Professional Ethics and Ethical Practice In Counselling

The aim of this assignment is to show what ethical practice is in counselling and how carrying out ethical practices make a more effective and competent counsellor. The first part explains what is meant by ethical practice. The second part will examine boundaries implemented by counsellors to protect both parties. The second part focuses on the skill of listening along with other non – specific factors in order to be an effective counsellor.

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Next part defines a competent counsellor and the problems which occur when this is absent.

The final part examines the ethical issue of advice and explains the implications of giving advice. Working in a counselling role whether it is voluntary or professional it is important you adhere to the ethics set out. There is a unified ethical code set out by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP). The ethical framework in which counsellor’s ensure they carry out their roles appropriately along with the understanding that they be held accountable with regards to client wellbeing and safety.

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The BACP is not designed to hinder the counsellor but work alongside their values, morals and principles to protect clients in terms of expectation, rights and quality of care. General ethical commitments are expressed through their principles. These are fidelity; autonomy; beneficence; non-maleficence; justice and self-respect.

Personal qualities of a counsellor are important and interlink with values and principles of the counsellor, these consist of empathy; sincerity; integrity; respect; resilience; competence; wisdom; humility and courage. The use of their skills, competencies and qualities combined with their principles should make an effective counsellor. (Langridge, 2008) (BACP, 2013) Boundaries could be defined as a framework in which the client and counsellor work together. It acts as a safety net to ensure that the client does not come to any harm. This works alongside the ethical practice of non-maleficence. The counsellor makes clear their expectations / limitations so it’s visible to the client and also helps avoid malpractice. These boundaries also help ensure the client / counsellor is kept safe. An example of these metaphorical boundaries would be a verbal agreement as it sets out the key features and identifies what needs to be done to avoid misunderstandings. (Langridge,2008). The qualities needed from the counsellor to implement this would be sincerity and integrity. The sincerity to be consistent by doing what you said you were going to do. Integrity here can be seen as moral, straightforward and honest in stating your limitations and drawing up an agreement (BACP 2013). These boundaries are set out in a way to suit each counsellor some are fixed and some more flexible, some may argue that this can be damaging to the relationship if they are over or under boundaried (mcleod, p.229)

An example of boundaries is shown in the DVD (OU, 2008, section 4) where Helen (counsellor) is talking to James she clearly sets out boundaries stating she was not qualified but could help in a listening capacity (a skill which is very important) and also that the conversation was confidential this ensured the clients well-being and also covered the counsellor from any ethical backlash i.e malpractice. Jamie understood this and continued the conversation. Counsellors use non-specific factors when engaging with clients. A vital skill involves actively listening, this requires the counsellor to absorb all information given to them by the client without pre judgement or imposing own ideas (this can be seen in emotional and mental safety). This demonstrates to client that you think they are very important and you care (Langridge, 2008). it is also important to pay attention to the non-verbal cues as well such as body language, eye contact (although can make client feel uncomfortable) and head movement. (Langridge, 2008). It can also be said it is very important in the therapeutic relationship to pay attention to what is not being said also. Rennie (1994b, citied by McLeod) found that if the client felt misunderstood they would conceal their feelings. Some may talk openly about the important thing whilst covering up what is really happening. Therefore the counsellor needs to gain as much access as possible into ‘hidden material’. The ethical way to do this would be to examine notes that look at inner experiences as well as what was said. Both experiences of the client and counsellor can be examined. This can be useful in training and well as looking at own techniques and re-examining them when fully qualified. P252.

Also using open questions could draw out fuller responses from client and enable the counsellor to access more information into the complex issue surrounding client. Interpersonal skills needed by the counsellor are listening, empathy, awareness, communication and responsiveness. This will enable a good therapeutic relationship to form which is key to ensuring goals are met on both parts. Bordin’s Therapeutic alliance model (1979, cited by McLeod) highlights the notion of these competencies along with the ability to use specific techniques in an appropriate manner. Empathy is an important quality identified as an ethical component and should be adhered to in order to become an effective counsellor. In the DVD (ou, section 1, 2008) there is clear evidence of the counsellor actively listening to client. She uses basic counselling skills such as clarification to check her understanding of the problem (awareness) and see the problem through the client’s world (empathy). She also uses open questions to identify the areas in which the client can reflect and understand her own problem (responsiveness & communication) and in turn she has empowered the client by not imposing judgement but by demonstrating that the most important skill a counsellor has is listening to the client. In contrast in DVD (OU, 2008, section 5 clip 1) we see the counsellor not listening to what the client said and made the client feel unimportant. In turn this heightened their anxiety and left them no further forward to finding a solution. This demonstrates lack of empathy and justice on the counsellor’s part which are highlighted by the BACP to ensure clients well-being.

