A qualified counsellor has undertaken a structured training programme and developed and practiced skills needed to become a trained counsellor. They are likely to have trained for several years and specialised to a much higher level than someone who uses counselling skills. They will also have undertaken therapy themselves and addressed any issues or emotional blocks that they may have, whereas a person who uses counselling skills may not.
Someone who uses counselling skills will utilise the same key concepts and principles, such as empathy and unconditional positive regard, but is less likely to belong to, and be bound by, a professional body such as the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP).
Examples of other professions which often utilise counselling skills are social workers, housing officers, the emergency services and priests. Workers in these professions should not describe themselves as counsellors as some of the key concepts fundamental to the counselling profession are not the main priority of some of these professions. If such people were to introduce themselves as counsellors their clients may be under the impression that such things as confidentiality will be upheld. For example, the dual roles of the police force may cause conflicts in areas such as confidentiality. Using counselling skills may help the police perform their duties more successfully, however their primary responsibility is to uphold the law.
The Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy
The BACPS’s ethical framework allows conformity to ensure that counsellors work to the same standards, provides protection to both the client and the counsellor by providing a mechanism for client’s complaints and ensures that complaints are dealt with under the “Heads of Complaint” of professional misconduct, professional malpractice and bringing the profession into disrepute. The framework incorporates the values and ethical principles of counselling and the practitioner’s personal moral qualities.
Compare the BACP Framework with other Professional Codes
Many professions have Professional codes which practitioners abide by. The code for Social workers is similar to the BACP ethical framework. The Police’s code is related more to upholding the law and may cause conflict with confidentiality as previously mentioned. A nurse’s values of preserving life may cause conflict when encountering a terminally ill patient who talks of suicide in order to end their pain. The nurse may sympathise but her duty of care will prevent her from agreeing or being able to help or support. A defence lawyer who knows of his client’s guilt shows beneficence in looking after his client’s best interests as he has to forgo his integrity in order to defend his client.
Integrity can be hard in my job when supporting non-computer literate users with their computers. Whilst being very supportive and helpful when with the user I know my colleagues will want details of just how incompetent the user has been. My boss has also instructed me to tell a user that their problem had been self inflicted when I knew that it had not. This presented me with an ethical dilemma and I had to deal with it by helping the user with his problem without the support of my boss.
Ethical standards are important in promoting safe and professional counselling practices so that a professional level of service is delivered. “Professional accountability is also key in ensuring public protection and allows the Profession to move forward enjoying the public confidence in the services provided.” (http://www.bacp.co.uk/prof_conduct). The BACP Ethical Framework provides a Professional Conduct Procedure for dealing with any possible complaints or breaches such as extortion or exploitation.