BICA expects all practicing infertility counsellors to become accredited under the approved BICA Accreditation Scheme (see opposite – members please ensure you are logged in first). This is one of the first specialist accreditation schemes for counselling in any specialism in the UK and the first accreditation scheme for infertility counsellors in the World. There are both accredited and senior accredited levels to achieve depending on skill and experience. In 2009 the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority published the Code of Practice 8th ed. in which clear standards are set for the qualifications of clinic counsellors. This reads:
“2.12 All counsellors should have specialist competence in infertility counselling and:
a] hold a recognised counselling, clinical psychology, counselling psychology or psychotherapy qualification to the level of diploma of higher education or above, and
b] be accredited under the scheme of the BICA [or an equivalent body] or show evidence of working towards such accreditation.
2.13 A member of staff appointed to the role of counsellor should be able to provide evidence of being an accredited member of, or working towards accredited membership of, a recognised professional counselling body. The body should have a complaints/disciplinary procedure ,and the individual should have agreed to abide by an appropriate code of conduct or ethics.”
There is no equivalent body to BICA, but to meet adequate ‘equivalent’ standards of professional practice and specialist knowledge and skills, the counsellor should be:
Either a qualified counsellor/psychotherapist
or chartered counselling/clinical psychologist accredited or registered according to the requirements of a relevant scheme [see ‘BICA Counsellor Accreditation Scheme Guidance Handbook’]
and one who can provide sufficient evidence of:
a) having submitted relevant case material during the last 5 years, normally as part of another accreditation process, peer reviewed academic paper or publication
b) effective communication with team colleagues in relation to clinic policy, welfare of the child decisions, protocols etc. whilst maintaining appropriate professional boundaries
c) regular practice monitoring and evaluation to meet both HFEA and the accrediting body’s requirements via evaluations and audit
d) having attended BICA’s Introductory Training Course and/or other similar infertility counselling training
maintaining annual CPD of at least 30 hrs of which 10 hours minimum must be specialist infertility counselling related CPD
e) pertinent knowledge of all relevant HFEA guidance and legislation and standard operating procedures and related child and family legislation.
Wherever possible, a counselling External Adviser will be consulted on these criteria, when a clinic is to be inspected which does not have a named BICA accredited counsellor.
It is important for the professional standing of infertility counselling and public reassurance that all those who use the title of ‘infertility counsellor’ have established their competence to do so. This should clearly have gone beyond generic counselling to the specialist skills and knowledge required to work effectively within assisted conception; just as other colleagues in the multi-disciplinary team in medicine, nursing and embryology have their own specialist organisations and training. This scheme builds on other generic counselling accreditations whilst ensuring the maintenance and encouragement of the highest standards in this specialist area, including a professional development route which acknowledges seniority and special expertise.
The Accreditation Handbook gives full details of the scheme and how to apply. It is important that applicants consult the latest available version of the Handbook and apply using the most recent forms which are on this website. Before submission of applications, if the current version has changed, it is the applicant’s responsibility to ensure that their application contains all the detail required at that time.
A member of BICA who is working towards accreditation should formally register. The HFEA requires named counsellors to be either accredited or ‘working towards accreditation’. A certificate will be issued.
Levels of Accreditation
It will be increasingly important for clients and colleagues in the multidisciplinary team and the regulatory body, the HFEA, to know exactly what level of knowledge and experience in this specialist field counsellors have. In order to achieve this level of transparency and protection for our clients, BICA has defined 4 categories of accreditation:
Accredited Member of BICA [AMBICA]
This category of membership is the minimum expected from practising infertility counsellors, and is open to those who meet several criteria; these include supervision, stated levels of infertility practice, indemnity insurance, assessed profile of practice, and required CPD [continued professional development]. Practice will be assessed in conjunction with accreditation by another national counselling body, plus training and experience in specialised infertility counselling. Acceptable counselling bodies are listed in the ‘BICA Counsellor Accreditation Scheme Guidance Handbook’.
Accredited Independent Practitioner Member of BICA [AMBICA-IP]
The route for infertility counsellors working outside licensed treatment centres [AMBICA (IP)]
Accredited Overseas Member of BICA [AMBICA-O]
The route for infertility counsellors working outside licensed treatment centres [AMBICA (O)] and practising outside the UK
Senior Accredited Member of BICA [SAMBICA]
One who is an accredited member of BICA who also –
either holds the Infertility Counselling Award [this is no longer awarded]
or submits a portfolio of evidence of infertility counselling practice at a senior, experienced level, which demonstrates a theoretically informed understanding of infertility counselling and the skills to lead and advise others on the specialist skills and knowledge of this field.
Full details of these levels of accreditation are contained in the Handbook which all applicants for accreditation must read carefully before completing the application forms. These are attached to this page.
The titles given here are formal titles; use of these titles by those not being entitled to do so would lead to disciplinary action by BICA. Certificates are supplied as evidence of accreditation. A multidisciplinary Assessment Board awards accreditation. A formal complaints and appeals procedure is available. Accreditation status is published on the ‘Find a Counsellor’ pages of this website.
Members who are accredited with BICA are required to apply for re-accreditation every three years.. Where Members are no longer undertaking infertility counselling practice to the required extent, they will be permitted to become re-accredited provided they continue to fulfil all the requirements of accreditation but for one re-accreditation period only.
BICA encourages those applying for accreditation to seek mentorship from an experienced S/AMBICA.. Where possible the Accreditation Chair will recommend mentors.
All applicants for accreditation are required to be proposed by an experienced infertility counsellor, preferably one who is already accredited. The Proposer should be the Mentor if one has been consulted.
Applying for Membership and Accreditation
Application packs are available via the website. Electronic application is a necessary part of the process [except in some cases for submission of the SAMBICA portfolio] to minimise administrative costs and delays and avoid loss or breach of security. BICA is not able to make exceptions to this requirement. All applicants for membership and accreditation should download the full details in the Handbook and the forms they need to complete from the BICA website. Working towards accreditation can be evidenced by the payment of the Registration fee.
A one-off fee of £155 is charged for assessment of all applications for Accreditation, less the £25 Registration fee if this has already been paid. This can be purchased online via the block at the top of this page. Re-accreditation costs £45. Fees are intended to make the scheme self-supporting. Members who wish to register for the accreditation scheme, or pay the full assessment fee or the fee for re-accreditation, may do so by logging in to the website and selecting the Member’s Area listing on the left hand menu, select ‘Pay BICA Accreditation fee’ and then use the drop down menu to access the payment portal.
Download the forms from below.
Enquiries should be addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org