Scope of practice and education for the counselling and psychotherapy professions (SCoPEd)

In 2016 three accredited registers, the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP), British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), and the British Psychoanalytic Council (BPC) began jointly working on a collaborative project looking at the training requirements and practice standards for counselling and psychotherapy.

The project, called SCoPEd (Scope of Practice and Education for the counselling and psychotherapy professions), involves systematically mapping existing competences, standards, training and practice requirements within counselling and psychotherapy for work with adult clients/patients.

In 2020, the Association of Christian Counsellors (ACC), Association of Child Psychotherapists (ACP), Human Givens Institute (HGI) and National Counselling Society (NCS) indicated their interest in working together to produce an agreed shared professional standards framework.


Aims of SCoPEd

The aim of SCoPEd is to agree a shared, evidence-based competence framework to inform the core training requirements, competences and practice standards for counsellors and psychotherapists who work with adults.


How SCoPEd will support our policy work

  • SCoPEd will make it easier to communicate to policymakers, such as Ministers and MPs, exactly what psychotherapists and counsellors do. The existing lack of clarity has been a major obstacle to promoting the unique values of psychotherapy and counselling.
  • The tighter regulatory framework brings psychotherapy and counselling closer to psychology and psychiatry in having more clearly mapped competencies and greater quality assurance. This is important for the credibility of the professions, particularly with limited public understanding of the crowded mental health landscape.
  • NHS workforce planning is built around competency and intervention.
    • SCoPEd will provide clearer routes into NHS training and work by providing a benchmark of competency, making role descriptions easier to formulate and meaning workforce planners can be assured of the level of training of their recruits.
    • It will also help to address regional inequality by ensuring greater uniformity in the recruitment of psychotherapists and counsellors in different parts of the country.
    • Health Education England will be able to map the SCoPEd competencies onto their list of 12 psychological professions, the professional framework for workforce planning around the NHS Long Term Plan.


What has happened so far

February - April 2019 Consultation with UKCP, BACP, and BPC members on first draft framework conducted by Critical Research.
May – August 2019 Analysis of first stage consultation results.
August 2019 – April 2020 Revised framework developed, with input from an Expert Reference Group of practitioners and stakeholders from across the sector.
May – June 2020 Revised framework shared with ‘critical reader’ group of stakeholders from across the sector, framework updated.
July – August 2020 Consultation on revised framework with UKCP, BACP, and BPC members conducted by Critical Research.
September – November 2020 Analysis of consultation results. Meetings with other PSA Accredited Register holders for counselling and psychotherapy lead to expansion of the SCoPEd group to include ACC, ACP, HGI and NCS.

Draft SCoPEd framework

Read the latest draft of the SCoPEd framework, updated July 2020.

17 May 2021

Partners from across counselling and psychotherapy professions welcome first independent Chair and Experts by Experience for SCoPEd Oversight Committee

The unique SCoPEd partnership has successfully appointed an independent Chair to lead the next phase in the development of the first shared framework of standards for counselling and psychotherapy with adults. Membership of the SCoPEd Oversight Committee (SOC) has been widened to include four Experts by Experience (EbE).

Former General Medical Council (GMC) Director of Strategy and Policy, Paul Buckley, has been appointed to the new role of Independent Chair. He will now Chair the SOC, which leads on and agrees strategic decisions in relation to the SCoPEd framework.

Paul has recently retired after 25 years with the GMC, where he had an impressive track record of leading major reforms, including education and standards. Paul has worked successfully with senior leaders from many major UK healthcare organisations in a variety of contexts.  

The SCoPEd Oversight Committee includes the Chief Executive of each of the seven partners and its role is to lead on and agree strategic decisions in relation to the framework.

In his new role as SOC Chair, Paul will work closely with the Chief Executives of the partners, along with the Chair of the SCoPEd technical group, to help navigate the challenges and opportunities of the shared framework and build on the new collaboration.

Paul said: 'I’m looking forward to working with the seven partners on this important initiative and recognise the unique characteristics of these professions and the importance of reflecting the different traditions, approaches and contexts in which counsellors and psychotherapists work.

