How to become an infertility counsellor

How to become an infertility counsellor

In the main we would recommend that anyone interested in working in infertility counselling should gain at least two years general post qualification counselling experience and preferably be accredited by BACP or equivalent by the time you apply for a clinic post. Like counselling people with cancer or bereavement counselling, infertility counselling is really ‘heavy end’ work; it is very much a specialism with the added challenge of working within the complex environment of a HFEA (Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority) Licensed Clinic. With the exception of post-adoption birth records counselling, infertility counselling is the only counselling specialism for which there is a specific legislative requirement, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act.

BICA facilitates a Foundation Course for appropriately experienced counsellors interested in developing their knowledge and skill set in this specialist setting. The course can be undertaken prior to working in a Licensed Clinic or you may register for the course once you have secured a placement or post (see the Training section for a detailed description of the course).

Counselling placements

Counselling in a Licensed Centre is highly complex and demands an in-depth knowledge of the emotional, psychosocial and legal context in which your clients find themselves. It is also important that you have a broad understanding of the many causes of infertility as well as of the various treatment/family building options and processes involved; consequently, there are very few placements on offer. You can approach your local clinics (found on the HFEA website, www.HFEA.gov.uk), but most of them prefer to have someone with at least two years post qualification counselling experience. All counselling staff (as for any staff who work in a Licensed Clinic) have to be put on the clinic’s HFEA Licence.

It is important that if you do manage to get a placement in a Licensed Clinic, you think carefully about who will supervise you; it can be helpful to get a qualified supervisor with some broad knowledge of infertility issues (not just personal knowledge). You can also find specialist BICA accredited supervisors via the ‘Find a Counsellor’ link.

Permanent jobs

There are about 100 Licensed Clinics in the UK providing investigations and treatment for people with fertility problems. Each Clinic must have an independent infertility counsellor as a member of staff as part of their Licence requirements. Most work within the Clinic setting, some work in their own premises. Finding a permanent job is NOT easy. Sometimes they are advertised in Therapy Today, sometimes they are advertised locally or through the NHS job site. Occasionally the BICA Journal (Journal for Fertility Counselling) has jobs advertised, or you can look on the BICA website. If you are considering trying to get a job as an infertility counsellor, it is helpful if you have experience working with a range of issues, preferably in different settings, such as Relate or Marriage Care, Cruse, Bereavement Centres, or other independent counselling agencies. All experience is valuable.

Qualifications for working in a licensed clinic

Most Clinics want qualified and experienced counsellors to work in this very demanding area of work. You should have a Diploma in Counselling or a higher / equivalent qualification. Please refer to the HFEA website and the Code of Practice for a list of the qualifications that are accepted. BICA has developed its own accreditation scheme for all infertility counsellors and this specialist accreditation became a mandatory requirement in licensed clinics from 2009. This is an accreditation scheme that you can participate in once you are working within the Clinic setting. Please see reference elsewhere on the BICA website.

Attending BICA training courses

Go to Training for details.

The trainers aim to specify for whom each training event is suited. Some of the courses are only for infertility counsellors, whereas some other courses are for any member of staff working in a Licensed setting. Please contact the main trainer (name always given with the course) by email for further information.

For more information contact training@bica.net