Do we have the training we need? 

It may be better to take a little time out to pause and think clearly, before making important individual decisions. - BACP, 2020

Training has been a key concern among Youth Access members who have been forced to rapidly adapt their work with young people. Responding to our recent survey, one staff member said it has been hard to get a definitive answer from professional bodies about the necessity of having additional training 

Online mental health support does require a unique set of skills, and in ordinary times it is recommended to attend dedicated formal training or to work alongside experienced practitioners. According to the BACP, everyone providing therapeutic support should be sufficiently competent in the use of technology in their work to be able to provide reliable and adequate services to clients and colleagues and advises receiving supervision via technology similar to that being used with clients.  Youth Access’ Going Digital guide, written in 2017, further suggested a mixture of one-to-one and group supervision sessions as helpful to online team working, especially if staff members are working remotely. 

However, these aren’t ordinary times, and organisations are unlikely to be able to get the online-specific training they would otherwise expect to undertake. Both the BACP and ACTO recognise this and lay out a series of measures that practitioners can take to gain the basic knowledge and skills to carry out remote work ethically now - what the BACP calls a blended learning approach. The BACP also recommends thinking about incorporating at least some training to support this, whilst in the longer term you are strongly advised to seek full training. 

In the absence of a suitable qualification and experience we recommend that therapists work in video with their already known clients/patients only if they can provide basic security/privacy measures and where appropriate supervision is in place. - ACTO, 2020

 So what can you do to help your team feel prepared? We summarise best practice recommendations below.

1. Choose the right project manager

Ideally, the person leading the introduction and management of remote support in your organisation should have both technical and clinical skills. The initial set-up phase, in particular, will need initial high levels of management and strong team communication.  

2. Check staff competence

Check staff members’ competence to provide therapy online or over the phone via the BACP’s competency framework for telephone and e-counselling. 

3. Plan collaboratively

Take time to consult with your team to hear their concerns and do what you can to address them. Though time is of the essence, do spend some time planning and setting up your remote support work with your team before diving straight in.

4. Get free, remote training

The BACP and Open University have put together a free training for practitioners moving to remote therapy during the coronavirus outbreak, which you can access here. See also ACTO’s list of online training providers offering courses and recommended online competences, which have been developed from the Anne Stokes’ original competences written in 2014. 

5. Check-in with your supervisor

If you’re in any doubt about whether you’re prepared enough, speak to your supervisor before you begin. Note that it’s advisable to keep the same supervisor if possible but check to make sure that they also have the competencies needed to support your remote practice. Do they understand the particular challenges faced? Don’t hesitate to seek extra advice if you or your supervisor need it.

6. Don’t force yourself

Some staff members still might not feel comfortable or confident delivering telephone or online counselling - find ways to discuss with them whether they can focus their energies elsewhere. 

Training and webinars

Next section: What are the risks involved?