor’ in a conversation, and I’ve worked in and written about counselling and psychotherapy ever since, with many formative experiences along the way. Yet UEA, the course, the staff and students, the Centre for Counselling Studies and the University Counselling Service are all tattooed onto my psyche as a practitioner.

The psycho-geography hums with resonance – the flattening lands around the A11 up to Norwich, the walk into campus from the Unthank Road, the iconic ziggurat buildings, high up from which the counselling rooms once gazed. I sat with my first clients in those stacked glass and concrete boxes, held and encouraged and distracted and moved by the big-skied view across the lake and the acres of shifting weather, which would nonetheless dissolve into irrelevance most sessions.

I attended personal development groups in these rooms too, grappling with the entwined attitudes of acceptance, empathy and authenticity. Seeing the value of the form, I once plumped for a private weekend encounter group in the same space – hours with a bunch of strangers from beyond the course, the first day running open-endedly into the evening as the room’s squared windows blackened to an array of mirrors. Given the intensive, full-time nature of the training programme either side of that weekend, I realise now I must have spent 12 days straight completely immersed in varying forms of experiential work, plus supervision, counselling practice and skills and theory sessions, with only two days break at each end (when assignments would’ve been emerging from my primitive word processor).

Later, after the diploma ended, I would return to co-facilitate a similar group experience and occasionally visited Norwich semi-socially, but always via my connection with the training and the therapy community around it. Although I no longer have contact with most of my fellow students, I gained one deep and ongoing friendship and still speak here and there with people connected to UEA.

But so what? Perhaps my disquiet at UEA’s decision to scrap the courses might be construed as nostalgic. Things change, don’t they? Tattoos bleed into the surrounding skin, lose their vibrancy, and whatever meaning they hold for the subject – and sometimes it is a sense of a long since departed self – they are at best curious adornments to everyone else.

Perhaps. But I think the loss at UEA has a significance beyond my own idiosyncratic history.

‘Say the right things, when electioneering…’

In the same year that I applied to UEA, Tony Blair’s New Labour swept to power on the back of a desire for change. It was 1997 and pop culture fizzed with champagne bubbles and cocaine-dashed nostrils. A rampant patriotism – initially art-school-ironic and then stadium-flag-literal – was busy ignoring or shouting down the prophetic gloom of Radiohead’s latest album, OK Computer, released that same year. In spite – or perhaps because – of its incongruence with the times, the album was nonetheless lauded critically and was wildly successful commercially – it’s anguished cry from Britpop’s shadow cutting through the din of the party.

I heard OK Computer to death in my job at what we optimistically still called a record shop (actually a video and CD chain store) but just recently, in advance of the album being re-issued next month, I’ve been giving it another spin, which is where – unexpectedly – our nostalgia thesis begins to unravel. Because there is little rose-tinted comfort in revisiting these songs. As they hit their twentieth anniversary, we – the citizens of 2017 – find ourselves not in Blur’s chirpy Parklife or in a big-hearted mass sing-along at an Oasis concert, but in the very atomised, alienated, divided and tech-engulfed times that Radiohead’s stunning, if overplayed, work of art-rock predicted, and about which it voiced a bleak but very human form of protest.

‘One day, I am gonna grow wings…’

The Person-Centred Approach (PCA) was – and arguably still is – another protest against the state of things, albeit one rooted in a model of potentiality and growth, rather than alienated despair. It emerged in the US as a critique of – and embodied alternative to – the psychoanalytic and behaviourist strangleholds on individual subjectivity, and spoke of a ‘quiet revolution’. It certainly challenged the power of the highly medicalised psychiatric and psychotherapeutic establishments, both theoretically and in practice.

As counselling gradually grew in legitimacy here in the UK, establishing its own organisations, literature and courses, the development of UEA’s person-centred training in the early 90s had a similar sense of creative protest. While the PCA had become a mainstream approach in the British therapy field – with one of its core texts (co-authored by the UEA course director) on the way to being one of the best-selling counselling books of all time in the UK – it still stood in counter-cultural contrast to some of the evolving norms of the emerging profession, which in any case remained relatively – by today’s standards – on the margins of our culture.

