Our first campaign – Success for Counsellors Together UK

counsellors_together_ukCounsellors Together UK (CTUK) has grown in less than a year, from a small Facebook group set up in July 2017 to a movement. A movement of 2000+ counsellors and psychotherapists in the UK who regularly debate issues and support each other. How we have evolved, our aims and ambitions, can be found on the About page. In this short time, we’ve affected change within our profession; and started people thinking and talking about our agenda. Hopefully we will continue to bring positive changes to our members and the profession as a whole.

The need for change

There has been on-going and growing dissatisfaction amongst qualified counsellors and psychotherapists. Even with qualification, accreditation and continuing professional development of counsellors, most counselling vacancies are still voluntary positions. Very few paid positions are available – even within the NHS.

Most of our qualified professionals are driven into private practice, in order to make some return on our investments. (Many of us having spent £10K+ training and gaining the right qualifications.) While private practice suits some, many of us entered the profession wanting to ‘give back’ to our communities. We would like to work in the NHS, charities and local services, helping people in need, providing therapeutic services to all who need it – free to clients / patients at the point of need. However, we would also like to be paid. Like doctors, nurses and other caring professions, as qualified professionals, we expect to be paid.

Unfortunately, a trend has evolved. Following training placements (unpaid) to gain 100+ hours hands-on practice required to qualify, many of us are still working for free. Sometimes, many years after having qualified. This is because most services – charities and government organisations – have taken advantage of the ‘trainee’ status. They extended it to include qualified counsellors. Working for free. Yet all other staff delivering the services – admin, managers, cleaners – are all paid.

Many adverts are for ‘honorary’ or ‘volunteer’ positions. Yet require the counsellors to have many hours of post-qualification practice hours. Some ask for ‘accreditation’ from membership associations (it’s not a qualification but mandates 100s of post-qualification practice hours). Some ask counsellors to pay for their own clinical supervision. Some ask counsellors to pay their own insurance; and for their own DBS checks.

All for nothing in return. £00.00. Besides the pleasure of helping people through difficult times in their mental health journey.

What do our representatives do about this?

Nothing. That’s the simple answer. Until now… thanks to the actions of CTUK.

Member associations, including the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), advertise vacancies in their monthly magazines and online. The majority of the job vacancies are for volunteer, unpaid positions; for qualified counsellors.

The initial discussions within CTUK questioned why organisations supposed to be representing us, the counsellors, are perpetuating the problem.

 A resolution to help create a revolution

Our first big success grew from a discussion about the BACP’s Annual General Meeting (AGM). An idea emerged – to submit a resolution to challenge the BACP’s practice of supporting a culture where qualified counsellors are expected to volunteer and work for free to deliver counselling services.

We sought feedback from members and within a couple of days drafted our resolution. We found a proposer and a seconder to attend the AGM on our behalf. In a late-night flurry of activity, we gained the signatures required in order to submit the resolution. As CTUK had only ever been a Facebook group, none of us were in real-world contact. This took getting signatures photographed and all sent to one person to collate and send off the resolution.

“Our proposed resolution is for BACP to support and champion the ethos that all qualified counsellors are paid for the work they do. If any organisation or charity advertises for qualified counsellors, they must be willing to pay fair sessional fees and cover supervision costs. We propose that all voluntary positions offered should be wholly for trainee counsellors who are on placement and fulfilling course requirements – within their competencies. Once qualified and not fulfilling training requirements, all counsellors engaged by organisations should be paid sessional fees, in line with local charges.

We propose that BACP supports this resolution and refrains from advertising voluntary roles for qualified counsellors.

We assert that the current practice of advertising and encouraging organisations to take on qualified counsellors working for free is exploitative and doing damage to the respect of the profession.”

The resolution had overwhelming support from our members during the voting period; and on 16th November 2017 was put to the AGM. The resolution was passed on the day and was discussed at the BACP Scope of Practice group in December 2017. The BACP has upheld the resolution and have confirmed that from April 2018 they will no longer be advertising vacancies for qualified counsellors to work for free.

Since the resolution was passed by the BACP other professional membership bodies such as the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) have followed suit. Members of CTUK are delighted about this. We will continue to work to challenge and change the culture and prevalence of unpaid work within the counselling profession.


Author: Emma Radway-Bright

[Contact (for article admin): Emma.INeedTherapy@gmail.com]