The ethical quality of competence works alongside what BACP determine Beneficence, to work within own competence using research and reflection to inform practice. This entails the willingness to pursue knowledge and understanding in order to develop skills further but also have a good set of skills to do the job already. To highlight what incompetence can do DVD (OU, 2008, section 5clip3) shows counsellor is out of her depth and could not give client a straight answer or any kind of guidance. Although ethically restrained to give advice the counsellor should have guided client through their feeling using basic counselling skills. However client left upset, confused and blaming herself for the issues she had. Personal qualities are lacking in order to make the counsellor effective. A counsellor is ethically bound not to give advice necessarily to the client but more to use the skills of encouragement and support to guide the client to find their own solutions to their problems and for the client to become self-determining. Should the counsellor simply give advice on issues with the client they may simply be pressing upon the client their own views and beliefs rather than following the ethical framework that effective counsellors adhere to. (Landridge,2008). Sometimes the client expects the counsellor to tell them the answers to their problems and is disappointed when the counsellor is unable to do so.

However the counsellor needs to use qualities such as resilience, competence and wisdom in order to work with the client in these situations. (McLeod, 2008 p.259). In contrast to the ethical principle of advice the DVD (OU, 2008, section 5 clip 2) where the counsellor is trying to solve practical problems of the client (the light bulb) instead of addressing emotional issues to do with her mother. She should not have been trying to give advice as this is unethical but instead allow her client to reach her own solution and explore her feelings toward her mother deeper. The support here was clearly not given. Instead the counsellor should have used her skills of listening, open questions and paraphrasing to guide client toward exploring her feelings. Competence and wisdom were clearly lacking making a very ineffective counsellor and potentially damaging the relationship. To surmise the ethical framework ensures the client and the counsellor are protected. Counselling skills are essential in order for any counselling relationship. Use of basic skills should enable the counsellor to be more effective in succeeding. However this assignment has highlighted what happens when basic skills are lacking. Possession of counselling qualities as mentioned at the start should enable client to strike up a good relationship with the counsellor. This is crucial in order for counselling to be successful. Therefore the skills, competencies and qualities combined should make counselling more successful for the client and the counsellor more effective.

Comunication And Ethics in Counseling

Part A

What is ethical practice in counseling? How is this reflected in the skills, competencies and qualities of an effective counselor?

Ethical practice within counselling is practice that adheres to a strict set of guidelines created for the purpose of ensuring patient and client safety as well as maximizing the overall outcome of the therapy sessions.

These guidelines are essential whether the counselling taking place is under a professional derestriction or between friends and acquaintances.

This essay aims to outline the importance of these ethical guidelines and the boundaries they create. It will also take a look at the skills and practices that counsellor’s use and develop to maintain theses boundaries safely and fairly.

The ethical framework s aim and purpose is to shape the practice of counselling into a safe, monitored and effective treatment. Due to the trust in place between client and practitioner, as well as the vulnerability of those seeking therapy, extra care has to be taken to protect their mental and physically well-being. The framework is also used to help with the clients understand of the treatment involved and allow the counselor to discuss session times and costs with ease.

‘Ownership and responsibility to practice ethically is an individual process’ British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (2013). Meaning that, although the ethical framework is essential to all counselling and therapy, the practices and skills used by the professionals within these sessions are put in place and used at their own discretion depending on the individual clients needs.

The first part of this essay will focus on some of the main points within the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy’s ethical framework and how they are maintained using particular practices and qualities.

Boundaries

One of the main ways that ethical counseling can be maintained is through the correct use of client counsellor boundaries. This practice can be relevant in professional and friendly counselling sessions. It is very important that the counsellor makes clear the boundaries between themselves and their client and also exactly what they entail. This can be session times and costs as well as their aims for the healing experience. This is essential to avoid confusion and upset later on in therapy. McLeod, J (2008) These boundaries are generally discussed and outlined during the first counseling session, although they may need to be discussed and adjusted at a later date. It is important to note that these boundaries are and can be different for every client. For example some may benefit from having the additional support of knowing they can contact their therapist outside of counselling sessions, whereas in some situations this may promote the individual in becoming far too reliant on the therapist and therefore prohibit them from making positive steps.