It was (and still is) rare for the PCA to be taught in a university setting, yet the UEA programme offered post-graduate training that remained defiantly values congruent: it had a deeply experiential approach; it was highly focused on the personal development of the practitioner; the spiritual and political dimensions of therapy were core themes; and completion of the course was through self- and peer-assessment. And this congruence between theory, principle and practice was also expressed socially through its embeddedness within the campus and city communities: trainees had placements within the university student counselling service and were encouraged to take up linked placements within the city. In my time there, students offered counselling in a diverse range of settings, from an insurance company, to voluntary sector services, to my own placement working with inmates at Norwich prison.

Following the 2003 retirement of the founding director, a prominent figure in the professions, the Centre for Counselling Studies maintained a high profile internationally within both the PCA and the counselling field generally. It staged a number of conferences and developed a successful Masters and PhD programme and towards the end of the noughties was undertaking qualitative and quantitative research into ‘outcomes’ at the University Counselling Service.

But sources at UEA suggest that this research was effectively ‘buried’. Then, around 2011-12, the university withdrew the team’s ‘Centre’ status and some of the associated funding, reducing it to little more than a teaching operation for the courses. The ‘Centre’ title, I’m told, was reinstated around 2014 as a branding exercise for the trainings but the staff budget allowed for no research or enterprise remit to expand its international profile. Then, in a typically Kafka-esque turn, the diminished Centre’s lack of research and enterprise was taken by the university as a sign of its ‘failings’, which brings us to the recent decision to axe it completely.

Many people, not least the students themselves and the local MP, have rightly challenged the wisdom of this decision on the grounds that it is unfair to existing trainees who were hoping to progress onto the higher level courses and – crucially – that it will drastically cut the availability of the real, in-depth counselling provided by diploma students, both in the wider Norwich community and at the university itself, where short-term CBT-based mental health support and group work is little compensation, as this moving post from a person who used the service makes crystal clear.

‘It’s just business…’

This is exactly what’s been happening in other sectors, of course, particularly the NHS, where instrumental, short-term models (therapy-lite, if you will) have become dominant. These are ideally adapted to the current, highly medicalised regime around mental health, with its diagnose-treat-cure approach to human distress. In its atomised conception of people and quick-fix mentality, this is in turn ideally suited to our current political and socio-economic conditions – often referred to as ‘neo-liberalism’ – in which therapy’s role is perceived by the State and its agencies to be simply to return ‘ill’ workers (or students) to their jobs (or studies) after a short course of ‘evidence-based treatment’.

In all levels of education, one impact of this neo-liberal order has been to prioritise the needs of business over both critical thinking and holistic personal development. In higher education (HE) especially, organisations are run as businesses themselves, with students considered consumers and staff expected to be compliant employees. The institution’s branding must not be tarnished because it needs to compete with rivals in the marketplace and generate as much income as possible. This can create a climate of fear, particularly when the organisational agenda begins to turn against a specific department or area, as appears to have happened at UEA.

These aren’t the kind of conditions in which in-depth counselling trainings are likely to thrive. While the courses might be in demand and over-subscribed, they can also be costlier than some other programmes, due to the intensive, experiential element, which requires plenty of contact time between staff and students. In discussing the events at UEA with colleagues, I learned that a number of other long-established counselling courses in HE have closed or been threatened with closure in recent years.

How does this fit with our culture’s contemporary interest in addressing ‘mental health’? Well, in one sense, it’s obviously completely at odds with it; but it also highlights how not all ways of responding to psychological distress are valued within the cultural and economic conditions I sketch above. While we are talking about mental health more than ever – which part of me welcomes because a decrease in shame, embarrassment or toxic silence is a good thing – unfortunately most of the talk is funnelled through a very narrow channel of acceptability: our distress must be seen as ‘just like any other illness’ and therefore the treatments must be medicalised and efficient. This is therapy as a drug-like healthcare intervention (with the reductionist ‘evidence’ to match) rather than it being a relational, exploratory dialogue – a meaning-making human encounter.

So courses such as UEA’s person-centred training are not only a bit expensive to run, in a highly competitive and monetised system, but also they represent a direct challenge to the prevailing ideology in education, mental health and the culture at large. I’m sure many of us would hope that this kind of critical, creative and counter-cultural thinking and practice would be encouraged by our universities – even when it’s not much of an earner – but clearly this is no longer the case.

