Finding a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist and the importance of Accreditation

Over the last few years there has been an increasing demand for Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT). At the time of writing, the psychotherapy profession is unregulated. What this means, is that anyone can call him or herself a Cognitive Behavioural therapist and anyone can say that they provide CBT (whether they have had appropriate training or not!) Incredibly the title ‘cognitive behavioural psychotherapist’ remains unprotected.

Furthermore, not only can anyone can give themselves the title of ‘Cognitive Behavioural Therapist’, they can also set themselves up in private practice. I find this truly horrifying. For the unsuspecting client who is often distressed and at their most vulnerable when seeking therapy, this has the potential to be incredibly damaging. Therefore, we as therapist’s have a duty of care to be clear about our skills and the services we offer.

To become an accredited Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist, I trained for four years to gain my Masters qualification and invested a vast amount of energy, time and money into my training – holding down a full time (high pressured) job while travelling up and down the M1 to University, completing assignments and gaining client experience while working in a Primary Care Team (PCT) and in a Community Mental Health Team (CMHT). I love my job and am extremely passionate about what I do. So, I find it incredibly frustrating to hear from clients and ‘Joe Public’ who have supposedly experienced CBT only for them to say ‘it was rubbish’ or ‘it didn’t work’ amongst other damning statements. In my experience, when questioned these clients have not experienced CBT nor have they been treated by an accredited CBT therapist. While I feel very privileged that I am able to work as a CBT therapist. The flip side is that I am tired, frustrated and incredibly sad at having to continually defend my profession largely due to the poor practice and misrepresentation of others. Unless you are part of a professional organisation that regulates your practice, it is very unfair and unethical to ‘sell’ your services as something they are not.

So, what do I mean by an accredited CBT therapist?

An accredited cognitive behavioural psychotherapist is someone who holds accreditation with the British Association of Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies (BABCP) – the lead organisation for CBT in the UK and Ireland – or the Association for Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (AREBT). Both these organisations ensure that therapists are providing quality Cognitive Behavioural Therapy to the public having undertaken approved training and regular supervision. It also means that in order to maintain accreditation therapists are continually assessed to ensure that they meet the high standards set by the BABCP and that they adhere to ethical practice.

All officially accredited CBT therapists can be found on the CBT Register []. Please note that an online Accreditation Check on the CBT Register is now the only recommended means of verifying CBT Practitioner Accreditation. You can search the CBT Register to check if an individual is accredited by using the surname search. You can also search for an accredited therapist’s contact details by name, location, or language.

To further complicate the issue, being a member of the BABCP is not the same as being accredited with the BABCP; anybody with an interest in CBT can become a member of the association.

This is where it gets complicated … there is a difference between an accredited CBT therapist and an accredited therapist who offers CBT.

There are a significant number of mental health practitioners – psychotherapists, counsellors, nurses, psychologists – offering CBT who are accredited but do not hold BABCP accreditation. They may hold accreditations from organisations such as the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) or the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP). These organisations do not offer a lesser accreditation but they are not ‘expert’ with regards to CBT.

So, what does this mean? It is possible that mental health practitioners who work primarily with other therapeutic modalities (for example, Person-Centred counselling, Psychodynamic counselling, Gestalt counselling etc) and who have undertaken little or no training in CBT, become accredited by organisations such as the BACP or UKCP and then once accreditation is obtained start to offer ‘CBT’.

To add another level of complexity, this is where terminology can become confusing. They become accredited as counsellors or psychotherapists rather than ‘CBT therapists’. In simple terms, they may have undertaken CBT training that hasn’t been approved or accredited by the BABCP or AREBT. While they may be a fabulous counsellor or therapist, it may also be the case that their level of training specifically in CBT is lower than the training required for accreditation by the BABCP or AREBT.

As a therapist who has worked in private practice for over 12 years I still find therapist job titles and accreditation issues confusing. If it’s confusing for me then it’s likely to be confusing (and potentially misleading) for clients looking for an appropriately qualified CBT therapist!

To this end, if you are a therapist or counsellor, please ensure that you are advertising your services accurately and ethically. If you are specifically looking for an accredited CBT therapist, please look on the CBT Register to ensure the therapist has the appropriate level of training!

I welcome any comments you may have about this blog/topic.

Siobhan Graham – Accredited Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist –