1995-1999: The Early Years: Counselling & Psychotherapy Register; Counselling & Psychotherapy Society.
In 1995, a group of psychotherapists who were also practising hypnotherapy established the Hypnotherapy Research Society (HRS). The original intention of the HRS was to act as a space to create and build an evidence base for hypnotherapy practice so that hypnotherapy would be taken more seriously both in the psychotherapeutic community and for use within NHS settings. The founding President of HRS was the noted surgeon Clifford Stossel. At launch, HRS had approximately 150 members, and a Counselling and Psychotherapy Register was established within the Society as a professional home for counselling and psychotherapy practice.
Shortly thereafter, in 1996 the HRS became the Hypnotherapy Society and moved from focussing upon research to being a professional body. The register became the Counselling and Psychotherapy Society (CPS), with founding chair Dr Adrian Greaves. At this stage both organisations were very small and functioned as unincorporated associations. At the time there were still hopes that hypnotherapy would be included within the wider counselling profession but a consensus view emerged that counselling and hypnotherapy were on different paths. Soon the CPS became far larger than its psychotherapy/hypnotherapy roots.
The CPS was launched based upon key values:
• Counselling as a vocation, not just a profession
• A membership body based upon listening to and supporting its members
• Members to have full say on policies and direction of travel
• One grade meaning that you’re qualified without the need for further hierarchy of membership
In the early days, the CPS attracted counsellors impressed by its ethos and wishing to try a different approach to professional body affiliation.
2000-2010: Growing Further: Counselling Society; National Counselling Society
The CPS continued to grow slowly but steadily throughout the early 2000s. In 2006 it was decided to incorporate the organisation formally as a non-profit company, and members chose at that time to change its name to the Counselling Society (CS.) At the time it was felt that counselling was the best "umbrella term" for the talking therapies with which our members were concerned. During this period as well, members increasingly wished to have their professional progression marked through a membership grade system which more closely aligned with those of other organisations. The original CPS idea of a single membership grade ended around this time.
In 2010 there were huge shifts in the profession with the coalition government. Coming to power in May 2010, a few months later the Government announced it was to create the first “Accredited Voluntary Register” programme under the auspices of the Professional Standards Authority. The Society fully supported this development and accordingly began to make wholescale changes in our governance and procedures, improving all areas of our structures and processes in order to become an AVR holder. In November 2010 it was decided to change our name to the National Counselling Society, in view of our growing membership and in anticipation of becoming an AVR holder in due course. (Subsequently the AVR programme became known as the Accredited Register, or AR, programme.)
2011-2020: Gaining Recognition, Growing Strongly: Accredited Register
Chaired by Dr Chris Forester from 2011-2020, The Society was awarded Accredited Register status in 2012 and successfully retained it throughout this period, growing to become widely recognised throughout the profession, leading to strong and sustained growth in members. Chosen by many counsellors and psychotherapists as their only professional home, and by many others as an additional home, the Society became noticed for its core ethos continued from its early CPS days.
Listening to members and offering them support has still been front and centre of the Society’s work as summed up in our phrase “our members are our expertise.” Meanwhile the NCS has been recognised by NHS IAPT, NHS Choices, and many well known EAPs and employers; sponsored APPGs; and forged cross-party links within Parliament. By 2020 we also offered approval of one kind or another to 206 different courses and delivered 115 CPD courses in 2020 alone. In late 2020 we joined other Accredited Registers to seek to develop common standards for the profession, a decision over which our members will have the final say.
2021 Onwards: Returning to Vocation; Expanding our Vision
From 2021 the Society will have a new Chair, Liz McElligott. Our goal for 2021 is that we will be expanding our vision in new and exciting ways by offering support to a much larger variety of talking therapies. From life coaching to mindfulness; psychosexual approaches to emerging modalities, the Society will become the home for the widest possible range of talking therapies in the future, offering support to all.
In addition we will be returning to focus on our original founding principle of counselling as a vocation, not just a profession. As the profession could be moving towards common standards or regulatory framework changes in the future, we want to create and renew a space for the heart of counselling and psychotherapy: honouring professional freedom, the client relationship, the personal journey, and the unique nature of what we do.
We recognise that while counselling and psychotherapy encompass the very valuable work of mental health, they can never be reduced to mental health diagnosis and treatment alone. We will renew our foundational ethos to focus on our vocation, and to continue to offer a home for the widest possible range of approaches, modalities, individuals and organisations in the years ahead.