Hoping to raise its profile over the coming years, the BABCP has produced a 35-page development plan and is asking its members for feedback. However, the BABCP is a strange organization in that it does not actually exist for the benefit of its members, nor indeed of its members’ patients. This strangeness is reflected in the plan.
The BABCP actually exists:
…to advance the theory and practice of Cognitive and Behavioural Psychotherapies (CBT) by the promotion of scientific research and its application of [sic] evidence based practice…
No mention of members or patients there, note.
More subtly, the BABCP mostly acts in the interests of a subset of its members who are not primarily therapists, but rather academics who make their money from research and training. That’s why the BABCP’s formally stated aims are “to advance the theory” (research) and “[to advance the] practice” (training). Both the BABCP’s current president and its already-elected next president are university professors.
I have not yet read the plan in detail, but it seems to contain nothing of significance that is new. In a letter to members published this month the current president, Professor John Taylor, summarizes the “priority strategic aims” for the BABCP as:
- Carrying on doing what it has always done
- Cosying up to government
- Giving the appearance of involving the public
Those are not his actual words, of course. You might be able to read his actual words on the front cover of the in-house magazine CBT Today if the January 2010 issue ever appears online.
Doing what it has always done
What the BABCP has always done is almost entirely based around training. First and foremost it promotes training.
Then there are various special interest groups (SIGs) for members who have special interests. The SIGs mainly organize more training.
Then there are conferences, which are treated as training events even though their content is almost entirely to do with research.
There is accreditation, a reward scheme for members who attend the training, with a built-in requirement to continue to attend more training forever.
And finally there are some communications activities, such as the in-house magazine CBT Today, two journals, and the website. The current issue of CBT Today contains around ten pages of editorial, one page of jobs, and around twelve pages of advertisements for training, with an 8-page supplement advertising training workshops and a conference whose keynote speakers are all university staff. The journals both publish research.
Cosying up to government
Who pays for all this training and research? BABCP members themselves only pay for a small proportion. It’s mainly paid for by government — the NHS. Therefore a priority strategic aim has to be to support uncritically and unconditionally any government policy that could increase government spending on psychotherapy training and research.
Amusingly, the draft plan explains it like this:
…support for the implementation and expansion of IAPT, HPC regulation of psychotherapists and other policy developments.
…making it look as if IAPT and the HPC are the BABCP’s own policy developments. (They are really government initiatives.) The president’s letter unfortunately adds the word “external,” puncturing the joke.
Involving the public
A former president, David Veale (not a professor, just a senior lecturer), was very keen to involve the public, including patients, in the BABCP. Nothing much happened. The strategic plan makes it seem that some kind of token public involvement might really happen soon.
The proposal is that six, yes six, members of the public will form a Public Involvement Panel (PIP), which will work with the BABCP’s board of directors in some way. The plan describes members of the PIP as “lay members,” though it is not clear what “lay” means. Perhaps it only means they will not be therapists, in which case we may be able to look forward to a “lay” panel of six university professors.
The website deserves special mention because it has been consistently quite bad for so long. Not terribly bad, but just quite bad.
One of its quirks was that documents the BABCP’s board thought were secret were in fact completely public and appeared in Google searches. Another was that it was hosted on a London financial network at huge expense.
The current website costs the BABCP money, but it is cobbled together from a rather limited template that is used for other simple charity websites. (Much better templates are available for free.) Anything that the template does not happen to support doesn’t work well. Amazingly, the list of things that do not work well includes secret documents, which are still completely public.
That is why you can read the entire draft Development Plan without needing any special privileges. Google hasn’t indexed it yet, but I suspect it will in due course.
The members-only consultation process is also completely public, but I’ll leave finding the link as an exercise for the reader. In contrast to this gross disregard for keeping its own business private, the BABCP invaded members’ privacy by including spyware links in the e-mail it sent to members to invite participation. The links contain hidden tracking codes that identify who clicked them, sending the information to an e-mail marketing database in Croydon.
The plan proposes throwing more money at yet another website design. Will this work? The person in charge is to be the same guy who signed his name to the abandoned 2003 design.
Where the plan completely fails is in identifying any developments. It’s a “let’s just do what we’ve always done” plan that will actually prevent the BABCP from responding nimbly to future events, and increase the BABCP’s dependence on the kind of management consultants who came up with the plan in the first place.
What future events? The purpose of a strategy is to look to the horizon and see what might be. Here are some pointers.
Three powerful rival organizations operate in the same market as the BABCP. They promote training and they accredit people who practise CBT, just like the BABCP does. They are the BPS (psychologists), the BACP (counsellors) and the UKCP’s newly-formed Cognitive Psychotherapies College (CPC — psychotherapists). Any one of them, but most likely the CPC, could become dominant in the time scale of the plan.
Funding for the training and research that are the core activities of the BABCP’s ruling elite comes from government. Government funding is about to dry up, when the country is finally forced to start repaying its huge debts.
Worst of all, most therapists are employed by the NHS. For years the NHS has been awash with money that it has not known how to spend sensibly. When that situation ends, as it soon will, the NHS might get real and bring its therapist training and accreditation in-house.
Experienced therapists would train beginner therapists in a kind of apprenticeship. That kind of training would be strong on the practical skills that really get patients better, and light on the academic theory that university professors love.
The BABCP, locked in to its development plan, could be left looking about as relevant as a knitting circle by any one of these three shadows on the horizon. Some plan.