123 – Why Is There a Need for Ethical Frameworks in Counselling
Dual Relationships in Counselling Training – When a Client Disagrees with Us
In episode 123 of the Counselling Tutor Podcast, Ken Kelly and Rory Lees-Oakes discuss the need for ethical frameworks in counselling. Our new regular segment, ‘Check-In with CPCAB’, then looks at dual relationships in counselling training. Finally, the presenters discuss what to do when a client disagrees with you.
Why Do We Need Ethical Frameworks in Counselling? (starts at 1.15 mins)
The concept of ethical frameworks derives from the theory of utilitarianism, which promotes actions that maximise wellbeing for the majority of a population.
Philosopher Jeremy Bentham founded this concept, based on the idea of the best action being the one that brings about ‘the greatest happiness of the greatest number’.
Professional bodies in most areas of work have ethical frameworks that they expect their members to abide by; these are sometimes also called ‘codes of practice’.
This is all an inherent part of being a professional – a word based on the concept of ‘professing’ (i.e. making a public declaration of allegiance to a set of beliefs).
In counselling, for example, there are a number of professional bodies, each with its own ethical framework. One example is the BACP’s Ethical Framework for the Counselling Professions.
Ethical frameworks in counselling give us a set of standards to work to, helping to ensure consistency in provision across the profession – and thus also a benchmark for accountability (so supporting the investigation of any complaints from clients).
They are living documents that are updated periodically in light of new research evidence, learning from complaints, and societal changes.
For example, the BACP’s Ethical Framework was updated in 2018. In Counselling Tutor Podcast episode 83, Rory interviewed Professor Tim Bond, consultant to the BACP and author of Standards and Ethics for Counselling in Action (4th edition) (Sage, 2015).
The ethical framework to which we are working is important in clinical supervision; those counsellors who are BACP members are required to revisit this explicitly at least once a year.
It’s also good to draw clients’ attention to its existence, for example referring to it in contracting and even offering them a copy.
Rory has also written a handout on ethical frameworks in counselling and how to work with these. You can download this free of charge here; it is also available through the Handouts Vault and Counselling Study Resource (CSR).
Check-In with CPCAB: Dual Relationships in Counselling Training (starts at 13.30 mins)
Rory speaks to Heather Price (Senior Counselling Professional) at CPCAB (Counselling & Psychotherapy Central Awarding Body) about dual relationships in counselling training.
Heather explains that this situation occurs when two people who already know each other well outside the classroom (e.g. through being relatives or colleagues) attend the same course.
When Rory worked as a course tutor, he always tried hard to prevent dual relationships in counselling training from occurring.
If it does happen, it can create challenges and difficulties for the two people themselves, their peers and the tutor (whose responsibility it is to hold the boundaries for the whole group). This can have implications for professional ethics and confidentiality.
The ideal situation in counselling training is that there is a ‘level playing-field’ for all, with no two people having intimate knowledge of each other’s experiences prior to the course starting.
It can therefore be better if two relatives or colleagues who both want to study counselling either go to different centres or else stagger their studies over time so they are not in the same group together.
For more information, please see CPCAB’s website. CPCAB is the UK’s only awarding body run by counsellors for counsellors.
When a Client Disagrees with Us (starts at 25.00 mins)
This situation could occur for various reasons, such as:
- the client being in denial, i.e. being unable (yet) to accept a situation
- the counsellor having misheard the client
- the counsellor having unconsciously been pulled into their own frame of reference.
Ken and Rory share various tips on what to do when a client disagrees with you:
- Don’t argue back.
- Instead, try to explore their disagreement.
- Be willing to own up to being wrong yourself if that is so.
- Watch the client’s body language carefully, being alert to any mismatches between this and their words.
- Thank the client for having the courage and honesty to point out that they feel you’ve got it wrong.
In short, be curious but gentle, and allow the client their autonomy.