The purpose of the Ethical Principles and Code of Professional Conduct is to define generic ethical principles which National College/National Society students/members commit to and maintain.

For clarity and ease of expression, the third person plural pronoun is used as non-gendered pronoun for “practitioner”: so they is used for “she/he” and “their” for “her/his”. This Ethical Principles and Code of Professional Conduct cannot cover every potential ethical, conduct or competence related concern. All must therefore depend on their own thoughtful evaluation of specific principles and the spirit expressed in these statements. The practitioner commits to engage with the challenge of striving for ethical practice and conduct, even when doing so involves making difficult decisions or acting courageously.

General Ethical Principles

1. Best Interests of Clients

1.1 The practitioner takes responsibility for respecting their client’s best interests when providing their services.

1.2 The practitioner undertakes to treat their clients with respect.

1.3 The practitioner undertakes not to abuse or exploit the relationship they have with their clients, current or past, for any purpose, including the practitioner’s sexual, emotional or financial gain.

1.4 The practitioner undertakes not to enter into a sexual relationship with a client.

1.5 Practitioners are required to carefully consider possible implications of entering into dual or multiple relationships and make every effort to avoid entering into relationships that risks confusing an existing relationship and may impact adversely on a client. For example, a dual or multiple relationships could be a social or commercial relationship between the practitioner and client, or a supervisory relationship which runs alongside the therapeutic one. When dual or multiple relationships are unavoidable, for example in small communities, practitioners take responsibility to clarify and manage boundaries and confidentiality of the therapeutic relationship.

1.6 The practitioner undertakes to take into account the length of therapy and time lapsed since therapy and pay great attention to exercise reasonable care before entering into any personal or business relationships with former clients. Should the relationship prove to be detrimental to the former client, the practitioner may be called to account to the charge of a misuse of their former position as the former client’s practitioner.

1.7 The practitioner undertakes to respect their client’s autonomy.

1.8 The practitioner undertakes not to harm or collude in the harming of their client or a client of others.

1.9 The practitioner undertakes to know and understand their legal responsibilities concerning the rights of children and vulnerable adults and to take appropriate action should the practitioner consider a child or vulnerable adult is at risk of harm.

1.10 The practitioner recognises that their behaviour outside their professional life may have an effect on the relationship with their clients and takes responsibility for working with these potential negative or positive effects to the benefit of the client.

2. Diversity and Equality

2.1 The practitioner undertakes to actively consider issues of diversity and equalities as these affect all aspects of their work. The practitioner accepts no one is immune from the experience of prejudice and acknowledges the need for a continuing process of self-enquiry and professional development.

2.2 The practitioner undertakes not to allow prejudice about a client’s sex, age, colour, race, disability, sexuality, social, economic or immigration status, lifestyle, religious or cultural beliefs to adversely affect the way they relate to the client.

2.3 The practitioner undertakes not to engage in any behaviour that is abusive or detrimental to any client or colleague based on the above factors.

3. Confidentiality

3.1 The practitioner commits to respect, protect and preserve the confidentiality of their clients. The practitioner undertakes to notify their clients, when appropriate or on request that there are legal and ethical limits of that confidentiality and circumstances under which the practitioner might disclose confidential information to a third party.

3.2 The practitioner commits to protect sensitive and personally identifiable information obtained from the course of their work as a practitioner.

3.3 Should the practitioner be required by law to serve in judicial or administrative proceedings, they commit to getting clarification at the outset of the potential impacts this could have on their commitment of confidentiality to any client. In such a situation the practitioner commits to maintaining this clarification as the situation proceeds and to seek legal and ethical advice as appropriate.

3.4 The practitioner commits to safeguard the welfare and anonymity of clients when any form of publication of clinical material is being considered and to always obtain their 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.

4. Conduct

4.1 The practitioner acknowledges that their professional and personal conduct may have both positive and negative effects on the way they are experienced by a client. The practitioner undertakes, in a continuing process, to critically examine the impact these effects may have on the psychotherapeutic relationship with any client, placing a priority on preserving the client’s psychotherapeutic best interests.

4.2 The practitioner agrees to inform National College/National Society if they are:

a. Charged with or convicted of a criminal offence, receive a conditional discharge for an offence, or accept a police caution;

b. Disciplined by any professional body or membership organisation responsible for regulating or licensing a health or social-care profession; or

c. Suspended or placed under a practice restriction by an employer or similar organisation because of concerns relating to the practice of psychotherapy, competence or health.

4.3 Subject to the rules of confidentiality and other code of ethics adhered to by the practitioner, the practitioner commits to co-operating with any lawful investigation or inquiry relating to their capacity to appropriately carry out their practice. Good practice would indicate that the practitioner should consult with a colleague/member of their Ethics Committee, or seek legal advice with request to any request for information by anyone involved in a legal case even where the client has given their consent.

4.4 If a practitioner is charged with or convicted of a criminal offence, receives a conditional discharge for an offence, or accepts a police caution National College/National Society will consider any implications this, may have for their professional practice. National College/National Society will consider and assess potential risk posed to clients or for public confidence in the register and may reject their application for registration or removal of name from its register on such grounds.

5. Professional Knowledge, Skills and Experience

5.1 The practitioner agrees to disclose their qualifications to clients and National College/National Society when requested and commits to not claiming or implying qualifications that they do not have.

5.2 The practitioners commits to ensure that the use of title such as “Doctor/Dr” and post nominal initials after a name in all published materials are accurate; indicate whether it is a medical or academic qualification; and reasonably informs the public of their relevance to the practise of psychotherapy.

