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Ethics for Counselling and Psychotherapy

The BACP 2016 Statement, Ethics for Counselling and Psychotherapy, unifies and replaces all the earlier codes for counsellors, trainers and supervisors and is also applicable to counselling research, the use of counselling skills and the management of these services within organisations. It is intended to inform the practice of each member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy.

The term ‘practitioner’ is used generically to refer to anyone with responsibility for the provision of counselling or psychotherapy-related services. Practitioner includes anyone undertaking the role(s) of counsellor, psychotherapist, trainer, educator, supervisor, researcher, provider of counselling skills or manager of any of these services. The term ‘client’ is used as a generic term to refer to the recipient of any of these services. The client may be an individual, couple, family, group, organisation or other specifiable social unit. Alternative names may be substituted for ‘practitioner’ and ‘client’ in the practice setting, according to custom and context.

This BACP Statement indicates an important development in approach to ethics within the Association. One of the characteristics of contemporary society is the coexistence of different approaches to ethics. This statement reflects this ethical diversity by considering:

– Values

– Principles

– Personal Moral Qualities

This selection of ways of expressing ethical commitments does not seek to invalidate other approaches. The presentation of different ways of conceiving ethics alongside each other in this statement is intended to draw attention to the limitations of relying too heavily on any single ethical approach. Ethical principles are well suited to examining the justification for particular decisions and actions. However, reliance on principles alone may detract from the importance of the practitioner’s personal qualities and their ethical significance in the counselling or therapeutic relationship. The provision of culturally sensitive and appropriate services is also a fundamental ethical concern. Cultural factors are often more easily understood and responded to in terms of values. Therefore, professional values are becoming an increasingly significant way of expressing ethical commitment.


Training is essential for any modern profession in order to develop the specialised knowledge and expertise required to undertake the role. In the counselling professions technical knowledge alone is necessary but not sufficient on its own. Training also requires becoming more self-aware and being able to form the types to relationships that support working with clients. Being a trainer or trainee is challenging.

The Ethical Framework is intended to support trainers and trainees alike in achieving the required standards across the range of issues encountered in the counselling professions. In particular: Our commitment to clients provides an overview of key ethical responsibilities that are considered in greater detail in the following sections; Ethics provides language and ideas that have proved useful in considering ethical issues – especially in training and supervision; Good practice provides more detail about the responsibilities of being a practitioner and includes a specific section on Training and Education.

BACP Resources

Please click here to visit the BACP website.

Good Practice resources provide practitioners with valuable supplementary information; the BACP continue to develop these resources, adding materials to support trainers and trainees.

On the BACP website you will be able to view and download useful reference materials such as: Ethical Practice, Professional Conduct and the Ethical Framework; along with introductory videos and frequently asked questions, all valuable resources for trainers or trainees.