There are many changes to the new Ethical Framework for the Counselling Professions, which came into effect on 1st July 2018.

A significant change is the introduction of a separate document which can be given to clients in session. This document is entitled ‘Our Commitment to Clients’ and highlights six key areas which we, as therapeutic practitioners agree to work towards.

I welcome this document as it clearly sets out what clients can reasonably expect from us and what are ethical requirements are.

I am particularly pleased to see how practitioners are being encouraged to be even more honest and transparent. 

Over the years, I have felt rather surprised when I have heard colleagues and therapists whom I supervise saying that they always contract with clients but that nothing is written down or signed. In the new Ethical Framework this issue is addressed explicitly:

“Attention will be given to... providing the client with a record or easy access to a record of what has been agreed” and to “Keeping a record of what has been agreed and of any changes or clarifications when they occur.”

Whilst this of course sets the boundaries and makes it safe for therapy to take place for the client, we must remember that this also protects the therapist and provides a clear resource which can be referred back to if necessary. Having a written agreement works towards combating reducing the risk associated with possible complaints and any ruptures in the therapeutic or supervisory relationship.

I am also pleased to see that practitioners are being encouraged to communicate working methods accurately. Too many times I have heard accounts of clients who became angry because the therapist didn’t tell them what to do, or they didn’t like the way they worked or that, after session four, they didn’t want to come back because they thought counselling was “something else”.

There are many different styles of counselling and it’s important that clients know enough about how therapists work and about the style of counselling being offered, so they have a sufficient understanding of the therapeutic approach. And so they can make an informed choice whether or not that approach is what they’re looking for and feels right for them.

The new Ethical Framework explicitly addresses this issue:

“We will maintain integrity by being honest about the work” and “Communicating our qualifications, experience and working methods accurately”.

By having a record of what has been agreed, including reference to the type of counselling and the working methods offered, the opportunity for confusion and conflict is reduced with both therapist and client having access to a resource that can be referred back to. This is something the new Ethical Framework has highlighted in a very clear and appropriate manner.

Phil Mitchell Dip. Couns, MBACP (Accred)