July's Therapy Today discusses the revised Framework with senior counselling professionals who have been helping us develop new ethical resources.
Lynne Gabriel, Professor of Counselling and Mental Health at York St John University, Director of its counselling and mental health clinic and a past chair of BACP, has been closely involved in the production and roll-out of the Ethical Framework.
She says: "This latest iteration of the Framework recognises that the profession is growing up, and we want our profession to grow up.
"We are professionals and we need to be able to stand up and hold our own as a mature, respected profession, and that requires us to formalise certain things. For me, this is an invitation to elicit our inner adult. We can stand alongside counselling psychologists. We have arrived."
Alistair Ross, Director of Psychodynamic Studies and Psychology at Oxford University’s Department for Continuing Education and former chair of the BACP’s Professional Ethics and Quality Standards Committee chaired the expert reference group which helped shape the 2016 Ethical Framework. He thinks counsellors tend to misunderstand the underlying principle on which the Ethical Framework rests: it doesn’t seek to tell them how to practise, it offers basic principles to guide their own ethical decision-making. But counsellors either seem to regard it as a prescriptive set of rules or they panic when it doesn’t tell them exactly what to do.
"I see it as a positive tool; other members probably see it as a guillotine, wound up and waiting to fall on their necks. The counselling profession can help people but it also can harm them and, because we are aware of that, we turn the Ethical Framework into a trap, waiting to strike."
Faisal Mahmood, Senior Lecturer in Counselling and Psychotherapy at the Newman University in Birmingham, says training curricula should give more time to ethics, including space for students to explore, discuss and ‘own’ the Framework. As part of the ethics training on his course, he asks each new student intake what the Ethical Framework means to them.
"Very often, they come up with phrases like 'We need to be careful', 'Is my practice good enough?', 'This is a standard it will take us many years to achieve'. Then I say, if they were asked to design a set of guidelines and standards for the counselling profession, what would they include? And they come up with much the same content – confidentiality, abuse of power, all those bedrock issues."
You can read more in next month's Therapy Today.