Counseling: 7 Important Guidelines You Should Know Before You Go

By Tatenda

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Last Updated: December 29, 2022

If you’ve ever considered counseling or psychotherapy for whatever reason, there are certain things you need to know about before you start this journey. 

For most people, the first and most important thing is finding the best therapist who offers the type of therapy you think will benefit you the most.

When this is done, it is important for you to familiarize yourself with the ethical issues surrounding therapy. 

Because therapy can get quite personal and requires a certain level of vulnerability, some people might be skeptical of going and opening up to a stranger.

This is mostly the case for older people or those who come from communities and cultures that limit the kind of information one is expected to share with others, especially if they are not family. 

It is therefore important for us as clients to understand how things should go in therapy. Knowing this information will help us get comfortable and open to the possibility of opening up to someone and having them help us figure out things we might be having difficulties doing so on our own.

While some therapy guidelines differ across states and countries, below are some of the commonly recognized principles. 

 

 

Counseling Code of Ethics

Justice

Therapists and counselors are expected to uphold justice and treat all clients the same despite their individual differences.

Differences such as age, race, gender, and financial status should not get in the way of how the counselor threats clients. 

Self-respect

The counselor is expected to uphold self-respect and self-care.

This self-respect allows the counselor to set up boundaries with clients. For instance, the therapist might specify that they will not take on the role of a therapist whenever they see their clients in other social spaces besides the therapy room. 

Autonomy

The counselor will always respect the client’s autonomy and free will.

If a client decides to do or not to do something, the counselor should not coerce the client into making a different decision. 

Veracity

The counselor is expected to always tell the truth even when it is difficult to accept.

In some cases, they might have to tell the client to seek further help from somewhere else or communicate that the client’s problem can not be entirely solved so they need to learn how to cope. 

Fidelity

Counselors are expected to focus on the issue that would have been brought up by the client.

They should not divert from the issue or focus on convincing the client why a certain decision might be more appealing. 

Non-maleficence

Under no circumstances should the counselor use anything they know about the client to cause harm either to the client or a third party. 

Beneficence

The counselor is expected to work towards improving their client’s well-being.

They focus on reducing harm and minimizing losses. In some cases, the therapist might have to recommend another intervention if it seems more appropriate. 

 

 

Therapy Should Not Be Scary.

These essential principles make it easier for us as clients to open up and communicate effectively with our therapists and counselors.

Knowing that everything you share in sessions will not be used against you or disclosed to a third party allows you to be comfortable enough to be vulnerable to a complete stranger. 

I hope this article reminds you that due to the existence of this code of ethics, therapy is not a bad thing as some people make it seem. The therapist is there to put your needs and well-being first in a safe and secure environment.

When you communicate with a counselor, I hope you are able to communicate comfortably and openly. They are there to help you deal with whatever issue you think is important.  

Before you start therapy/counseling, the counselor can not go forward unless you give informed consent. Remember never to consent to anything that you do not understand (even outside of counseling). Ask questions and only give consent once you understand everything. 

Scenarios where the counselor and client have multiple relationships (i.e they interact outside of counseling relationship maybe as friends or relatives) are often discouraged.

This is because the existence of other forms of relationships might create and foster bias. They also make it challenging for the client to be comfortable enough not to withhold any information. If these can be avoided, it is encouraged to find another therapist whom you do not have another relationship with. 

Next time you consider therapy and think it might not work due to ethical reasons, remember that all people who provide therapy or counseling are regulated by governing bodies, and they are there to help you. 

Photo by Karolina Grabowska

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4 comments on “Counseling: 7 Important Guidelines You Should Know Before You Go”

  1. I would like to find a therapist trained in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy in Halifax/Dartmouth NS area. I suffer with insomnia which has led to some anxiety/depression. Please reply.

    1. Hi Mae, your best bet is to go to your search engine and type in "Cognitive Behavior Therapy near Halifax or Dartmouth Nova Scotia". You should see a list of options then you can look into. Wishing you luck!

  2. I think the word threats should be treats a client…..it is in first section of the 7 guidelines you should know before you go section.

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