Another important boundary to made clear is that of what is being offered. This could be especially important when the counseling is happening between friends and nothing more than a listening ear is being offered. It is therefore necessary and common for a verbal agreement to take place to protect those concerned and to form a base for a trusting relationship to begin. McLeod, J (2008) Throughout time these boundaries will be pushed and stretched as the client relies and connects more with their therapist. It is therefore important that the therapist is not only kind and reassuring, but is self aware at both a personal and professional level as they will be required to recognise when boundaries are being overstepped and ensure that relationships do not occur or change because of personal interests.

In line with boundaries, at the end of each session a counsellor may request a statement of clarification from the client. This as well as summarizing can help confirm the end of session boundary and also ensure the client that the counsellor is trying to understand the situation as best they can.

Being Trustworthy/Confidentiality

As with boundaries, being trustworthy and therefore confidentiality is essential to create and maintain the client counsellor relationship regardless of whether it is occurring professionally or as friends.

Without the trust associated with confidentiality, successful therapy cannot occur, as a client will not talk freely about personal issues without that reassurance.

According to the framework laid out by British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (2013), all information shared in a counselling situation, should be kept strictly confidential at all times, except when the counsellor has evidence to make them believe that the clients or someone else’s safety is at risk. The acting therapist must however discuss the information with the individual to try and solve the issue without breaking trust. The sharing of information is therefore a last call motive to prevent harm when all other attempts at reason have been unsuccessful. It is important to note that the client/patient must be informed beforehand that their information is being/will be disclosed to the relevant persons.

Confidentiality is essential for creating integrity between the client and counsellor and in order for trust to develop at its maximum potential, it is important that the counsellor appears to be trust worthy and treats the client with the upmost respect. One way that a counsellor might encourage their patient to trust in them and feel at ease is through the common verbal communication called paraphrasing. Paraphrasing is a method used commonly amongst therapists that require the counsellor to briefly repeat the clients issue to get confirmation, reaffirm trust and also to allow the therapist to confirm tot the client that they are listening and trying to understand completely.

Advice

To maximize the results from therapy, counsellors are deterred from giving their clients advice. The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (2013) framework states that it is rarely appropriate or advisable as a counsellor to give advice during therapeutic sessions and that it is much more advisable to encourage patients to develop their own advise or plans. This links in with another ethical principle within counselling that states that the clients should be encouraged to develop and use their own initiative and instincts. By encouraging this behavior, over time, the counsellor will find that the client’s confidence and rationality will rise.

Counsellors may use a variety of verbal and non-verbal communication skills to help their client/patient build upon their initiative and progress with their treatment.

One way that a therapist might encourage their patient to create their own advice and come to their own confusion is through the asking of open questions. Although it is important to remember that questions should be kept to a minimum throughout sessions, open questions may be necessary to nudge a client into exploring worries and certain activities further. McLeod, J (2008).

To be successful with asking the correct open questions, the counsellor would have to be very strong willed and honest to prevent them from asking questions to satisfy their own personal curiosity.

Non-maleficence/ Emotional and Mental Safety

All of the ethical guides mentioned combined ensure the safety of the client and counsellor whilst maintaining their dignity. Client safety is paramount and it is essential that the client feel they can full express their emotional needs and feelings without fear of judgment, betrayal or ridicule. Two practices have been mentioned that can help build the relationship and trust between the client and counsellor. It is important during counselling sessions that the counsellor has some kind of input, whether verbal (Paraphrasing) or non-verbal aspects of listening such as eye contact or head movements. However, counsellors must take great care to adapt these practices and skills to suit each clients individuality as every person’s needs are different, for example a blind client would require more verbal s acknowledgements, whereas some people avoid direct eye contact. Therefore the counsellor should act with and encourage sincerity.

To see how important all of these ethical principles and practices are it is necessary to view the detrimental effect that bad unethical counselling may have on an individual. From the D171 Developing Counselling Skills DVD it is obvious to see the harm that the counsellors bad practice is having. From showing a lack of empathy, interest and sincerity, the counsellor is destroying patients’ confidence and self-esteem whilst abusing all trust. The effect on the patient is immediate and shows how even just the common courtesy of acknowledgement or reassurance can really make a difference to the mental stability of someone struggling. D171 Developing Counselling DVD (2008)

In conclusion, by being aware of the negative impact that counselling can so easily have upon a patient through negligence, it is necessary for ethics to be reflected and maintained within procedure to allow the effective treatment and practice of therapy. It is also important that counsellors skills and qualities reflect these ethics and are used in according with the guides to maximize the treatment standards.