'It is a huge privilege to have been appointed as the first independent Chair of the SCoPEd Oversight Committee. SCoPEd is a really important and ambitious initiative that reflects broader developments in the health and well-being landscape as well as my own values, with the recent expansion to seven partner organisations enabling a step change in increasing the reach of the work.

'The counselling and psychotherapy professions are playing a vital role in helping the UK in its post-Covid recovery and the development of SCoPEd is a key part of that. A shared framework that reflects and promotes the very important work therapists do will be greatly valued by clients, employers and commissioners alike.'

In a joint statement, the Chief Executives of the seven SCoPEd partners said: “Paul shares our passion for advancing the profession and our values of equality, diversity and inclusion and will play a hugely important role as the first independent Chair of the SCoPEd Oversight Committee.

“His considerable experience in strategic leadership, change management and professional standards speaks for itself, and will make a real contribution to the future of counselling and psychotherapy professionals working with adults.”

The expansion of the SOC to include Experts by Experience will ensure that the needs of clients, patients and service users from all backgrounds are reflected in the framework. The EbE reflect a rich diversity of genders, ages, characteristics and life experience. Together they represent a variation in mental health journeys, spanning NHS, third and private sectors and various modalities. The project will further benefit from the breadth of their respective service user networks.

The seven SCoPEd partner organisations are;

  • UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP)
  • Association of Christian Counsellors (ACC)
  • Association of Child Psychotherapists (ACP)
  • British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP)
  • British Psychoanalytic Council (BPC)
  • Human Givens Institute (HGI)
  • National Counselling Society (NCS).

Dear member,

We would like to announce that a number of meetings around the widening of the Scope of Practice and Education (SCoPEd) project group have taken place over recent months.

As you may be aware, the SCoPEd project began back in 2016 as a collaboration between three Accredited Registers: British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), British Psychoanalytic Council (BPC) and United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP).

More recently the Association of Christian Counsellors (ACC), Association of Child Psychotherapists (ACP), Human Givens Institute (HGI) and National Counselling Society (NCS) have indicated their interest in working together to produce an agreed shared professional standards framework.

The additional Accredited Registers have signaled their agreement to join the SCoPEd project group on the basis of equal participation and shared ownership of the framework and its outputs. This will include involvement in the SCoPEd technical group and the Expert Reference Group (ERG). New governance arrangements will see the current SCoPEd Steering Group replaced by a newly created SCoPEd Oversight Committee (SOC). The SOC will include the CEO of each membership body and its role will be to lead on and agree strategic decisions in relation to the project. This will include ensuring that the project represents the work of counsellors and psychotherapists working with adults within the partnership organisations. A representative of the PSA will also attend these meetings as an observer.
All parties are engaging in the project to ensure that it represent the whole profession.

SCoPEd project group
Association of Christian Counsellors, Association of Child Psychotherapists, British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, British Psychoanalytic Council, Human Givens Institute, National Counselling Society and United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy

Dear member,

As you’re aware, BACP, BPC and UKCP are working collaboratively on the SCoPEd (Scope of Practice and Education) project to produce an agreed evidence-based framework, which represents the breadth of skills, knowledge and experience of all our valued members. We’re continuing to show our commitment to working together to help address the confusion around the current landscape with a framework that will inform the minimum training requirements, competencies and practice standards for therapists working with individual adults.

We’re pleased to let you know that we have today, Tuesday 14 July, published the next draft iteration of the SCoPEd framework on our websites. We’re aware that there have been some delays in getting this draft iteration published but we’ve listened carefully to the feedback and concerns raised in response to the previous draft iteration and wanted to ensure we’d adequately incorporated these before we shared it with you.

A number of important changes have been made to this draft iteration which we hope make some areas clearer for our members. The first key change is that we’ve removed titles from the columns and renamed them Columns A, B and C. This has been done so the focus at this stage is on the evidence, which demonstrates that all our members work in respected and qualified roles. We anticipate that titles will be re-instated prior to the publication of the final version of the framework and each organisation will work individually and collectively on a plan to agree titles.

