Clinical Counselling MA
2016 - 2017
Master of Arts
University of Chester
University of Chester
Classroom / Laboratory,
Annual - October
Social and Political Science
British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) and the QAA Subject Benchmark for Counselling and Psychotherapy 2013
The Programme is accredited by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP).
Social and Political Science Module Assessment Board
Wednesday 27th January 2016
The MA in Clinical Counselling is intended to produce 'reflective practitioners', capable of the deployment of personal qualities together with professional knowledge and skill in a facilitative helping relationship, whilst being able to 'reflect in action' on the conduct, process and outcome of that relationship. Thus, the aims and objectives of the course cannot be seen solely as the acquisition of discrete areas of knowledge and skill, but rather as the integration of these with the personality of the student. The result is a dynamic personal synthesis of the core values of the Person-Centred Approach and the core competencies of counsellor education, which can then be successfully applied in professional practice, on placement and after graduation. In turn, the experience of that practice is available for reflection most notably through the process of supervision, where appropriate, through personal development work on the course and in individual personal counselling.
This programme is distinctive because it develops the following outcomes at level 7: -
Critical understanding and knowledge of the counselling process;
Effective therapeutic work with the ability to analyse psychological presentations and devise strategies for therapeutic work;
Dynamic engagement with counselling theories and approaches with particular emphasis on practice;
Ability to critically evaluate research in relation to counselling practice;
Critical understanding of research methods applicable to research in counselling
Critical reflection on personal development and increased awareness of others.
Critical understanding of counselling ethics and an ability to integrate professional and ethical issues into the practice of counselling.
Knowledge and skills that are consistent within the field of study and transferable skills to prepare students for graduate employment.
Key knowledge and understanding are a firm grasp of counselling theory and and how theory informs practice. Students should have an understanding of how theory informs not only practice but personal and professional development and awareness. Overall programme learning outcomes are evidence of achievement of knowledge and understanding at Level 7: -
An in depth understanding of counselling theories and research relating to psychological development/difficulties at all life stages (SO7301, SO7304).
The capacity to make an assessment of clients' difficulties and to implement strategies for working (SO7302, SO7305).
A critical understanding and examination of different theories and approaches to counselling (SO7301, SO7304).
Critical awareness of legal,professional, ethical and policy frameworks as applied in therapeutic practice and research (SO7302, SO7305).
On-going critical reflection on the impact of self in relation to others in the group and the counselling relationship (SO7303, SO7306).
In depth understanding of how the social context , culture, politics, values and beliefs impact the process of counselling (SO7302, SO7303, SO7304, SO7305, SO7306).
Knowledge of research methodologies and their application (SO7302, SO7304, S07305, SO7306 SO7307).
Thinking and cognitive skills are vital elements at postgraduate level with students demonstrating analytical and critical skills during the 3 years of the programme. The ability to reason well, to synthesize information from various sources to analyse, evaluate and interpret ideas, not just theoretically but practically in counselling relationships.
Synthesize theoretical perspectives from a variety of sources with critical evaluation and integration of theory (SO7301, SO7302, SO7303, SO7304, SO7305. SO7306)
Analyse information gained from assessment method to make critical decision when responding to client's presenting issues (SO7302, SO7305)
Maintain competent, ethical and legal counselling practice (SO7302, SO7305)
Demonstrate competence in managing the stages of the working alliance (SO7302, SO7305)
Identify and analyse when personal agenda impinges on the counselling relationship (SO7302, SO7303, SO7305, SO7306).
