Dear President, dear colleagues, I have been into professional policies for more than 15 years, always doing my best to achieve maximum clarity with my interlocutors.
Today EAC is one of these interlocutors, too, and I feel the need to share some thoughts with them, with the hope that it may be a useful contribution.
The process of recognition of counseling in Italy has been very long and we can state it is not fully completed yet.
Counseling began to develop in Italy in a historical moment in which the profession of psychologists was undergoing profound transformations, when it achieved, after many years of struggle with doctors, the “coveted” recognition through the establishment of an official national register and the Association of Psychologists.
The real work that associations like Federcounseling (and especially the different associations within it) have to face every day is mainly based on professional policies rather than culture and science (and I am aware that in other countries the situation – thankfully – is different).
Despite the sovereignty of each country when legislating on professions, too many signals are making me think that the real game on counseling will necessarily have to be played at a European level.
I therefore believe that the policy of EAC will need to undertake, for the years to come, a hard-hitting action around Europe, necessarily supported by the will of each and every national association and/or co-ordination to implement such policy into their national spaces.
Such action will undoubtedly have to be taken according to cultural diversities and the regulations of each country, but we must not forget that without a balanced perception of the profession among the Member States, counseling is doomed to be moulded and fall into line with national mindsets that have no perspective or evolution.
The risk is, to quote an Italian metaphor, to erect a little fence around us just as the professional associations in Italy have been doing, only to realize that that fence is in fact a narrow cage, with no prospects, and that in some cases it leads to the implosion of who is inside.
I would therefore like to share a few thoughts with you:
1. Following the new Directive 2013/55/EU, in the past few months the European Professional Card (EPC) is the subject matter for debate in Europe. An important conference will be held on the 1st of December in Rome organized by the European Commission and the Department of European Affairs, aimed at introducing the first five professional categories to be “equipped” with such card, as an experiment, starting 2016: nurses, pharmacists, physiotherapists, mountain guides and real estate agents. I believe it would be helpful for EAC to make contacts with the European Commission as soon as possible, in order to evaluate a possible inclusion of counseling among future trials.
2. In anticipation of a trial it would be opportune for EAC to set off some incisive and massive campaign of awareness especially in those countries where, to date, counseling is not represented by any national association or coordination. I think we should consider the possibility of creating synergies with other international counseling associations, in those areas where they are already present.
3. Meanwhile EAC should set up protocols for a mutual recognition among the various associations within it, so as to promote free exchange and transit of counselors in those states where EAC is present through national associations, needless to say in compliance with national rules. I mean this both regarding the European Certificate or Counsellor Accreditation (ECCac) – to make it a really useful document for a significant freedom of movement in our profession – and the aforementioned European Professional Card (EPC).
4. I believe EAC should draw a clear dividing line, right inside, between a division dealing with professional policies and a division dealing with issues related to research, culture and promotion of counseling.
5. Every single national association should act as a platform for such policies within its own country, but to do so EAC must revise and implement its strategy and its capacity for transmitting information:
a) a web site able to give a clear definition of EAC and what it represents
b) a more effective engagement into social networks, encouraging a real-time information flow
c) a magazine/journal perhaps, focusing on both professional policies and issues related to research on counseling
in order to circulate and spread information among professionals in different countries.
6. EAC should also implement a policy of reorganization of membership recruitment in the different countries, in order to support its international politics. I believe that, rather than having every association to get to EAC with a minimum number of members through the payment of annual fees, EAC itself should implement a policy in the area where individual counselors wish to join in. This will happen when EAC can grant the counselors some services: information, protection, support, continuing education, etc. This will happen if EAC becomes, thank to its activities, an attractive association for counselors who will therefore find it advantageous to finance EAC and its policies through an annual membership.
As far as we are concerned, then, we assure you that Federcounseling will do its best to contribute to this policy of development, fielding all available resources, with the awareness that such policy is a professional and cultural enrichment for all counselors.