What is the difference between ASCHP and HPCSA counsellors?
In South Africa, there are two professional bodies that oversee the profession of counselling. In this article we will explore what is counselling, the different counselling professions that exist and how to make an informed choice regarding which counsellor to see.
What is a counsellor?
Counsellors help people to explore feelings and emotions that are often related to their experiences. This allows their clients to reflect on what is happening to them and consider alternative ways of doing things.
Counsellors work in a confidential setting and listen attentively to their clients. They offer them the time; empathy and respect they need to express their feelings and perhaps understand themselves from a different perspective. The aim is reduce their confusion and enable them to cope with challenges or to make positive changes in their life where necessary.
Counsellors do not give advice, but help clients to make their own choices within the framework of an agreed counselling contract.
There are various models of counselling, each with its own theoretical basis. Differences in approach can relate to the individual practitioner’s interests and training, the setting in which the counselling consultation takes place, or the predominant client group.
Work carried out across most areas of counselling includes:
- establishing a relationship of trust and respect with clients;
- agreeing a counselling contract to determine what will be covered in sessions (including confidentiality issues);
- encouraging clients to talk about issues they feel they cannot normally share with others;
- actively listening to client concerns and empathising with their position;
- accepting without bias the issues raised by clients;
- helping clients towards a deeper understanding of their concerns;
- challenging any inconsistencies in what clients say or do;
- helping clients to make decisions and choices regarding possible ways forward;
- referring clients to other sources of help, as appropriate;
- attending supervision and training courses;
- undertaking personal therapy (mandatory for accreditation);
- liaising, as necessary, with other agencies and individuals to help make changes based on the issues raised by clients;
- working to agreed targets in relation to client contact;
- undertaking group as well as individual counselling on occasions;
- Keeping records and using reporting tools.
Currently, there are two main bodies which register counsellors in South Africa. This is the ASCHP and HPCSA. The counsellors registered at these bodies do different work, and it is important to know the differences. Although all regarded as counselling, there are some aspects that set these types of counsellors apart.
HPCSA Registered Counsellors.
These counsellors usually have a 4 year BPsych Degree, with 720 hours practical experience. They are registered at the HPCSA and authorised to provide counselling to individuals or groups, for different life stresses and difficulties such as addiction counselling, relationship counselling and trauma counselling. Some Registered Counsellors also work in schools, and are able to conduct certain assessments. These counsellors are also able to claim sessions back from medical aids, as the HPCSA is registered with the Board of Healthcare Funders. These counsellors also usually follow the biomedical model of counselling and a westernised approach, although they are also trained and encouraged to adopt and contextualise their counselling for the South African cultural landscape. Registered Counsellors usually see clients for between 8 to 10 sessions, and will refer to a psychologist where necessary, as they cannot diagnose or treat mental disorders. Registered Counsellors can work in private practice or under supervision.
Counsellors registered at ASCHP have a 3 year bachelor’s degree in psychology, or a 4 year honours degree. However some can also have a diploma in counselling, or a masters degree (usually from an international university). They are required to have 100 hours of supervised practical experience and may be required to write a board exam. These counsellors also see clients for topics such as relationship, trauma and individual counselling. ASCHP counsellors work under the holistic counselling approach, whereby counselling is seen as comprising of an individual’s mental, emotional, physical, financial, relational and spiritual needs. These counsellors may also make use of homeopathic interventions if trained to do so, or animal assisted counselling, or more spiritual based counselling. ASCHP is a SAQA registered professional body, so these counsellors can work in private practice or under supervision, depending on which category they fall under. ASCHP counsellors can charge cash rates for their services, but cannot claim from medical aids. They also can see clients for 8-10 sessions, and refer on when necessary. They cannot diagnose or treat mental disorders.
Here is a summary of the similarities differences between ASCHP and HPCSA counsellors:
|HPCSA Registered Counsellor||ASCHP Counsellor|
|Statutory body at SAQA||Non statutory body at SAQA|
|Registered with BHF (clients can claim from medical aids)||Not registered with BHF (clients must pay cash, cannot claim from medical aids)|
|Provide individual and group counselling with topics related to stress, relationship problems, addiction counselling, trauma counselling etc||Provide individual and group counselling with topics related to stress, relationship problems, addiction counselling, trauma counselling etc|
|Hold a 4 year BPsych Degree or Equivalent as minimum for registration. Can have other degrees and experience.||Hold a 4 years Honours Degree, or 3 year Bachelor’s Degree, or 6 year Masters Degree (from an international university) or 2 year Diploma in Counselling as minimum for registration, and will be assigned a registration category.|
|Must uphold ethics and rules as set out by their professional body||Must uphold ethics and rules as set out by their professional body|
|Must have professional indemnity insurance||Should have professional indemnity insurance (but this is not a legal requirement)|
|Can work in schools, community centres, clinics, EAP’s etc||Can work in schools, community centres, clinics, EAP’s etc – but job opportunities are limited|
|Must refer to a psychologist if client has a mental disorder, psychopathology or after 10 sessions without positive change/feedback||Must refer to a psychologist if client has a mental disorder, psychopathology or after 10 sessions without positive change/feedback|
|Can do certain assessments, as per scope of practice||Can not do any assessments|
|Must meet certain number of CPD points a year||Must meet certain number of CPD points a year|
How do I know a counsellor is legal?
Both ASCHP and HPCSA counsellors are within their legal right to provide counselling services to the public, according to their own designated role and scope of practice. In South Africa, we have certain designations that are protected by law. This means that a person cannot refer to themselves as that designation, without being registered at that specific professional body. For example it is illegal to refer to oneself as a Registered Counsellor, if you are not registered as such at the HPCSA. Similarly, one cannot call oneself a Specialist Wellness Counsellor, if you are not registered as such at the ASCHP. However, the generic term Counsellor is not legally protected, so any person can refer to themselves as one when providing an act of counselling, such as at a church or community centre.
As a client seeking counselling, you have a right (and responsibility) to check the credentials of your counsellor, and to use any professional body that you choose. Both ASCHP and HPCSA counsellors are well trained and experienced counsellors, and are in the field because they are passionate about others, and passionate about mental health. As a client, it is up to you to choose a counsellor who you feel you click well with, and who you feel is experienced in what you need assistance with.
Ofcourse, financial concerns are real, and if you have medical aid assistance a HPCSA Registered Counsellor may be more beneficial. If you can pay cash for your sessions, an ASCHP counsellor could be beneficial too. It really just depends on what your needs are. In order to make a decision about which counsellor to go with, it would be wise to investigate and chat with your potential counsellor a little bit.
You could ask them questions such as:
- Which professional body are you registered at?
- What is your category, or registration number?
- Are you up to date with your CPD points?
- What would you consider to be your area of specialisation? What training do you have in this area?
For instance, if you need help with trauma counselling, it would be wise to consult with a counsellor who has trauma counselling training and experience. You are fully within your rights to ask your counsellor what training they have, to see how it would assist you. You may find that there is an ASCHP and HPCSA counsellors in your area, and one has extra trauma counselling training and one doesn’t. If all things are equal (such as you’re paying cash for your appointment) the ASCHP counsellor with extra trauma counselling training may be more helpful. Or perhaps you need relationship counselling, and the HPCSA Registered Counsellor has more training in this, you may find them more beneficial to your process. Never be worried about asking your counsellor to back up their advertisements with facts (such as certificates, registration number etc.) An ethical, legal counsellor will never be offended by this, and will gladly share any information that you require.
Written by Zoe Wilson
Counselling information retrieved from FETC Counselling Skills Qualification Handbook