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The terms ‘Client’ or ‘Patient’ as used in this code of practice is used to describe either individuals or groups who have contact with the counsellor/psychotherapist in his/her professional capacity. The term ‘patient’ does not necessarily denote or imply any ill health. 


Distinction between Counsellor & Psychotherapist

The terms ‘counsellor’ or ‘psychotherapist’ refers to a person whose name is duly registered on the register of Counsellor or Psychotherapist members of APCP and includes student members, pre-accredited members and accredited members (on either the Counselling or Psychotherapy Divisions) of APCP.


Association of Professional Counsellors & Psychotherapists (APCP)

APCP is defined as the professional membership body which provides for the professional accreditation of Counsellors and Psychotherapists and for other matters relating to setting of professional entry and education standards as well as the professional practice of Counselling and Psychotherapy. It sees its overall responsibility as acting in the interest of the public and promoting and maintaining standards of professional practice in these fields of professional practice.

Divisions of Practice

APCP has two key Divisions of Practice; namely Counselling and Psychotherapy. It sees the entry requirements for both Divisions as distinct and has set these out in ‘APCP’s Perspectives on Distinctions between Counselling and Psychotherapy’ and these differences are reflected in their accreditation standards. These are consistent with the thrust of the recommendations of the Psychological Therapies Forum to government in Ireland in 2008 and are based upon them. Both areas of professional practice share a commitment to high standards of professional behaviour and the Association expects members of both Divisions to be accountable for his or her professional conduct and practice.

Overarching Principles


Any circumstance which might put either patients or clients in jeopardy or which militate against safe or good practice or which are not consistent with the highest standards of training and education should be made known to appropriate persons or authorities.

The principle purpose of this Code of Professional Conduct is to provide a framework to assist the professional counselling and/or psychotherapy member of the Association to make professional decisions, to undertake their professional responsibilities appropriately within the context of individual members’ Fitness to and Scope of Practice and to promote high standards of professional conduct and within that context act as a protection for the public.

Fitness to Practice

Being ‘fit to practice’ suggests that the individual practitioner has and can demonstrate the appropriate combination of skills, knowledge, attitudes, character and health to practice safely and effectively within their individual scope of practice.

The Ethics and Professional Standards Committee of APCP will consider complaints about the fitness to practice of members from clients/patients, family or concerned persons, and members of the general public, employers, professionals, and other people.

The Ethics and Professional Standards Committee (on behalf of the Association) will investigate such complaints and take appropriate action to protect the public where complaints are upheld.

Investigation and consideration of a complaint about a member will take due account of the behavior complained of in the context of the standards set out above. The Committee will make recommendations to the Executive as to its findings and any recommendations for action.

Where complaints are found to be valid, the outcome can include cautioning a member, placing conditions on their continued membership, suspension of membership, removing them from membership. The Association will work collaboratively with other Associations or Professional bodies as well as the Justice system (where appropriate) in relation to complaints, which require action to protect the public.


Member Responsibilities

Members of APCP are required to make sure they are familiar with these standards, that they are fit to practice and only operate within their own scope of practice and adhere to these standards as a minimum requirement for practice.

Accredited members are autonomous and accountable professional practitioners and as such are required to make informed and reasonable decisions about their practice and ensure that the standards they espouse are relevant to practice.

All practitioners, whether student, pre accredited or accredited counsellor or psychotherapy members are required to ensure appropriate supports to ensure the development or enhancement of competence on a continuum from novice to expert practitioner. Such actions may include (but not be limited to), some or all of the following, to ensure the protection of the wellbeing of clients/patients at all times:

  • Getting advice and support or training from education providers, clinical supervisors, colleagues, employers or others;

  • Engaging proactively in regular clinical supervision and other support mechanisms to support best practice;

  • Working with peers and colleagues and members of the wider community;

  • Engaging in ongoing and lifelong learning opportunities and Continuing Professional Development.


Code of Practice


This code provides broad guidelines to practitioners and sets professional conduct expectations. APCP shall take appropriate action where members fail to meet the guidelines of the Code of Practice of the Association as set out in the following sections.

These guidelines complement those noted in APCP’s Code of Ethics:

  1. Professional Competence

  2. Conscientious Objections

  3. Managing Client/Patient Data

  4. Sharing Information with Clients

  5. Client/Therapist Relationships

  6. Inter and Intra disciplinary work

  7. Responsibilities to the Wider Community & Public Protection

  8. Health Status

  9. Participation in Research

1. Professional Competence


Competence may be considered the ability of the practitioner to practice safely and effectively fulfilling his/her professional responsibility within their individual ‘scope of practice’.

In its simplest form the concept of ‘scope of practice’ encompasses what practitioners actually do in the course of their employment or professional work. While practice in the fields of both counselling and psychotherapy are globally set out in the definitions as set out by the Association, individual scope of practice will be influenced by training, experience, education etc., and must be considered within individual contexts.

In determining individual ‘scope of practice’ the practitioner must make a judgment as to their individual competence to engage in a particular role or function. The practitioner is responsible for taking appropriate measures to develop and maintain the competence necessary for professional practice and not to act outside the scope of their own training, experience or expertise.

