Active Involvement - Attending the IACP AGM

When working with Counselling & Psychotherapy students (for instance, when I teach the Third Year Personal &Professional Development module on our BSc), I frequently emphasise the importance of being involved in a professional body, and especially the Iri

Active Involvement – Attending the IACP AGM


When working with Counselling & Psychotherapy students (for instance, when I teach the Third Year Personal &Professional Development module on our BSc), I frequently emphasise the importance of being involved in a professional body, and especially the Irish Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy (IACP). I don’t just mean involved in the sense of becoming an accredited member (though that is obviously one of the main goals of most of our students), but involved at a more active level, because this can give us a sense of belonging to a community of fellow counsellors and psychotherapists (something that can be lacking in our field, especially if we work in private practice on our own), and can boost our confidence, our experience, even our credibility in the field.


Serving on a committee at some stage is worth considering, but, at a minimum, active involvement means attending the Annual General Meeting of the Association.

The IACP AGM has come a long way since I attended my first one, about 20 years ago now (PCI was just starting up then, though I didn’t know that at the time!) The Association was much smaller back in the early 90s, and I was still relatively new to the field. It was daunting to be a newbie, and to see so many unfamiliar faces, all of whom seemed to know each other (a classic cognitive distortion when we are socially anxious!) But I was clear in my mind that thus was my professional body, and that I belonged there.

20 or so years later, the AGM is on a much larger scale (this year it was held in the Hogan Suite at the Croke Park Conference Centre on March 31st, with over 340 people attending), but fortunately many faces are familiar to me now. One of the special pleasures for me these days is to see students and recently qualified counsellors/psychotherapists attending for their first time.

So what happens at the AGM, and why would it be of interest?

Well, all AGMs anywhere have some standard business, such as a financial update. This might not sound very interesting, but remember it’s about how your membership fees are spent...

Other reports are also given and motions are discussed, and some quite important, occasionally controversial, issues can arise for discussion. Here are some of the issues that came up at this year’s AGM.

Statutory Regulation

 In his report, National Director Naoise Kelly confirmed that the government will not be putting this in place for another few years at least, but that the Minister is still urging us to make sure that Counselling & Psychotherapy is on the list to be looked at once the present list of 12 unregulated professions is dealt with (professions such as Physiotherapy, Radiography, Clinical Psychology etc). Naoise was asked where Regulation would leave accredited IACP members, and indeed the Association itself. He responded that we can’t be sure until it happens, but that in such circumstances provision is generally made for those already qualified and practising. He was sure that there would still be a role for the IACP, just as there is for professional bodies within the professions which are already statutorily regulated.

Annual re-accreditation.

Currently IACP accredited members pay their subscription annually, but only have to reapply for their accredited status every 5 years. A motion was put forward to authorise the Executive to explore the feasibility of changing this to an annual process, and to make such changes if they deemed them to be necessary. The rationale for this proposal was that members would not have to keep track of their CPD certificates of attendance over a five-year period, and that concerns about a member’s competence to practice could be picked up and acted on more promptly if such concerns should arise. After some discussion (occasionally slightly heated!) the motion was amended, and it was agreed by the meeting that the Executive should explore the matter and report back to next year’s AGM for discussion and a possible decision. Democracy in action...

IACP Charter/code.


Another motion, “That the IACP explores the possibility of establishing a charter/code of professional service outlining how issues of concern, difficulty or complaint raised within IACP are addressed and responded to”, was passed without much disagreement.


There is always an invited speaker at the AGM, and this year it was Fr Peter McVerry SJ, of the Peter McVerry Trust for homeless young people.

His topic was homeless young people and mental health, and he described how lack of appropriate services is failing young people. Given their situation, he does not find it surprising that they use drugs – he would be surprised if they didn't. In his experience, most of them are depressed, even suicidal, which again he finds understandable given their circumstances.



He pointed out that it is difficult for them to engage in counselling, for a few reasons:



·         They have been failed by every system - educational, childcare, vocational, justice.

·         Mental health problems, and counselling/psychotherapy, still carry a stigma.

·         Their self-esteem is at rock-bottom.



He emphasised that counselling is an important component of what they need, particularly given that what makes the biggest impact, in his opinion, is non-judgmental care.

Carl Berkeley Memorial Award:

This award is made every year to someone who has made an outstanding contribution to the development of counselling and psychotherapy in Ireland. This year’s recipient was Marina Sweeney, who is the Vice Chairperson of the IACP Northern Regional Committee. Her work in the voluntary and community sector, especially in the area of trauma, was highlighted.




And of course, members are elected to the Executive Committee at the AGM. This year there were 11 nominations for 11 places, so there was no need for an election as such  - a disappointment to those who like the whole process of casting and counting votes, a relief overall because the motions had taken a long time and we were late for lunch!

I’m back on the Executive myself for another year, so that brings us back to active involvement…



See you there next year!

Eoin Stephens
PCI College President

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