A Busy Year for the Interim Psychotherapy Commission: 
Institutional Membership Established, Spiritually Integrated Psychotherapy Approved, and NBCC Continuing Education Recognition Awarded

By Joann Heaney-Hunter, M.S., Ph.D., LMHC, NCC, Chair  |  November 18, 2019

Greetings to all, and a Happy Thanksgiving to all our U.S. members. This article is somewhat longer than others I have written, but I have important updates to share with you as we come to the end of our first season as an ACPE Commission.

I am happy to report the results of my presentation to the ACPE board on Tuesday, November 5. Prior to the board meeting, I delivered a report that detailed our work since the annual conference in May 2019. I presented the final charge developed by the group, the decision to form separate subcommittees for oversight of both the Spiritually Integrated Psychotherapy program (SIP) and Continuing Education, and the request that former AAPC members be added to the Professional Ethics Commission so that the psychotherapist perspective be represented.

At this meeting, ACPE board members approved two action items vital to the psychotherapy community: (1) the proposal to admit institutional members and (2) the proposal to implement the Spiritually Integrated Psychotherapy Program (SIP).

Admitting Institutional Members
The Institutional Membership proposal to the board defined Institutional Members, proposed an application process for them, and enumerated the benefits of ACPE Institutional Membership.

Defining Institutional Membership
Institutional members are organizations whose purpose and scope enhance and support ACPE’s mission and vision. Institutional membership is designed primarily for spiritually integrated counseling centers, pastoral/spiritual counseling training centers, and other spiritual/pastoral care organizations or sites of training programs such as universities. Institutions previously partnered with AAPC are encouraged to join ACPE under the institutional membership category. 

Application process for Institutional Membership
To apply for ACPE Institutional Membership, an organization must present:

  • A copy of its catalog or program brochure
  • A copy of its articles of incorporation, bylaws and governance manual
  • A copy of its mission/vision statement
  • A list of its accrediting or credentialing bodies 
  • An explanation of how ACPE membership provides value
  • Any information that would help demonstrate interest in ACPE’s mission

Institutional Membership benefits include
  • Offering NBCC CE credits for up to three educational events annually 
  • Offering additional CE events at a discounted processing rate of $150 each
  • Listing in ACPE directory as institutions that offer approved CE events 
  • Member rates to ACPE events
  • Representation on advisory committees
  • Subscription to ACPE publications including the Journal of Pastoral Care & Counseling
Membership Cost: $500 per year

SIP approval
I am delighted to report that the major project of the interim Psychotherapy Commission, finalizing the content and procedures for the Spiritually Integrated Psychotherapy program (SIP) was approved by ACPE’s Board of Directors. This work was such a vital issue for the commission that we delegated a subcommittee whose sole purpose was to prepare SIP for 2020 implementation. Here are the key features of SIP, which will be an ACPE signature program. 

Primary aims of SIP
  • Teach spiritually integrated psychotherapy to an interdisciplinary group of licensed and pre-licensed mental health providers. 
  • Build up a national infrastructure for post-licensure training through high quality continuing education.
  • Increase ACPE membership and psychotherapist participation through SIP education and ongoing formation.
  • Develop thriving Spiritually Integrated Psychotherapy-related Communities of Practice within ACPE.
  • Expand ACPE’s visibility in the psychotherapy community through local continuing education trainings.
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The SIP Certification Process 
In psychotherapy continuing education, certification typically means post-licensure training (both education and ongoing formation) in a specialty theory or practice. Psychotherapists receive authorization to practice through state licensing boards who affirm their professional competence and are responsible for their ethical conduct. These practicing psychotherapists are eligible to pursue a variety of specialty programs, including SIP. After psychotherapists complete initial education in SIP, continuing formation through a Community of Practice and peer review, they receive a specialty certification. Certification can be continued by maintaining one’s psychotherapy license, ACPE membership, ongoing formation, and a periodic peer review.

The SIP subcommittee presented, and the Interim Psychotherapy Commission approved the following procedure for SIP Initial Certification and Certification Maintenance:

Initial Certification Requirements
  • Must be licensed or associate-licensed mental health professional (or equivalent)
  • Must be ACPE members at Psychotherapist or Practitioner level
  • Must complete 30-hour SIP curriculum
  • Must complete 20 hours of consultation with SIP Trainer. Up to 12 hours may be in small group consultation (6 participants or fewer) 
  • Must complete three-person Peer Review by successfully demonstrating proficiency in SIP competencies
Certification Maintenance Requirements
  • Must maintain state license 
  • Must maintain ACPE membership 
  • Must earn 18 ACPE-sponsored SIP CE hours every three years (9 hours of traditional SIP CEs and 9 hours of case consultation in a SIP Community of Practice)
  • Must complete a process of peer review once every three years 
In addition to presenting requirements for SIP certification, the Interim Psychotherapy Commission finalized requirements for those seeking to serve as SIP Trainers.

