Ethics and Morals in Client-Centred Counselling

The ethical framework for good practice in counselling and psychotherapy (British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy) is not only there to protect the counsellor and client, but also to enhance the interaction between the two.  In particular, having an ethical framework creates a transparency that helps create equality between counsellor and client.  This is important in client-centred counselling and is perhaps its unique feature when compared to other forms of counselling that have a hierarchy of the counsellor being the expert and the client the ‘passive patient.’  Examining the BACP ethical framework highlights just how fundamental this equilibrium between counsellor and client is in forming a trusting, therapeutic environment.

The ethics section of the ethical framework is more about the client, while the moral section is more about the counsellor.  The ethics are mandatory, a standard that the client deserves.  On the other hand, morals are more of a process that can be worked on and developed within the counsellor.  In fact, the counsellor will possibly never achieve a pinnacle point in developing morals since growth is an on-going process. Personal morals that counsellors are encouraged to aspire to include:

  • empathy

  • sincerity

  • integrity

  • resilience

  • respect

  • humility

  • competence

  • fairness

  • wisdom

  • courage

Possibly the most challenging of these is resilience.

Resilience is the capacity to work with the client’s concerns without being personally diminished. 

By its very nature client-centred counselling requires the counsellor to give their whole self to the client – to be congruent, unconditional, and empathic.  To offer such congruence and to offer empathy when communicating an understanding of the client’s feelings in many ways opens the counsellor up to being emotionally diminished after a session.  This alone highlights the importance of self-respect, one of the ethical principles discussed within the framework.

Self-respect is the fostering of self-knowledge and self-care. Just as the client deserves the respect of being provided with an ethical framework that protects them, so too is the counsellor deserving of the respect offered by such a framework.  The ethical principles within the framework are a joint entitlement, again placing the client and counsellor on an equal field.  This is where supervision or personal counselling can be invaluable to the counsellor.  In particular, supervision can provide both personal and professional support and development.

Categories: Counselling

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3 replies

  1. Hi Nicola,
    Interesting post. When I worked as a hypnotherapist, we had a code of ethics. This was discussed with the client before any therapy began. We always had to make sure that the client taking on hypnoanalysis in particular had their doctor’s consent. If a client was seen for more than 7 weeks, then they had to go to the doctor again to make sure that they knew that they were going through the analysis. This protects both client and therapist. After 7 weeks also, if the problem needed a few more sessions to complete, these were free. Therefore not taking advantage financially of the client. Also, the therapist kept in touch with a mentor each week, therefore not getting bogged down with the clients problem. If a solution wasn’t reached (though it almost always was) then the client would be passed on to another therapist, maybe of the opposite sex, to help bring the therapy to a conclusion.

  2. wow Dr. Nicola i love what you have written her..I think I will include this link on the daily online mag..this is so true and so nicely written .. thanks for sharing it.

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