Extract from the Ethical Framework

7. We will make each client the primary focus of our attention and our work during our sessions together.

8. Any professional or personal interests that conflict with putting a client’s interests first will be carefully considered in consultation with a supervisor, an independent experienced colleague or, when appropriate, discussed with the client affected before services are offered.

9. We will give careful consideration to how we manage situations when protecting clients or others from serious harm or when compliance with the law may require overriding a client’s explicit wishes or breaching their confidentiality – see also 10, 55 and 64.

10. In exceptional circumstances, the need to safeguard our clients or others from serious harm may require us to override our commitment to making our client’s wishes and confidentiality our primary concern. We may need to act in ways that will support any investigations or actions necessary to prevent serious harm to our clients or others. In such circumstances, we will do our best to respect the parts of our client’s wishes or confidences that do not need to be overridden in order to prevent serious harm.

11. We share a responsibility with all other members of our professions for the safety and wellbeing of all clients and their protection from exploitation or unsafe practice. We will take action to prevent harm caused by practitioners to any client – see also 24.

12. We will do everything we can to develop and protect our clients’ trust.


What might get in the way of putting clients first?

Several issues can get in the way, including:

  • Personal agendas - do we select issues to follow up with our clients because of our personal interests, or because it’s what matters most or will be most helpful to them. For example, there may be a conflict between how to work with the client in order to be as efficient and effective in the shortest possible time and the practitioner's need to earn money through greater numbers of sessions.
  • Professional interests - we may have a particular interest, or a certain approach to therapy. If that does not fit the client, we have an ethical challenge about how we adapt the way we work to be responsive to the client and put their interests first.
  • Competing priorities - sometimes the context in which we work makes it challenging to put the client first. For example, agency policies could conflict with what may be best for the client. While we can't ignore agency policy, we need to challenge ourselves about our priorities, so that they enable clients to come first.


What challenges might practitioners need to think about when putting clients first? For example, if they have divided loyalties between a coachee’s employer (who pays) and the client?

The best way of resolving divided loyalties is to try to make sure there is some compatibility between the different expectations. We need to have conversations to ensure people understand the constraints and the purpose of the relationship that we’re working with.

With the client in particular, it is important to be transparent and to share any limitations that may arise so they don’t inadvertently drift into situations which compromise their safety or their wellbeing with other parties, such as their employer.

Sometimes these situations are easy to anticipate, but sometimes they arise suddenly within a session. We should look out for them and try to help the client become aware of the issue, before they commit themselves to something which might have consequences. It’s a matter of thinking through each situation, and trying to get to a point where the interests are mutually compatible, rather than divided loyalties.