Secondly, this version of the framework maps not just entry points but existing gateways which reflect post-training qualifications and experience. We’ve noted that it’s incredibly important to recognise the further training and experience of our members and to make it as clear as possible how members can and could move between the columns should they wish to.
Thirdly, concerns were raised that the language used was not consistent throughout the framework and we’ve recognised this, so we’ve made changes to the language to ensure consistency throughout with the help of additional members of the Expert Reference Group who were recruited in 2019. There were also concerns around the terminology used in the framework and we’ve updated this to become more inclusive where appropriate.

We’re keen to gather our members’ feedback on this draft iteration and so all members of BACP, BPC and UKCP will receive an initial questionnaire which will allow you to respond in confidence. Alongside, there’ll be an opportunity to express your interest in attending an online ‘bulletin board’ style focus group where you’ll be able to give more detailed feedback and engage in considered debate around the draft iteration. We anticipate that the initial questionnaire will be sent week commencing Monday 20 July and encourage members to keep an eye on their inbox.

We wanted to reiterate the value we put on your opinion as members and extend our thanks to those who’ve already fed back to us on the SCoPEd framework so far. It is vital that we continue to work with our members to ensure we develop an agreed framework that works to show clearly what our members do and in turn enables us to campaign for jobs and opportunities while also working to help make the profession more inclusive.
The draft iteration of the SCoPEd framework and a methodology update* can be viewed online now. An accessible version of the draft framework is also available.
With best wishes,

The SCoPEd Project Team

For the last two months our main focus has been on providing as much support and as many resources as we can for our members during the COVID-19 crisis.

As we settle into a new normal, we wanted to let you know that we’ll still be working on the SCoPEd project. It’s incredibly important that we continue the project, working with members and stakeholders, to create a framework to provide clarity for the profession.

As an additional quality check, we asked a small group to review the format and presentation of the framework. This group includes internal divisions and committees, certain members of staff (of each partner organisation), members of each of the Boards and external contacts such as training providers and academic researchers. The purpose of this group is to check that we’ve successfully addressed concerns and feedback from members, and to look at whether the information has been presented in the clearest possible way.

Using this feedback, we’ll look to finalise the next iteration and share it with our members and stakeholders for further feedback.

In the meantime, please be aware that the frameworks that are currently on our websites are out of date and don’t reflect the work that we’ve been doing to incorporate member feedback.


We had nearly 1,000 responses from UKCP members to the SCoPEd consultation earlier this year. Of those who responded nearly 50% again left a comment of some form, this was the case across the organisations. We’re very grateful for everyone who took the time to respond and give a wide range of views and it has, understandably, taken some time to process these comments.

We asked the independent research company to identify some of the key themes from your responses to enable us to understand what is working and what needs further clarification or addressing.

Inevitably, different themes were more relevant to members of the different organisations. Below are the key themes that were most relevant to UKCP members. We’ve also identified what, either as a collaboration or individually, we will be doing next in response to these themes.

The public, clients and patients will not understand the framework
This was the most prominent theme for UKCP members with 27 per cent of people who left a comment flagging this as a concern. This was above the average for the three organisations; one member said:
‘I am not sure that a patient or client will consult the level of detail that this framework offers, or if they did, the data might not make sense in terms of what to expect from a counselling or therapy contract’.

As a collaboration, we agree. We believe that this work can help showcase our professions and help clients/patients find the best support for them. However, not in its current form. It was not our intention that it would be shared with the public, clients and patients in this form, but we did not make this clear in our communication.

We will produce documents that take into consideration the audience they are intended for and we will ask the public for their views by including them in any future consultation.

The framework creates structure where previously there was little
Twenty-four per cent of UKCP members who responded and left a comment felt this was an important outcome of the framework, again this was above the average for the three organisations. One UKCP member who has been qualified for more than ten years said:
‘Anything that add clarity to with regard to people’s level of training and experience is to be welcomed’.

People highlighted that the framework had the potential to create order to what can sometimes seem like a jumble of titles, training and experience.
As a collaboration we represent around 65,000 counselling and psychotherapy practitioners, we know that when we can work together, we can provide a stronger and clearer voice for the profession to those in position of influencing. We believe that this framework will help us achieve that.

However, we know this framework could be better so we will continue to work alongside our members to work towards creating a structure that will continue to open doors for our professions, and those working within it.

