Understand What is Meant by Counselling Skills and Ethical Frameworks




What are counselling skills?

Counselling skills are a set of skills that can be used in everyday life, either professionally or personally, for example, helping whilst helping a distressed friend. The power of someone being truly listened to, without judgement, is very rare in today’s society and skills like paraphrasing, summarising, focusing, reflecting can help us to understand and be understood extremely well. The skills can help us communicate in a much more effective manner and help us to relate to the people we are talking to in a better way.


BACP Definition

“What are counselling skills?

The definition agreed by the competence framework’s project team is that counselling skills are a combination of values, ethics, knowledge and communication skills used to support another person’s emotional health and wellbeing.

A wide range of people use counselling skills often to enhance a primary professional role, and they’re not exclusive to counsellors. Their use is dependent on who is using them and the setting in which they’re used.” The BACP Ethical Framework for the Counselling Professions (2018).

What are different roles within which counselling skills may be used?

  • Job Roles
  • Family roles
  • With friends
  • In support groups
  • With neighbours
  • With strangers
  • In accidents (such as a car accident)


What are different situations in which counselling skills may be used

  • When dealing with a tricky situation with co workers
  • When managing people
  • While in an argument with family
  • When someone is in grief
  • When someone has just lost their job and may have other concerns as a result (mortgage)
  • Helping people dealing with the pressures of covid
  • Helping a neighbours family when the neighbour is seriously ill
  • When having to let a member of staff go

What are the differences between someone who uses counselling skills and a qualified trained counsellor


Training is a key part of differentiating counselling skills and counselling practice. During the course every week we are practising on each other, ever increasing throughout the 3 years of the course. During this practice, we are having our performance continually reviewed and improved throughout. In addition, up until the end of Level 4, the course requires a minimum of 100 hours, meaning we will get further chance to practise under supervision

“Provide further developed skills, including a 100-hour practice component under supervision” The Skills and Educations Group Awards Level 4 Diploma Qualification Guide, 4 (2020)


Supervision in counselling is carried out by an experienced counsellor who has further studied to become a supervisor. While we are then practising as professional counsellors, we will use the supervisor to review the way that we are conducting our work and sessions with our clients. It is a key requirement for many professional bodies, such as the BACP (British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy) to ensure that they work in a safe and ethical way. It is a place where a counsellor can bring their sessions up for advice, particularly with tricky clients, situations or ethical dilemmas. Finally the supervisor can check the counsellor is keeping their skills up to date, helping ensure it forms part of the counsellor’s continual professional and personal growth.

“Supervision is essential to how practitioners sustain good practice throughout their working life. Supervision provides practitioners with regular and ongoing opportunities to reflect in depth about all aspects of their practice in order to work as effectively, safely and ethically as possible. Supervision also sustains the personal resourcefulness required to undertake the work.” The BACP Ethical Framework for the Counselling Professions (2018)

Using counselling skills is different in everyday situations as it is for a counsellor within their counselling sessions. Counsellors need to follow strict guidelines, such as the BACP Ethical framework, when working with clients. They also have certain obligations as a counsellor to perform in different ways.

For example, it wouldn’t likely be appropriate for them to work with their best friend’s wife as a counsellor. However, using counselling skills, like active listening, could be very helpful for her if she is discussing a work issue over a meal you may be sharing (hopefully with her husband).

Other differences are the fact that a counsellor should be insured to carry out their work and it is also highly recommended they are affiliated with a governing body, like the aforementioned BACP.

Understanding the need to work within an ethical framework

Explain the key features of one recognised ethical framework for counselling and psychotherapy used by qualified trained counsellors.

Within this section I discuss some of the key features covered within the BACP ethical framework 2018.’

As members and registrants of “BACP, we have committed ourselves to the principles and values set out in this Ethical Framework and recognise that our membership or registration may be at risk if we fail to fulfil our commitments.

This Ethical Framework for the Counselling Professions is the main point of reference for decisions in professional conduct hearings.” – BACP Ethical Framework 2018


Ethics (values and principals)


Values are what is considered acceptable/desirable behaviour, above and beyond what regulation or laws may tell us

respecting human rights and dignity – Treating people with the basic rights and respect we should all be entitled to

alleviating symptoms of personal distress and suffering – Trying to help lower their distress/emotional pain

enhancing people’s wellbeing and capabilities – Improving people mentally

improving the quality of relationships between people – Trying to teach them better methods of interacting with the people in their lives (or whom come into their lives)

increasing personal resilience and effectiveness – Trying to raise their mental fortitude

facilitating a sense of self that is meaningful to the person(s) concerned within their personal and cultural context – Trying to give them more self worth, more understanding of their genuine wants, desires and values

appreciating the variety of human experience and culture – Similar to respecting people, respecting and recognising their experience and background

protecting the safety of clients

ensuring the integrity of practitioner-client relationships – Ensuring you do not cross any ethical lines

enhancing the quality of professional knowledge and its application – Carrying on with professional development and applying it

striving for the fair and adequate provision of services


The values underpin these principals, these are essentially 6 core responsibilities to practising ethically for a counsellor utilising the BACP framework. They can be used to govern a counsellor’s ethics, particularly surrounding ethical decisions/dilemmas. They are:

Being trustworthy: honouring the trust placed in the practitioner
Autonomy: respect for the client’s right to be self-governing
Beneficence: a commitment to promoting the client’s wellbeing
Non-maleficence: a commitment to avoiding harm to the client
Justice: the fair and impartial treatment of all clients and the provision of adequate services
Self-respect: fostering the practitioner’s self-knowledge, integrity and care for self

A decision made using one or more of these (where there is no contradiction) is seen as a well founded decision, based upon the ethical principles of the framework.

