My understanding of professionalism is having the discipline to be aware of and work to a set of values made up of legal statutes, of professional body frameworks and guidelines and of employer policies, frameworks and guidelines, which together detail expected conduct. Those statutes, policies, frameworks and guidelines should be used to identify roles and responsibilities which in turn define boundaries. The British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), of which I am a student member, is the largest professional body in the UK for counselling and psychotherapy and lays down what standards of conduct counsellors, service users and the public expect at a national level.
If a counsellor or therapist is a member of a professional body, he or she will be bound by a code of professional ethics framework or in the case of the BACP, the ethical frameworkit recognises that choices are often not clear-cut, and that sometimes difficult decisions need to be made that, even when taken in good faith, may have unpredictable and unwanted outcomes (Merry, 2002:11)
Professionalism and ethics both relate to proper conduct. I view the ethical framework as a list of qualities for how the counsellor should be and a list of behaviours for what the counsellor should do and not do. Examples of the desired attitudes include possessing empathy, sincerity, integrity, resilience, respect, humility, competence, fairness, wisdom and courage. Examples of the desired behaviours include fidelity, autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence, justice and self-respect.
The BACP produced the ethical framework to protect both the client and counsellor through good practice in counselling and psychotherapy. It sets out a series of professional and personal values, underlying principles and moral qualities which reflect my attributes as a trainee counsellor in order to promote a safe and professional environment, one where I could enable clients to allow trust to develop within our relationship. I abide by the BACP guidance on good practice which is concerned with client safety, counsellor responsibility and accountability, clear contracting and my competence as a trainee counsellor. It provides information for what counsellors are expected to do and sanctions for consequences of malpractice.
I have chosen a hypothetical ethical dilemma, albeit a realistic one, relevant to my chosen placement at The Truce YMCA in Lancaster.
A female client presents with news of her parents having separated two weeks previously. She lives with her mum who is of alcohol and who is not coping with the day to day duties of looking after the clients nine , who is now mostly in the clients care. No other meals are being provided other than school dinners and no money is being allocated to them for food. Last night the clients mum pushed the client against the wall and the client has a head injury. The client asks me not to tell anyone.
The ethical dilemma here is that my client has disclosed a Child Protection issue and asked me to maintain the confidentiality aspect of the contract. There are several implications, professionally I must breach confidentiality as there would be no way that I could hold that information, my integrity would be conflicted. I would have a professional obligation that would be impossible for me to ignore. However, by breaching confidentiality this could have severe consequences for the client, myself (our relationship), and the clients family. A question I need to ask myself is:
What are our statutory duties and responsibilities?
Wehave a duty under the Children Act 1989 to safeguard and protect children who may be suffering from abuse. This may be physical, sexual, emotional or as a result of neglect http://www.tameside.gov.uk/childprotection/parentinfo
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