Previous experience and CPD is overlooked
A concern from our members and across the three organisations was that this framework ignores the range of important experience and skillsets of therapist after they start working in the field.

We agree. This framework only looks at entry level and maps the landscape based on existing standards and literature. We haven’t started looking at how the vast knowledge and skills that members acquire since qualifying could be included in this.

We will start looking at clarifying what the framework could mean after entry point so we can reassure all our members that their skills and knowledge would be valued where they met the standards.

The framework creates a hierarchy
This was a significant concern from members across all three organisations with 36 per cent of member comments indicating an understanding of hierarchy from the research. Twenty per cent of our members identified this as well.

One of our recently qualified members commented:
‘I think it will create an unnecessary hierarchy in the profession and is particularly unfair on counsellors who trained prior to this being brought in. It feels like moving goal posts creating division and hierarchies within the profession that do not benefit counsellors themselves.’

Our intention was to map existing training, standards and practice requirements at an entry level. We used a bespoke methodology to form this framework which is an attempt to describe the current state of play based on what is available. As a collaboration we are committed to all our members and registrants and know that each one of you provides an important and valuable service to your clients and patients.

However, we completely understand that the descriptors for the entry points and layout may have contributed to sense of hierarchy.

We will work with our members in the next few months alongside the Expert Reference Group (ERG) and Technical Group to review the column titles and layouts to make sure they are fair and fit for purpose. In addition to this we are also planning to recruit two new members to the ERG as a direct result of the feedback. We hope they will help us develop the language throughout the framework and ensure we do not create a sense of hierarchy.
These were the top four themes that were most relevant to our members. There were also some specific suggestions to help develop the framework which will be assessed by the ERG and Technical Group as part of the ongoing work.

In addition to this there were other themes that were more relevant to the other professional bodies, as a collaboration, we are committed to working through all the feedback received to help develop a framework that provides the best opportunities for all our members.

As we mentioned there was an overwhelmingly positive response from our members. Fifty-six per cent of our members felt the framework would make it easier for clients or patients to find the right kind of help to meet their needs. Seventy-one per cent believed this would be the case for employers in establishing who to employ in their service, 73 per cent felt that this would help the professional bodies promote the skills and services of their membership and 78 per cent felt it would make it easier for trainees to understand the pathways open to them.

Once again, we would like to thank all our members for their ongoing contribution to this work and will continue to involve you in its development.

We are pleased to announce the initial results of the first stage of consultation around the Scope of Education and Practice (SCoPEd) project. SCoPEd is a ground-breaking project that aims to set out the training and practice standards for counselling and psychotherapy.

The consultation exercise, which was run by an independent research company on behalf of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), the British Psychoanalytic Council (BPC) and the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP), attracted more than 7,000 responses from members of all three organisations alongside more than 70 responses from stakeholder organisations.

We would like to thank everyone who took the time to respond to the consultation. We received a wide range of views from members of all the organisations and are looking forward to feeding your views back into the project. We are committed to working with our members on this important project, and your feedback is an essential part of the process.

The initial analysis tells us that

  • 40% of respondents believe the draft framework would make it easier for patients or clients to find the right kind of help to meet their needs. While 24% felt it would make it harder.
  • 54% percent felt the draft framework would make it easier for employers to establish which counsellors and psychotherapists to employ in their service. With 23% feeling the framework would make it harder.
  • 61% of the respondents that the draft framework would make it easier for trainees to understand the pathways open to them for core training with adults. 23% felt the framework would make it harder for trainees.
  • 54% also felt that the framework would make it easier for professional bodies to promote their members’ skills, compared to 21% who felt it would make it harder.

All three organisations felt it was important to share these early results at this stage.

More than 3,000 members and stakeholders submitted a comment as part of the consultation process. These are currently being analysed by the independent research company for the key themes, which will be published in the summer.

We were all very aware of the strength of feeling during the process and wanted to acknowledge this. Further independent analysis is now taking place on the rest of the member and stakeholder consultation. While we can see an early indication that our members feel we should progress this work, it is clear there is more work to do. Once we have understood the detail of the feedback, we will begin a plan of further engagement with our members, registrants and stakeholders to understand how we can develop the work.
This is an unprecedented piece of work, it will have its challenges, but we would like to thank everyone who has responded so far. We look forward to creating something that can be genuinely helpful for everyone involved in, or a beneficiary of the professions.

