110 – Dual Relationships in Counselling
Working with Visual Impairment – Counselling and the Law
In episode 110 of the Counselling Tutor Podcast, Ken Kelly and Rory Lees-Oakes discuss dual relationships in counselling. In ‘Practice Matters’, Rory looks at working with clients who have visual impairment. Finally, the presenters talk about the importance of understanding laws relevant to counselling, with a particular focus on the Equality Act 2010.
Dual Relationships in Counselling (starts at 1.50 mins)
Various sections of the Ethical Framework for the Counselling Professions, published by the British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy (2018), mention dual relationships. For example, section 33 states:
"We will establish and maintain appropriate professional and personal boundaries in our relationships with clients by ensuring that … any dual or multiple relationships will be avoided where the risks of harm to the client outweigh any benefits to the client." (page 17)
The topic of dual relationships in counselling comes up often in our Facebook group (where you’ll find over 22,000 others involved in counselling and psychotherapy, including students, qualified counsellors, supervisors and tutors).
Dual relationships occur when you know the client in another context outside the counselling room – for example, as an employee or a friend.
While the Ethical Framework gives us the autonomy as practitioners to make informed choices, it is generally considered best to avoid dual relationships.
This is for a number of reasons, for example:
- The client could feel confused.
- It could inhibit a client’s freedom to be fully open in counselling.
- We could inadvertently prejudge the client, based on our existing knowledge of them.
Dual relationships in counselling could also exist if you know someone in common with the client (e.g. a relative of theirs).
Another tricky situation could be if you realise a client is present in a social context outside counselling.
If in doubt, always talk to your supervisor about any possible dual relationships. And if you’re having personal therapy, do check that you and your therapist don’t have the same supervisor!
Working with Visual Impairment (starts at 14.34 mins)
Rory talks about how to work with clients who have a visual impairment. He provides a number of tips based on his own experience of people with visual impairment, and identifies pitfalls to avoid.
It can be easy to feel unsure about how best to work with this client group, and afraid of inadvertently offending – but Rory reassures us that there is no great mystery to this. He also looks specifically at Charles Bonnet Syndrome.
Rory has written a handout on this topic, which you can download here – or through the Handouts Vault and Counselling Study Resource (CSR).
Counselling and the Law (starts at 21.47 mins)
One key law that is of vital importance in counselling – and that relates to the previous topic – is the Equality Act 2010.
This act brought together the nine following different pieces of legislation:
- Equal Pay Act 1970
- Sex Discrimination Act 1975
- Race Relations Act 1976
- Disability Discrimination Act 1995
- Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003
- Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003
- Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006
- Equality Act 2006, Part 2
- Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007.
The Equality Act 2010 means it is against the law to discriminate against someone on the basis of any of nine protected characteristics:
- gender reassignment
- marriage and civil partnership
- pregnancy and maternity
- religion or belief
- sexual orientation.
Another key law that it is important to be aware of as a counsellor is the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
Free Handout Download
Working with Sight-Impaired Clients