Sometimes, however, a counsellor may find themselves in situations where they are not able to do this. Should this arise, they should choose which principals they feel should be prioritised. A counsellor should always consider all the relevant information they have in detail and need to be accountable for their decision.

Personal moral qualities

These are a counsellor’s personal values with regards to ethics that shape how we interact with people and the world around us. It is important these are inspected from time to time as they have a key impact on how strong client relationships are.

  • Candour: openness with clients about anything that places them at risk of harm or causes actual harm
  • Care: benevolent, responsible and competent attentiveness to someone’s needs, wellbeing
    and personal agency
  • Courage: the capacity to act in spite of known fears, risks and uncertainty
  • Diligence: the conscientious deployment of the skills and knowledge needed to achieve a
    beneficial outcome
  • Empathy: the ability to communicate understanding of another person’s experience from that person’s perspective
  • Fairness: impartial and principled in decisions and actions concerning others in ways that promote equality of opportunity and maximise the capability of the people concerned
  • Humility: the ability to assess accurately and acknowledge one’s own strengths and weaknesses
  • Identity: sense of self in relationship to others that forms the basis of responsibility, resilience and motivation
  • Integrity: commitment to being moral in dealings with others, including personal straightforwardness, honesty and coherence
  • Resilience: the capacity to work with the client’s concerns without being personally diminished
  • Respect: showing appropriate esteem for people and their understanding of themselves
    Sincerity: a personal commitment to consistency between what is professed and what is done
  • Wisdom: possession of sound judgement that informs practice

Counsellors will almost always have to face issues within their professional lives. A good understanding of the ethical aspect assists the counsellor in making the best decisions available to them. The framework is intended to highlight the variety of ethical aspects that need looking at, so they can make a decision that is as best thought out as possible, while armed with all the aspects.



Good practice Notes

Putting clients first

Key to this is to “make the client the primary focus of our attention” BACP ethical framework 2018. If counsellors have any conflicts of interest, these should be discussed with a supervisor, an experienced colleague or where appropriate, the client, before services are offered. Safeguarding from serious harm is to be thoroughly considered before confidentiality is overridden as trust is essential however counsellors have an obligation to put all clients first.

Working to professional standards

Counsellors must as a minimum meet key professional standards. When verifying these, counsellors must ensure that confidentiality is maintained. They adhere to “keeping skills and knowledge” up to date.

They will keep accurate records that comply with data protection; maintain their mental and physical wellbeing; be adequately insured; collaborate with other professionals where client consents and it enhances their treatment; fulfil the values set out in the document in whichever medium they may be working.


Counsellors must respect their privacy and dignity whilst maintaining complete equality.

Building an appropriate relationship

Counsellors will typically give clients all relevant information prior to working together regarding the treatment and methods. Afterwhich, a mutual agreement will be reached on working practices.

They will periodically review each client’s progress; establish and maintain boundaries; not engage in sexual relationships with clients or people close to them; not exploit clients in any way.

Breaks and endings

Counsellors must notify clients of any fixed limits as part of the contracting process; keep them informed of any upcoming endings; notify them in advance of any planned changes (holidays etc); unplanned changes are to be deal with to best minimise impact to them;


Counsellors will maintain honesty; be open and communicative (inline with confidentiality); communicate skills and training and working methods accurately; give consideration to the law; notify the BACP of any disciplinary procedures, criminal charges, civil claims (in industry) or bankruptcies.

Accountability and candour

Counsellors are responsible to give clients opportunities to work towards their desired outcomes and discuss how best to work towards them, including any known risks. They must notify them of any risks or issues that may cause harm. They then must take immediate action to prevent or limit it, repair it and apologise if appropriate. It must be notified and discussed with a supervisor and investigated to avoid repeats.

Counsellors must review how they work in supervision, monitoring how clients experience the work and its effects.


Counsellors protect confidentiality by guarding information from unauthorised access; informing clients of the procedures; ensuring shared information is done so under the knowledge the participants will maintain confidentiality; informing clients of any limitations in advance; gaining authorisation of sharing from client or meeting strict guidelines; utilising anonymised information wherever possible.

Working with colleagues and in teams

Counsellors will treat colleagues fairly, with mutual respect; not undermine client relationships; keep communication professional


Supervision is fundamental to maintaining good practice via regular, confidential, opportunities to reflect about work. It must be independent of any line management and the application of the ethical framework shall be discussed regularly.

Supervisors must have adequate training and expertise, whilst maintaining their own supervision, keeping records. Supervisees must be open and honest.

Training and education

Trainers must be competent teachers and provide accurate information. They must be fair, respectful and transparent with candidates and students, providing reasons for outcomes where appropriate. Examples will be anonymised (or gain prior consent). Trainers will encourage trainees to vocalise concerns.


Trainees must be respectful to each other and follow ethical practice.

When working with clients, they will inform them of their status and seek permission to use any information regarding them, if the work is not “ anonymised”. They must ensure minimum standards are met and be vigilant to conflicts of interest. They must be open and honest with trainers.


This is important to enhancing professional knowledge and all participants must consent. Research will be reviewed in advance to ensure no conflicts of interest and methods must comply with good standards whilst not adversely affecting clients.

Care of self as a practitioner

Counsellors will take responsibility for their wellbeing so clients are not adversely affected.

Responding to ethical dilemmas and issues

Counsellors will utilise supervision and other professional resources to support and challenge situations. They will take responsibility for thorough consideration on how to act in situations and be ready to explain the logic behind the decisions.


(BACP Ethical Framework References)


“This Ethical Framework for the Counselling Professions is the main point of reference for decisions in professional conduct hearings.” The BACP Ethical Framework for the Counselling Professions (2018)

“Values inform principles. They become more precisely defined and action-orientated when expressed as a principle.” The BACP Ethical Framework for the Counselling Professions (2018)

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