The Good Practice section is the section where you can find a lot more detail about how we convert our good intentions into actual practice, and in a sense it’s actually the place where the collective wisdom of our members finds voice because it’s something that’s developed over time and it’s a particularly good place for someone whose starting out as a practitioner to go, to see how it is other practitioners have resolved the challenges of our role and some of the uncertainties and, and avoided some of the potential areas for misunderstandings between clients and their practitioner.
Who should read this section? It is primarily intended for practitioners and they might well be people who are providing counselling, psychotherapy, coaching, using counselling skills and are drawing on therapeutically informed ideas about how to deliver their services, which may come from a whole range of sources but typically a mixture of our own profession’s literature, but also moving into psychology and increasingly new studies of neurology and how the brain works and how that influences our experiences of distress and how to recover from distress.
The other main users of this section might be well be supervisors, trainers, educators and of course trainees, and in terms of the level of commitment that’s communicated in this section, in order to be consistent with our ideas about commitment rather than duties, it’s expressed in the language of, we will, or, we will usually, and where we say we will, then we are saying that this is something we will do. But overall I think the most important thing to take from this, is that it’s a section that has been accumulated over time, drawing on the experiences of practitioners who run before us, in a sense, it’s something where we can stand on the shoulders of the people who went before us.
FAQ 1: This section seems much more detailed about what is expected of practitioners than the Commitments section. Why is this?
It’s because we’ve been able to identify where the different challenges come from and how people have been able to resolve them. It’s always been tricky, certainly as the person who has been leading some of the writing of this section, and quite tricky between getting the balance between the detail, so someone has some clear idea about what it is they might want to do to address that concern, but at the same time leaving it flexible enough to respond to different types of clients, issues, different settings, all the different roles embraced here, so sometimes that means language has to be fairly open, identify the issue, but give some clues as to how people have resolved this practically.
FAQ 2: How can I make best use of this section to improve my practice?
Well what I would recommend when people read this section, is that they look at the headings first and have an overview of the issues that are included within it and think about what is most relevant to the issues that concern, typically the management of confidentiality looms large and that has its own section and, of course, that’s a section that has been updated to take into account GDPR and new data protection requirements as well.
So, and then I would look at other issues, so if you are setting up a service I would strongly recommend you look at issues around contracting and how you manage expectations and think about what systems you need in your service in order to meet your client’s needs. All the sections are compatible with each other, so you can take it in parts, if you think that’s appropriate, or you can work through it section by section. Also, I probably should say, that we do ask that people periodically review this section, in the context of supervision, so again that might be a way you can think about a set of issues that relate to your work or you think your clients might be particularly interested in.
FAQ 3: What should I do if I can see a better way of meeting my clients’ needs and being ethical than what is suggested here?
That’s a good question and because it’s a living document it’s quite possible that there may be new developments in the lifetime of the document, that something could be improved. But clearly, because we’re building on the experience for the people, we need to take that experience seriously, so proceed cautiously, would be my advice. Test out your ideas, identify what the concern is that you are addressing and why what you would be suggesting, would be better or more appropriate for your client. Test that out in supervision, test it out discussing it with colleagues, maybe raising it with the profession through articles, seminars, possibly a Making Connections type of event, to get other people’s views and if it’s still looking like this is a good thing to do make sure that BACP knows, so we get it into the next version of the Ethical Framework and we can capture it. Also, think about what it means for your clients and their expectations of you, and whether you need to communicate it to your clients. What you want to avoid is somehow seeming to be outside the Framework and therefore leading to the potential for a complaint or difficulties with clients.
It’s the nature of ethics, they’re living, they adapt to new circumstances, new ideas, they’re not something that are, should be stuck at any particular point in time, so it’s good to have good ideas, to see new needs, to find new ways of addressing an ethical issue, but we do need to proceed with caution in order to ensure that what we are doing is better than what was there before.