5.3 The practitioner commits to recognise the boundaries and limitations of their expertise and techniques and to take the necessary steps to maintain their ability to practice competently.

5.4 If it becomes clear that a case is beyond a practitioner’s scope of practice, the practitioner commits to inform the client and where appropriate offer an alternative practitioner or other professional where requested. A specific area to consider is working with children. The National College courses  are in adult psychotherapy so to work with children requires other qualifications. All sessions with those under 18 must be conducted with an appropriate adult present, or recorded on time indexed video.

5.5 The practitioner commits to adhering to the National College/National Society policies on standards of education, training and practise.

6. Communication

6.1 The practitioner agrees to explain at the outset to a client or prospective client their terms, fees and conditions; and on request, clarify other related questions such as likely length of therapy, methods of practice to be utilised, referral or termination processes.

6.2 The practitioner agrees to notify clients of any other codes of ethics & practise to which they subscribe, including the availability of the complaints procedure.

7. Obtaining Consent

7.1 The practitioner undertakes to explain to the client, to the extent applicable to their modality and the client’s capacity: the practitioner’s clinical method(s) of working  and the client’s choice to participate in any therapeutic interventions suggested by the practitioner including any commitments the practitioner makes to the client and any commitments the practitioner requires of the client.

7.2 The practitioner undertakes not to intentionally mislead a client concerning the type or nature of the services provided.

7.3 The practitioner commits to clarify with clients the nature, purpose and conditions of any research in which the clients are to be involved and to ensure that informed and verifiable consent is given before commencement of the therapy and research.

7.4 In the case of work with children consent must be obtained from the child’s parent or guardian.

8. Records

8.1 The practitioner agrees to keep such records as are necessary to properly carry out the type of psychotherapy offered.

8.2 The practitioner commits to store and dispose any personally identifiable records or data securely in order to protect the client’s confidentiality.

9. Physical or Mental Health

9.1 The practitioner accepts an ongoing responsibility to ensure that they do not work with clients if they are not able to do so for physical or mental health reasons, or when impaired by the effects of drugs, alcohol or medication.

9.2 The practitioner accepts a responsibility to take appropriate action should their ability to meet their obligations to their clients be compromised by their physical or mental health.

9.3 The practitioner commits to carefully consider how, in the event of their sudden unavailability this can be most appropriately communicated to their clients. This will also include careful consideration of how a client might be informed of a practitioner’s death or illness and, where appropriate, supported to deal with such a situation.

10. Professional Integrity

10.1 The practitioner commits to report potential breaches of this Ethical Principles and Code of Professional Conduct by themselves or by other practitioners to the relevant national member organisation or National Society.

11. Advertising

11.1 The practitioner commits to ensuring that any advertising or promoting they undertake will not be misleading, false, unfair or exaggerated. The practitioner undertakes not to include testimonials from clients in any advertising material.

11.2 The practitioner commits to ensure that if they are involved in advertising or promoting any particular therapy, product or service, this is done in an accurate and responsible way.

11.3 The practitioner undertakes not to make or support unjustifiable statements relating to particular therapies or therapists.

12. Indemnity Insurance

12.1 The practitioner commits to ensuring that their professional work is adequately covered by appropriate indemnity insurance or by their employer’s indemnity arrangements.

13. Use of Hypnosis

13.1    Hypnosis shall not be used for the purposes of entertainment nor in any other way that can be construed as demeaning for the client, nor in any way that contradicts the therapist’s duty of care, eg inappropriate contact (physical, sexual, social) with the client.

14. Complaints

14.1 The practitioner accepts the responsibility for maintaining reasonable awareness and a level of understanding regarding complaints procedures, relevant laws and statutory responsibilities that are applicable to their practice.

14.2 The practitioner accepts a responsibility to act against colluding with practice harmful to clients including that carried out by other professionals and colleagues. This should include, where appropriate, activating procedures for addressing ethical concerns including formal complaints if necessary.

15. CPD

UKCP registrants undertake to adhere to CPD requirements of UKCP. Other members  are required to be able to demonstrate having undertaken a minimum of 15 hours of Continuing Professional Development per annum. CPD activities can include:

  • Attendance at relevant conferences
  • Further relevant training (live, online or distance learning)
  • Participation in professional organizations
  • Research or writing on relevant topics

In exceptional circumstances other activities such as journalled reading or watching of DVDs may be considered. Such circumstances may include illness, caring for a family member, having a baby.

If in doubt as to the validity of your CPD activities please check with the office in advance and keep the email of approval.

16. Supervision

UKCP registrants undertake to adhere to supervision requirements of UKCP. These requirements are held in separate documents.

All members are required to have supervision or peer support dependent on their level of experience:

For the first three years/200 hours in practice (whichever is the longer) practitioners are required to be in a supervisionary relationship with a qualified supervisor Part of the training to become a qualified supervisor involves a recognition of the ethical requirement to ensure that one’s supervisees have adequate supervision. On this basis National Society does not specify the amount or frequency of supervision required as if this is inadequate the supervisor is open to disciplinary processes for unethical practice.

After three years/200 hours in practice (whichever is longer) practitioners are required to either be in a supervisionary relationship (as above) or be an active member of a peer support relationship. National Society expects this relationship to provide adequate guidance and support for client work, recognizing its potential  to have a negative psychological impact on the practitioner and also recognizing the potential danger of a practitioner becoming stale or to have too narrow a focus on their work.

Supervisors/peer supporters may be required, at any time, to produce a report on the participation of the supervisee, and the supervisee’s standing as a registrant in good standing may be affected by this report.