TAC, FETAC and HETAC untangled. A conversation with Sheila Killoran Gannon

by Mary de Courcy


APEL   Acquired Prior Education Learning. The European wide academic qualification which allows equivalence

EAP       European Association of Psychotherapy

EAIP      European Association of Integrative Psychotherapy

ECP       European Certificate of Psychotherapy

EWAO      European Wide Accrediting Organisation

FETAC       Further Education and Training Awards Council (Irish Governmental Criteria)

HETAC      Higher Education and Training Awards Council (Irish Governmental Criteria)

IAHIP Irish Association of Humanistic and Integrative Psychotherapy

ICP       Irish Council of Psychotherapy. Made up of 5 Sections; IAHIP, Constructivists, CBT, Psychoanalytic, Systemic Family Therapy.

IT      Institute of Technology

NCEA       National Council for Educational Awards

NCVA      National Council for Vocational Awards

NFQI      National Framework of Qualifications of Ireland

TAC       Training Accreditation Committee. A European committee (EAP) chaired by Serge Ginger which outlines standards for psychotherapists.


This article was prompted by a widespread confusion amongst our profession about abbreviated titles relating to issues of accreditation and training course recognition. It seeks to disentangle some misconceptions, answer some questions and clarify some of the issues pertaining to European and Irish accreditation status. It is intended that this article will be as comprehensive as possible but clearly it will raise more questions. To this end the author invites written contributions from the readership for forthcoming inclusion within the pages of Inside Out.


TAC, the European Training Accreditation Committee, outlines European standards for psychotherapists but not counsellors. TAC standards are reflected in the submission for Statutory Registration to the Irish Government. Being TAC Compliant refers to Irish and European psychotherapy training institutions meeting standards laid out by TAC. Despite the similarities in initials, there is no connection between TAC and HETAC or FETAC.

Although FETAC has nothing to do with psychotherapy training standards, its role will be clarified at this point. FETAC was set up as a statutory body in 2001. It has responsibility for making awards previously made by BIM, Fáilte Ireland (CERT), FÁS, NCVA and Teagasc and has made over 500,000 awards to date. FETAC’s mission is to make quality assured awards in accordance with national standards within the national framework, creating opportunities for all learners in further education and training to have their achievements recognised and providing access to systematic progression pathways. Concepts of learning, partnership and enabling people underpin FETAC’s work. Holders of FETAC awards can progress to higher education through the higher education links scheme.

Of much more relevance to psychotherapy training standards is HETAC. HETAC was also established in 2001 and is the successor to the NCEA. HETAC is the qualifications awarding body for third-level education and training institutions outside the university sector. HETAC may delegate authority to make awards to recognised institutions. Recognised institutions currently comprises of Institutes of Technology and several named colleges eg. Dublin Business School. HETAC undertakes the validation of programmes, sets and monitors standards, ensures that student assessment procedures within institutions are fair and consistent, and ensures academic and financial protection for students in commercial educational institutions providing programmes validated by HETAC. While HETAC does not govern university academic standards, the universities may accept HETAC criteria, regarding equivalence, for entry to their degree and postgraduate programmes (see example 1).

The aim of EAP is to provide a common platform and accreditation for all European psychotherapists which is TAC compliant and meets EAP standards. The EAP training standards are comprised of  7 years with a total of 3,200 hours of training.  This training includes a minimum of 4 years of specific postgraduate psychotherapy training. This is preceded by 3 years undergraduate course or equivalent. (For equivalence see APEL).

Irish National Framework of Qualifications. Initial Major Award-Types and Awarding Bodies.

Level 1 Certificate FETAC

Level 2 Certificate FETAC

Level 3 Certificate Junior Certificate. Via FETAC and state school sector

Level 4 Certificate Leaving Certificate. Via FETAC and state school sector

Level 5  Certificate Leaving Certificate. Via FETAC and state school sector

Level 6 Advanced FETAC Certificate, Higher Certificate. Via HETAC. DIT

Level 7 Pass Bachelor Degree. Via HETAC, University, DIT

Level 8 Honours Bachelor Degree, Higher Diploma. Via University, HETAC, DIT

Level 9 Masters Degree, Post Graduate Diploma. Via University, HETAC, DIT

Level 10 Doctoral degree. Via University, HETAC, DIT

(National Framework of Qualification. www.nfq.ie)

Examples of how individuals might get on to psychotherapy training programmes

Example 1: Under TAC requirements a student seeking entry into a post graduate degree programme who does not have a Leaving Certificate may gain entry by acquiring a Level 7 Certificate. Some institutions and universities will apply entry by equivalence criteria to some mature students. Regarding equivalence criteria, the applicant needs to approach the individual 3rd level institution to identify the specific equivalence criteria which that institution employs.

Example 2: Under TAC requirements, a person with a three year primary degree or equivalent (see APEL), will enter at HETAC level 7 and complete a psychotherapeutic training at post graduate diploma level (HETAC level 8). This may permit the person to proceed to a Masters Degree ( HETAC level 9) providing all other criteria laid down by the awarding institution (University or IT) are met.

Implications for IAHIP.

Prospective trainees entering psychotherapy training during or from 2008 need to complete a TAC compliant training which will bring them to the point of accreditation. Therefore a 3 year primary degree or equivalent, plus a 4 year specific psychotherapy postgraduate training is the 7 year training required by TAC. TAC sees the 7 year training as taking the trainee to accreditation. Currently IAHIP sees the 7 years as taking the trainee to graduation to be followed by a post-practicum period of 2 years which will take the graduate to IAHIP accreditation. Thus it can be seen that currently IAHIP requires a longer training and working period than either other ICP sections or Europe.