The practitioner is responsible for ensuring that they identify and acknowledge any limitations of competence and refuse to engage in functions and roles which are outside their scope of practice.  Practitioners will be supported in making such decisions through engagement in appropriate professional support structures such as Clinical Supervision. Where appropriate, the counsellor or psychotherapist must take appropriate measures to become competent in the particular area of professional deficit.



2. Conscientious Objections


A counsellor or psychotherapist shall be entitled to make known at the earliest possible opportunity to an appropriate person or authority any conscientious objection which may be relevant to professional practice or which may impact upon it.



3. Managing Client/Patient Data


As a fundamental principle, APCP believes that the professional counsellor or psychotherapist is professionally obliged to respect and uphold the trust of those who allow him/her privileged access to their property, home or workplace as well as their information and personal experiences, thoughts, feelings or behaviour.

Information regarding a patient or client’s background, their personal history, health or social status, their therapeutic engagement or treatment must be treated as privileged and confidential. While it is accepted that professional counselling or psychotherapy is frequently undertaken within interdisciplinary contexts, and as such information should be communicated with other professionals and recorded as part of the patient’s/ client’s care and treatment, the sharing and recording of such information must be subject to appropriate professional judgment, legislative and best practice requirements.

The confidentiality of client/patient records must always be safeguarded. This requirement applies to written records of any type, including electronic records. In circumstances where the counsellor/psychotherapist may be required to divulge information by a court of law they should seek and be guided by appropriate legal and/or professional advice as to the response to be made if required to divulge confidential information.



4. Sharing Information with Clients

Informed consent for appropriate engagement in counselling and psychotherapeutic interventions is considered a fundamental tenet of practice. Every reasonable effort must be made to ensure that a client/patient understands the nature and purpose of their care and treatment so as to make an informed choice in terms of decisions to commence engage in and/or terminate treatment/therapy.

It also needs to be acknowledged that there are certain circumstances where there may be a doubt whether certain information should be given to a client/patient and special care should be taken in such cases.



5. Client/Therapist Relationships


The professional relationship between clients/patients and psychological therapists must take due cognisance of and adhere to appropriate boundaries. Any form of sexual advance to a client/patient with whom the counsellor/psychotherapist has a professional relationship will be regarded as professional misconduct.



6. Inter and Intra Disciplinary Work


The counsellor or psychotherapist frequently shares the responsibility of care with professional colleagues from other disciplines as well as within the disciplines of counselling or psychotherapy. Practitioners must engage in collegial relationships with appropriate dignity and respect for collegial work, workload demands and must take appropriate action if collegial practice standards are not upheld or if failure to work collegially in any way jeopardises safe standards of practice.

Each practitioner has a continuing responsibility to junior colleagues and in particular to student practitioners. Members are obliged to share acquired professional knowledge, skills and attitudes both by word and example and to support the highest standards of professional education and training and support members working towards professional accreditation. The accredited practitioner must not delegate tasks and responsibilities beyond the level of competence (in terms of skills, knowledge, attitudes or experience) to junior colleagues including students and pre-accredited members.

The accredited member is accountable for the overall experiential learning opportunities afforded to students with whom they work.



7. Responsibilities to the Wider Community & Public Protection


The practitioner will seek and engage in every opportunity to work in close co-operation with members of the health and social care professions in promoting community and national efforts to meet the psychosocial health needs of the public.

When making public statements, the professional counsellor or psychotherapist shall make it clear whether they are acting in a personal capacity or on behalf of the profession.

The practitioner should not use professional qualifications or membership status of APCP in the promotion of commercial products where such use may compromise the independence of professional practice or standards or be reasonably understood to do so.

The practitioner should not accept any gifts or favours from patients/clients or relatives which could be reasonably interpreted as being given so as to exert undue influence or to obtain preferential treatment.

Members are required to divulge to the Association if they have been:

  •            Convicted of a criminal offence, receive a conditional discharge for an offence, or have accepted a caution from the Garda Siochana or other police force abroad;

  •            Disciplined by any regulatory or licensing authority for health or social care practice in Ireland or abroad;

  •       Suspended or required to practice under restriction by an employer or professional body, community or voluntary organisation, or similar because of conduct or competence concerns.



8. Health Status


The practitioner must at all time take reasonable precautions to ensure that their health status is such that they are competent to undertake their duties with due responsibility and diligence. Misuse or abuse of substances such as alcohol or other drugs adversely affects that competence.


9. Participation in Research


Research is vital to enhance knowledge and evidence based practice. Professional practitioners are expected to be complex consumers of research and contributors to knowledge advancement where possible and may be required or requested to participate in research projects or facilitate access to clients. When agreeing to participate in research projects, the principles of confidentiality and the provision of appropriate information to enable informed consent for participation by the client/patient must be safeguarded. The practitioner has an obligation to act as a ‘gatekeeper’ in this regard and should ascertain that the research is sanctioned by the appropriate body and has ethical approval and should endeavour to ensure at all times that the rights of the client/patient are protected. They must equally protect the rights of clients/patients to avail of legitimate opportunities to engage in knowledge generation by protecting their right to participate in such endeavours and do so in an informed manner. The practitioner should therefore ensure they are aware of ethical policies and procedures in his/her area of practice relating to both practice and research processes.

Divisions of Practice
Overarching Principles
Fitness to Practice
member responsi
code of practice
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