British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy (BACP)

The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) is the leading professional association for counsellors and psychotherapists in the UK, with more than 58,000 members. Our members work to the highest professional standards, and practise across a range of settings, including schools, the NHS, the third-sector and in workplaces.

As an organisation, we work to promote the role and relevance of the counselling professions in improving psychological wellbeing and mental health, driven by a belief in safe, ethical and competent best practice. As such, all of our members are bound by the Ethical Framework for the Counselling Professions and our Professional Conduct Procedure to ensure accountability and transparency to the public.

In addition to this we maintain a BACP Register of members, which is accredited by the Professional Standards Authority (PSA). All practicing members of BACP are required to join the Register, or be working towards registration. Ours was the first such register for psychological therapists to be accredited by the PSA, and reassures service users, employers and the general public that they are able to find practitioners they can trust.

As well as setting high standards for our members, we also work to champion the impact counselling and psychotherapy, as well as counsellors and psychotherapists, can make to the nation’s health among politicians, policy makers and other key stakeholders. We also undertake and commission research to further develop and demonstrate the evidence base on the effectiveness of counselling and psychotherapy.

How does your organisation contribute to preventing suicide and supporting those affected by it?

We contribute to reducing the number of suicides and improving support for those affected by suicide by campaigning for a greater choice of psychological therapies, increasing access to services and reducing waiting times.

Psychological therapies are an effective evidence-based intervention for those at risk of suicide. Through our research work we aim to improve the understanding of which psychological therapies can be the most effective, including for those who are experiencing suicidal thoughts or are suffering bereavement.

We recommend that psychological therapy services, which may be accessed by those who are suicidal or are bereaved due to suicide, are delivered by BACP members who are trained, qualified and deliver services to the highest professional standards.

We also signpost those experiencing suicidal thoughts and families bereaved by suicide to services through our website, which also provides news updates, blogs and journals on counselling and psychotherapy.

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What are your current priorities?

We believe that counselling changes lives. Our desire to improve access to counselling and psychotherapy for all people in society underpins everything we do, and guides our relationships; be that with our members, the public, commissioners of services or the government. Our key areas of work currently include:

– NHS – we believe everyone in society should have quick and easy access to a choice of psychological therapies through the NHS. These therapies should be flexible to meet the specific needs of service users and should be available within 28 days of referral. We work with politicians, policy makers and the NHS to the communicate the vital role counselling and psychotherapy can play in meeting the demand for mental health services.

– Children, young people and families mental health – working across the UK, it is estimated that three children in an average-size classroom will experience a difficulty with their mental health. For a number of years we have campaigned for universal access to counselling services for every child and in every school, college and university.

– UK wide approach: we aim to understand the different needs of the public and our members across each of the four nations of the UK; promoting the value and impact of counselling to politicians and key decision makers across the parliaments and assemblies of the UK.

– Workforce: we take a leading role in advocating the value counsellors and psychotherapists bring to mental health and wellbeing in a variety of settings, and we have therefore created a strategy to widen access to paid employment opportunities for practitioners.

– Third Sector: we believe that community-based organisations have a critical role to play in ensuring that professional counselling becomes more accessible and acceptable to people from diverse communities throughout the UK. Through our third sector strategy, we engage, support and promote the work of trusted local organisations working to remove barriers to counselling that are often particularly problematic for older people and those from marginalised and racialised communities.

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What challenges are you currently facing?

Various demographics within society have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, leaving many in need of urgent and comprehensive mental health support. COVID-19 has impacted the ability for counsellors and psychotherapists to work as normal, meaning too many people are struggling to access the help they need. Moreover, the narrow range of choice of psychological therapies in the NHS and the ad hoc provision of counselling in schools for children and young people are both significant barriers to increasing the availability of counselling and psychotherapy to all within society.

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