144 – Suicide Prevention for Counsellors

144 – Suicide Prevention for Counsellors

Making an Ethical Referral – What Tutors Learn from Their Students

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In episode 144 of the Counselling Tutor Podcast, Ken Kelly and Rory Lees-Oakes share their experience of when and how to make an ethical referral. ‘Check-In with CPCAB’ then explores the two-way learning in the counselling classroom. Finally, in ‘Practice Matters’, Rory interviews counsellor and tutor Emma Chapman about suicide prevention training for counsellors.

 * BACPAC practice management software for counsellors and psychotherapists is a sponsor of the Counselling Tutor Podcast.

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Making an Ethical Referral (starts at 2.30 mins)

This issue is raised regularly in the Counselling Tutor Facebook group. Working within your own competence is key, and thus there will be times when making a referral is the ethical decision.

Referrals could occur if:

  • the issue that the client is bringing is not within your area of competence (e.g. if they need specialist counselling for addiction)
  • your agency offers a limited number of sessions, and you know this amount will be insufficient to work safely with the client
  • your modality is not a good match for the client’s issue
  • the client is experiencing difficulties that mirror your own – i.e. there is parallel process (e.g. if a client wishes to work on feelings related to their divorce, and you are currently struggling with this in your own life)
  • you feel unsafe with the client (e.g. if lone working in private practice).

It is always important to explore the possibility of referral with your supervisor, who can help you decide whether this is the right course of action.

For example, might you be thinking of referring because you are lacking confidence in your ability to help a certain client? Discussion in supervision may reveal that you are in fact competent to work with the client.

If you do decide with your supervisor that referral is the right course of action, it is important to plan ahead for this. Ideally, you will have explained to the client during contracting how referral in general is managed.

Before telling the client about your specific plan to refer them, make sure:

  • you know where you will refer to
  • you are familiar with the referral pathways and processes (including any documentation needed)
  • you have ascertained current waiting times for the new provider

Do bear in mind that being referred may lead to the client experiencing difficult emotions: be ready to explain your decision and reasons clearly and calmly, and to help the client work through their reaction.

It’s vital too to ensure that any transfer of client information is in keeping with the Caldicott principles.

Rory has written a handout about making an ethical referral. This is available here.

Check-In with CPCAB: What Tutors Learn from Their Students (starts at 19.00 mins)

People often think that it is only students who learn from tutors, but Kelly Budd (Head of Qualifications) at CPCAB (Counselling & Psychotherapy Central Awarding Body) explains that in fact the learning is very much two-way.

Discussing this with Rory, Kelly lists various ways in which she has learned from her students, about this question – including becoming a better counsellor herself, developing her skills in working effectively with conflict, and sharpening her knowledge of theory, ethics and the law.

Carl Rogers himself wrote extensively about promoting learning in others. Just as counsellors learn from their clients, so counselling tutors learn from their students.

Counselling and psychotherapy training use a very different style from the didactic teaching that may characterise other subjects of study.

You can find more information about CPCAB on its website. CPCAB is the UK’s only awarding body run by counsellors for counsellors.

Do bear in mind that being referred may lead to the client experiencing difficult emotions: be ready to explain your decision and reasons clearly and calmly, and to help the client work through their reaction.

Suicide Prevention for Counsellors (starts at 31.20 mins)

Rory talks to Emma Chapman about suicide statistics, and suicide prevention strategies for counsellors. Their discussion includes noticing, exploring and responding to suicidal thoughts and plans (including the use of safety plans).

Emma has recorded a full lecture on suicide prevention for Counsellor CPD.

Practice Matters is sponsored by Bacpac, client-management software for counsellors and psychotherapists. Bacpac offers all Counselling Tutor Podcast listeners a 30% discount, which you can claim by visiting the Bacpac website and using the code CT2020.


  1. Mary Ritchie

    Lots of good information and learning.Enjoyed the different topics as this helped me reflect on my practice . It was also reassuring that having worked with suicidal client’s, I am asking the right questions.

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