This is a new section. We realised that trainees make considerable use of the Ethical Framework as part of their training courses, and yet we hadn’t really addressed them as a group and their particular needs. So for this version of the Ethical Framework we deliberately researched what are trainees’ needs and we have attempted to address the issues that came up.
One of the first of those issues was what are the ethical expectations of trainees in, when they are working with each other to learn new skills and maybe practising work with each other, and how does that compare with what’s expected of them when they’re working with clients for real, people who are members of the public who are coming to them for counselling or psychotherapy or any of the other related roles. And so the Ethical Framework addresses that, and says what those differences are.
It also addresses a number of specific issues which have cropped up in practice, so how should a, trainees are expected to present case studies or to reflect on their work with real clients as part of their assessment process, so what’s expected of them there in terms of respecting the confidentiality and privacy of that work? What does the new standards of openness and transparency, which is reflected in both the openness required by GDPR and similar data protection requirements, but also candour, what does that mean in terms of how does a trainee construct their relationship with a client? And so trainees on basic training, basic qualifying courses are expected to be open with clients, that they are in fact trainees, or to ensure that clients are aware of their training status, for example, the trainees not the person who recruits the client but someone, an assessor, might have had a preliminary meeting with them, that issue might have been addressed there.
So this is a new section, so this is an area where it would be really helpful to have feedback and to know whether or not it is in fact helping trainees in the ways that we hope.
Q1: What are the main ethical differences between working with fellow trainees and ‘real’ clients who are not members of our course?
The big difference is, that as a trainee you may want to experiment, you may want to try things out in order to learn what it feels like and to assess how you can improve the way you use whatever it is you are learning. So it would be quite acceptable as a trainee, and indeed I’ve done this myself, you’ve tried something and it’s not worked well or actually I got that completely wrong, your freer to make mistakes and learn by experience as a trainee than perhaps you might feel as a practitioner, you at least as a practitioner you would be expected that the service that you offer your clients meets the fundamental professional standards. And so, you would want to feel that you’d got that sort of level of experimentation and finding the standard behind you in your practice with your colleagues on courses rather than practising with clients for the first time.
Does having to declare that we are trainees when working with clients put us at a disadvantage in how we work with them and their attitude to us as practitioners? Why is this a requirement?
Well the requirement is really because of the expectations of openness and being trustworthy with our clients, that it’d be wrong to present ourselves as trainees, to present ourselves as qualified and assessed as a competent practitioner. But I know it is a cause of concern for some trainees and some trainees feel that actually they are already putting themselves at a disadvantage in relation to their clients.
I think my response to that would be that actually there are things you offer as a trainee that you lose as you become an experienced practitioner and these are things that if you have a concerned client you can actually say and make explicit if that’s appropriate to the model you are working in. So actually our first clients absorb more of our attention than when we become slightly more experienced and bleary eyed, in terms of how we understand our clients, they get our full attention.
Also, we are better supported as trainees usually, than we will ever be again in our practice, we have other students who are learning, who may be able to offer other insights, inspiration, exchange ideas with, we have the trainers themselves and we have the supervisors, and very often if we’re on placement in a practice there’s a practice manager or other more experienced colleagues we can consult, and all those resources are available to help us to do the best we can with our clients and the thing I would say is, most practitioners remember their first clients a lot longer than the clients that they see later in their working life.
Q4: What do we do if we notice an incompatibility of contracts as mentioned in Good Practice point 83(d)?
Well this was quite a tricky issue to think through when we were drafting this. We’re not saying that trainees are responsible for resolving these incompatibilities because we recognise that a trainee is relatively powerless compared to say a manager in an agency who may have negotiated or agreed the contract, and also trainees may be inhibited by the fact that they are being accessed in some way. But what we hope a trainee would do, is raise the issue in supervision with the agency, and alert the people who have the responsibility of contracting to try and bring the contracts into greater, more compatibility.