SIP Trainer Requirements
Ordinarily, trainers must be:
  • Licensed mental health professional or equivalent in good standing 
  • Previous Fellow or Diplomate in AAPC (2020-21); in 2022 and beyond, ACPE SIP Certification
  • ACPE Psychotherapist 
    AND one of the following:
  • ACPE Certified Educator OR
  • State-Certified supervisor OR
  • Faculty member at an accredited higher education institution, teaching in a mental health counseling program (or another recognized program)
The Commission also approved the SIP curriculum, which addresses the following content areas in ten 3-hour sessions. Below is a summary of SIP content:

SIP content 
  • Diverse spiritual worldviews and understandings of the human condition 
  • Spiritual assessment and spiritual interventions in a therapeutic context
  • Spiritual and existential struggles of the client 
  • Spiritual resources for the therapist
  • Approaches that support clients’ stabilization, resiliency, and flourishing 
  • Beliefs or practices that may harm therapeutic work or breach therapist ethics
Approval of these two critical items, Institutional Membership and SIP, provides a solid foundation for the ACPE psychotherapy community.

In addition, I have important news and procedures for our ongoing work in continuing education beyond SIP.
Continuing education for ACPE mental health professionals
Continuing Education is required for professional psychotherapists, including ACPE psychotherapists. As therapists, we must demonstrate evidence of ongoing training to state licensing boards and professional organizations such as the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC). Aware of this reality, the Interim Psychotherapy Commission has worked diligently with ACPE staff to ensure that our psychotherapists have access to high quality continuing education programs. Because this was such a crucial topic for ACPE psychotherapists, the IPC formed a subcommittee whose sole purpose was to develop guidelines and procedures for presenting Continuing Education programs and offering Continuing Education credits. The Continuing Education subcommittee is responsible for the oversight and approval of continuing education programs for ACPE psychotherapy professionals. The members of this subcommittee work closely with Ruth McPhail-Ubaldo, our ACPE Membership Engagement and Continuing Education Coordinator.

In an effort to standardize the process of preparing programs and applying for CE units, the Continuing Education subcommittee developed and presented, and the interim Psychotherapy Commission approved the following procedure.

ACPE – Our Sponsor of Psychotherapy Events
  • All our events must be approved for Continuing Education credit. According to NBCC, permission to offer continuing education hours can only be granted through an Approved Continuing Education Provider.
     I am happy to report that ACPE: The Standard for Spiritual Care and Education is now our NBCC Approved Continuing Education Provider.™ This status and provider number were awarded very recently. NBCC requires that ACPE take sole responsibility for sponsored programs, including the awarding of NBCC credit.
  •  In order for an event to be eligible to offer NBCC CE hours through our approved provider status, it must planned and implemented in collaboration with ACPE.
Materials Required for Review
  • In cooperation with members of the Continuing Education subcommittee, those planning continuing education programs with CE hours must submit the online form found on the ACPE website no later than 60 days before an event. 
  • Once the form is submitted, please email to Ruth McPhail-Ubaldo (1) copies of CVs for all presenters, (2) drafts of all marketing materials, (3) program agendas, and (4) a draft of the proposed evaluation. Ruth will forward all materials to the Continuing Education subcommittee of the Psychotherapy Commission for review and approval.

Requesting Approval for Continuing Education

  • All events offering CE credit will charge a minimum of $15 per attendee requesting a certificate. Ruth McPhail-Ubaldo and the Continuing Education subcommittee members will work with program planners to determine additional member and non-member event rates.
  • If materials are submitted for review later than 60 days prior to the event, a “rush fee” of $100 must be submitted.
  • Official CE hours cannot be offered through ACPE for any event whose materials are submitted for review less than 30 days prior to the event.
Continuing Education Co-Sponsorships
  • If a continuing education event is developed independently of the ACPE Continuing Education subcommittee, but the planners seek to award ACPE Continuing Education credit, it is considered to be a co-sponsorship.
  • Planners of co-sponsored events must submit all program materials to the Continuing Education subcommittee of the Psychotherapy Commission four months prior to the date of the event. The fee for co-sponsored events is $325.
A Note about Continuing Education Boards
The majority of future continuing education programs will seek to offer credit hours through the NBCC. While ACPE had also hoped to pursue provider status with the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, staff members learned recently that AAMFT no longer maintains a process through which a program might be approved nationally for MFT license holders. Instead, individual state applications are necessary. Currently, ACPE records indicate that NBCC hours should be accepted by the licensing boards of nearly 75% of our psychotherapist and practitioner members. We will continue to watch these trends to inform decisions about continuing education programs and providers in the future.

Finally, I feel a little like Abram of the book of Genesis, whose name was changed to Abraham as a sign of the covenant with the Lord. I am happy to report that the Interim Psychotherapy Commission has a name change too. We are now a permanent Commission of ACPE and will be known simply as the Psychotherapy Commission. This name change reflects the permanent place of psychotherapists within the ACPE family. Furthermore, based on the results of the recent ACPE election, I will continue to serve our members as the Psychotherapy Commission Chair from January 1, 2020 until December 31, 2021, and Beth Toler will serve as chair-elect. We will be working hard to advocate for ACPE psychotherapists and practitioners within the broader ACPE membership.

I look forward to continuing our good work together for the next two years.