Students will demonstrate the ability to manage time in counselling practice and supervision (both group and individual). They will gain experience in managing client caseload in professional contexts, as well as knowledge of ethical and professional practice. The ability will be demonstrated to plan, conduct and report on a small scale counselling project of their choice. Demonstrate the ability to work effectively individually and as part of a team; keeping to deadlines, also the ability to reflect upon their own learning and performance and enhance their abilities in light of personal reflection. In addition:
Structure and communicate ideas effectively both orally and in writing (across all the modules)
Engage in research using information technology (across all the modules)
Demonstrate competence in a range of therapeutic interventions (SO7302, SO7305)
Assess the relevance and importance of professional, ethical issues and supervision (SO7302, SO7305)
Demonstrate the ability to deliver safe, legal and effective counselling practice (SO7302, SO7305)
Show a capacity to work with diversity, difference and cultural issues (SO7302, SO7303, SO7305, SO7306)
Identify and assess potential risks for clients and practice with an appropriate degree of self-protection (SO7302, SO7303, SO7305, SO7306)
Utilising qualitative and quantitative research methods (SO7307)
Recognise personal distress or disturbance and find means to engage therapeutic help, support and guidance (SO7302, SO7303, SO7305, SO7306
Demonstrate self-awareness and the ability to work as a reflective practitioner (SO7302, SO7303, SO7305, SO7306).
A culture of supportive and challenging learning environment is encouraged throughout the programme. Communication and problem solving skills are enhanced during the 3 years of the programme, in one to one, large and small group work; through presentations, through oral and written work and working with clients in a practice placement.
Describe and discuss clients' presenting issues clearly orally and in writing (SO7302, SO7305)
Be able to write for an academic audience (all modules)
Developed an evidence based and coherent written argument based on evidence based reasoning (all modules)
Reflecting back fluently and accurately clients' communication (SO7302, SO7305).
The MA in Clinical Counselling offers professional training to participants and enables them to work as counsellors on graduation. Effective counsellors are people who have a fundamental theoretical understanding of the counselling process and have developed accurate self-awareness. An important feature of the programme is to provide a learning environment to enable participants to develop particular qualities in relationship with others, enabling them to discover their own resources and to move towards a more creative, optimistic and autonomous way of being. Integral to the training process is the need to focus on four key areas of theory, skills, personal and professional development.
The course is essentially participative in nature, providing a learning environment in which the tutors are facilitators and also assessors. The programme follows a modular structure of study over three years, where students are introduced in the first stage to the four key areas of theory, skills, personal and professional development. The three modules provide an opportunity to develop understanding of, and appreciation for, the nature of the counselling process: SO7301 Theory and Practice of Counselling 1 deals particularly with counselling theory and research; SO7302 Ethical and Professional Practice 1 facilitates knowledge of how that theory works in practice (including ethical practice) and SO7303 Personal and Professional Development 1 facilitates learning about self in the counselling process.
Because the second stage builds on the learning in stage one, with the addition of a practice placement where the learning gained can be demonstrated in a work setting (SO7305 Ethical and Professional Practice 2); elements of stage one must be completed. As part of supervised professional practice students will be expected to work on placement with clients on an ongoing basis for a minimum of 150 hours plus 50 hours of administration. Placement commences once the student has achieved the specific placement criteria and supervision arrangements are in place. Students are required to attend regular group supervision sessions every two weeks, and an individual supervision session every month throughout the 200 hours of placement. In addition there will be opportunity for consolidation of learning and development on the journey of becoming competent practitioners. The module SO7304 Theory and Practice of Counselling 2 provides a critical appreciation of human growth and development; issues of childhood adversity, bereavement and loss, and their effects within the counselling process. Module SO7306, Personal and Professional Development 2 facilitates further development, both personally and professionally.
Stage 3 also builds on Stage 2 so students have to successfully complete elements of Stage 2 before progressing to Stage 3. In Stage 3, students are given the opportunity to develop an understanding and appreciation for practitioner research with the introduction of the dissertation module SO7307 Research Dissertation. The module aims to enable students to become confident in engaging in practitioner research from conception, data collection, analysis and presentation.
The course is part-time, with students attending for one day a week and is made up of 7 assessed modules. There is a residential weekend and an away-day in Stage 1, 2 residentials in Stage 2 and the final one in Stage 3. Individual personal counselling of 20 sessions is also a minimum course requirement. Six of the modules are taught and there is also a taught element of research methods, in the dissertation module. Please note that this programme has been granted derogation from the University's Regulations, and therefore all components of assessment must be passed with a minimum mark of 40%.
