Framework Introduction

Introduction to the draft framework for minimum professional standards for psychotherapists working with children/young people

An ad hoc Working Group here after referred to as the Working Group was set up by the Irish Council for |Psychotherapy to draw up this Framework document in response to an increasing perception of the need to define more clearly the professional and training standards for those working with children/young people in psychotherapy in Ireland.

International Context for Psychotherapy with Children/Young People

In recent years there has been a movement within European countries to define more clearly the training required for psychotherapists who work with children and young people. In particular the UKCP has developed comprehensive professional training standards for those psychotherapists working with children and are now in the process of creating a separate register for child psychotherapists and for psychotherapists who are trained to work with children. Other countries, such as Austria, Italy, Germany and the EAP itself have developed or are working to develop such standards and in some countries these standards are enshrined in law.

In addition within the Irish context itself there have been growing concerns about how we as a society look after our children. This concern has been most intense around revelations of sexual, emotional and physical abuse and neglect of some children within families and of institutional abuse of children and young people in state care. Alongside this, some modalities of psychotherapy in Ireland already have specialist trainings for those who wish to work with children, while other Sections do not.

For the purposes of this paper the ICP Working Group are using the Irish legal definition of child which is:

“A child is defined as any person up to the age of 18 years; adolescence defines that period of childhood extending from puberty to adulthood” (In accordance with Irish law and the UNCRC).

Terms of Reference

This document has been developed by an ad hoc ICP working group (WG) convened in 2009 by the then chair of ICP Derval Ryan. The terms of reference include:-

  • to examine current professional and training standards for those who work with young people and children

  • to put forward a common template for such trainings for the future

  • this common template to be the basis for consultation to all Sections (modalities) with a view to getting all Sections of ICP to agree such a template as a way forward for training child psychotherapists and psychotherapists who work with children and young persons.

This document, prepared by the Working Group (WG) is deliberately broad based to allow modalities to have flexibility about how such training may happen for their trainees yet at the same time setting an agreed common standard for such trainings. It is important to acknowledge from the outset that the modalities within ICP have diverse ways of approaching psychotherapy with children/young people. These approaches range from in depth one to one work with children/young people to methods that work with the young person/child within the context of their family and their wider social milieu. There is therefore a range of existing practice be this as child psychotherapist or as a psychotherapist who works with children.

The Working Group framed this template within the Irish Council for Psychotherapy standards for training psychotherapists which is based on the European Certificate of Psychotherapy (ECP) of the European Association for Psychotherapy (EAP). The group consider it essential that those who are training in Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy exclusively as their core training complete a course that is fully compliant with EAP and ECP standards (see appendix 1 TAC/ECP standard). This standard also applies to any combined training to train those who wish to work with adults and/or children e.g. Family Therapy,  Post-qualifying courses where a psychotherapist has already trained as a psychotherapist to work with adults could be shorter; as those training will have already reached the ECP standard and therefore will likely require fewer training hours to meet the standards set in this framework document.

In other words there are three ways to train to work with children either in a course designed specifically to train child psychotherapists; as part of a combined training where both criteria for working with adults and children will need to be met or as a post psychotherapy qualification top up training of those who are already qualified to work with adults.

The status of this document is an initial draft template for consultation with modalities (Sections of ICP).

Minimum Training Standards for Psychotherapists who work with Children & Young People

The Working Group propose that Sections of the ICP would agree that the following core areas of training will be addressed for those psychotherapists who wish to train to work with children. In other words these training standards should apply regardless of the philosophical and theoretical orientation of the particular course. It is recognised that training courses of different theoretical orientations will offer different training contexts and opportunities to trainees to fulfil these requirements. The WG are conscious that there is much diversity in modality approaches and these core areas will need to be delivered in different ways to match the unique approach of each modality. At the same time these minimum training standards, laid down here will need to be included in the training process for psychotherapists who work with children and young people.

In particular there needs to be sufficient time allocated to allow for the integration of skills, theory, and personal development that facilitates the therapist in reaching a level of self-awareness and maturity in order to enable them to engage therapeutically with children, young people and their families and with the wider context of the child’s life. In particular such trainings need to foster both personal and professional development of the psychotherapist. Each training course should support their trainees in actively engaging with learning experiences, exploring their own intra-personal and inter-personal processes, thus developing an advanced capacity for reflective practice and insight.

The core areas of training process addressed in this document should apply regardless of whether the course is offered as:

  1. A core training to work with children/young people.

  2. A combined training to work with all age groups both child and adult such as training in family therapy.

  3. A Post Qualifying Course for psychotherapists who work with adults to train in order to be able to work with children

  4. The training requirements for these trainings will reflect the theoretical and clinical approaches to the child’s needs in the therapy. For example Child and adolescent psychotherapy aims to provide long term intra-psychic work with the individual child. The minimum of four years training devoted to child psychotherapy is required to acquire the competency and skills for this approach.