Code of Ethics and Practice
Section 1: Statement of Faith
- We believe the Bible to be the inspired, infallible and authoritative Word of God.
- We believe there is one God, eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit; and His nature and activity are revealed in the Scripture as the God who is both Creator and Judge of human beings. God is our Redeemer in Christ.
- We believe in the deity of Jesus Christ, the one, true Saviour and Lord through whose life, death and resurrection and the gift of the Holy Spirit, all the resources of God’s grace for salvation, healing, maturing and wholeness have been made available.
- We believe people are created in the image and likeness of God and yet are fallen and sinful beings and, therefore, in need of God’s redeeming grace and regeneration by the Holy Spirit: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
- God’s purposes of grace and salvation bring people to faith and maturity in Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit, so that they become increasingly conformed to Christ’s likeness in every aspect of their lives and find their true place with His church and Kingdom.
Every model of counselling comprises Assumptions, Aims and Methods. The assumptive basis and overall aims may be implicit or explicit.
Counselling can be defined as ‘that activity which seeks to help people towards constructive change and growth in any or every aspect of their lives. The aim is to achieve this through a caring relationship and with agreed boundaries.’
Christian counselling can be defined as that activity which seeks to help people towards constructive change and growth in any or every aspect of their lives. The aim is the achieve this through a caring relationship and with agreed boundaries, according to Biblical assumptions, aims and methods practised within a framework of Christian commitment, insight and values.
It is not the purpose of the Association to bring uniformity into the theory and practice of counselling by Christians, but it does seek specifically Christian perspectives on the assumptions, aims and methods of counselling.
Section 2: Status of this Code
This code is the accepted basis for counsellors who wish to be members of the Association of Christian Counsellors-Ireland.
Section 3: Use of the Code
- This code sets out a frame of reference and code of conduct within which Christian Counsellors will be able to apply their giftings and skills in a professional manner.
- The setting of standards is essential and the observance of this code of ethics and practise will give guidance to the counsellor and protect and inform the client and others who are in contact with this Association.
Section 4: Ethical Basis of Christian Counselling
- Care must be taken not to exploit the client. Because of the vulnerable nature of the client, special care is required and the client should be kept fully informed and given the opportunity at every stage to discuss the client-counsellor work.
- Counsellors should respect the value and belief system of their client.
- The safety of the client must be safeguarded and all reasonable steps taken to seek appropriate medical or legal assistance.
- The basis of the relationship between counsellor and client should be explicit, written or verbal, prior to commencement of counselling.
- The maintenance of records and limits of confidentiality should be explained. (See 5.2.2)
- All Christian counsellors should receive pastoral care from the body of the local church community and receive appropriate regular counselling supervision or consultative support.
Section 5: Code of Practice
- Counsellors should take all reasonable steps to ensure that the client does not suffer physical, psychological or spiritual harm during counselling.
- Counsellors are responsible for working in ways which promote the client’s control over his or her own life and respect the client’s ability to make decisions and change in the light of their own beliefs and values.
- Counsellors do not normally act on behalf of their clients. If they do, it will be only at the expressed request of the client
- Counsellors are responsible for setting and monitoring boundaries between the counselling relationship and any other kind of relationship, and make this explicit to the client before counselling commences.
- Counsellors must not exploit their clients financially, sexually, emotionally or in any other way.
- The client should be made aware if a trainee counsellor is to be present prior to the session.
- Records of counselling sessions should normally be kept and the client should be made aware of this. At the client’s request, information should be given about access to these records, their availability to other people, and the degree of security with which they are kept. In particular, if tape or video recording is included, this must be with the client’s written consent.
- Counsellors should be aware that computer-based records are subject to statutory regulations under the Data Protection Act of Ireland.
- Counsellors have a responsibility to establish with clients what other therapeutic or helping relationships are current. Counsellors should gain the client’s permission before conferring with other professional workers or leaders in their church.
- Counsellors have a responsibility to maintain confidentiality with their clients.
- Exceptional circumstances may arise which give the counsellor good grounds for believing that the client will cause serious physical harm to others or themselves, or have harm caused to them. In such circumstances, the client’s consent to a change in the agreement about confidentiality should be sought whenever possible unless there are good grounds for believing the client is no longer able to take responsibility for their own action. Whenever possible, the decision to break confidentiality agreed between counsellor and client should be made only after consultation with a counselling supervisor or other experienced counsellor.
