Status: Counsellors generally operate as L3 trainees, L4 diploma holders, L5 specialists, L6 supervisors or L7 postgrad’ / Masters. It is important to note that life experience is equally important and it is useful for clients to understand the difference between psychotherapists, psychologists and psychiatrists.
Harm: Should the client disclose that he/she is likely to harm themself or others, then they should be aware of the Limits of Confidentiality. The onus is on the counsellor to raise such concerns with the necessary authority.
Agency policies, complaints procedures and payment methods should be made clear at the outset of the client-counsellor relationship.
Requirements: Counsellors are generally required to have three things in place – input/regular supervision from a more experienced practitioner; insurance; membership of a regulatory body.
Ethical Framework: Counsellors must work within the ethical guidelines of the body they are a member of. The BACP’s, for example, has two main sections on Ethics (Values, Principles, Personal Moral Qualities) and Good Practice (Respect, Integrity, Candour etc). They must also work safely.
DNA: Did Not Attend. It is the duty of the counsellor to inform the client of what will happen should absenteeism occur. Two consecutive missed appointments occasionally indicate that the counselling relationship has come to an end and that valuable times will be given to the next person on the waiting list.
Agreement: The client is an accepted part of this draft / contract / shared agreement and may state certain requirements and preferences in relation to how the relationship and sessions operate.
Genuineness: This is one of the Core Conditions under which numerous agencies work. In the case of the theorist Carkhuff, the remaining seven are Respect, Empathy, Non-Possessive Warmth, Self-Disclosure, Immediacy, Confrontation & Concreteness.
Record Keeping: It is the responsibility of the agency to keep client records private and in a safe place. Agencies must adhere to the Data Protection Act which insists on coded file practices rather than explicit case names.
Exceptional work: If this is not possible and at some point in the counselling relationship the therapist realises that the case has gone beyond his/her limits of ability, then referral would normally take place (to a more qualified colleague or specialist agency).
Endings: It is important that clients are aware of how sessions typically end in respect of summarising and boundaries. Also, the therapist should ascertain that the client is once again ‘OK to enter the real world’.
Models used: There are various approaches to client cases dependent on ‘presenting problems’ and which methods might work best in progressing the client. Examples are: Psychodynamic; Humanistic; CBT; Gestalt; Integrative.
Emergency Numbers: It is often sensible to have on file telephone numbers for the client’s GP, home, next of kin etc.
Number of Sessions: It is vital and helpful that upon assessment (session 1 or earlier) the client is informed regarding the length of each appointment (typically 50 mins) and how many sessions they are expected to undertake. A preferred day/time can be agreed – with sessions typically on a weekly basis. It may be that clients are permitted 6-12 sessions if referred via a GP for example or they might be ‘ongoing’ if through a private practice. Either way, it is helpful to have frequent reviews.
Terrorism etc: Counsellors are legally required to report knowledge of or suspicious activity in relation to terrorist acts, money laundering, treason etc.