Learning Journal for Level 3 Counselling Studies
Reflections on Legal Processes within a Counselling Agency
There are a number of ways in which legal processes might impact on an agency counselling service, especially in relation to ethical and procedural frameworks in which an agency operates. In fact, potential legal processes are one of many reasons why ethical frameworks need to be in place within the counselling context. As standards of good practice, ethical frameworks offer protection for the client and the counsellor. The BACP (2013) ethical framework states that counsellors should take into account their responsibilities and their clients’ rights under data protection legislation and any other legal requirements.
The framework also states that they should be aware of and understand any legal requirements concerning their work, ensuring they consider these requirements conscientiously in an effort to be legally accountable for their practice (BACP, 2013). This is where keeping accurate notes can be essential. Indeed, there are instances where a counsellor is required to provide information to client’s solicitors, the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board (CICB), police, or the courts.
Clients themselves might even ask for written records. This raises implications pertaining to confidentiality, especially in instances where the client has not consented to disclosure of their information. This is surprisingly common, with research by Jenkins (2003) showing that most disclosure requests come from solicitors, sometimes with signed consent from the client, but often without. First and foremost, it is the counsellor’s duty to uphold their promise of confidentiality to clients. Exceptions to prioritising confidentiality are if a counsellor has information about a crime or if the needs of the client or public outweigh the duty of confidentiality such as in the case of preventing harm to the client or others (Bond, Brewer, and Mitchels, 2009)
BACP (2013). The Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy. BACP.
Bond, T., Brewer, W., and Mitchels, B. (2009). Breaches in confidentiality. G2 information sheet. BACP.
Jenkins, P. (2003) Disclosure of Case Notes. Counselling and Psychotherapy Journal. June, 2003.