References

  1. British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (2013). Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy, http://www.bacp.co.uk/admin/structure/files/pdf/9479_ethical%20framework%20jan2013.pdf (Accessed 14/01/14).
  2. McLeod, J (2008) Introduction to Counselling [Ed. D. Langdridge], Maidenhead/Milton Keynes, Open University Press/The Open University
  3. The Open University (2008) D171 Developing Counselling Skills DVD, Milton
    Keynes, The Open University.

Part B

Briefly set out how your own ethical beliefs, behaviours and values have developed and why they are important.

I think my behavior towards boundaries may have changed. It had never occurred to me how important boundaries are within counselling and psychotherapy and realistically I often find myself being ‘friends’ with people who have sought my help, when I may not have necessarily wanted to.

I will definitely aim to make my boundaries more clear in the future to minimize the risk of mixed signals. I think this is definitely important, as it is unfair to allow someone to believe they have closeness with an individual when they may in fact not. It is difficult however to maintain that distance when comforting someone who is clearly distressed and upset and in need of affection and comfort.

Self Evaluation

  1. I definitely feel like I got to grips with the use of some of the counsellors practices, ie paraphrasing and open questions and I feel I can easily recognise when these are being used and when it would be suitable to use them.
  2. I very much struggled with the main textbook. I am an avid reader and although I am used to reading very complex material, I found that the way the textbook was written did not agree with me in the slightest. I found it very difficult to absorb and extract the content and found that it made me enjoy this module much less than I thought I would.

Examples of Professional Ethics and Ethical Practice In Counselling

The aim of this assignment is to show what ethical practice is in counselling and how carrying out ethical practices make a more effective and competent counsellor. The first part explains what is meant by ethical practice. The second part will examine boundaries implemented by counsellors to protect both parties. The second part focuses on the skill of listening along with other non – specific factors in order to be an effective counsellor. Next part defines a competent counsellor and the problems which occur when this is absent. The final part examines the ethical issue of advice and explains the implications of giving advice. Working in a counselling role whether it is voluntary or professional it is important you adhere to the ethics set out. There is a unified ethical code set out by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP). The ethical framework in which counsellor’s ensure they carry out their roles appropriately along with the understanding that they be held accountable with regards to client wellbeing and safety. The BACP is not designed to hinder the counsellor but work alongside their values, morals and principles to protect clients in terms of expectation, rights and quality of care. General ethical commitments are expressed through their principles. These are fidelity; autonomy; beneficence; non-maleficence; justice and self-respect.

Personal qualities of a counsellor are important and interlink with values and principles of the counsellor, these consist of empathy; sincerity; integrity; respect; resilience; competence; wisdom; humility and courage. The use of their skills, competencies and qualities combined with their principles should make an effective counsellor. (Langridge, 2008) (BACP, 2013) Boundaries could be defined as a framework in which the client and counsellor work together. It acts as a safety net to ensure that the client does not come to any harm. This works alongside the ethical practice of non-maleficence. The counsellor makes clear their expectations / limitations so it’s visible to the client and also helps avoid malpractice. These boundaries also help ensure the client / counsellor is kept safe. An example of these metaphorical boundaries would be a verbal agreement as it sets out the key features and identifies what needs to be done to avoid misunderstandings. (Langridge,2008). The qualities needed from the counsellor to implement this would be sincerity and integrity. The sincerity to be consistent by doing what you said you were going to do. Integrity here can be seen as moral, straightforward and honest in stating your limitations and drawing up an agreement (BACP 2013). These boundaries are set out in a way to suit each counsellor some are fixed and some more flexible, some may argue that this can be damaging to the relationship if they are over or under boundaried (mcleod, p.229)