‘Fitter, happier, more productive…’

Tellingly, UEA is maintaining its training programmes in a highly manualised form of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which feed directly into the NHS Improving Access to the Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme. The training resides in the Clinical Psychology department of the university’s Medical School. If you look at the web page, there’s a link for ‘IAPT and Other Modalities’ (meaning non-CBT approaches), which leads to an otherwise blank page saying, Coming soon. Let’s not hold our breath on that one.

IAPT has come in for heavy criticism on many fronts: using an overly manualised and bureaucratised (i.e. de-humanised) healthcare approach; discriminating against other therapies (and the clients who want them) due to a narrow and inappropriately medicalised understanding of evidence; massaging data to claim greater success; having absurdly long waiting lists and a dysfunctional triage system; not taking care of its staff, who burn out quickly; unethically colluding with the efforts of the Department for Work & Pensions to reduce the welfare bill; and more.

In my own work, I fairly regularly hear from people with unhelpful experiences of IAPT, not least that a person’s history – their childhood experiences particularly – are barely considered. Huge losses, abuses or other deeply significant events that clients begin to explore in counselling within the first session or two, might never even have come up with their IAPT practitioner. Yet across all therapy sectors outside of the private sphere, the pressure is to follow the NHS model, as if its legitimacy is unquestionable, as if its version of what distress means, and how we should respond to it, is reality itself.

This then delegitimises all other responses to distress, however valued they are by the people who use them. In my own sector, counselling in further and higher education, I have seen this creep occurring first-hand. The professional division for the field (BACP UC) recently followed its parent organisation’s desires by creating a ‘competency framework’ based on the same CBT-derived Roth & Pilling/UCL methodology that we see in UEA’s IAPT training. This despite the fact that relational work – humanistic, person-centred, psychodynamic, integrative – is far more widely practised in the sector. While the framework apparently welcomes all models of therapy, it is nonetheless skewed to a technocratic and instrumental healthcare approach, and has alienated a number of highly experienced practitioners in the sector who do not recognise their work in the final document.

‘We are standing on the edge…’

Where, then, do we go from here? On the brink of a general election, with a very different Labour opposition to that of 1997 but a very familiar Conservative government, which is apparently emboldened by the country’s divisions, how do we shift the language and practices around ‘mental health’ away from the thin comforts of ‘illness’ and ‘treatment’? How do we take back human distress from its enclosure by neoliberalism, healthcare and the State, and re-integrate it into our everyday lives and relationships so that we can respond with ordinary compassion, rather than professionalised diagnosis and treatment, even (or perhaps especially) when we seek out a therapist to discuss our concerns?

What still excites me about the spirit of the Person-Centred Approach, is its deeply respectful commitment to the right to self-determination; to the inherent value and potential in subjectivity; to honouring the connectedness between us as persons in a social world; to witnessing, exploring and embracing all of this with a principled and creative not-knowing, rather than dogmatic expertise. It is these precious things – despite all the mental health policies, initiatives and media campaigns – that we see being lost at UEA and beyond.

Recently, a small controversy bubbled up at UEA about the appearance of Anthony Gormley’s life-size human statues on the roofs of its concrete structures. One looks out from a building behind the ziggurats, gazing across the same land and skies as the view from the counselling rooms. It is mesmerising, unsettling, challenging. Some have complained they are reminiscent of suicide.

In a BBC interview, Gormley said,

‘These works are nothing to do with suicide, they’re actually to do with life… Universities are places where people spend a lot of time thinking about the thoughts of others… I think it’s a wonderful place to balance that intellectual life with an object that is silent. It doesn’t need to be read. It has to be felt, it has to be lived with.’

Let’s hope the statues are a defiant symbol of the persistence of these values and aspirations, rather than a memorial to their passing.

(Song lyrics from Radiohead’s OK Computer.)

Andy Rogers is a counsellor and service coordinator in a large FE and HE college and works in private practice in Basingstoke, Hampshire. He is a registered member of BACP and has written about the politics of therapy and the person-centred approach for the best part of twenty years.

andyrogerscounselling.com

@AndyCounsellor

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