The Malta Association for the Counselling Profession (MACP) would like to make clarifications on some of the points made in the parliamentary report.
Contrary to what Labour MP Josè Herrera stated, namely that there is no course at the University of Malta that leads specifically to a degree in counselling, the first cohort of Master in Counselling students began their four-year part-time training in February 2008 and 24 students have just graduated.
There are currently another two cohorts reading for their Master’s degree offered by the University of Malta – one has just started its third year, the students of the other cohort are attending their first year of the course. Additionally, there are another two groups following a Master’s course in trans-cultural counselling, also offered by the University of Malta.
What’s more, it is essential to clarify that counselling is not simply about providing counsel, in other words, giving advice. Rather, counselling, as even the New Oxford Dictionary of English recognises, is “the provision of assistance and guidance in resolving personal, social or psychological problems and difficulties, especially by a trained person on a professional basis” (Pearsall, 1998). It is also for this very reason that a law is urgently required.
Moreover, since counselling is about working with individuals through the building of a professional relationship, the need for regulation, ensuring ethical standards of practice is obligatory – a regulatory means to safeguard the client.
The proposed Bill is not aimed at exclusion, but as already mentioned, at regulating. In effect the Bill states that it is not only those who hold a Master’s degree in Counselling who will be warranted to practise, but also other professionals holding equivalent and relevant degrees.
Additionally, the Bill also encompasses a clause – the ‘grand-parenting clause’ – that takes into consideration all those professionals who have offered years of sterling service in the practice of counselling prior to the enactment of this Bill. It is only after the law is approved by Parliament that the benchmark of a Master in Counselling would come into force – reiterating once more, primarily for the safety of the clients, ensuring that professional practice is adhered to.