Andrew Reeves, Chair, BACP
Susanna Abse, Chair, BPC
Martin Pollecoff, Chair, UKCP

Hadyn Williams, Chief Executive, BACP
Gary Fereday, Chief Executive BPC
Sarah Niblock, Chief Executive UKCP

Thank you once again to all of you who took part in our recent joint consultation on the draft SCoPEd framework. We hugely appreciate the time you have taken to respond and for your suggestions. We fully acknowledge that for some members this process has been concerning, and we may not have been clear about every aspect of the project.

Firstly, we want to clarify the reality of SCoPEd. That is the coming together of three leading counselling and psychotherapy organisations to collate, agree and set out what is happening currently at entry level according to the evidence we could find.

We also want you to know that every single one of the over 3,000 comments we received in our initial consultation, which was responded to by over 7,000 members, will be carefully considered and reflected in our next actions – collectively as a collaboration of three organisations, and individually where it appertains to a specific membership body. This will take some time, but we are committed to this.

Our organisations united in 2017 with the goal of providing clarity for the profession and the public. Very soon an additional shared overarching goal emerged: the project could enable us to promote the very high level of expertise of our 60,000 practitioners, a wholly under-utilised workforce within a profession that is too often misunderstood or ignored by policymakers.
This is critically important planning and policy work that we have best chance of achieving together, not separately. More than anything, the framework is intended to make explicit the sheer skill and ability of all our members, when they enter the professions, to undertake highly complex work within a range of employment settings. That’s even before our members have undertaken the considerable development and supervision that typically characterises a lifetime’s work in our profession. Our aim is to promote our 60,000 practitioners by showing what you are, not what you are not with, the aim of maximising employment opportunities.

Times have changed and there is an opportunity for the counselling and psychotherapy professions to demonstrate and establish the considerable benefits we can bring.

We want to reassure you that the draft framework – and it is very much a first iteration – will absolutely be reviewed. Our intention was to set out the existing agreed training levels, research and published standards. We will now look at all aspects of its production and content in close consultation with our respective memberships.

We hope to create a framework that will help to ensure that your skills are valued and utilised to their full potential by employers, commissioners and the public.

Andrew Reeves, Chair, BACP
Susanna Abse, Chair, BPC
Martin Pollecoff, Chair, UKCP

Hadyn Williams, Chief Executive, BACP
Gary Fereday, Chief Executive BPC
Sarah Niblock, Chief Executive UKCP

The Scope of Practice and Education for the counselling and psychotherapy professions (SCoPEd) is a collaborative project being jointly undertaken by BACP, BPC and UKCP.

The project is systematically mapping existing competences, standards, training and practice requirements within counselling and psychotherapy. It is using an evidence-based approach to identify the different and overlapping competences between them.

The initial mapping has been completed and has now moved on to working with an Expert Reference Group. The Group comprises members who have been nominated by each partnership body, allowing equal representation of interests. The Group has an impartial, independent chair.

The Expert Reference Group will advance the mapping process by consulting the counselling and psychotherapy literature to ensure that gaps are identified and that further evidence is sought. This will enable the Group to produce the final, evidence-based competence framework.

Why are we doing it

Counselling and psychotherapy are not statutorily regulated. Professional bodies can apply for their own registers to be accredited by the Professional Standards Authority (PSA) under its Accredited Registers programme.
The PSA sets standards for organisations that hold a register in a health or social care profession, and the focus of their programme is public protection.
The PSA-accredited registers in the field of counselling and psychotherapy each has its own distinct standards of training and practice. There are also no agreed common entry or training requirements to enter the field.

This causes confusion for the public, for clients/patients, for employers and commissioners of services about what training and experience to expect when employing a counsellor or psychotherapist.

There is also confusion amongst those who are considering training in this field as there are disparate standards, with a wide range of courses available at differing academic levels geared to different client groups and professional roles, and sitting within different qualifications frameworks


Find a therapist near you