The programme structure is informed by a number of requirements. The National Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England Wales and Northern Ireland (QAA, August 2008) describes the typical holder of a master's level qualification. The standard is that students show originality in the application of knowledge and demonstrate how the boundaries of knowledge are advanced through research. The University of Chester has devised its own overarching level-related criteria in line with these standards and these are reflected in the learning outcomes and assessment criteria. The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) accreditation criteria for training courses (2002) and the QAA guidelines for Counselling and Psychotherapy (2013) set out a number of specific criteria for accredited courses on which the MA in Clinical Counselling is based. In 2006 the BACP developed generic core competencies for counselling and psychotherapy to describe what counselling and psychotherapy practitioners should know and be able to do when they have completed their training. The core competences are incorporated in the National Occupational Standards for Counselling approved by the Employment National Training Organisation (ENTO) in September 2007.
At postgraduate level students assume a large measure of responsibility for their own learning. This is reflected in the design of the modules and the assessments that are attached to each module. In line with study at this level, the emphasis is on critical reflection on theory and counselling practice and on students developing their own personal integration of learning. They will be able to deal with complex issues both systematically and creatively and show originality in tackling and solving problems. Students need to have developed an understanding of a complex body of knowledge, of analytic techniques and problem-solving skills and be able to evaluate evidence, arguments and assumptions to reach sound judgements. These will be demonstrated in the learning outcomes and the assessment criteria of the modules, and in the dissertation module. Development must include effective communication and in relation to employability they need sound judgment, personal responsibility and initiative. The Ethical and Professional practice module (SO7305) enables students to begin the process of professional practice to enhance employability.
Students who successfully complete modules 1-3 (60 credits at Level 7) could exit with a Postgraduate Certificate in Counselling award, which means that they are unable to practice as a counsellor.
Those who successfully complete modules 1-6 (120 credits at level 7 and the counselling placement requirement) could exit with a Postgraduate Diploma in Clinical Counselling award.
An MA in Clinical Counselling may be awarded to students who satisfactorily complete 6 taught modules and the dissertation module (180 credits at level 7) and complete the personal counselling and placement requirements. They must show that they have engaged in personal and professional development at an appropriate level and can make the necessary links between personal development and effective practice. They must demonstrate during their time as a student on the course, in the university, on placement and in any other professional activity that they understand the necessity to and are capable of behaving in a professional, ethically responsible manner (having regard for the BACP Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy personal moral qualities for counsellors (p.4). The experiential nature of some activities on the modules cannot be replicated, therefore students are expected to attend all sessions to maximise their learning. This is in order to ensure that a student can achieve the learning outcomes of the modules and the BACP minimum directed study hours for accredited training courses. The Award of an MA in Clinical Counselling will be to students who have demonstrated a critical understanding and knowledge of the counselling process and show evidence of a dynamic engagement with counselling theories and approaches with particular emphasis on practice. They will need to demonstrate the development of effective counselling practice with the ability to analyse psychological presentations and devise strategies for therapeutic work when working with adult clients. They are able to demonstrate a critical evaluation of research in relation to the practice of counselling. In relation to their own personal development students must demonstrate a critical reflection on their own personal development and an increased awareness of others. They must show development of a synthesis of theory, practice, personal development, and demonstrate evidence of this synthesis. Students also should have developed and enhanced the use of various transferable skills that emerged in their training as Counselling Practitioners.
All the modules on the programme are exempt from compensation and all the components of assessment must be passed with a minimum mark of 40%.
The requirements of the professional body The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) are outlined in their Gold Book (2009) for course accreditation (See Subject Benchmark). Once the students have completed their training they are eligible to go on the BACP's voluntary register of practitioners. They will need to continue to acquire additional practice hours to a total of 450 to apply to become accredited with the BACP.
Academic Requirements and Personal Qualities
The selection process takes account of:
Academic potential as well as measurable academic achievements.
Prior experience using listening and counselling skills.
The ability to critically reflect on life experiences and aspire to the personal qualities set out below.
Applicants should normally have a first degree (or equivalent professional qualification at level 6) coupled with a foundation course or certificate in counselling skills training. The counselling training should be a minimum of 45 hours contact time and at HE level 6.
Applicants without standard academic evidence need to submit an academic piece of work for assessment.
