The Society believes that candour is an integral part of the relationship between client and counsellor, counsellor and supervisor, and counsellor and professional body.
The duty of candour means being open and honest with your clients, supervisor, and your professional body when something goes wrong.
This benefits all parties through bringing understanding, learning, and closure to a situation that negatively impacts those involved.
Candour with Clients
If something goes wrong in therapy and has caused or may cause harm to your client – no matter whether or not they are aware of it – it is important to be candid with your client.
By letting your client know what has happened, you can help them to limit the harm that may be caused to them, give them insight into the situation, and allow an element of closure if the issue has had a negative impact on their life.
Here are the steps that we recommend you take in order to best tackle the situation:
- Let your client know straight away what has happened.
- Do what you can, as soon as you can, to prevent, limit or repair any harm.
- Make any apologies as necessary at the appropriate time.
- Depending on the severity and scale of the issue, you may wish to involve your supervisor or line manager immediately, but in any case you should inform them within a reasonable time frame and discuss any steps you have already taken to mitigate the harm.
- Review the situation along with your supervisor and any other appropriate parties to prevent the issue re-occurring, and put in place any measures that may help you with this.
Candour with your Supervisor and Professional / Regulatory Body
Your supervisor should always be made aware as soon as is appropriate if something has gone wrong in therapy. Depending on the severity of the issue, this could be straight away (as soon as you become aware of the issue), or at your next supervision session. This is so they can appropriately support you and give you the benefit of their experience and perspective.
If you feel it is appropriate, raising the issue with your Professional Body after reflection could be a way to demonstrate the learning that you have done; by discussing the issue with our Society Support Officer, you can get valuable insight and feedback from the Society, and it may inform guidance that the Society publishes, thereby helping other therapists that may find themselves in your position.
The Society does not work in an unnecessarily punitive way; we encourage constructive feedback and invite people, including our registrants’ clients, to tell us about their experiences – both positive and negative.
We believe in listening to the voices of both clients and of therapists and in the sharing of these viewpoints and opinions. We believe that each group has much to learn, both from the positive experiences of therapy as well as from times when things have not worked out as planned or hoped.
We are aware that the professional therapeutic relationship in some forms of counselling and therapy necessarily involves the exploration of difficulties and lapses within the relationship itself. We therefore seek to avoid an unnecessarily ‘legalistic’ approach to dealing with complaints.
We are also aware that therapists can overstep therapeutic boundaries and breach our Code of Ethics, and this needs to be addressed proportionately, fairly and transparently.
So if you do decide to communicate with the Society about any issues, rest assured that we will do all we can to support you and address any learning points with sensitivity.