Ethics in counselling

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Health Assured team

03 June 2021

Being a counsellor is a difficult job. Often, you’ll be privy to people’s darkest secrets, their fears, anxieties, and worries. It’s stressful and isn’t for everyone.

Of course, when you’re privy to such confidential information, it’s important to maintain strong ethical principles in counselling and psychotherapy.

At Health Assured, we understand this more than anyone—that’s why our counsellors all adhere strictly to the BACP Ethical Framework for the Counselling Professions.

What are the ethics in counselling?

Health Assured adhere to the BACP’s ethical framework in counselling.  This means we, and all our counselling staff put clients first, work to professional standards, show respect, build appropriate relationships, maintain integrity, and demonstrate accountability. It has three main sections:

  • A commitment to clients provides a summary of working to professional standards and building an ethical relationship
  • Ethics specifies the values, principles and personal moral qualities that inform our work and underpin supervision
  • Good practice considers the application of our commitments to clients and ethics to our practice

We will be looking specifically at ethics. The BACP’s ethics are based on values, principles and personal moral qualities that underpin and inform the interpretation and application the other two sections. The ethical framework outlines the appropriate:

  • Values
  • Principles
  • Personal moral qualities

The actual framework itself is quite long and complicated. You can read it here. This is a detailed explanation of the things we do to maintain ethics, and some good examples of standards and ethics for counselling in action.

Why are ethics important in counselling?

Ethics are important in counseling, as they are a means to protect the welfare of the client and counselors by clearly outlining what is appropriate.

Counsellors and therapists often come across some difficult and sensitive subjects. This leaves the client in a vulnerable position. It’s expected of a counsellor to act ethically, meaning adhering to what’s known as an ethical framework.

They have a duty of care for clients, and by nature of the profession, counsellors are to act in the best interest of their client, promoting client goals, protecting client rights, maximising good and minimizing harm.

Following a code of ethics means acting honestly as a businessperson, as well as a counsellor.

What about ethical concerns in counselling?

There are plenty of ethical concerns and ethical dilemmas in counselling. No two people will have the same set of issues, so counsellors and psychotherapists need to be equipped to deal with literally almost anything that can be thrown at them, emotionally.

This is one of the many reasons why it’s such a stressful and difficult job.

Some of the potential ethical pitfalls that a counsellor can come across—which the ethical framework is designed to help them navigate—include:

Setting and maintaining boundaries

This is probably the most important ethical concern for a counsellor. It’s necessary to avoid developing personal relationships with clients, due to privacy, confidentiality, and a duty of care. This isn’t always possible, and intense emotional connections can develop—from either side—when difficult subjects are discussed.

Counsellors should also avoid working with family, friends, or people they know personally. This includes working with family members of someone they know. These ethical boundaries are in place to allow everyone a fair, unbiased therapy, where they can rely on confidentiality to express their problems freely.

Confidentiality

Another important consideration. Every counsellor is responsible for maintaining the confidentiality of their clients. All personal information, and the disclosures made during sessions, need to be kept not only secret but secure.

There are a few exceptions to this, for instance when a therapist strongly suspects immediate harm to the client or someone around them. But for the most part what is said in the sessions, stays in the sessions.

Impartiality

Clients can come from every walk of life, be in any situation, and belong to any one of myriad religions, cultures, and backgrounds. It’s vital for a counsellor to be able to take people at face value and use the same professionalism regardless of their client.

As well as this, a counsellor is expected to leave their own issues at the door. Personal problems affect us all—but when your job involves dealing with and advising on the issues other people face, your own issues can introduce biases and prejudices. It’s about separating work from home life.

Our commitment to ethical counselling

Health Assured are the only BACP-accredited employment assistance programme provider in the UK. We’re proud of this, and we’re proud of our hard-working counselling team.

We’re committed to upholding the BACP’s ethical framework in counselling. Not only that, but we’re also committed to ethical conduct in every step of every process of our service.

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