A target group for the course are students who have completed the Undergraduate Counselling Skills course at the University and wish to continue their training to become Professional Counsellors.
Counselling training is normally undertaken by students who have attained a level of self development with ability to critically reflect on life experiences and skills developed in a number of contexts, sufficient to make effective use of the Course and contribute to the life of the group. The Course is open to applicants who have reached this level of development and wish to pursue professional training in counselling.
The BACP Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy state that ‘the practitioner's personal moral qualities are of the utmost importance to clients.' The qualities to aspire to are ‘empathy, sincerity, integrity, resilience, respect, humility, competence, fairness, wisdom and courage.' Candidates are required to demonstrate the qualities at interview and in writing:
ability to meet the personal and academic demands of the course,
ability to demonstrate self awareness,
emotional robustness to cope with demands of the course,
ability to critically reflect on life experiences,
ability to learn from feedback,
ability to work with diversity and equality
The programme was originally designed to the following criteria as there were no QAA benchmarks for counselling and psychotherapy. In 2012/13 the QAA provided subject benchmark statements for counselling and psychotherapy along with subject knowledge and understanding for graduates from counselling training. Graduates should have a broad range of theoretical knowledge related to (1) Philosophy; (2) Human growth and development; (3) Psychological theories; (4) Ethics and the law; (5) Psychopathology and (6) The functioning of groups and organisations. Along with theoretical knowledge graduates should develop subject specific skills: (1) Relationship building; (2) Communication; (3) Assessment; (4) Formulation: (5) Psychotherapeutic strategies and interventions; (6) Reflective practice; and (7) Monitoring, evaluation and research. The benchmark also specifies additional transferable skills that graduates should develop from counselling and psychotherapy training these are elements that underpin the MA programme.
In 2006 the BACP commissioned a document with the specific task of developing standards for training and subsequent awards in counselling and psychotherapy. This document presented a set of guidelines that incorporate core competencies for counselling outlined by ENTO. A report on the Core Competencies for counselling and psychotherapy was commissioned which recommended that the standard for training of counselling and psychotherapy should be at a minimum of an Honours Degree. The document makes recommendations about future training standards to prepare the counselling profession for statutory regulation with the Health Professions Council (HPC). This is in response to the Government white paper (February 2007): Trust, Assurance and Safety - The regulation of Health Professionals in the 21st Century. There is an expectation that entry to the HPC will be driven by qualifications incorporating relevant National Occupational Standards (NOS's). The HPC has specific requirements that regulated professions much fulfil. It sets standards for inclusion which include standards of proficiency for safe and effective practice, standards of conduct, performance and ethics, standards of 'good health' for the health professional, standards of education and training and standards for continuing professional development.
Criteria for regulation include a professional group that covers a discrete area of activity applying a defined body of knowledge. Practice should be based on evidence of efficacy and effectiveness. There are key areas in which counsellors and psychotherapists should be competent: - (1) The professional role and responsibility of the therapist; (2) Understanding the client; (3) The therapeutic process; (4) The social, professional and organisational context for therapy. There should be defined routes of entry to the profession, independently assessed entry qualifications and standards in relation to conduct, performance and ethics. The BACP (2006) guidelines for practitioner training recommend that courses must be designed to meet the NOS core competencies and are suitable for admission to the Health Professions Council Register for practitioners. In addition programme providers must ensure that students spend 200 hours in a practice placement with at least 150 hours of direct face to face teaching.
The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy's accreditation criteria for training courses (2002) set out a number of specific criteria for accredited courses. The Association is the largest in the United Kingdom and the national forum for self-regulation of counselling and training standards. Courses that apply for accreditation have to undergo a lengthy process of scrutiny which involves submission of a course document, detailed examination of this in relation to their specific criteria, a visit to the institution, followed by recommendations and possible conditions before accreditation is awarded. When the Graduate/Postgraduate Diploma was re-accredited in March 2003 it was the view of the assessor that the course continues to deliver an excellent professional counsellor training which meets the general and specific criterion for re-accreditation of counsellor training courses. The assessor recommended that the course should be re-accredited for a further five years without conditions or recommendation. The Postgraduate Diploma has been upgraded to the Master's in Clinical counselling to include development in the field of counsellor training and the new core competencies to meet regulation with the HPC. Although statutory regulation with the HPC did not take place and regulation is now voluntary rather than statutory, these benchmark statements were used as the foundation for the design of the programme's content and outcomes.
