Updated guidance (September 2021)
Following consultation with a variety of trainers, the Society has now implemented the following:
Tutor contact hours and blended learning from 1st September 2021.
We are very much aware of how hard training providers have worked during the pandemic to provide their students with a quality training experience. All of us involved in talking therapies have learned a great deal about the advantages and disadvantages of delivering training and therapy outside of traditional face-to-face/in-the-room methodology. Whilst we remain convinced that the relational experience of being in a classroom with other learners is an essential part of quality training, online synchronous teaching clearly has much to offer, not least in terms of accessibility.
As such, we believe, blended learning could be the future of training for our profession.
Our position is that, for training courses providing a route to our Accredited Register, a substantial proportion of training should be face-to-face/in-the-room as circumstances permit this. We will require that this proportion should be a minimum of 70% with up to 30% being via online synchronous delivery. This will apply for new cohorts of students from 1 September 2021, subject to any continuing national restrictions or local needs.
We are also aware that some providers will wish to return to full face-to-face/in-the-room training and practice, which of course they will be free to do, while others will choose a blended approach.
All providers should carry out a full risk assessment before returning to face-to-face training or working and must, of course, work within government guidelines. The ethical implications of asking students to resume face-to-face practice or training must be considered and appropriate support offered. The needs of high-risk groups such as vulnerable people with complex health needs must be taken into account and suitable adjustments made.
Supervised placements from 1st September 2021.
With regards to supervised placement hours, the criteria for the accredited register is a minimum of 100 supervised client hours in and organisation/agency setting. It is required that at least 51% of these hours are carried out face-to-face/in-the-room. If the course provides relevant training, and considers a student to be competent to carry out some of their supervised client hours remotely (ie online or phone based), this will need to be synchronous/live and with relevant support from the placement provider and supervised by an experienced supervisor. Within the remainder of hours permissible via remote working, the decision with regards to the proportion of supervised hours for these other modes of delivery lies with the training provider.
Asynchronous or text-based practice hours are not counted towards placement hours.
Students who had to undertake training and/or placement hours purely online during the 2020/2021 academic year, due to the Covid pandemic, can still apply for the Accredited Register as their applications will be assessed in line with accepted criteria during that time.
For students completing their 2nd/3rd year of core training during academic year 2021/2022, we very much encourage these students to start acquiring some ‘face-to-face/ in-the-room’ experience as soon as possible. However, these students will not be penalised if they genuinely cannot gain this experience due to any ongoing government restrictions and/or if placement providers are not permitting ‘face-to-face/ in-the-room’ practice.
For new students embarking on a one-year course from September 2021, we strongly encourage them to acquire 'face to face/in the room' experience and, as far as they are able, have the majority of their supervised placement hours acquired in this way. Where training providers know of extenuating circumstances, the requirement to have the majority of supervised placement hours as 'face to face/in the room' can be adjusted.
It remains important that all students are assessed to qualify as competent to practice ‘face-to-face/ in-the-room”. Please see assessment guidance below under: ‘Guidance for training providers regarding transition to ‘in the room’ therapy’
The below guidance was updated periodically from March 2020 - August 2021 and has now been replaced with the above.
- Training Standards
Training schools can make individual decisions regarding temporarily postponing and rearranging classes where necessary and do not need to inform the Society about this. Trainers are encouraged to consider rearranging classes in a way that catching up does not unduly delay intented graduation dates.
The NCS proposes the following potential options to assist counselling training where trainers feel it is necessary.
- Training schools will be entitled to “front load” theoretical and other non “face to face” elements of their syllabus to delay the necessity for face to face contact until later in the course, if such modification of their syllabus is possible and does not adversely affect course quality. Any trainer implementing substantial syllabus changes should inform the NCS professional standards team and every care should be taken to ensure that the course can still be delivered in an appropriate manner.
- Trainers may interview potential students by phone or Zoom/Skype etc. provided that said interviews are demonstrably thorough and cover all questions expected for due diligence necessary to make an informed decision to commence training. Particular care should be taken to establish the identity of any student admitted onto a course who has been interviewed by these methods.
- In the event where postponing classes or rearranging classes is insufficient, trainers wishing to temporarily vary their face to face training hours and replace a proportion of these with online “webinar” style alternatives may do so provided that it is appropriate for their training and that it continues to allow that training to fulfil its intended requirements (e.g. qualifying as a counsellor.). Trainers should inform the Society and work with us to ensure that accreditation standards are appropriately maintained. We will examine all variations in training on a case by case basis to ensure that the quality of our Accredited Register is maintained.
- We will also be engaging with placement providers where indicated and will be flexible in understanding situations where placement hours have been conducted or fulfilled online or by phone.
- We will do everything possible to support and reassure training schools and to ensure that counselling training can continue during the current public health situation, and would like to reassure students that everything possible is being done to ensure that their training is not unduly affected. Students should feel confident that they are supported and that all training can continue.
- Coronavirus Placement Policy
The NCS is implementing the following policy for the continuation of placements during the current public health crisis.
Based on the placement provider's individual assessment of each student's safety and competence to transition their current face to face placement work to an online or phone based alternative, the NCS temporarily permits, for the duration of the current public health crisis, placement work to be continued online or by phone.
Trainers may reserve the right not to accept this and this is an individual decision for trainers to make based upon their own assessment of their students and the way in which they wish them to work.
It is particularly important that trainers and placement providers ensure that their students have specific competencies in place to deal with this change in working, that students are well supported, and that students have the right to decline to work in this way without prejudicing either their placement contracts or training outcomes.
