Many professions require a regulatory body registration. Sometimes there are more than one to register with and it’s not necessary have an affiliation with all of them. Those who want to have a career in counselling can register with the HPCSA and/or the ASCHP. Each of these has different implications for the scope of practice. So which one is the right registration for your counselling career ambitions?
Why is the Counselling Profession Regulated
There are several important reasons why counselling is regulated, and therefore why counsellors are required to register with regulatory bodies. Two of the most important are to ensure an industry standard and thereby, protect those who seek counselling.
5 Reasons for Counsellor Regulations
- Defined Scope of Practice.
- Maintaining ethical behaviour.
- Uniform minimum standards.
- Clear referral protocols.
- Upholding standards of training.
Psychology, Counselling and Wellness
While the fields of Psychology and Counselling overlap because they involve mental health and human behaviour, there are key practical and functional differences. For example, purpose and focus, approach and how long the therapeutic intervention can be expected to take.
Wellness is what someone does on a daily basis to improve and maintain their physical and mental health. Thus, one can describe it as enabling someone to thrive and not just survive. Part of wellness is creating a healthy balance across the different areas of your life. For example, work, family, friends and self-care. Dimensions of wellness include social connectedness, exercise, diet and sleep. Each of these has an impact on your mental and physical health, thus your overall well-being. Sometimes to maintain wellness, assistance from a psychologist or counsellor is necessary.
What does a Psychologist do?
Psychology usually has a longer-term approach to treatment than counselling does. This is because therapy sessions typically delve into emotional issues, stresses and struggles that a client is battling with. They do this to create an understanding of and resolve past issues that create vulnerabilities in your life. Usually, this process is open-ended. Thus, how long someone remains in therapy is according to their context. Part of the reason for this is that the issues at hand are internally triggered. Therefore, they tend to be layered and complicated. A psychologist is not a medical doctor and therefore cannot prescribe medication. However, they are trained to perform psychological diagnostic tests to evaluate and treat mental and emotional disorders. A psychologist often specialises in a specific area of interest such as depression, anxiety or eating disorders.
What Does a Counsellor Do?
A counsellor’s overarching purpose is to assist their clients to devise strategies to resolve specific difficulties or a current problem. For example, addiction or grief. Often the challenges that a counsellor addresses are externally triggered and involve understanding what a client’s goals are. Working with a counsellor is usually a short-term process that has the intention of providing tools and solutions implementable over the longer term.
Why Do Counsellors Need to Register?
South African law requires healthcare professionals to register with the appropriate regulatory authority. Those who wish to practice as professional counsellors must register with either the ASCHP or the HPCSA. Each of these regulatory bodies has different requirements for registration. What a counsellor can do professionally is mandated by the regulatory body they are registered with.
What’s the Difference between HPCSA and ASCHP?
Practitioners that register with the HPCSA (Health Professionals Council of South Africa) work within the field of psychology. Whereas those that register with the ASCHP (Association for Supportive Counsellors and Holistic Practitioners) work in the wellness field.
How to Choose the Correct Registration
You can legally work as a wellness counsellor in South Africa by registering with the ASCHP. However, you cannot register as a Psychologist or a Registered Counsellor if you register with the ASCHP. To work within these fields you need to register with the HPCSA. The basic requirements to register with each organisation differ. As the registration requirements differ, the time it takes to be recognised as a professional counsellor under the HPCSA and ASCHP also varies. Essentially, ASCHP registration requirements are less onerous than those of the HPCSA. However, this also means that the practising mandate is more restricted for those registered with the ASCHP.
What is the HPCSA?
The HPCSA is a regulatory body which was founded through the Health Professions Act 56 of 1974. There are 12 Professional Boards under the umbrella of the HPCSA. The purpose of the HPSCA is to oversee the education, training and registration of healthcare professionals as per the Act. By regulating healthcare professionals, they seek to protect the public. All professionals who fall under the mandate of Act 56 of 1974 are required to register if they wish to practice in South Africa. There are different categories for registration with the HPCSA. Notably, not all categories apply to all professions. Additionally, specific specialisations (subcategories) within a category may have additional registration requirements.
HPCSA Registration Categories:
- Student Intern.
- Public Service – Community Service.
- Supervised Practice.
- Independent Practice.
- Private Practice.
- Specialised Practice.
- Sub-Specialised Practice.
HPCSA Psychology Categories
- Student Psychologist (PSS).
- Intern Psychologist (PSIN).
- Psychologist (PS).
Registration as a Psychologist can be obtained in one or more of the nine psychology subcategories.
HPCSA Psychology Subcategories
- Clinical psychologist.
- Counselling psychologist.
- Educational psychologist.
- Industrial or organisational psychologist.
- Research psychologist.
- Forensic psychologist.
- Registered counsellor.
All Psychologist subcategories require an HPCSA-approved bachelor’s degree, completion of an internship or 720 hours of practicums and the National Examination of the Professional Board for Psychology in the relevant registered category.
HPCSA Counsellor Categories
- Student Counsellor (SRC).
- Registered Counsellor (PRC).
To be a Registered Counsellor the minimum requirement is completion of an HPCSA approved BPsych or equivalent degree. As well as the successful completion of a 6-month practicum (internship) and the National Examination Board.
What is the ASCHP?
The ASCHP(SAQA registration ID 984; NQF registered designation) is a professional body. It originated from the CCSA (Counsel for Counsellors South Africa). ASCHP and HPCSA services complement each other. As such these regulator bodies, and those that are registered with them, often work alongside each other. Professionals registered with the ASCHP are wellness counsellors. There’s a requirement to choose between four categories, each of which has a different NQF requirement and scope of practice.
ASCHP Registered Occupations:
- Supportive Counsellors (NQF Level 4).
- Holistic Practitioners (NQF Level 5).
- Wellness Counsellors (NQF Level 7).
- Specialist Wellness Counsellors (NQF Level 8).
As with all regulatory bodies the ASCHP has minimal requirements for registration. For example, to be an ASCHP registered Specialist Wellness Counsellor you are required to have an honours degree in Psychology, have written a board exam and/or have 100 hours of practical experience.
How to Become a Counsellor
Would you like to have a career in counselling? If so, then consider taking an Applied Psychology course at SACAP (the South African College of Applied Psychology). SACAP offers a wide range of psychology courses, from a Higher Certificate in Counselling and Communication Skills to a Professional Bachelor of Psychology Degree. For further information contact SACAP directly to set up an appointment.