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The MA in Integrative Counselling & the Place of Postgraduate Degrees in our Profession

I am delighted to announce the launch of PCI College’s first Masters degree, the MA in Integrative Counselling, in association with the University of Worcester. This 3 year part-time programme incorporates a 1 year Postgraduate Certificate and a 2 year Postgraduate Diploma. It takes a contemporary integrative approach to Counselling and examines a variety of humanistic theoretical concepts focusing on the nature of the relationship between counsellor and client. It is designed to enable you to develop a personal theoretical model which fits with your own philosophical approach to life.

We are planning to offer further postgraduate degrees over the next few years, so I thought it would be a good time to look at the place of postgraduate degrees in the Counselling/Psychotherapy profession.

The first point to make is that educational standards in the field are always going up. A short non-university diploma used to be the highest level of qualification available in the early days of Counselling/Psychotherapy, and there was no such thing as accreditation…

There are many reasons for this rise in standards:
The general rise in educational standards across most disciplines
Growth and competition within the field of Counselling/Psychotherapy
The need for the Counselling/Psychotherapy profession to be seen as equal to other, more established, helping professions such as Psychiatry, Clinical Psychology, Social Work etc.

This last need is reflected in the slow, but possibly inexorable, drive towards Statutory Regulation of the Counselling/Psychotherapy profession. The government has promised to look at this, but it appears that it won’t be for a few years yet. This would set a single standard of education for the field, which currently has a variety of standards depending on the accrediting body.

It is not yet clear at what level this standard will be set, but a group called the Psychological Therapies Forum, consisting of representatives from all the main Counselling/Psychotherapy accrediting bodies (IACP, IAHIP etc), presented a Submission on the Statutory Regulation of Counsellors & Psychotherapists in Ireland to Minister John Moloney in 2007, which included the following recommendation:

That the following criteria are adopted for recognition and registration as Psychological Therapist. 

PSYCHOTHERAPIST (PSYCHOLOGICAL THERAPIST)
Baseline academic qualification for entry to training is:
1. Degree or equivalent in human sciences (medical, psychological, social, educational etc). 
2. Interview

Baseline qualification and experience for registration as psychotherapist:
Minimum four years of training in specific psychotherapy modality at master’s level (1,400 hours) to include, for example:
1. 250 hours/sessions personal psychotherapeutic experience
2. 500 – 800 hours theory or methodology
3. 300 – 600 hours/sessions supervised clinical practice with clients/patients
4. 150 hours/sessions supervision
5. Clinical placement in a mental health or psycho-social setting.

Criteria for grandparenting practicing psychotherapists:

Academic:
M.A. / post Graduate or equivalent psychotherapy training.
Experiential:
1. 250 hours/sessions of personal psychotherapeutic experience and/or other modality-appropriate reflective process
2. 500 hours/sessions (minimum) of supervised client work in professional practice for not less than five years.
3. 150 hours/sessions of supervision – ratio 1:10
4. Membership of a recognised professional psychotherapy body and subscribe to their code of ethics and practice.


COUNSELLOR (PSYCHOLOGICAL THERAPIST) 

Baseline academic qualification for Entry to training is:

1 a- Entry level 1 –Leaving certificate or equivalent
b- Entry Level 2 – relevant Degree or equivalent accredited prior learning considered.
2 Interview

Baseline qualification and experience for registration as Counsellor:
Minimum 4 years training in specific counselling and psychotherapy modality Minimum 1250 hours to include 

1 600 hours of academic training including theory over minimum of 4 years
2 400 hours of supervised clinical practice with clients/patients during training
3 100 hours supervision (Supervision ratio 1:4)
4 150 hours Personal development experience to include minimum of 100 hours of personal psychological therapy
Leading to a degree or recognised accredited equivalent in Counselling

Criteria for grandparenting practicing Counsellors:

1. Membership of a recognised professional counselling body and subscribe to their code of ethics and practice.
2. 500 hours (minimum) of supervised client work in professional practice for not less than five years.
3. 50 hours of supervision – ratio 1:10
4. Evidence of Continuing Professional development


For those who are interested, the full document is available on the IACP website at:


These recommendations will not necessarily be followed, as wide consultation is likely to take place. But if they are, it will require a Bachelor’s Degree level qualification in order to practice as a Counsellor, and a Master’s Degree level qualification in order to practice as a Psychotherapist (this distinction between Counselling and Psychotherapy is in itself criticised by some within the field).

Of course, it is not only about basic professional qualifications - Continuing Professional Development is also an important consideration when it comes to thinking about postgraduate education. The field of Counselling/Psychotherapy, perhaps more than most, requires us to be continually educating ourselves, with no end in sight – Lifelong Learning, as it is now often called. Doing a PG Cert, Dip or Masters may well be a decision based on the need and desire to be more qualified, more specialised, more senior within the field, more employable. In fact, it can be seen as being about achieving greater mastery of one’s profession, hence the name Masters. 

Those who wish to teach at Third Level would particularly need to plan on getting a Master’s degree.

Of course, continuing education and specialisation can potentially take place in a wide variety of subject areas, from further mastery of specific approaches such as CBT, Psychodynamic Psychotherapy, Gestalt Therapy etc, to deeper knowledge of specific issues such as Trauma, Suicide, Addiction etc.

As described above, this 3-year part-time programme teaches a contemporary integrative approach to Counselling, encouraging a critical examination of contemporary published works addressing what it means to be integrative. We think this is a good starting point for our entry into the area of Postgraduate course provision, and plan to offer a variety of other programmes in a number of specialised areas over the coming years.


The MA Programme Leader will be Dr. Barbara Dowds. Barbara has been on the teaching faculty of PCI College for a number of years, was formerly a university lecturer in molecular genetics. In 2002 she qualified as a therapist and set up a private practice specialising in identity, existential crisis and development issues. She has also been a teacher of co-counselling and has trained in Body Psychotherapy and Gestalt Therapy. She has served on the editorial board of Eisteach, the journal of the IACP. Her book, Beyond the Frustrated Self, is shortly to be published by Karnac (London). The subject matter lies at the border between therapy and self-help, and looks at the existential consequences of avoidant attachment.

Barbara, myself, and all of the teaching team look forward to seeing some of you this autumn in the world of Postgraduate studies!





Eoin Stephens
PCI
 College President
 




 

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