National minimum standards for counselling and psychotherapy welcome

The Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia (PACFA) has welcomed the Select Committee into Mental Health and Suicide Prevention’s recommendation that the Australian Government determine national minimum standards for counselling and psychotherapy.

As the Australian peak body for counsellors and psychotherapists – and a self-regulating organisation for the profession - PACFA sets the highest minimum standards for membership.

Our member counsellors and psychotherapists have – at minimum – a bachelor degree qualification (AQF Level 7 or above - or equivalent) with a minimum of 400 hours instruction in counselling/psychotherapy subjects and 40 client contact hours, with 10 hours of related supervision during training/placement. These are the highest standards in the sector.

In its final report released on 2 November 2021, the Select Committee into Mental Health and Suicide Prevention acknowledged that registered counsellors provide valuable support, are already used by NDIS and other support services, and have the potential to provide a larger contribution to the mental health and suicide prevention workforce.

However, the committee said that if counsellors were to be ‘leveraged to relieve the pressure on existing mental health services’, effective regulation would require consensus on national minimum standards for education, supervision, CPD and oversight.

PACFA’s President Dr Di Stow and CEO Johanna de Wever presented to the committee on 13 August 2021, with Dr Stow stating that Medicare rebates for counsellors and psychotherapists would enable them to provide greater mental health help to Australians.

The committee said in its final report that before it could make further recommendations on inclusion of counsellors in the Medicare Benefits Scheme, the regulatory framework would need to be addressed.

The report noted PACFA’s recommendation of a policy environment where counsellors could assist more people and complement the work of psychologists, social workers and mental health nurses in supporting the Australian community.

The committee’s report repeats PACFA’s assertion that having immediate access to a counsellor can provide   both early intervention and a triage opportunity, particularly for people expressing suicidal ideation.

It also noted PACFA’s statement that counsellors and psychotherapists had greater availability than psychologists to support an Australian community who were struggling with Covid-related mental health issues.

A workforce study of PACFA members carried out in October and November 2020, published in the Psychotherapy and Counselling Journal of Australia, found that 62 per cent of our members could see a new client within two weeks     and 23 per cent could see a new client within 48 hours.

In October 2021, PACFA launched its trademarked titles for member counsellors and psychotherapists: Certified Practising Counsellor, Registered Clinical Counsellor and Registered Clinical Psychotherapist. Eligible members have received digital badges with these titles, denoting that these practising counsellors and psychotherapists have met PACFA’s high standards.

 For further information/interviews, please contact:

Stephanie Francis, PACFA Communications Manager

E: [email protected]

M: 0487 494 031