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Ethical Charter


The purpose of this document is to define the general ethical framework for EAC members. The framework is based on a set of philosophical principles, which are listed later in this document.

Organisational and individual members of the EAC are expected to adhere to this Charter.  The text takes into account issues that can be reasonably foreseen in the practise of the counselling profession.   Each member has to devise and monitor specific standards and rules, which take into account and respect existing laws and the particular social and cultural norms of their country.  Counselling and associated activities should be informed by the principles outlined in this document.

A.  Definitions:
– a person offering a counselling service to clients, in line with the EAC definition of counselling, who has the levels of skill and training specified in the standards laid down by EAC.
Client – a person, a couple, a family, a group or an organisation directly or indirectly seeking help through a counselling relationship.
Counselling Relationship – an explicitly agreed and formally contracted professional relationship between a counsellor and a client.
Direct Assignment – the counselling relationship is initiated by the client.
Indirect Assignment – the counselling relationship with the client is initiated by someone else, e.g. an employer on behalf of an employee, courts of law and legal processes. In such cases the client must give consent.
Third Party – a person(s) not involved in the direct or indirect assignment.  A third party may be a family member, friend, colleague, employer and other professional or a court of law.

B.  Philosophical Principles
1.      The core values of a counsellor are based on respect for universal human rights and for individual and cultural differences.
2.      The values underpin a set of attitudes and skills which have special regard for the integrity, authority and autonomy of the client.
3.      RESPECT is the unconditional acceptance of clients but not necessarily acceptance of all of their behaviour.   Counsellors have responsibility for making themselves aware of individual and cultural differences.
4.      INTEGRITY honours the right of the client to maintain their physical and emotional boundaries and the right not to be exploited in any way.
5.      AUTHORITY recognises that responsibility for entering a counselling relationship is vested in the client whether the counselling is initiated by direct or indirect assignment.
6.     AUTONOMY acknowledges the freedom of the client to express themselves, their needs and their beliefs within the boundaries of a shared respect for universal human rights and individual and cultural differences.
7.       PRIVACY protects the counselling relationship from uncontracted observation or inappropriate observation, interference or intrusion by others.
8.      CONFIDENTIALITY respects personal information disclosed within a relationship of trust and protects that information from inappropriate disclosure to others.
9.      RESPONSIBILITY requires the counsellor to actively ensure the observance of the key philosophical            principles, outlined above, in the service provided through the counselling relationship.
10.    COMPETENCE is the requirement on counsellors to ensure and maintain high standards of practice in their work.  Counsellors should provide only those services and use only those techniques for which they are qualified by education, training or experience.

C. The diagram below shows the dimensions in which practitioners put ethical principles into practice.

D.  Ethical Framework
1.      The counselling approach values the integrity, authority and autonomy of the client.  This is expressed in a skilled and professional way in the counselling relationship.

2.      Counsellors are responsible for the quality of  work they do with clients by:
a)         acting according to professional standards of competence
b)         maintaining confidentiality
c)         being open and explicit with clients about the counselling process
d)         engaging only in activity in which they have expertise and in which they are able to act independently and    objectively
e)         remaining within the boundaries of the counselling role
f)         ensuring they receive adequate supervision of the counselling work.
g)         continuing their own personal and professional development as counsellors
h)         establishing, maintaining and monitoring a clear counselling contract
3.      Information disclosed during counselling normally remains confidential to that professional relationship except when otherwise negotiated.
4.      Confidentiality is an important ethical requirement and without high levels of confidentiality counselling may be frustrated by the client’s lack of trust and sense of safety.   However, confidentiality is not absolute because counsellors need to take into account the laws and the constraints of their society and of their professional roles.  Any limitations that may be placed on confidentiality within the professional relationship should be made explicit at the time of contracting.  Any subsequent conflicts with the principle of confidentiality must be handled clearly and openly with the client at the time of disclosure in a way that respects the client’s right to privacy and safety.  In circumstances where a breach of confidentiality may be required, the counsellor should endeavour to secure the written and informed consent of the client.
5.      Counsellors need to be open with themselves and with clients about the feasibility of working together in a professional relationship.
6.      The professional relationship is defined by an explicit and mutually agreed contract and ends with the termination of the contract.  However, certain professional responsibilities continue beyond the termination of the contract.  These include, but are not limited to, the following:
·maintenance of agreed-upon confidentiality
·avoidance of any exploitation of the former relationship
·consideration of any needed follow-up care
7.      Counsellors need to be clear about any responsibilities, including those outlined above, involved in the professional relationship, which may conflict with the interests of the client.  Any responsibilities to third parties must be explicit at the pre-counselling contract stage or as soon as they become a factor in the counselling.  For example, a relationship can be the result of a counselling request by indirect assignment.  In such cases the counsellor needs to be explicit with both parties about the accountability involved to both the direct counselling client and the party requesting help, e.g. an employer who makes a request for counselling for an employee with burnout.
E.  Research
Research into counselling should be undertaken by competent researchers who are familiar with the values of counselling.  It requires full consideration of ethical issues and concern for the dignity and welfare of the participants.  Researchers have a responsibility to behave in ways that are as consistent as possible with the core values of counselling.  Research that violates those values is unethical and should not be undertaken.  The fully informed consent of all parties is a fundamental ethical imperative in experimental research.
F.  Conflicts between Ethical Principles
1.       The complexity of ethical issues makes it likely that different ethical principles and clauses within the Charter may cause problems in specific circumstances.  Sometimes the provisions in the Charter may also clash with the expectations of, for example Legal Professionals.  By their very nature the resolution of ethical dilemmas is not guaranteed to be simple.
2.       In particular cases when counsellors face a conflict between ethical principles the intention should be to strive for the greatest good and the least harm for the client.
3.       Members of EAC must comply with this Charter and must not work to lower ethical standards than those defined in this Charter.  However National Associations and Organisations are free to place higher more stringent standards on their own members in their nation states.