This Code contains the standards of ethics, practice and conduct which Brown Therapist Network, hereby known as ‘BTN’ expects of all members to follow. Whether you receive clients because of using this platform or not, we expect you to follow this ethical code when conducting business via any modality of practice, be it in person, online or otherwise.
We recognise our members fall under their own regulatory bodies, in their own respective fields and locations of practice. We expect these to always be followed and our code of ethics should not conflict with that but be followed alongside it.
The term ‘practitioner’ will be used to refer to any counsellor, psychologist, therapist, social worker, and anyone not mentioned that works within the field of mental health in a client facing role.
The term ‘client’ includes individuals, couples, families, or groups who engage in therapeutic practice or with mental health services.
Should a concern arise about a practitioner’s practice, the individual will be judged against these guidelines set out below, under the Complaints Procedure.
All practitioners should strive for ethical practice and conduct, even when doing so involves making difficult decisions.
The following are seen as key elements of ethical practice. These are further broken down into sections below:
- Best interests of clients
- Communication and consent
- Records and confidentiality
- Professional knowledge, skills, and experience
- Social responsibility
- Trust and confidence
Best interests of clients
- Act in your client’s best interests.
- Treat clients with respect.
- Respect your client’s autonomy.
- Do not have sexual contact or sexual relationships with clients.
- Do not exploit or abuse your relationship with clients (current or past) for any purpose including your emotional, sexual, or financial gain.
- Do not harm or collude in the harming of your client or the clients of others.
- Decline any gifts, favours, money, or hospitality that might be interpreted as exploitative.
- Be aware of the power imbalance between the practitioner and client and avoid dual or multiple relationships which risk confusing an existing relationship and may impact adversely on a client. If a dual or multiple relationship is unavoidable, for example in a small community, take responsibility for clarifying and managing boundaries and protecting confidentiality.
- Exercise all reasonable care before entering a personal or business relationship with former clients, considering the time that has elapsed since therapy ended. Should such a relationship prove to be detrimental to the former client, you may be called to answer an allegation of misusing your former position.
- Recognise that your behaviour outside your professional life may influence your relationship with clients and take responsibility for critically examining these potential negative or positive effects to the benefit of the client.
Communication and consent
- Provide in your advertising, and on request, a clear and honest statement of the qualifications relevant to your field of practice and registration(s) and advertise your services accurately and in a responsible and professional manner, without exaggeration.
- Ensure that the use of title such as “Doctor/DR” and post nominal initials after a name in communications are accurate and indicate whether it is a medical or academic qualification.
- Do not make any claims which you cannot demonstrate to be true or include testimonials from clients in any advertising.
- Explain to a client, or prospective client, your terms, fees, and conditions and, have information readily available to clarify other related questions such as likely length of therapy, methods of practice to be used, the extent of your own involvement, complaints processes and how to make a complaint, as well as arrangements for referral and termination of therapy.
- Confirm each client’s consent to the specifics of the service you will offer, through a clear contract at the outset of therapy. We do not specify a written contract but in the case of any conflict a clear written contract supports both the client and you. Help clients to understand the nature of any proposed therapy and its implications, what to expect, the risks involved, what is and is not being offered, and relevant alternative options.
- Do not intentionally mislead a client about the type or nature of therapy, mental health or wellbeing techniques practised.
- Only participate in research about clients with clients’ verifiable and informed consent before the commencement of therapy and research, clarifying the nature, purpose, and conditions of any such relationships could be social or commercial relationships between practitioner and client, or a supervisory or training relationship running alongside the therapeutic one. Research in which clients are involved and in accordance with relevant codes and guidance. Pay particular attention to any additional guidance or special considerations which may apply to specific groups, such as children and young people.
Records and confidentiality
- Respect, protect and preserve clients’ confidentiality. You must protect sensitive and personally identifiable information obtained in the course of your professional work and not share these details on BTN.
- Safeguard the welfare and anonymity of clients when any form of publication of clinical material is being considered and always obtains your client’s verifiable consent in any case where the welfare or anonymity of a client may be compromised. This includes situations where a client or former client might recognise themselves in case material despite the changing of names or actual circumstances.
- Make notes appropriate to the modality of therapy being practised, and keep records which are accurate, legible, and timely. Keep clients’ information confidential, subject to legal and ethical requirements, and discuss it only within appropriate professional settings.
- Notify clients, when appropriate or on request, that there are legal and ethical limits to confidentiality, and circumstances under which confidential information might be disclosed to a third party.
- Consider obtaining legal and ethical advice in relation to providing information for judicial or administrative proceedings, and as to the potential impact that this could have on the commitment of confidentiality to the client, even when client consent is given.
Professional knowledge, skills, and experience
- Offer only the forms of therapy in which you have had adequate training or experience.
- Understand the limits of your competence and stay within them in all your professional activity, referring clients to another professional when appropriate. This includes recognising that some client groups, such as children and families, have needs which not all practitioners are equipped to address.
- Ensure continuing ability to practise by securing supervision and ongoing professional education and development sufficient to meet the requirements of your registrations, professional field, and country/state.
- Ensure that you do not work with clients if you are not able to do so for physical or mental health reasons, or when impaired by the effects of drugs, alcohol, or medication.
- Make considered and timely arrangements for the termination of a therapeutic relationship, or if you are unable to continue to practise, ensuring that clients are informed, and alternative practitioners are identified where possible.
- Have arrangements in place for informing clients and, where appropriate, providing them with support in the event of your illness or death.
- Actively consider issues of diversity and equalities as these affect all aspects of your work and acknowledge the need for a continuing process of self-enquiry and professional development. Do not allow prejudice about a client’s sex, age, colour, race, disability, communication skills, sexuality, lifestyle, religious, cultural, or political beliefs, social economic or immigration status to adversely affect the way you relate to them.
- Avoid behaviour that can be perceived as abusive or detrimental to any client or colleague based on the above factors.
- Due to the nature of the BTN network, you are welcome to discuss issues surrounding diversity and equality, but ensure you are not naming individual clients, thereby breaking their trust.
Trust and confidence
- Act in a way which upholds the profession’s reputation and promotes public confidence in the profession and its members, including outside of your professional life as a practitioner.
- Maintain an awareness of, and comply with, all legal and professional obligations which apply to your practice.
- Ensure that any communication in which you take part, and in particular your participation in social media, is carried out in a manner consistent with this Code.
- Safeguard children and vulnerable adults, recognising your legal responsibilities concerning their rights and taking appropriate action should you consider any such person is at risk of harm.
- Ensure that you are familiar with and understand guidance around Safeguarding and Duty of Care.
- Challenge questionable practice in yourself or others, reporting to BTN potential breaches of this Code, and activating formal complaints procedures especially where there may be ongoing harm to clients, or you have significant grounds for believing clients to be at risk of harm.
- Ensure that your professional work is adequately covered by appropriate indemnity insurance or by your employer’s indemnity arrangements.
- Co-operate with any lawful investigation or inquiry relating to your psychotherapeutic practice. Inform BTN and any relevant organisational member if you are:
- Charged with a criminal offence.
- Convicted of a criminal offence, receive a conditional discharge for an offence, or accept a police caution;
- Disciplined by any professional body or membership organisation responsible for regulating or licensing a health or social care profession; or
- Suspended or placed under a practice restriction by an employer or similar organisation because of concerns relating to your competence, health, or practice.