It gives me a great deal of pleasure to finally be able to say positive things about the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) which is the UK’s largest therapy organisation, by a long chalk.
Readers of this blog will be familiar with my having been quite critical of the BACP, which a decade ago kindly made me a Fellow of the organisation for my contribution to the field (having helped bring a trilogy of UK textbooks on working with LGBT people to the fruition back in 1996 and 2000, and founding Pink Therapy the organisation. I had hoped that might be the start of a much closer working relationship, but sadly not. I finally resigned from BACP in March of this year (a year later than I thought I would) as I felt they still hadn’t made any significant progress to address my concerns.
After I resigned, I was gobsmacked that their CEO, Dr Hadyn Williams and their Chair, Dr Andrew Reeves came down to London to ask me more about the reasons for my resignation and dissatisfaction with the organisation. Having consulted with colleagues, I was able to give them a 12-page document of comments and six significant points of concern of my own:
- Lack of Gender, Sexual and Relationship Diversity (GSRD) awareness amongst staff within the profession and amongst accredited courses.
- GSRD Counsellors are frequently experiencing a lack of understanding on their training courses which consistently fail to address their training needs or support them.
- Uncritical acceptance of highly contested concepts: Sex addiction workshops and porn addiction training are being supported by them when there is no agreement of these ‘conditions’ within the DSM or by WHO.
- Minimal curriculum development for courses on GSRD issues. BACP could be leading the way and setting standards regarding core competencies and the development of teaching resources.
- Lacking in loyalty towards its members – not putting counsellors first – regarding their pay and contracts. Continuing to promote employers advertising for very low-paid counselling posts.
- Not having secured a way to retain people like Professor Michael Jacobs on the UK Register. To require someone of his experience and stature to sit the ‘proficiency test’ is an insult to someone who helped build BACP back in the 1980’s.
I felt I was given a decent listening to and we shared some concerns. They asked me if I’d be willing to be consulted on issues where my experience was relevant, and I eagerly agreed.
I was then somewhat surprised to learn in May that a working group had been set up to write a document on working with GSRD clients. The membership of it was unknown to me, but I heard on the grapevine that only one of the group had openly declared their sexuality as gay. It seemed that cisgender, heterosexuals were to be authoring a guide to working with LGBT clients. It thought that would be unlikely if the guide were to be on working with Black and Asian Clients. It just didn’t make sense not to be approaching my colleagues or me at Pink Therapy and drawing on our expertise in this area.
However, in July, I was formally approached by someone at BACP to take a look at this document which was by now almost ready for publication. It was so awful, I couldn’t see how it could be re-edited, and I recommended a complete re-writing by someone who had direct experience of the literature and the field of GSRD. I suggested they approach my clinical associate, Dr Meg-John Barker, as they have previously co-authored an excellent book in this area and were planning to revise it. This field of GSRD therapy is changing so rapidly regarding language and concepts that their original text from 2013 is already in need of revision.
I was so pleased that BACP took my advice and that Meg-John could make time for the re-write. This occurred just as they were about to have a writing retreat and so the BACP guide got bumped to the top of their list, and they produced what I think is an incredibly rich document. Meg-John excels at taking a complex and highly nuanced material and making it accessible for people with little to no prior knowledge.
To its absolute credit, BACP accepted the text in its entirety (albeit with some concerns about whether there might be alternative terms which could avoid the use of the ‘f-word’ for fuckbuddy and genderfuck. So rather than obscuring the offending word with an asterisk, they use the asterisk to state: *this term is the groups preferred identity desciptor [sic]. They also agreed to Meg-John retaining copyright and to make the document available widely and not just restricting it to members only.