The current Ethical Framework for the Counselling Professions 2018 came into effect on 1 July 2018. It followed a comprehensive review of the 2016 version to incorporate member feedback, enquiries and new legislation.

Why are we reviewing the current Ethical Framework? 

The Ethical Framework, which supports our 60,000+ members, was last updated in 2018. Since then, much has happened in the world and in the ways our members work.  

Member feedback and professional analysis have informed us that it would be helpful for our Ethical Framework to be more concise and easier to understand. We want to make it more accessible for all our members.  

We hope that an updated Ethical Framework will help members with their ethical decision–making process and enable them to account against it when things do not go well. We also want to embed equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) at the heart of ethical thinking. 

Professional standards, particularly ethics, is constantly cited by members as the most important member benefit. The Ethical Framework is also held by many outside BACP as the benchmark for ethical practice within the counselling professions. So, it’s important that we ensure that it’s fit for purpose.  

How can members get involved? 

There will be plenty of opportunities for members to be involved. We’ll be developing a full member consultation plan to include:     

  • a membership survey which was sent out in the summer 2023
  • focus groups 
  • webinar (hybrid) consultation days 
  • feedback on the Ethical Framework invited through our dedicated Ethical Framework email address at which closes at 5pm on Tuesday 30 April for the first consultation
  • a feedback button available on all our Good Practice in Action and other Ethical Framework supplementary resources  
  • consultation with accredited courses and services 

We want to ensure that members are aware of the review and what this means to their practice. We also want to be open and transparent about the work of the project and ensure that members have a chance to input and influence the outcomes. 

We’ll be updating this page to include details of the review as they emerge and will be keeping you up to date through regular member communications. Our Making Connections events will also be an opportunity for members to share feedback and ask questions to relevant BACP staff and to learn more about how to get involved. 

How will the Ethical Framework be reviewed? 

The Ethical Framework review will be completed in three phases.  

Phase one is complete and involved scoping out the project with professional experts who looked at the format of our Ethical Framework and compared it with ethical codes and frameworks of other professional organisations.

Phase two is in progress and we’ve recruited a team to support the project including members, staff members and an ethics, EDI and Artificial Intelligence (AI) consultant.  

We've been: 

  • developing a robust consultation plan so that members will be able to contribute fully to the review process
  • recruiting diverse BACP member focus groups (including people with lived experience of EDI issues) to provide feedback throughout all the phases
  • evaluating all feedback from members and the data we’ve gathered on how the Ethical Framework is currently used

Read the information we've collected to inform the Ethical Framework review:  

Feedback data collected to inform the Ethical Framework review (pdf 0.2MB)
Feedback data collected to inform the Ethical Framework review (Word 20KB

In Phase three, we will: 

  • create a first draft of the updated Ethical Framework and share this with members, focus groups and BACP staff as part of a second consultation process
  • consider the impact any changes to the Ethical Framework will have for practitioners, supervisors, trainee counsellors, courses and services
  • ensure that the updated Ethical Framework is available in a range of different, accessible formats, and that there is supplementary guidance available
  • publish the newly updated Ethical Framework

How long will this review take? 

The Ethical Framework review project is expected to take two and a half years before a final version is published.  

We welcome your feedback on the changes, and your suggestions for the next review. Please email our Ethical Framework team at

Ethical Framework FAQs

What is the Ethical Framework

The Ethical Framework is a set of principles and values that provide a solid foundation for safe and ethical practice within the counselling professions. 

All BACP members commit to working to the good practice standards set out in the Ethical Framework and it's our main reference when considering professional conduct complaints. 

The framework is designed to be accessible and easy to understand. It's not a set of rules but is interpretative, giving members the flexibility to respond to the needs of their different client groups and working environments. But they must be able to justify any decisions they make. 

It's also a living framework, which can constantly respond to changes affecting the counselling professions, such as new legislation or research. 

Why is it important? 

The Ethical Framework matters to anyone who works in or with the counselling professions: 

  • it reassures clients that their practitioner will provide a good, ethical service - and they can hold them to account if they don't. A commitment to clients is at the very heart of the Ethical Framework
  • it gives members guidance on professional standards and supports them in working through challenging issues
  • it provides the most up-to-date guidance and support for trainers and students,ensuring practitioners of the future are being trained to the highest standards 
  • it assures commissioners, service providers and employers that services have clear professional ethical standards and practitioners are committed to good practice 

How is it used? 

The Ethical Framework is an essential companion for practitioners throughout their career. It should be integrated into their practice, providing a secure base for practitioners and clients to work together.  

It’s vital when situations and challenges arise where a practitioner is unsure what to do. For example, they may be concerned for the client's safety, or a medical practitioner might ask to see their records of client sessions. The Ethical Framework provides commitments, ethical values, principles and good practice points to help support them through the decision-making process. 

Ethical Framework news