A rigorous consultation process, aided by technology, informed the rewriting of the Ethical Framework. We discussed and formed new developments through webinars and circulated drafts to all BACP members.

This final version was shaped through a systematic analysis of more than 10,000 itemised responses from members. We also consulted with our divisions, employers and closely-related professional and regulatory bodies, including the Professional Standards Authority, and considered 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.

Next steps

The Board of Governors of BACP approved this Ethical Framework for the Counselling Professions to be implemented from 1st July 2016. We are continuing to produce supplementary guidance and make it available on the website, including:

  • children and young people
  • ethical problem-solving
  • informed consent
  • law concerning contract, equality, diversity and inclusion, and supervision
  • professional standards
  • record keeping
  • safeguarding
  • sexual relationships and behaviour
  • use of social media
  • working online

Ethical Framework review 2017

During the first year of the Ethical Framework for the Counselling Professions, we have systematically gathered questions, issues and comments from our members, employers and clients. We are now looking at all the feedback and using it to shape our review. We want to make sure the new framework continues to provide a secure base for our members’ work with clients, but also gives sufficient flexibility to respond to different client groups and contexts.


BACP Professional Standards wishes to thank the BACP members who continue to support the publication of the Good Practice in Action resources through their participation and voluntary involvement in the governance and reviewing of resources through the Good Practice Steering Group, Working Groups and Focus Groups. Also, our thanks extend to BACP colleagues within the research team who have undertaken the preliminary literature scopes for each topic pathway, and those colleagues, across all departments, who have reviewed and given feedback on resources.

It is not possible on each resource to name individuals, but it is recognised that these publications have been refined, and made fit for purpose, through the many skilled professionals who have given feedback throughout the publication process.