May 2006 No. 14

Skills and Studies - combined courses

CPCAB has been asked several times recently whether or not it is permissible for Centres to offer courses in Counselling Skills and Counselling Studies concurrently. This has prompted a full debate.

The short answer is that combining the two (rather than running them consecutively) is strongly discouraged for good reasons but ultimately the decision rests with the Centre. Some Centres are clearly managing this successfully and have a sound rationale for doing so, hence our willingness not to be inflexible. However, CPCAB cannot recommend this as a matter of course and strongly recommend that certain issues are taken into consideration.

Counselling Skills (CSK-L2) is concerned with skills for a “helping relationship” in a variety of settings, not a formal counselling relationship. Counselling Studies (CST-L3) on the other hand, is designed to prepare trainees for a formal counselling relationship within an agency setting. This difference is reflected in the assessment criteria and Learning Outcomes. CSK is focussed on generic counselling skills only while CST is looking at theoretical and agency frameworks. Even when both qualifications were at Level 2 they were designed to be taken consecutively rather than concurrently. The re-levelling of CST to Level 3 confirms this intention and more clearly reflects the demands of the qualification (theoretical and practical) and the developmental stage of the trainee.

It can be confusing for a trainee to be looking at informal skills interactions of, say, 15 minutes in a work place setting in the morning and then formally contracted counselling sessions in the afternoon. These difficulties tend to be further enhanced when some learners in the group are doing only CSK-L2 while others are doing CSK-L2 and CST-L3 together. As you would expect, their rate of development will vary enormously and this can create difficulties in the learning group.

We are sympathetic to the arguments that running both qualifications concurrently aids retention and creates a powerful dynamic in the training group. We also recognise that running both qualifications back to back over one year poses its own challenges and does not cater for learners who only want to undertake one qualification at a time. We are alive to the reality that other awarding bodies offer “shorter” routes to the diploma, which puts pressure on Centres to offer CSK and CST together. CPCAB will be addressing this issue in the new Framework for Achievement structure.

In conclusion CPCAB is happy for Centres to reach their own decision especially where tutors are experienced and well supported. However if disgruntled students complain to us about the demands of undertaking these qualifications simultaneously we will refer them back to their Centre. I hope that this is seen as a reasonable compromise.

Fiona Ballantine Dykes
Head of Qualifications