It is also important that the decision to change the manner of working is based upon not only an individual student assessment, but also an individual client assessment, and that where it is considered inappropriate for either student or client to work in this way then it should not be permitted.
This policy is based on weighing any increased risk to clients from abruptly halting (or delaying the start of) their counselling against any risks arising from moving the placement counselling relationship away from face to face work. The NCS believes that, provided that placement providers, supported by robust supervision arrangements, are happy to temporarily conduct this work online or by phone, this will be acceptable.
For the avoidance of doubt, placement hours accrued in this way during the current public health crisis will count towards the hours required for registration and accreditation with the NCS.
Trainers are advised that they may accept online or phone based placement hours as part of their training requirements at this time.
Placement providers, trainers and students are advised to check insurance where relevant to ensure that cover is extended to this eventuality. We have been in communication with two of the major insurance providers, both of whom assure the Society that their cover will be applicable, but the onus remains on placement providers and students to check their insurance policies for confirmation.
Consideration should be given to prioritising online video technology (e.g. Zoom) as this may be preferable to phone base counselling in terms of it more nearly replicating the face to face environment.
The NCS will update this policy as required.
- Guidance for training providers regarding transition to “in the room” therapy
This guidance is in addition to our other coronavirus information.
With no clear end to the pandemic in sight, we are aware that some students may reach the end of their core practitioner training without any face to face, ‘in the room’ experience with clients. For the purposes of this guidance we will refer to this method of working as ‘in the room’.
We recognize that providers and students have had to adapt their way of working extraordinarily quickly, and that a great deal of valuable learning has taken place where online and telephone work is concerned. We want to help both training providers and students continue with training and placements as safely and effectively as possible.
We recognize that there is a range of views regarding the differences between traditional in the room counselling and psychotherapy and that provided live via telephone or online via platforms such as Zoom. We feel that some provision should be made for ensuring that students and graduates are fully supported to be able to commence or resume in the room therapy.
This guidance offers recommendations and considerations to ensure that students are confident and competent to work in the room with clients on completion of their training.
It is a condition of registration that a counsellor can practice in the room.
Our underlying principles for training are to support providers in:
- being as flexible as possible while maintaining standards
- acting in the best interest of both students and clients
- ensuring students are competent in online or phone work with additional basic training where necessary
- being flexible and exercising extension policies where appropriate to enable students to complete their 100 placement hours
- ensuring students can sufficiently support clients when transitioning from in the room to remote working, and back (when safe to do so.)
- ensuring students with no in the room client experience are competent to work in this way
Training providers should carry out an assessment to ensure that students who are likely to have completed all of their 100 placement hours remotely are competent to work in the room before they complete their studies.
Suggested options for ways in which this assessment could be done include:
1. Specific criteria within a supervisor’s report
The student’s supervisor could be well placed to understand their ability to work in the room and be given set criteria appropriate to the individual training model to cover in their report. This could constitute good evidence that the student was able to practice in the room.
2. A written assessment devised by the provider
For all cohorts qualifying during the pandemic period, regardless of which option courses choose, we recommend providing students with confirmation that they have been assessed as competent to work in the room with clients. This will help to prevent any issues when the student wishes to apply for registration, as to gain access to the Society’s register does require the ability to work with clients in the room.
Assessment should enable the student to show an understanding of the differences between working in the room and online or over the phone, and in particular:
• an understanding of the therapeutic relationship when the full range of sensory experience is involved
• an understanding of the contextual and practical considerations of working in the room
The following topics are not prescriptive and are intended as guidance regarding what assessors should be looking for. Providers will have their own expertise to bring to this task.
The therapeutic relationship
When the full range of sensory experience is available, the counsellor can pay attention to the client’s overall presentation, including
- posture, dress, smell
- skin tone and breathing patterns
- body language and subtle nonverbal clues
all of which can provide further information about the client and their lifestyle and may influence the process and interventions chosen.
The counsellor should also consider:
- their own body language and non-verbal cues and how these may be interpreted or perceived by the client
- how working in the room can influence the emotional impact of the work on the counsellor
- changes to the power balance as compared to working remotely, for example the client may feel they have more power when online or over the phone, whilst in the room they may feel they have less or vice versa
- the impact on the level of challenge; for example, does the trainee feel as safe to challenge the client when working in the room or conversely, are they more challenging? Do they feel more or less able to take risks in the room?
- the disinhibition effect and the potential for increased or decreased disclosure depending on the client
Contextual and practical considerations
When working in the room the counsellor bears the responsibility for arranging and maintaining the setting and environment. They need to consider:
- contracting awareness of any differences regarding confidentiality and other ethical and professional boundaries when working in the room
- negotiating the physical space, for example positioning of seating
- preparing the room after other counsellors or if the room has been used for other purposes
- the provision of waiting areas
- managing interaction outside the room on the way to a session
- working with disturbance, noise and interruptions by others using the building or counselling rooms
- changes to the consulting room between sessions
- decreased flexibility in the timing and frequency of sessions
- awareness of risk and risk assessment when working in the room, including safety considerations when lone working
- opportunities for more spontaneous and creative interventions in the room, for example use of art materials, chair work
3. A peer counselling model
Students conduct a number of in the room sessions of 50 minutes with the same volunteer client, including a tutor observation of at least one live or recorded session.
Additional guidance if the peer counselling assessment model is used
It is important that:
- sessions are not ‘skills practice’ but are formally contracted sessions
- the sessions are in addition to the core 100 placement hours required for registration
- peer clients come from a different training cohort if possible; student ‘clients’ from the same cohort may be used if this is the only option necessary.
- the limitations of the counselling being offered are made clear and agreed with the peer ‘client’
- social distancing measures are observed