The Background of the Project

This is an outline of a fairly standard process of establishing the Professional Competencies of any profession. This process has been adapted to the profession of psychotherapy in Europe. Statements in italics indicate progress to date.

  1. Preliminary Competency Study and Practice Analysis
    • Competency Study: Preliminary work with focus groups and an extensive review of literature is necessary in order to define the essential competencies required of any newly certified professional psychotherapist.
      This has been done through (a) various meetings within the EAP, establishing the profession of psychotherapy at a Master's degree level, and establishing suitable training standards, and also accrediting training schools who carry out training to this standard, and (b) a wide-spread international literature review, which includes consulting several lists of competencies already developed in the field of psychotherapy (and related fields, like counselling, psychology, mental health, etc.) by various different focus groups from relevant professional associations and organisations (started July 2010 - July 2011: see Working Group Literature Review here).
    • Practice Analysis: A large-scale survey of professionals and other key stakeholders should be taken across Europe and internationally to identify the core competencies of all the different practitioners (different psychotherapies; different specialisations) and their related knowledge & skill bases.
      This has been done by inviting participation and developing a list of Participants: from individuals and organisations in the field of psychotherapy connected to EAP (and related fields, like counselling, psychology, mental health, etc.) and other unconnected professional practitioners, academics, etc.
      The EAP Member Organsations & Individuals, National Unmbrella Organisations (NUOs) and European Wide Organisations (EWOs), European Accredited Training Schools (EAPTIs), and the European Certificate of Psychotherapy (ECP) holders, form a key part of this group and every effort will be made to ensure that this survey is as wide and as diverse as possible (see Participants List here). We will also invite participation from individuals and organisations in related fields. (This process started in January 2011): See also item 3 below.
  2. Description of the Competencies
    • The description of a competency, or the competencies, defines a type of professional skill or behaviour, whereby the psychotherapist is able to apply their knowledge, skills and/or professional values in a particular (possibly specific or specialised) work environment.
    • Criteria for inclusion: - that the competency is:
      *  Authentic and Describable
      *  Unique
      *  Observable
      *  Measurable
      The Working Group is conducting a checking process with the first ‘test’ for inclusion being – does the description of the competency basically fit the above 4 criteria. If the Working Group believes that it does, then it will be included in the list of (draft) Core Competencies published on the website (see Core Competencies here). The details and description of the competency may be adapted and changed during the subsequent processes.
      The Specific and Specialist Competencies can only be, and will be, developed with direct input from the Participants, the EWAOs and NAOs and the ECP holders.
  3. Implementation
    • Having established the essential basic or core competencies, a Practice Analysis Survey will be used to verify that this is what actually happens and whether this is what required ‘in the field’.
      The Practice Analysis Survey forms for the Core Competencies in each Domain have been created and are available (LH side-bar). Participants (and others) are being asked to fill these in and submit them - now (July 2011 - Jan 2012).
    • From the Practice Analysis Survey (Item 4), the competencies (knowledge, skills and values) can then be linked to the current training standards and any (new) training standards can be proposed.
    • In due course, a set of knowledge, skills and measurement criteria will be developed for each competency or set of competencies.
    • A check is made on all the professional training and certification requirements to ensure they correspond to the knowledge, skills and values needed for a competent professional to practice for that profession, and to see how the measurement criteria can function within the professional certification process.
    • Finally, the (new) training standards – incorporating the knowledge, skills and measurement criteria, determine the (new) curriculum content, which is then linked to examinations and assessment of trainees in that profession. (see Diagram below)
  4. Practice Analysis Survey
    • Validation of competencies statements and knowledge topics by numerous ‘stake-holders’ – trial studies
      This first part will be done by inviting participation and developing the list of participants (see here): from individuals and also from training schools within the EWOs and NAOs (possibly Feb – Oct 2011). These Participants will be asked to complete the Practice Analysis Surveys.
    • External validation of competencies by various parallel professions, employers and supervisors, universities, national bodies, state authorities, etc.
      This second part will be done by inviting organisational participation and developing the list of participants and consultants: extending this invitation to universities and (perhaps) to the European Association of Counselling and the European Federation of Psychologist Associations (possibly in Nov 2011 – Feb 2012).
    • Quantitative and qualitative data collection: inc. a sampling plan.
      See item 5 below.
  5. Surveys and Response Rates
    • To ensure that the profession has been properly consulted and involved and that the results are therefore relevant, at least (about) 80% of professionals (training schools, universities, practitioners, client groups, etc.) need to be informed and - ideally - about 15% (or more) need to respond.