An example of boundaries is shown in the DVD (OU, 2008, section 4) where Helen (counsellor) is talking to James she clearly sets out boundaries stating she was not qualified but could help in a listening capacity (a skill which is very important) and also that the conversation was confidential this ensured the clients well-being and also covered the counsellor from any ethical backlash i.e malpractice. Jamie understood this and continued the conversation. Counsellors use non-specific factors when engaging with clients. A vital skill involves actively listening, this requires the counsellor to absorb all information given to them by the client without pre judgement or imposing own ideas (this can be seen in emotional and mental safety). This demonstrates to client that you think they are very important and you care (Langridge, 2008). it is also important to pay attention to the non-verbal cues as well such as body language, eye contact (although can make client feel uncomfortable) and head movement. (Langridge, 2008). It can also be said it is very important in the therapeutic relationship to pay attention to what is not being said also. Rennie (1994b, citied by McLeod) found that if the client felt misunderstood they would conceal their feelings. Some may talk openly about the important thing whilst covering up what is really happening. Therefore the counsellor needs to gain as much access as possible into ‘hidden material’. The ethical way to do this would be to examine notes that look at inner experiences as well as what was said. Both experiences of the client and counsellor can be examined. This can be useful in training and well as looking at own techniques and re-examining them when fully qualified. P252.

Also using open questions could draw out fuller responses from client and enable the counsellor to access more information into the complex issue surrounding client. Interpersonal skills needed by the counsellor are listening, empathy, awareness, communication and responsiveness. This will enable a good therapeutic relationship to form which is key to ensuring goals are met on both parts. Bordin’s Therapeutic alliance model (1979, cited by McLeod) highlights the notion of these competencies along with the ability to use specific techniques in an appropriate manner. Empathy is an important quality identified as an ethical component and should be adhered to in order to become an effective counsellor. In the DVD (ou, section 1, 2008) there is clear evidence of the counsellor actively listening to client. She uses basic counselling skills such as clarification to check her understanding of the problem (awareness) and see the problem through the client’s world (empathy). She also uses open questions to identify the areas in which the client can reflect and understand her own problem (responsiveness & communication) and in turn she has empowered the client by not imposing judgement but by demonstrating that the most important skill a counsellor has is listening to the client. In contrast in DVD (OU, 2008, section 5 clip 1) we see the counsellor not listening to what the client said and made the client feel unimportant. In turn this heightened their anxiety and left them no further forward to finding a solution. This demonstrates lack of empathy and justice on the counsellor’s part which are highlighted by the BACP to ensure clients well-being.

The ethical quality of competence works alongside what BACP determine Beneficence, to work within own competence using research and reflection to inform practice. This entails the willingness to pursue knowledge and understanding in order to develop skills further but also have a good set of skills to do the job already. To highlight what incompetence can do DVD (OU, 2008, section 5clip3) shows counsellor is out of her depth and could not give client a straight answer or any kind of guidance. Although ethically restrained to give advice the counsellor should have guided client through their feeling using basic counselling skills. However client left upset, confused and blaming herself for the issues she had. Personal qualities are lacking in order to make the counsellor effective. A counsellor is ethically bound not to give advice necessarily to the client but more to use the skills of encouragement and support to guide the client to find their own solutions to their problems and for the client to become self-determining. Should the counsellor simply give advice on issues with the client they may simply be pressing upon the client their own views and beliefs rather than following the ethical framework that effective counsellors adhere to. (Landridge,2008). Sometimes the client expects the counsellor to tell them the answers to their problems and is disappointed when the counsellor is unable to do so.

However the counsellor needs to use qualities such as resilience, competence and wisdom in order to work with the client in these situations. (McLeod, 2008 p.259). In contrast to the ethical principle of advice the DVD (OU, 2008, section 5 clip 2) where the counsellor is trying to solve practical problems of the client (the light bulb) instead of addressing emotional issues to do with her mother. She should not have been trying to give advice as this is unethical but instead allow her client to reach her own solution and explore her feelings toward her mother deeper. The support here was clearly not given. Instead the counsellor should have used her skills of listening, open questions and paraphrasing to guide client toward exploring her feelings. Competence and wisdom were clearly lacking making a very ineffective counsellor and potentially damaging the relationship. To surmise the ethical framework ensures the client and the counsellor are protected. Counselling skills are essential in order for any counselling relationship. Use of basic skills should enable the counsellor to be more effective in succeeding. However this assignment has highlighted what happens when basic skills are lacking. Possession of counselling qualities as mentioned at the start should enable client to strike up a good relationship with the counsellor. This is crucial in order for counselling to be successful. Therefore the skills, competencies and qualities combined should make counselling more successful for the client and the counsellor more effective.

Cite this page

Professional Ethics and Ethical Practice In Counselling. (2016, Mar 04). Retrieved from http://studymoose.com/professional-ethics-and-ethical-practice-in-counselling-essay

Professional Ethics and Ethical Practice In Counselling

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