Our ‘Fells & Dales’ network of local counsellors met today, 1st July, the first day that the new BACP Ethical Framework for the Counselling Professions comes into effect. We looked at what was new in the revised Ethical Framework, such as the ‘Commitment to clients’ with its clear emphasis on the client as our primary concern; accountability and candour and what they might mean in practice (what might ‘anything that has gone wrong’ mean? Are not perceived ‘mistakes’, disappointments, therapeutic ruptures all grist to the mill?); and the increased responsibilities of supervisors, for example the application of the law, where the weight of responsibility lies, and the requirement to review the Ethical Framework regularly with supervisees.
The chosen paper for discussion today was Chapter 3 ‘Building a Collaborative Therapeutic Relationship’ from ‘Pluralistic Counselling & Psychotherapy’ by Mick Cooper and John McLeod (Sage 2011). We pondered the invitation to be more explicit in our negotiation with clients around the goals, tasks and methods of counselling, as advocated by Cooper and McLeod, but expressed some doubt about how ‘experienced’ in therapy we might reasonably expect our clients to be. They may well not know what they can expect from their therapist, or what might be achievable goals, or what range of tasks/methods might be available. The frequent session-by-session use of the ‘Therapy Personalisation Form’ is also questionable, and assumes that the therapist is able/willing to accommodate the client’s requests, e.g. to set homework, to be more humorous, etc. Some clients might be deeply interested in ‘metacommunication’ about the process of therapy, whilst to others this would be of no concern. It could be the case that some clients would find it more convenient to be talking about the process than actually engaging in it! ‘Collaboration’ with the client’s expressed goals/tasks/methods could, in fact, mean ‘collusion’ with possible avoidance of painful material.
The chapter certainly got us thinking about what we offer to our clients, and how clearly we communicate that, how we might elicit honest feedback (both positive and negative), and how we can share with clients the responsibility for the therapeutic process.