CPD for Counsellors and Psychotherapists

CPD for Counsellors and Psychotherapists

05 Jul 2021

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Counselling, also called psychotherapy or simply therapy, involves working with clients experiencing a wide range of emotional and psychological difficulties to help them bring about effective change and enhance their overall wellbeing. This informal article provides an introduction to CPD for Counsellors and Psychotherapists, including the specific Industry requirements, as well outline the BACP Ethical Framework.

CPD in the Counselling and Psychotherapy Sector

There around 450 million people currently suffering from mental disorders and it is among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide. Through different types of therapy – including cognitive behaviour therapy and talking therapies – counsellors and psychotherapists help their patients identify, define, and work through emotional, behavioural or relationship problems or difficulties.

Due to the wide variety of clients no one day is ever the same in the career of a counsellor or psychotherapist. Whether acting as a social worker handling familial disputes or as an online counsellor coaching people through chronic anxiety, a counsellor or therapist must be well-versed in a range of behavioural disorders, mental dysfunctions, thought patterns and methods of diagnosis and rehabilitation.

Continuing Professional Development (or CPD) allows professionals to maintain, develop and enhance their professional competency in order to safeguard clients and is an ongoing requirement for all registered practitioners within the counselling and psychotherapy field.

Studying counselling skills and related issues as part of your career shows that you can not only meet professional requirements but can also be of direct benefit in your work with the public and can help you to better understand the mental health aspects of your professional role.

What does Continuing Professional Development (CPD) involve?

The National Counselling Society defines CPD as ‘a range of learning activities through which professional counsellors grow and develop throughout their careers to ensure that they retain their ability throughout their evolving scope of practice’.

For CPD to be effective, it must:

  1. Develop, implement and maintain personal and professional standards and ethical practice
  2. Apply psychological and related methods, concepts, theories, and instruments
  3. Research and develop new and existing psychological methods, concepts, models, theories and instruments
  4. Communicate psychological knowledge, principles, methods, needs and policy requirements.
  5. Develop and train the application of psychological skills, knowledge, practice and procedures. 

You should think about any gaps in your knowledge or additional skills that will help clients and your field of work. This is to ensure that you are building upon the foundation of your existing skills and knowledge, and are able to provide a better service to the public.

Examples of effective CPD include: short courses on professional issues, seminars and conferences, designing and facilitating workshops, writing articles relevant to professional practice, participation in professional committees, personal therapy, and research relevant to the profession.

Counselling and psychotherapy CPD

Who are the professional bodies for Counsellors and Psychotherapists in the UK?

Continuing professional development (CPD) is an ethical imperative of most professional bodies, including the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), National Counselling Society (NCS) and UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP). It is therefore becoming increasingly essential that you are able to demonstrate a commitment to CPD to maintain professional registration.

BACP CPD

As a registered member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, you must:

  • keep an up-to-date and accurate record of CPD activities within the Learning centre or using the BACP Register template below
  • record a range of CPD activities relevant to current or future practice
  • show clearly how you have reflected, planned, actioned and evaluated your development needs and indicate how this will have an impact in your practice
  • submit your CPD record for audit on request 

The focus should be on outcomes, or what you have gained from your CPD. However, the BACP would normally expect registered members to undertake at least 30 hours of CPD a year. If you don't meet any of the above standards and have not engaged with CPD, you will be taken off the Register and removed from membership.

NCS CPD Requirements

The National Counselling Society is a not for profit professional organisation whose purpose is to ensure that all their registrants are safe, competent and ethical practitioners.

Registrant members of the Society are required to undertake at least 30 hours of varied CPD per year. It is important for practitioners to continue to develop and maintain their skills through professional development, as well as learn new ones, in order to better serve their clients.

The UK Council for Psychotherapy

The UK Council for Psychotherapy’s requirements are specified over a five-year as well as a one-year timescale. Registrants must gain a minimum of 250 hours’ CPD activity over a five-year period, with a minimum of 20 hours during any single year within that period. Note: Although the UKCP require more hours overall of CPD than the other two professional bodies, it in fact allows clinical supervision to be included as part of its requirements, whereas the BACP and NCS do not. 

What is the BACP Ethical Framework?

All BACP members must work in accordance with the Ethical Framework. The Ethical Framework is designed to help counselling professionals provide clients with a secure base for their work together, and provide a set of standards to work to, helping to ensure consistency in provision across the profession – and thus also act as a benchmark for accountability.

It has three main sections:

  • Commitment to clients provides a summary of working to professional standards and building an ethical relationship
  • Ethics specifies the values, principles and personal moral qualities that inform a practitioners work and underpin supervision
  • Good practice considers the application of commitments to clients and ethics to practice 
CPD for Counsellors

How to record your Continuing Professional Development

Keeping a record of the CPD that you undertake, how often you have been to supervision and the duration of your supervision sessions, as well as a cumulative log of your practice hours is important for providing evidence in the case of audits and applications, but also for your own reflection and professional development. When thinking about keeping CPD records, it is important that you have the following to hand:

  • The date or dates the CPD was undertaken
  • How long you spent on it
  • A short reflection on what you learned and how you might apply it to your own practice
  • A copy of any certificates you have received for attending or completing the CPD, in the case of an event or online CPD course, or any other evidence you have of completing that particular activity 

Having a Personal Development Plan for wherever you are in your career now and whatever you want to achieve can be useful. Your PDP should be personal to you. Once under way, it is important for the PDP to be reviewed regularly to ensure that any learning has been applied in the individual’s work and the benefits and improvements acknowledged. You should include a mixture of learning activities in your record, although you can focus on a specific type of activity if that is most appropriate for you.

Find CPD for Counsellors and Psychotherapists

Training providers offer a number of options at entry level, as well as further training to support qualification and career progression. CPD courses cover a variety of specialist areas, and can include topics such as children and young people, trauma therapy or couples counselling. Technology has advanced to the point where online CPD is now also accepted as valid Continuing Professional Development.

The CPD Certification Service was established in 1996, and is the largest and leading independent CPD accreditation organisation working across all industry sectors. Thousands of CPD training courses, events, e-learning programs, conferences, workshops and seminars are formally CPD certified by us every year.

We hope this article was helpful. If you are a counsellor or psychotherapist who wants to gain more specialist knowledge, please visit the CPD Industry Hubs for more Counselling and Psychotherapy CPD courses, events and articles relevant to your Continuing Professional Development.


CPD News Team

For more information from CPD News Team, please visit their CPD Member Directory page. Alternatively please visit the CPD Industry Hubs for more CPD articles, courses and events relevant to your Continuing Professional Development requirements.

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