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Guidance on good practice in counselling and psychotherapy

The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy is committed to sustaining and advancing good practice. This guidance on the essential elements of good practice has been written to take into account the changing circumstances in which counselling and psychotherapy are now being delivered, in particular:

  • changes in the range of issues and levels of need presented by clients
  • the growth in levels of expertise available from practitioners with the expansion in the availability of training and consultative support/supervision
  • the accumulated experience of this Association over nearly three decades

The diversity of settings within which counselling and psychotherapy services are delivered has also been carefully considered. These services may be provided by the independent practitioner working alone, one or more practitioners working to provide a service within an agency or large organisation, specialists working in multidisciplinary teams, and by specialist teams of counsellors and psychotherapists. Most work is undertaken face to face but there are also a growing number of telephone and online services. Some practitioners are moving between these different settings and modes of delivery during the course of their work and are therefore required to consider what constitutes good practice in different settings. All practitioners encounter the challenge of responding to the diversity of their clients and finding ways of working effectively with them. This statement therefore responds to the complexity of delivering counselling and psychotherapy services in contemporary society by directing attention to essential issues that practitioners ought to consider and resolve in the specific circumstances of their work.

The term ‘practitioner’ is used generically to refer to anyone with responsibility for the provision of counselling- or psychotherapy-related services. ‘Practitioner’ includes anyone undertaking the role(s) of counsellor, psychotherapist, trainer, educator, supervisor, researcher, provider of counselling skills or manager of any of these services. The term ‘client’ is used as a generic term to refer to the recipient of any of these services. The client may be an individual, couple, family, group, organisation or other specifiable social unit. Alternative names may be substituted for ‘practitioner’ and ‘client’ in the practice setting as the terminology varies according to custom and context.