Conversation between Mary de Courcy and Sheila Killoran Gannon

M de C What is the relationship between IAHIP and TAC?

SKG As a Section-member of ICP, IAHIP needs to conform to TAC standards.

M de C And between IAHIP and FETAC ?

SKG None.

M de C And between IAHIP and HETAC?

SKG None at the moment.

Mde C Does TAC set out standards for other ICPsections ? Are other ICP sections TAC compliant, and can they be recognised by EAP?

SKG TAC standards apply to all ICP Sections. All sections can obtain ECP recognition.

M de C Does IAHIP have a different set of TAC standards to other ICP sections?

SKG No, not really. There will be a difference if IAHIP holds on to the current route to accreditation where IAHIP  standards will exceed those of TAC regarding clinical practice. This issue still has to be finalised. Europe wants the Training Institutes to take the trainee from post graduate entry level through the training programme to accreditation. In IAHIP it has been and is the practice to take the trainee from entry (post-graduate or equivalent) to graduation. Then if the practitioner is a pre-accredited member, the professional body IAHIP takes the graduand to accreditation during the post-practicum period.

M de C  Does TAC set same standards for other European psychotherapists? Are they Humanistic and Integrative or Integrative only?

SKG The plan is that TAC Standards will provide a European platform for all psychotherapy standards of training.

M de C Who are the EAIP? Are they TAC Compliant? How does membership of that organisation relate to IAHIP?

SKG Yes, the EAIP as a European organisation is TAC compliant. EAIP signs off on IAHIP members who are applying to the EAP for ECP certification. Firstly the application is considered by IAHIP, then EAIP, then it returns to IAHIP and is sent to ICP. Finally the completed approved application is sent to EAP and the member is approved for ECP.

M de C Which training schools in Ireland are TAC compliant?

SKG We do not know yet as IAHIP has not yet completed its document on TAC compliance. It is in the final stages.

M de C Does graduation from these organisations entitle a graduand to IAHIP accreditation?

SKG This depends on the fore mentioned document. A graduand may need to complete post practicum period before being accepted for IAHIP accreditation.

M de C Can graduands from non TAC compliant courses become accredited with ECP?

SKG At present yes, if they meet the standard. This will not be possible in 2012.

M de C  What is happening in 2012?

SKG   This is the year in which people who have entered training in 2008 will graduate. We have to assume that TAC standards will apply to the IAHIP accreditation criteria. On a lighter note in 2012 all the planets will be aligned, so we’ll see!

M de C How does TAC relate to an accredited member, a reaccredited member and an aspiring member of IAHIP?

SKG TAC standards are not relevant to trainees who began training prior to 2008. They refer only to trainees entering training in and from 2008.

M de C Are all IAHIP members eligible for ECP?

SKG Yes, at present all IAHIP members are deemed eligible for the ECP.

M de C What is the route to IAHIP accredited membership for someone without a Leaving Certificate?

SKG She or he needs to establish an equivalence to a primary degree and do a post graduate level training course which will allow him or her to apply for accreditation with IAHIP (See Example 1).

M de C Which institutions providing psychotherapy training are validated by HETAC?

SKG I assume that the psychotherapy training courses which are run under a university have to be validated by HETAC ( see TCD, UCD, DCU, UCC, UL, DBS). ICP/IAHIP does not require that training courses in private institutions be validated by HETAC at present.

M de C There is a distinction between counselling and psychotherapy training and practice. How is this reflected in FETAC or HETAC standards?

SKG The best source of information is the submission from ‘Talking Therapies Symposium’ to the Dept. of Health and Children. FETAC and HETAC at present do not come into it as they are only involved in the academic aspect of courses. TAC is concerned with the professional standards of training which includes academic standards. For statutory registration the ‘Talking Therapies Symposium’ recommended that among other criteria, the baseline academic qualification for entry to training as a counsellor is a Leaving certificate or equivalent, or a relevant degree or equivalent and that accredited prior learning could be considered. They recommended that for recognition and statutory registration as a counsellor there would be a minimum of 4 years training in specific counselling modality with a minimum of 1250 hours. For recognition and registration as a psychotherapist the baseline academic qualification for entry to training is recommended to be a degree or equivalent in human sciences (medical, psychological, social, educational etc), and that baseline qualification and experience for registration as a psychotherapist would be a minimum of four years training in a specific psychotherapy modality at master’s level with at least 1,400 hours.

M de C Is there a difference between the terms ‘statutory regulation’ and ‘statutory registration’?

SKG  Regulations refer to rules and standards. Registration is the registering of those who meet standards laid down in the regulations. Statutory registration implies statutory regulation. The terms are used interchangeably.  Currently the profession is self regulatory. In time, when statutory regulations are agreed, registration by the Dept. of Health will take place for all eligible psychotherapists.

M de C With regard to trainings and standards, what is envisaged once statutory registration is in place?

SKG It is envisaged that once statutory regulation is in place all psychotherapy trainings in Ireland will eventually go through the HETAC process.  It is hoped that HETAC will adopt the European standards that will already be in place.



National Framework of Qualification. www.nfq.ie

Guide to HETAC 2007

Submission to Dept of  Health and Children from Talking Therapies.

Mary de Courcy is in private practice, is a lecturer and group supervisor in DBS and sits on the Editorial Board of IAHIP’s Inside Out and Complaints committee.

Sheila Killoran Gannon is in private practice, is a lecturer and trainer  and is currently representing IAHIP  on the ICP executive. She is also a convenor of the training recognition committee (TRC) of IAHIP.