CPD stands for Continuing Professional Development. It is the process in which you take responsibility for your own learning and development and apply it to extend and enhance your skills and, in the case of therapists, improve the service given to clients and contribute to the development of the profession. The term CPD is used to cover all relevant activities undertaken to maintain and develop existing knowledge and skills following the completion of your professional practitioners’ qualification.
Many professional bodies operate a "point scheme". To maintain your membership to the professional body you are usually required to achieve a minimum number of CPD points each year. These points can be accumulated in many ways including taking appropriate training courses, attending conferences, reflective study etc.
Most professional bodies approve courses provided by experienced training providers, recommend them to their members, and award a number of CPD points on their successful completion. Courses approved by professional bodies, such as the Federation of Holistic Therapists (FHT) and the Association of Reflexologists (AOR), have undergone a rigorous review to receive approval and this is undoubtedly a hallmark of quality. A course approved by one professional body will usually have some CPD value to another professional body too as long as the subject is appropriate.
However, do not get CPD courses approved by professional bodies confused with courses accredited by awarding organisations...
Government approved awarding organisations (such at the VTCT) run nationally recognised qualifications from the Regulated Qualification Framework (RQF) that are listed on the Register of Regulated Qualifications (RRQ). Accredited qualifications on the RQF issued by awarding organisations are nationally recognised and so will guarantee to open doors for you for future study. This is the route you should take if you are beginning your career and looking to qualify as a professional therapist.
More information about nationally recognised qualifications can be found here.
Courses approved by professional bodies are likely only to be taken as approved prior learning, not accredited prior learning. They are ideal for continuing professional development (CPD) and many training establishments and insurance companies will recognise them and offer them some credit and recognition but this can not be guaranteed.
So, in summary, if you are qualified and looking to enhance your skills, CPD courses are great. If you are new and looking to attain a nationally recognised qualifications then you should take a course run by a government approved awarding organisation.