It is now possible 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 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."
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. After a considerable period of development, consultation and pilot, the scheme is now fully implemented. Progress has been slow as we have tried to keep step with proposals for generic registration of counsellors nationally as well as developments in our own field. This scheme is closely modelled on that of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy [BACP]. We are very grateful for the generous support of BACP at early points in our work. It will ensure that infertility counsellors are properly accredited for the specialist work in which they are engaged. All practising infertility counsellors have been required by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority to be accredited under such a scheme since October 2009. The Government expects to encourage a regulatory system for all psychotherapy and counselling. In 2012 it now seems unlikely that previous intentions of introducing a statutory scheme of regulation will occur. Instead the accent will be on the profession regulating itslef with an emphasis on ensuring that skills for specialised work are protected and encouraged. BICA is engaging in this work as much as it can with limited resources. This scheme builds on other 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. It complements generic counselling accreditation and the Infertility Counselling Award which was awarded in the past by BICA.
Lessons were learned from a pilot phase, and it was agreed that the accreditation scheme would be opened to all BICA members using email, the Journal of Fertility counselling and the website in 2009. The BICA accreditation scheme enables us to lead the way in ensuring high quality, accredited standards of professional counselling practice, fully accountable to clients and other stakeholders in assisted conception services. The title ‘counselling’ is used in line with the terms of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act and Code of Practice (see 1 below) and BICA’s practice guidance. (see 2 below).
All BICA members are invited to apply for accreditation by the route appropriate to their situation.
Levels of Membership & 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 6 categories of membership and 3 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 accredited -
either by a Grandparent Route acknowledging experience over a period of years [only available until 12/2010]
or the recognised accreditation route in conjunction with accreditation by another national counselling body, plus training and experience in specialised infertility counselling.
Accredited Independent Practitioner Member of BICA [AMBICA IP]
The route for infertility counsellors working outside licensed treatment centres [AMBICA (IP)]
Senior Accredited Member of BICA [SAMBICA]
One who is an accredited member of BICA who also -
either holds the Infertility Counselling Award
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. Each route has forms, specific to each route, which should be completed. 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 AB has been appointed by the BICA Executive Committee which incorporates an accreditation committee to guide and manage this process. Its membership comprises senior representatives of infertility counselling, embryology, and ART-user perspectives. An independent adjudications chair has been appointed to manage the process of appeals and complaints if required.
Members who are accredited with BICA will be required to apply for re-accreditation every three years; the first re-accreditation will be due three years from the date of the next membership renewal after accreditation i.e. the maximum interval might be any period up to, but not as long as, four 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 attaches great importance to the role of mentorship in professional development. Those Members seeking accreditation for the first time will be required to seek a specialist, professional mentor to facilitate their entry into the specialty, gaining the knowledge and understanding which will enable them to transfer their generic skills of counselling to this area of practice. By the same token, it will also be important that those wishing to be recognised as having senior standing in the profession, applying to become SAMBICA, should demonstrate their ability and willingness to hand on their expertise to those more recently joining infertility counselling, having less experience. If the mentorship is not otherwise funded, BICA would expect payment to be necessary. The fee charged is a matter for the participants not BICA, but will depend on the input required and may be along the lines of supervision charges. 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 for submission of the SAMBICA portfolio] to minimise administrative costs and delays and avoid loss or breach of security. Any applicant who has difficulty with the necessary computing skills is expected to seek assistance on their own account. 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. We look forward to receiving applications from all practising members. Don’t forget that the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority now expects clinic counsellors to be accredited or 'working towards accreditation'. Working towards accreditation can be evidenced by the payment of the Registration fee.
Membership for individuals [Associate and Ordinary] as well as Accredited Membership all costs the same, £55 p.a.
Overseas Membership costs £60.
A one-off fee of £155 is charged for assessment of all applications for Accreditation, less the £25 Registration fee if this has been paid. This can be purchased online via the block at the top of this page
Download the forms from below.
Enquiries should be addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org
1 Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority; London, Code of Practice 8th ed. 2009. www.hfea.gov.uk
2 ‘BICA Guidelines for Good Practice in Infertility Counselling’ Annex F [BICA, Version 3, Sheffield, 2012; ISBN 1– 901406-35-0; and on the BICA website www.bica.net