A major focus of the course is the wide range of teaching and learning strategies employed and the creative way in which these are deployed. Thus, taught sessions include a mix of didactic presentation, facilitated whole-group work, work in small groups, work in pairs and personal reflection, personal development groups, experiential learning, student research, residential weekends, use of video and audio tape, use of peer and tutor feedback, and work with drawing and other art materials. Alongside a focus on autonomous learning, collaboration with course colleagues is highly valued. The course team recognise that students bring a vast amount of experience and expertise to the programme and they are encouraged to share this knowledge and understanding in a Self-directed Learning Seminar Group. Consistent with an advanced level programme, students are encouraged to assume maximum responsibility for their own learning and to utilise actively the many resources present within the group.
This format facilitates the presentation of theory, encourages discussion during the presentation and includes interaction with participants by making alterations and adaptations to both the content and pace of the seminar.
Small group discussions
This develops a critical and evaluative process by using debate about perspective, experiences and outlook. It fosters group dynamics by enabling students to interact with other members of the group informally.
These are intended to provide the opportunity for students to interact with experts in a particular field of study to gain access to their up to date research and experience.
Tutorial provision is an integral part of the programme. For three weeks in four, time is allocated for the purposes of general tutorial support, review of progress and advice on any aspect of the programme.
Self directed learning/seminar group and presentations
Participants have a wide range of resources and learning materials at their disposal. These may include tutorial support, audio-visual materials, and the library and information technology facilities. These provide the participants with the opportunity to investigate issues in small groups and present these to the rest of the large group. The participants gain research experience, share their knowledge, develop the ability to provide justification for the conclusions reached and gain experience of a range of presentation styles.
Provide participants with opportunity to learn from each other's experiences, counselling practice and receive feedback from tutor and peers. Learning is provided through small and large group participation.
These sessions provide the opportunity for participants to practice live counselling sessions with other students in a triad of their choice. The triads consist of client counsellor and an observer. The triads are observed regularly by a member of the core staff team enabling students to receive feedback from their peers and from a tutor. The Practice Enhancement Group facilitated by a member of the course staff give students the opportunity to do live counselling sessions with other students in front of the whole group. There is also the opportunity to bring in recordings or videos of counselling sessions with other students that they have recorded. As students develop their supervised counselling practice, there will also be the opportunity for them to bring in recordings from their placement. A range of methods are used in these sessions to enable students to reflect upon their practice with a strong emphasis being placed upon self, peer and tutor assessment of students' work.
Personal Development/Personal Development Groups
The foundation of counsellor training is personal growth and increased awareness of self. This process can happen throughout counselling training in skills work, in exploring theory through experiential exercises, through interaction with other students, through professional practice on placement, through supervision and through residential weekends, and particularly through personal counselling and the personal development group where this is the main focus. The personal development group involves students in a shared experience where they can learn about themselves through personal feedback from others. They can also contribute to others' learning through the feedback they give. This involves students being open to their feelings and willing to risk being challenged and be personally challenging. The potential rewards however can be extensive. The personal development groups run weekly on the course and are facilitated by the tutors.
Students are required to attend away days and residential weekends each year. These are usually held either at the University or at a suitable venue within reasonable access from the University. These weekends provide further opportunity for students to involve themselves in a shared learning experience within the whole learning community. Residential weekends are a valuable feature of the course, offering a context for considerable experiential learning, self-reflection and personal development. The primary purpose of these events is individual personal development and a secondary purpose is group dynamics. Individual personal development and group dynamics are a major component for the personal and interpersonal learning that is so essential to counselling training.
Personal counselling of at least twenty sessions, ten sessions in the first year of the course is a requirement for students undertaking the course. Students may be asked to undertake more sessions if thought necessary. It is important that students experience Person-Centred counselling as this model forms the core approach of the Diploma Course.
