An experiential day underpinned by the BACP’s ‘Ethical Framework for the Counselling Professions 2018’. Ruth wished this to be an inclusive day and so ethical guidance of other modalities and Associations including UKCP, BPS, the Association for Cognitive Analytic Therapy, NCS and others were welcome during any discussions. The remit of the day was to share experiences, knowledge and questions as we begun the process of creating our own:
‘Guide to making trustworthy, just and respectful ethical decisions’
The BACP’s Framework is ‘based on values, principles and personal moral qualities that inform the interpretation of Our commitment to clients and Good Practice’. It provides us with Values to which we may, of course, add our own and which become more explicit and productive as they inform the Principles. This Code of Ethics is intended to offer a place of reflection, process and safety and we acknowledged the work of all the experienced practitioners who had given a great deal of time and thought to its creation. Ethical decisions are, Ruth reminded us, informed by the legal (the law in all its forms), moral (our personal way of seeing the world and our part in it) and ethical issues (our or clients’ social contexts influenced often by the views of others, including the media). We soon realised that parallel processes are often present as we struggle to do the ‘right thing’ with complex issues. This day was intended to ‘stir us up a little’ and to ‘sharpen our thinking and evaluation skills’.
Within small group work, one looked at values, another at principles and the third personal moral qualities and we learned how much our own beliefs and moral codes help or hinder our professional integrity. Moral qualities of fairness and humility were felt important and travelled well alongside the values of respect, a desire to alleviate the symptoms of personal distress in clients and to do no harm. We need to monitor our values to check whether they remain healthy and appropriate in order to practice safely and to be worthy of the trust placed in us by our clients. It was thought imperative that we have had, and continue to have:
High quality training, CPD, personal therapy and supervision (individual and group/peer). Additional training/supervision if we work in speciality areas such as trauma, abuse, eating disorders, adoption or with the young and/or vulnerable.
We briefly discussed dual relationships, GDPR, accreditation, keeping of notes and the making of therapeutic wills.
At one point, Ruth offered us each a one penny (they had different twentieth century dates on them) and we explored what that particular date meant to the one holding the coin. The responses and memories were wide ranging from the celebratory to bitter/sweet and we reflected upon how such experiences might affect us within our different professional worlds.
Ruth discussed the potential differences between the legal, moral and ethical and, using examples, we looked at ways that were helpful in making sound, ethical decisions. She emphasised that it was about slowing everything down, telling a clear story about the problem, who or what is involved, who is in the background, what influences are there (including our own values or those of others) and what is the ethical issue, who might help or have helpful advice and precisely whose ethical issue is it?
The BACP offers the following: (BACP’s Ethical Framework – Good Practice in Action 044)
Decision Making for ethical practice
Stop, think, identify the situation or problem.
- Construct a description of the situation.
- Consider whose ethical issue or challenge it is?
- Review the situation in term of the BACP’s Ethical Framework’
- Consider principles and values of relevance to the issue.
- Reflect upon the relational processes that have played out in the situation.
- Identify what support is available.
- Identify an ethical goal.
- Consider possible course of action to achieve the ethical goal.
- Implement the chosen course of action.
- Evaluate the outcome.
- Check for personal impact.
Integrity, trustworthiness, flexibility , candour and courage were elements that repeated throughout the day. This was only five hours, and the subject felt huge and is probably a lifetime’s work. This was merely a snapshot which offered the opportunity to stop, reflect and question. Ruth said she was more than aware of the complex and difficult decisions we all sometimes face and hoped that today’s reconnection with and reflection upon Ethical Dilemmas might help create a practical and useful roadmap for us to make our own.
In its conclusion the BACP states: ‘A good understanding of the ethics that underpin our work is a valuable resource which is helpful in making significant decisions. The use of an ethical
problem-solving model and discussion about ethics are essential in good practice’.
Thank you Ruth for a day that certainly stirred our thinking and challenged the grey areas.
Bond T. 2015, ‘Standards and Ethics for Counselling in Action’ 4th Ed. Sage, London
Bond T. & Mitchels B. 2008, ‘Confidentiality & Record Keeping in Counselling and
Psychotherapy’. Sage, London.
Mitchels B. & Bond T. 2010, ‘Essential Law for Counsellors and Psychotherapists’ (BACP 2010)