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Ethical Framework for the Counselling Professions

Introduction

We are delighted to present the new Ethical Framework for the Counselling Professions, produced following extensive member consultation. The new Ethical Framework takes us to a new and exciting level in ethical thinking in our profession.

Professor Tim Bond offers a Welcome to the Ethical Framework for the Counselling Professions and explains the changes between the 2016 Framework and the previous Framework.

The new Ethical Framework for the Counselling Professions is available in a number of Accessible formats:

 Ethical Framework PDF - Colour

 Ethical Framework PDF - Black & White

 Statement of Ethical Practice PDF - Colour

Process

At the heart of this revision, there has been a consultation process that has shaped how we approached the rewriting of our new Ethical Framework. New technologies have made a more inclusive and thorough process of consultation possible than ever before. Webinars enabled ideas to be discussed at a formative stage and began to shape how new developments ought to be approached. These were captured in a draft version circulated to all members of our Association.

A systematic analysis of over 10,000 itemised responses from members has shaped this final version of the Ethical Framework. Additional consultations with our divisions, employers, closely-related professional bodies and regulatory bodies including the Professional Standards Authority have also been taken into account. A great deal of thought has also been given to the client expectations of professional ethics.

Changes in the professional and social context

There have been many changes for the counselling professions in the 15 years since the last revision of the Ethical Framework. All professions in health and social care, including the talking therapies, have become more intensively regulated, largely in response to scandals and major service failures in health and social care that have inflicted significant harm. These developments require that all practitioner members of BACP must be registered according to the requirements of the Professional Standards Authority.

The new Ethical Framework takes account of these developments on the basis of careful consideration of what we can learn from issues that have arisen in the talking therapies but also from other related professions. The extensive consultations greatly helped to develop the voice and tone of the Ethical Framework. It involved striking a balance between the more directive and authoritarian voice that is typical of responses to major scandals by many professional and regulatory bodies whilst honouring the values of the counselling professions that favour open-mindedness and are suspicious of excessive directiveness. The aim has been to find a voice that fosters the ethical resourcefulness of practitioners appropriate to listening professions that need to be responsive to diverse client needs and contexts.

Main Changes

Key changes in this version of the Ethical Framework include:

  • Explicitly recognising the roles represented in the divisions of BACP, particularly counselling, psychotherapy, coaching and pastoral care
  • Encompassing these roles within the new title, the Ethical Framework for the Counselling Professions
  • Starting with a short section on the Commitments to our clients that are shared across all our roles within BACP
  • Adjusting the ethics of autonomy and identity to take account of social diversity in the section on Ethics
  • Updating Good practice to endorse the positive contribution of the counselling professions to safeguarding vulnerable people by empowering clients or taking preventative actions; honouring the social diversity of our clients in contemporary society; and considering the ethical challenges of working online and the use of social media
  • Incorporating a new duty of candour in Commitment (6b) and Good practice (item 47)
Next Steps

The Board of Governors of BACP has approved this Ethical Framework for the Counselling Professions to be implemented from 1st July 2016. During the next 12 months supplementary guidance arising from the Ethical Framework will be prepared and made available on the website to include:

  • Children and young people
  • Ethical problem-solving
  • Informed consent
  • Law concerning
    • Contract
    • Equality, diversity and inclusion
    • Supervision
  • Professional standards
  • Record keeping
  • Safeguarding
  • Sexual relationships and behaviour
  • Use of social media
  • Working online
Encompassing these roles within the new title, the Ethical Framework for the Counselling Professions
  • Starting with a short section on the Commitments to our clients that are shared across all our roles within BACP
  • Adjusting the ethics of autonomy and identity to take account of social diversity in the section on Ethics
  • Updating Good practice to endorse the positive contribution of the counselling professions to safeguarding vulnerable people by empowering clients or taking preventative actions; honouring the social diversity of our clients in contemporary society; and considering the ethical challenges of working online and the use of social media
  • Incorporating a new duty of candour in Commitment (6b) and Good practice (section 47).

I hope you will embrace this new Ethical Framework and that it will, alongside the continuously developing suite of Good Practice resources, shape and inform your work for years to come.

 

Dr Andrew Reeves
Chair, British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy

Do you have any thoughts or comments on the new Ethical Framework?
       If so, please let us know at efnew@bacp.co.uk.