Supervision of counselling practice is a requirement for all counselling practitioners under the British Association's Ethical Framework for Good Practice. It is also an integral part of the students training experience. It provides opportunity to explore ongoing work with clients, monitoring the effectiveness of practice and offers support. Students are asked to choose from a panel of supervisors who have been selected by the staff on the basis of extensive experience of the practice of counselling.
The Placement gives students the opportunity to further develop competence as counselling practitioners to work with adult clients in a variety of settings. There is opportunity to integrate professional and ethical issues into the practice of counselling and to gain confidence in their development as counselling practitioners.
Journal / Progress files
As part of the overall formative and summative assessment of personal development and to map the progress of students over the duration of the programme they are required to keep a journal throughout their training. This is to be used for reflecting and recording of individual awareness, insights, and strengths, areas that are in need of improvement, peer feedback, learning and achievement. Each stage students will be asked to submit formally, a Personal Development report based on their learning. They are required to keep a log of work in their placement and other information in relation to developing core competencies as practitioners.
The Assessment criteria describe what the student is expected to do to achieve the learning outcomes of the module at level 7. The marking criteria are guidelines that describe characteristics of performance for which marks will be awarded at a higher or lower point than the threshold pass differentiating between grades of students' performance. There are module specific criteria in addition to the University of Chester generic marking criteria which now inform the programme. Level related criteria also inform the programme along with module specific guidance. The level related characteristics are expressed in terms of the key characteristics of the learning activity. The higher levels build on, and further develop, characteristics of earlier levels. Students are expected not only to grapple with complex concepts but to integrate skills development and personal awareness into a cohesive whole.
There are no exams as the course work represents 100% of the marks that are awarded. All the components of the modules have to be passed over the three years. This is in order to ensure that a student can achieve the learning outcomes of the modules and the BACP minimum directed study hours for accredited training courses. Students will be assessed by both formative and summative assessment. These assessments will comprise a variety of methods and reflect the desired learning outcomes for the programme.
Formative assessments may include:-
question and answer sessions
feedback from group work
feedback in personal development groups and end of year tutorials
feedback of skills work
feedback on counselling practice
feedback from student-directed learning presentations
Summative assessments may include:
Tapes and critiques
Personal Development Reports
The programme thus far has produce graduates who are professional practitioners, well able to demonstrate consistently a range of competencies, which are widely accepted as a basis to the practice of counselling. Some graduates from the course have been able to secure employment as counsellors in a range of local settings, and others have been able to secure specialist posts or to practise as counsellors in the service of their existing employers. Successful graduates have become able counsellors working in the NHS generally and particularly in Primary Care, in Counselling Organisations, Higher Education Institutions and in Private Practice. They have secured a range of employment using the knowledge and skills gained on the course or returned to their former employment with self-awareness and assurance to carry out their duties. Many graduates go on to do further studies like supervision training, and eventually to become accredited members of the BACP.
The University is committed to the promotion of diversity, equality and inclusion in all its forms; through different ideas and perspectives, age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation. We are, in particular, committed to widening access to higher education. Within an ethically aware and professional environment, we acknowledge our responsibilities to promote freedom of enquiry and scholarly expression.
The Equal Opportunities Committee is responsible for monitoring the operation of the policies. The aim of the policy is to ensure that all students and all members of staff at the University of Chester have equality of opportunity and are treated solely on the basis of their aptitude, ability and potential to pursue a course of study or to fulfil the requirements of a job. The policy also aims to eliminate unlawful or unfair discrimination. In particular, the University will ensure that no member of the Community will be disadvantaged or discriminated against on the grounds of: sex; age; marital or parental status; sexual orientation; racial group (race, colour, nationality, ethnic or national origins); creed (religious, political or personal beliefs or principles); membership or non-membership of a trade union, or socio-economic background. It also claims to ensure that disabled people, or those with special needs, do not suffer unfair discrimination and are enabled to achieve their full potential.
The objective of the policy is a University which is open to all sections of the Community, where people from all groups in society are represented at all levels, and in whose activities all members of staff and all its students can participate fully and equally for the benefit of the University of Chester.
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