Extract from the Ethical Framework
74. All trainers will have the skills, attitudes and knowledge required to be competent teachers and facilitators of learning for what is being provided.
75. Any information about the teaching, education or learning opportunities being provided will be accurate and enable potential students to make an informed choice.
76. Any selection of students will be fair, respectful and transparent to candidates and use procedures designed to select suitable students.
77. Any assessments of students will be fair, respectful and provide reasoned explanations for the outcome to the students.
78. Care will be taken when using examples of work with clients for teaching purposes that the client information is used with the consent of the person or sufficiently anonymised so that the person concerned cannot be identified by any means reasonably likely to be used.
79. Trainers and educators will model high levels of good practice in their work, particularly with regard to expected levels of competence and professionalism, relationship building, the management of personal boundaries, any dual relationships, conflicts of interest and avoiding exploitation.
80. Trainers and educators will encourage trainees to raise any concerns at the earliest opportunity and have processes and policies for addressing any trainee’s concerns. Trainers and educators are responsible for providing opportunities for trainees to discuss any of their practice-related difficulties without blame or unjustified criticism and, when appropriate, to support trainees in taking positive actions to resolve difficulties.
It’s important that clients should know when they are receiving services from a student in training, but why does this requirement also apply to qualified and registered practitioners attending continuing professional development?
The ethical basis for telling clients when they are receiving services from a trainee is about the integrity of the profession and allowing clients to make informed choices about the services they receive. That's fairly straightforward with people receiving basic training, but for experienced practitioners undertaking CPD it will need to be judged on a case by case basis. They need to determine, probably in consultation with their trainer or supervisor, whether the skills they are learning are so new or different that the client should be told in order to protect the integrity of the relationship. If what is being learned is just an extension of existing skills, or there are sufficient safeguards in place, it may not have any significant impact on the client.
How does the Ethical Framework help us to know who has clinical responsibility in an agency setting?
Practitioners of all levels carry the major responsibility for the clinical work they undertake. The Ethical Framework distinguishes between trainees and experienced or qualified practitioners. Trainees are expected to provide a service that meets fundamental professional standards. To achieve this they'll need to be working in collaboration with their trainers and supervisors, so there's more of a shared clinical responsibility. But as they mature and become qualified, and so are capable of independent practice, they will take the lead responsibility.
Some agencies will also have clinical leads, or equivalent, to support the practitioner but exactly what support is available will vary. What’s important to us as practitioners is that we're satisfied we meet the standards required to offer services to the public, and that we’re engaging with the support mechanisms available through supervision and training to meet those standards.
What are my responsibilities as a trainer for ensuring the competence of students?
A trainee may be supported in their practice by trainers and others, typically supervisors and placement managers, to achieve the required standard. On a basic training leading to qualification as a practitioner, a trainer is responsible (with others) for:
- selection of suitable trainees
- supporting the learning of trainees
- ensuring the type of work allocated to trainees is appropriate to their level of competence
- monitoring a trainee’s work with clients to support their learning and practice while ensuring it is being delivered to the required standard
- alerting trainees promptly if their practice is falling below a reasonable standard of practice and taking action to ensure an adequate level of service is being provided. This will often require consultation and collaboration with others who share responsibility for the trainee’s work.
- withdrawing a trainee from practice where it is not possible to ensure clients are receiving an adequate level of service. Alternative provisions may need to be made for the client by whoever holds the main responsibility for the work with them.
- ensuring that only trainees who have demonstrated their ability to work at the required standard (or at a higher level) are awarded qualifications that would enable them to work with clients independently of the course
These broad principles apply to any training leading to a qualification that includes an assessment of someone’s suitability to practice, even at advanced levels. However, some courses do not involve formal assessment of practice with clients, for example introductory programmes or short CPD courses.
This limits the opportunity for trainers to evaluate someone’s suitability for practice with clients. Nonetheless, a trainer retains sufficient ethical responsibility for their trainee’s clients and for the reputation of the profession to alert trainees who cause concerns about their suitability for practice and to discuss possible ways of addressing those concerns.
What information should I ensure that trainees provide to potential clients?
For clients to make an informed choice about whether or not to take up a service, they should know in advance that they are being offered service from a trainee. They can be told about the additional monitoring and support available to the trainee to ensure the quality of the work. Clients may view this as added value in the service they are being offered.
How should the matter of confidentiality be addressed with trainees and their clients?
The sound management of confidentiality is an important part of competence in the counselling professions. Clients need to be informed about the management of their confidentiality, particularly concerning any widening of the circle of confidentiality to include the learning and assessment of a trainee. Anyone receiving information about a trainee’s work with clients should be bound to the same levels of confidentiality required of practitioners for that work or should only receive client information on a fully anonymised basis with adequate safeguards in place. Clients are legally and ethically entitled to control the communication of their personally sensitive data through giving or withholding their explicit consent.