Ethics versus Compliance. The Institution, Ethical Psychotherapy Practice, (And Me) – Farhad Dalal

This is the third of our series looking at some of the issues around BACP’s proposed changes to its Ethical Framework – and why we and other practitioners so strongly object to its movement from an ethics-based code to a duty/rule-based one.

This third post is a truly excellent paper by Farhad Dalal. Farhad is writing in a different model to our own, and in the context of the IGA, but the philosophical points he makes are of far more general application, and profoundly relevant and useful.

In order to access the paper, go to:-

click on ‘publications’, and scroll down to the paper “2014 Ethics versus Compliance. The Institution, Ethical Psychotherapy Practice, (and Me)”.

Our first post linked to Arthur Musgrave’s 2014 paper at the UPCA Conference: The Emergence of State-endorsed Therapy?:-

Our second post is two letters from Els van Ooijen to Tim Bond, concerning the proposed changes re therapy and supervision respectively:-

All these posts are drawn from the helpful information included with Matthew Bowes’ petition opposing the changes in their current form – here is the link if you would like to sign the petition:-

We have felt disturbed by the level of some of the counselling regulation debate – and Farhad’s paper is a useful antidote. We are seeing a lot of assumptive, unargued, even avowedly anti-intellectual comment from the pro-regulation side. The writer has no issue with differences of opinion, but she does have an issue with opinions presented as absolutes, with only superficial and self-serving attempts to explore the philosophical roots of what is said.

We think this debate calls for mind and heart. No exploration of an ethical question is meaningful without mind – ethics and philosophy cannot be separated. We have a responsibility for the ideas we promulgate – for basing them out, and knowing why we believe what we believe: ‘I believe this because….and because….and because….’ until we reach our bedrock of seeing and believing, the personal values we wish to manifest in the world. If we cannot yet do that, we are not ready to climb onto a virtual or actual soap-box and speak.

And no perception in this or any debate is of value without heart – without the question: ‘Are we operating from a place of love, or a place of fear?’. Too much of what we are seeing appears to share the assumption that therapists (and human beings in general) cannot be trusted, that only rigorous policing and threats of punishment can deter us from intentionally or carelessly harming each other….Is that the message we wish to convey to those we work with? If this is the reality, what is therapy for? Because even those approaches furthest from person-centered acknowledge that:-

  • we damage because we are damaged, and
  • judgement, crime and punishment are not useful ways to respond to this.

How can it possibly make sense to work on this basis in sessions, and then turn to external locus, rule-based codes and punitive professional conduct processes? It’s an untenable position.

In our view, if a therapist is indeed inflicting harm, that will not be addressed by regulation, or policing (any more than it is in already heavily regulated fields, such as teaching or medicine). Harmful behaviour is rooted in unprocessed or inadquately processed personal damage. In our 20 years of experience and in our view, the only viable way of supporting therapists in truly serving those they work with, is to support those therapists in doing their own process work whilst training and beyond that, through personal development, personal therapy and in supervision. It takes a huge commitment from any of us to our personal journey, to become someone who can meet another at depth on theirs – consistently offering presence, the core conditions and therapeutic relationship.

We feel disturbed by the increasing trend in many counselling trainings to emphasize academic criteria, and pay superficial attention to personal therapy and growth. We have increasingly noticed that some of those coming for meetings with us about potential placements (1) have been taught there is a ‘right’ way to work and that this can be reduced to meeting criteria/obeying rules, and (2) have not been supported or encouraged to travel deeply within. They pay lip service to ‘person-centered’ values/ideas when talking about their client work, but appear to make sense of their own task in terms of:-

  • suppressing or concealing vulnerabilities and emotional responses (for fear of judgement/punishment); and
  • presenting/offering a ‘professional relationship’ in the medical model mould, often revealing in their language apparently unexamined hierarchical assumptions about ‘professionals’ (us) and ‘clients with mental health problems’ (them).

We think such trainees (and their prospective clients) have been woefully served by their – expensive and time-consuming – training, and are likely to be working without depth of heart or mind. That serves none of us, and is one reason why the regulation debate looks like it does and why we appear to be sleep-walking backwards in the evolution of effective therapy, in the name of ‘evidence-based practice’ and ‘ethical practice’.

Palace Gate Counselling Service, Exeter

This entry was posted in BACP, cultural questions, ethics, external locus, internal locus of evaluation, medical model, non-conforming, political, power and powerlessness, psychiatry, reality, regulation, risk, values & principles, working with clients and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Ethics versus Compliance. The Institution, Ethical Psychotherapy Practice, (And Me) – Farhad Dalal

  1. Pingback: Irvin Yalom on spontaneity and uniqueness in therapy | Palace Gate Counselling Service Blog

  2. Pingback: The ‘professional’s’ role in a free society | Palace Gate Counselling Service Blog

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