- Christian counsellors need to be particularly aware that the right to confidentiality must not be waived in the context of soliciting prayer support and/or church prayer on the client’s behalf without the client’s agreement
- Counsellors hold different views about whether or not a client’s expression of serious suicidal intentions forms sufficient grounds for breaking confidentiality. Counsellors should consider their own views and practice on this issue and communicate them to clients and any significant others where appropriate — in particular the need to seek medical, legal or supervisory help, in the client’s interest, must be considered.
- Clients should be made aware of the counsellor’s requirement for supervision of their work. The material discussed in this relationship is confidential.
- Clear contracting enhances and shows respect for the counsellee’s autonomy.
- Counsellors are responsible for communicating the terms on which counselling is being offered, including availability, especially the limits of confidentiality offered, and the expectations of clients regarding fees, canceled appointments and any other significant matters. The communication of terms and any negotiations over these should be concluded before the client incurs any financial liability.
- It is the client’s choice whether or not to participate in counselling. Reasonable steps should be taken in the course of the counselling relationship to ensure that the client is given any opportunity to review the terms on which counselling is being offered and the methods being used.
- Counsellors should avoid unnecessary conflicts of interest and are expected to make explicit to the client any relevant conflicts of interest.
- Any publicity material and all written and oral information should reflect accurately the nature of the service on offer, and the training, qualifications and relevant experience of the counsellor.
- Counsellors should take all reasonable steps to honour undertakings offered in their pre-counselling information.
Professional Christian Counselling
- Whether paid, unpaid or voluntary, the counsellor is expected to act in a professional manner.
- Counsellors should monitor actively the limitations of their own competence through counselling supervision, and when necessary, consultative support on a monthly basis. Counsellors should work within their own known limits.
- Counsellors should not counsel when their functioning is impaired due to personal or emotional difficulties, illness, disability, alcohol, drugs or for any other reason.
- It is an indication of the competence of counsellors when they recognise their inability to counsel particular persons and make appropriate referrals.
- Counsellors have a responsibility to themselves and their clients to maintain their own effective-ness, resilience and ability to help counsellees. They are expected to monitor their own personal functioning and seek help and/or withdraw from counselling, whether temporarily or permanently, when their personal resources are sufficiently depleted to require this.
- Counsellors should have received adequate basic training, as stipulated in the I.A.C.C. Requirements for General Accreditation, before commencing counselling of others, and should maintain ongoing, professional development as outlined in the I.A.C.C. Requirements for continuing accreditation.
- Counsellors are responsible to maintain their own professional indemnity insurance and to take out such a policy when appropriate.
- Counselors should take all reasonable steps to ensure their own physical safety.
- Counsellors should not conduct themselves in their counselling-related activities in ways which undermine public confidence either in their role as a counsellors or in the work of other Christian counsellors.
- If a counsellor suspects misconduct by another counsellor which cannot be resolved or remedied after discussion with the counsellor concerned, they should implement the Complaints Procedure, doing so without breaches of confidentiality other than what is necessary for investigating the complaint.
- Counsellors should be accountable for their service to colleagues, employers and funding bodies as appropriate.
- Counsellors are encouraged to interact with colleagues and build a healthy referral network. No colleague or significant member of the caring professions should be led to believe that a service is being offered by the counsellor which is not being offered, as this may deprive the client of the offer of such a service elsewhere.
- Counsellors should accept their part in exploring and resolving conflicts of interest between themselves and their agencies, especially where this has implications for the client.
Section 6: Complaints Procedure
- I. A. C. C. does have a complaints procedure, and clients may avail of this should the occasion arise.
- All complaints should be taken up with the counsellor, in the first instance, both verbally and in writing.
- If there is no satisfactory conclusion then the complaint should be taken up, in writing, with the Chairman of the Association.
- The Chairman will liaise with the counsellor and the client and if still not satisfactory resolution is achieved, then the complaint will be adjudicated at the next full Committee meeting of the Executive Committee of the I.A.C.C.
- The only complaints that can be dealt with are those concerning failure to comply with the Code of Ethics and the Statement of Aims and Objectives.
Section 7: Legal Framework
- Counsellors should work within the law at all times.
- Counsellors should take all reasonable steps to be aware of current laws affecting the work of the counsellor.
A counsellor’s ignorance of the law is no defence against legal liability or penalty, including inciting or encouraging the commission of offences by clients.
- In a situation where a counsellor is in any doubt about their legal rights and obligations, or where a current crime is being disclosed, the counsellor should seek legal advice and/or contact their supervisor and the Association.
- A counsellor should make known to their clients the limits of confidentiality as it relates to the counsellor’s legal obligations and/or personal convictions before commencing therapeutic work.