      Rating scales used:
      • Relevancy Rating
        How relevant is the competency to ensure that the practitioner can function professionally?
        0 = Not relevant
        1 = Somewhat relevant
        2 = Moderately relevant
        3 = Highly relevant
      • Importance Rating
        How important is the competency to protect the interests of the public and/or to respond to the needs of the client or organization?
        0 = Not important
        1 = Slightly important
        2 = Moderately important
        3 = Highly important
      • Frequency Rating
        How frequentlydo you perform the competency?
        0 = Never
        1 = Occasionally
        2 = Moderately frequently
        3 = Routinely
  6. Process of identifying essential Core Competencies
    A ranking scale needs to be developed: Each competency statement is then assigned a ranked value that is a composite of the relevancy, importance and frequency ratings. The resulting Scale of Rankings: High = 7-9; Moderate = 4-6; Low = 1-3.
    A ranking of 0 might mean that that particular competency should be eliminated or radically revised.
    • Examples of the use of rankings:
      (High) Ensures the reliability of professional performance; technical information; protects public interest
      (High) Indicates use of knowledge and skills in workplace
      (Mod) Provides a background to professional work
      (Mod) Develops diagnoses, prognoses and plans
      (Low) Advises on development of strategy
      (Low) Designs and advises on development of the profession
    • A ‘blue-ribbon’ panel of experienced professional and subject experts is then formed:
      Panal members review all ranked values and and differentiates “core” from “non-core”; "relevant" from "not so relevant", "important " from "not so important", and thus "desired" or “required” from “optional” competencies.
      The Expert Panel will:
      Discuss how well each competency represented the work of a newly-certified professional psychotherapist
      Discuss how well each competency provided perspectives on current trends in practice
      Discuss ‘core’ v. ‘non-core’ and ‘required’ v. ‘optional’ decisions: it may be decided that some of the Core Competencies are 'common' to a mainstream of psychotherapy (like Cognitive Behavioral (Psycho)Therapy - CBT, but not common to the Psychodynamic mainstream grouping, or visa versa. These could not then be "Core Competencies" ('common to all) but would have to be included in the" Specific Competencies" of that particular mainstream grouping.
  7. Competencies revisited
    Which competencies are now “required” or “desired” or “optional”
    And possibly then,
    Which competencies relate to Technical Knowledge
    Which competencies relate to Skills
    Which competencies relate to Values
  8. Issues and questions
    Are there different levels of proficiency?
    What is the relationship of professional competencies to university courses?
    How to maintain or change the relevance of current practice description?
    How to manage the transition towards a ‘competency-based’ profession?
  9. Various implications for professional development
    • Post-certification competency framework courses
    • Education-institution partnerships – who teaches what?
    • New Professional Development products/modules – CPD requirements
    • Strategies to meet future demand
  10. Application to the Training Standards and Course Curriculum
    • Education
      • From competencies to courses
      • Mapping challenges
      • Depth and breadth of course content
      • Weighting of curriculum areas
      • Focus on method of assessment
    • Examinations
      • Development of examination blueprints
      • Specifications for examination questions
    • Experience
      • Integration of core competencies
      • Use of portfolio assessments
      • On-the-job observation

Working Group on Professional Competencies: committee@psychotherapy-competency.eu