What does the future hold for the practice of Counselling in Ireland?

The current professional environment for the practice of Counselling in Ireland is beginning to take shape. Within the past year the Irish Government has committed to regulating the practice of Counselling and Psychotherapy which to date has been unregulated, and thus the protection of the public has not been assured by any State agency.

In late 2012 the Irish Government reaffirmed its commitment to implementing Statutory Regulation “without delay”.  This will mean that the professional titles of Counsellor and Psychotherapist will become a protected title under the Health and Social Care Professionals Act (2005) and those wishing to practice as Counsellors or Psychotherapists will need to be professionally registered with CORU, the regulatory body set up under that Act, which regulates a range of professions under Statute.

Regulation means that the registration body, namely CORU in the case of Counselling & Psychotherapy will set entry requirements to professions and that both entry requirements, qualifications and requirements for on-going professional practice will be set by a statutory agency which in turn will bring with it a level of public confidence that will assure the public that appropriate standards of professional practice apply, which, in the case of counselling and psychotherapy, do not exist.

The road to Statutory regulation has been a long one.  In 2008 the Psychological Therapies Forum made recommendations to Government recommending that entry to the profession of Counselling should require a minimum 4 year degree and distinguished counselling from psychotherapy on the basis that entry to psychotherapy would require a Masters level qualification for psychotherapy practice. Since that time most professional bodies within the Psychological Therapies Forum have been moving towards these standards, though they are not universally applied by all current Professional Associations. In essence these recommendations of the PTF have separated the two areas into distinct yet interrelated professions.

More recently QQI (Qualifications Quality Ireland) has published a consultation document on award standards which endorses the distinctions recommended by the PTF.  These proposed award standards are currently the subject of public consultation and are available via the URL: http://www.qqi.ie/Consultation/Pages/QQI-Framework-for-Consultation.aspx.