038 – Law in Counselling and Psychotherapy – Seven Stages of Process – Endings

038 – Law in Counselling and Psychotherapy – Seven Stages of Process – Endings

subscribe_itunes button small

In episode 38 of the Counselling Tutor Podcast, Rory Lees-Oakes and Ken Kelly discuss the laws relating to counselling. ‘Theory with Rory’ examines the seven stages of process. Last, the presenters talk about endings in counselling.

Law in Counselling and Psychotherapy (starts at 5.17 mins)

Rory and Ken preface this section of the podcast by explaining that the legislation they are discussing is that relating to the UK, and that they are not qualified lawyers. They recommend Peter Jenkins’ book, Counselling, Psychotherapy and the Law, published by Sage in 2007, as a reference source in this area.

The new Ethical Framework for the Counselling Professions, which was developed by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy and came into effect on 1 July 2016, specifically requires that we ‘give conscientious consideration to the law and any legal requirements concerning our work and take responsibility for how they are implemented’ (p. 9).

Key to counselling practice is the Data Protection Act 1998, which relates to how client information is stored and who can access this (in general, the therapist, the client, coroners and judges). The Data Protection Act applies not just to clients but also to those who make enquiries about services (e.g. people who email a private practitioner, or fill in their web enquiry form). The Information Commissioner’s Office can provide information on all this.

Counselling agencies may require access to notes made by their therapists, and may specify how these should be structured and stored; if so, it is important to cover this when contracting with clients. Other important areas of law for agencies are insurance, and health and safety (including fire regulations). If you are writing an assignment (or part of your external portfolio) about your agency’s legal processes, a good starting point is its policies and procedures.

The main laws that you need to be aware of when contracting with clients about the limits of confidentiality relate to the prevention of terrorism, drug trafficking (the bulk movement of drugs) and money laundering (concealing the origins of money that has been obtained illegally). Additional requirements to break confidentiality (e.g. on the protection of children and vulnerable adults) usually exist in agencies; although these do not apply in private practice, many such counsellors may choose to follow them for ethical reasons.

If you do ever need to break confidentiality, you could go to the relevant authorities (via your agency, if you work in one) or you could report it anonymously through Crimestoppers. If you do the latter, you must record this, so you have proof that you have done so if you are ever challenged on this (e.g. in court).


Seven Stages of Process (starts at 21.44 mins)

Rory believes that the seven stages of process, part of person-centred theory (as originally developed by Carl Rogers) is the ‘most marvelous piece of theory ever written in the lexicon of psychology’! It describes clearly the path by which clients move from a fixed and rigid view of the world to a more fluid position, in which they can ‘live life on life’s terms’, accepting responsibility for how they interact with and influence the world around them.

The seven stages of process are one of the three pillars of the person-centred approach, the other two being the 19 propositions (Rogers’ theory of personality) and the six necessary and sufficient conditions for therapeutic personality change. In his book On Becoming a Person (published in 1961 by Constable), Rogers (p. 131) writes:

Individuals move, I began to see, not from a fixity or homeostasis through change to a new fixity, though such a process is indeed possible. But much the more significant continuum is from fixity to changingness, from rigid structure to flow, from stasis to process.

The seven stages of process provide a valuable common language with which to discuss clients in both supervision and case studies. Rory describes typical features of each stage, and asks: what stage do you think you are at? Why not take your views on this into your personal development group?

For more information on the seven stages of process, watch Rory’s lecture here and read the chapter dedicated to the application of this theory in Ken’s newly published book, Basic Counselling Skills: A Student Guide.


Endings (starts at 34.52 mins)

Ken and Rory discuss endings in counselling, offering a number of tips:

  • Plan for endings where possible, seeing ending as a process not a one-off event.
  • Start at the very beginning of the therapeutic relationship by explaining to clients in contracting any limits on the number of sessions available.
  • Remind clients each time you meet how many sessions they have left.
  • Build in regular reviews of how the client is experiencing counselling.
  • If, as the therapist, you need to take a break from counselling (e.g. if you are going on holiday), try to give clients one week’s notice for each month you have been working with them.
  • Think about how you would respond if a client seemed to you ready to end but was resisting doing so.
  • If you feel sad when ending with a client, and feel you will miss them, take this to supervision and, if the feeling persists, to personal counselling.
  • Think about how your own attachment style may impact on your endings with clients.
  • Read the chapter on endings in Basic Counselling Skills.