Framework of Ethics

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BACP Ethical Framework for the Counselling Professions – Adopted July 2018

It has three main sections:

Our Commitment to Clients – provides a summary of working to professional standards and building an ethical relationship.

Ethics – specifies the values, principles and personal moral qualities that inform our work and underpin supervision.

Good Practice – considers the application of our commitments to clients and ethics to our practice.

Our Commitment to Clients

Clients need to be able to participate freely as the work with practitioners of the counselling professions towards their desired goals. This requires clients to be able to trust their practitioner with their well-being and sensitive personal information. We take being trustworthy as a serious ethical commitment.

We have agreed that we will:

Put clients first by – making our clients primary concern while we are working with them – providing an appropriate standard of service to our clients.

Work to professional standards by – working within our competence – keeping our skills and knowledge up to date – collaborating with colleagues to improve the quality of what is being offered to clients – ensuring that our well-being is sufficient to sustain our quality of work – keeping accurate and appropriate records.

Show respect by – valuing each client as a unique person – protecting client confidentiality and privacy – agreeing with clients on how we will work together – working in partnership with clients.

Build an appropriate relationship with clients by – communicating clearly what clients have a right to expect from us – communicating any benefits, costs and commitments that client may reasonably expect – respecting the boundaries between our work with clients and what lies outside that work – not exploiting or abusing clients – listening out for how clients experience our working together.

Maintain integrity by – being honest about the work – communicating our qualifications, experience and working methods accurately – working ethically and with careful consideration of how we fulfil our legal obligations.

Demonstrate accountability and candour by – being willing to discuss with clients openly and honestly any known risks involved in the work and how best to work towards our clients desired outcomes by communicating any benefits, costs and commitments that clients may reasonably expect – ensuring that clients are promptly informed about anything that has occurred which places the client at risk of harm or causes harm in our work together, whether or not clients are aware of it and quickly taking action to limit or repair any harm as far as possible – reviewing our work with clients in supervision – monitoring how clients experience our work together and the effects of our work with them.


Our ethics are based on values, principles and personal moral qualities that underpin and inform the interpretation and application of Our Commitments to Clients and Good practice.


Values are a useful way of expressing general, ethical commitments that underpin the purpose and goals of our actions.

Our fundamental values include a commitment to – respecting human rights and dignity – alleviating symptoms of personal distress and suffering – enhancing peoples well-being and capabilities – improving the quality of relationships between people – increasing personal resilience and effectiveness – facilitating a sense of self that is meaningful to the persons concerned within their personal and cultural context – appreciating the variety of human experience and culture – protecting the safety of clients – ensuring the integrity of practitioner/client relationships – enhancing the quality of professional knowledge and its application – striving for the fair and adequate provision of services.

Values inform principles. They become more precisely defined and action-orientated when expressed as a principle.


Principles direct attention to important ethical responsibilities. Our core principles are:

Being trustworthy: honouring the trust placed in the practitioner – Autonomy: respect for the clients rights to be self-governing – Beneficence: a commitment to promoting clients well-being – Non-maleficence: a commitment to avoiding harm to the client – Justice: the fair and impartial treatment of all clients and the provision of adequate services – Self respect: fostering the practitioners self-knowledge, integrity and care for self.

Ethical decisions that are strongly supported by one or more of these principles without any contradiction with the others may be regarded as well-founded.

However practitioners may encounter circumstances in which it is impossible to reconcile all the applicable principles. This may require choosing which principles to prioritise. A decision or course of action does not necessarily become unethical merely because it is controversial or because other practitioners would have reached different conclusions in similar circumstances. A practitioners obligation is to consider all the relevant circumstances with as much care as possible and to be appropriately accountable for decisions made.

Personal Moral Qualities

Personal moral qualities are internalised values that shape how we relate to others and our environment. They represent a moral energy or drive that may operate unconsciously and unexamined. The drive or energy is ethically more beneficial when consciously examined from time to time and used to motivate our ethical development or shape how we work towards a good society.

Personal moral qualities are a contemporary application of virtues from moral philosophy.

The practitioners personal and relational moral qualities are of the utmost importance. Their perceived presence or absence will have a strong influence on how relationships with clients and colleagues develop and whether they are of sufficient quality and resilience to support the work.

High levels of compatibility between personal and professional moral qualities will usually enhance the integrity and resilience of any relationship.

Key personal qualities to which members and registrants are strongly encouraged to aspire include:

Candour: openness with clients about anything that places them at risk of harm or causes actual harm.

Care: benevolent, responsible and competent attentiveness to someone’s needs, well-being and personal agency.

Courage: the capacity to act in spite of known fears, risks and uncertainty.

Diligence: the conscientious deployment of the skills and knowledge needed to achieve a beneficial outcome.

Empathy: the ability to communicate understanding of another person’s experience from that person’s perspective.

Fairness: impartial and principled in decisions and actions concerning others in ways that promote equality of opportunity and maximise the capability of the people concerned.

Humility: the ability to assess accurately and acknowledge one’s own strengths and weaknesses.

Identity: sense of self in relationship to others that forms the basis of responsibility, resilience and motivation.

Integrity: commitment to being moral in dealings with others, including personal straightforwardness, honesty and coherence.

Resilience: the capacity to work with the clients concerns without being personally diminished.

Respect: showing appropriate esteem for people and their understanding of themselves.

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

Wisdom: possession of sound of judgement that informs practice.