Counselling Ethical Framework for Good Practice

The Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling


The Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling (BACP, 2013) is the ethical code for counsellors, trainers, and supervisors within the counselling field. It is also applicable to counselling research, the use of counselling skills, and the management of counselling services within organisations and agencies. In other words, it has been developed to inform individual members of the BACP, as well as those providing counselling services. The framework provides a common platform for counsellors and other people working within the counselling field, although member associations are also expected to have ethical codes of their own.


Since there are huge disparities in how ethics are approached, the BACP framework has made every effort to reflect this ethical diversity by considering three key ethical domains:


  • Values

  • Principles

  • Personal moral qualities


The importance of adhering to an ethical framework can be highlighted through an exploration of these three domains. Firstly, values ensure that clients feel comfortable and safe to express themselves. The fundamental values of counselling include respecting human rights and dignity, ensuring clients are safe, maintaining a professional counsellor-client relationship, and counsellor commitment to keeping up to date with the discipline via research and continued professional development. Further values include working with clients to alleviate suffering and distress, increasing clients’ personal effectiveness, and appreciating diversity in experience and culture.


Ethical principles place emphasis on ethical responsibilities, with counsellors being accountable for any decisions. Ethical principles include:


  • Fidelity (i.e. being trustworthy) – this is fundamental to understanding and resolving incongruence.

  • Autonomy – this principle emphasises the importance of respecting and developing the client’s ability to be self-directing. 

  • Beneficence – acting in the best interests of the client, based on professional assessment and working within one’s limits of competence.

  • Non-maleficence – the responsibility to mitigate any harm to clients.

  • Justice – consideration of any legal requirements and obligations, and conflicts between legal and ethical obligations.

  • Self-respect – working towards self-awareness and taking care of the self. In other words, counsellors need to apply all of the above principles to themselves as well as their clients.

In terms of personal moral qualities, counsellors are encouraged to towards:


  • Empathy – being able to understand the clients experience from their frame of reference.

  • Sincerity – a personal commitment to consistency between what is done and what is professed. 

  • Integrity – honest and coherent service provision.

  • Resilience – being capable of working with client concerns without being personally diminished.

  • Humility – accurate assessment and acknowledge of one’s own strengths and weaknesses.

  • Competence – effective deployment of the skills and knowledge needed to be an ethical counsellor.


Working within an ethical framework not only protects the client, but also the counsellor. It also enhances the interaction between the two by promoting transparency and thus helping create equality between the client and the counsellor. This is particularly important within person-centred theory, where the counsellor is not portrayed as the ‘expert’ but as someone who works with the client.


The ethics section of the ethical framework explains more about the client, while the moral section is more about the counsellor. Ethics are obligatory standards that clients deserve, while morals are processes that can be worked on and developed among counsellors.




BACP (2013). Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counseling and Psychotherapy.[Last accessed 20/09/2013].


Categories: Counselling, Psychology

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7 replies

  1. I’m not a therapist, I am the client, or patient. I enjoyed this post. All good things to know. I, believe, I have 2 of the best therapist available, so all is well. They’ve got the code of ethics down, I believe. Yes, I said 2. I have a lot of chronic illnesses and chronic pain, so one is for the pain only and the other one (poor lady) gets to deal with me for “everything else.”

  2. I always enjoy hearing about good ethical practice, tlohuis, so thank you for sharing. It is fantastic that you have two who you feel have the framework down – I think this is essential for building a trusting relationship where you can present the real you.

  3. Can you give more points on the values of councelling?

  4. Is it ethical for a husband to continue receiving life counselling from the same marriage counsellor that we both consulted with, if we are now getting divorced ?

    • Absolutely as long as you are no longer seeing that particular therapist yourself, it is still in a professional manner and for the sole purpose of therapy, what would be unethical would be if the therapist agreed to see you as well as your ex-husband separately. Remeber all counsellors agree to or should have in place some form of ethical practice which would include confidentiality and boundaries, so even if you are getting all the balme for the divorce (husband side of the story) then that should never leave the counselling room from the therapist point anyhow.

  5. Very interesting. It would be exceptionally interesting to know how a Rogerian or a Egan therapist enacted their counselling models against the ethics you listed, e.g. beneficence = Uncontitional Positive Regard, etc.


  1. The Personal Relevance of Ethics from a Trainee Counsellor | healthpsychologyconsultancy

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