Code of Ethics and Professional Practice
Adapted with permission from the UKCP document ©2019
This Code contains the standards of ethics, practice and conduct which NCHP & NSTT expects of all practitioners, and which must be followed whatever your level of practice (trainee, hypnotherapist, psychotherapeutic counsellor, psychotherapist) and whether you meet clients in person, online or otherwise.
The term ‘practitioner’ means an individual NCHP & NSTT trainee or member who practises under the auspices of the NCHP and/or NSTT.
The term ‘client’ includes individuals, couples, families or groups who engage in talking therapies.
Should a concern arise about a practitioner’s practice, it is against these standards that it will be judged under the NCHP/NSTT Complaints Procedure.
* This code does not apply to tutors or supervisors who are covered for these activities by specific codes
* The UKCP Complaints and Conduct Process takes precedence over the NCHP/NSTT Complaints Procedure for individuals accredited by UKCP
The practitioner commits to engage with the challenge of striving for ethical practice and conduct, even when doing so involves making difficult decisions.
In the numbered points below, we set out the things we regard as key to ethical practice and have grouped them under these headings:
- Best interests of clients
- Communication and consent
- Records and confidentiality
- Professional knowledge, skills and experience
- Social responsibility
- Trust and confidence
As a practitioner you must:
Best interests of clients
- Act in your client’s best interests.
- Treat clients with respect.
- Respect your client’s autonomy.
- Not have sexual contact or sexual relationship with clients.
- Not exploit or abuse your relationship with clients (current or past) for any purpose including your emotional, sexual or financial gain.
- Not harm or collude in the harming of your client or the clients of others.
- Decline any gifts, favours, money or hospitality that might be interpreted as exploitative.
- Be aware of the power imbalance between the practitioner and client, and avoid dual or multiple relationships1which risk confusing an existing relationship and may impact adversely on a client. If a dual or multiple relationship is unavoidable, for example in a small community, take responsibility for clarifying and managing boundaries and protecting confidentiality.
- Exercise all reasonable care before entering into a personal or business relationship with former clients, taking into account the time that has elapsed since therapy ended. Should such a relationship prove to be detrimental to the former client, you may be called to answer an allegation of misusing your former position.
- Recognise that your behaviour outside your professional life may have an effect on your relationship with clients and take responsibility for critically examining these potential negative or positive effects to the benefit of the client.
Communication and consent
- Provide in your advertising, and on request, a clear and honest statement of the qualifications relevant to your field of practice and your NCHP & NSTT registration, and advertise your services accurately and in a responsible and professional manner, without exaggeration.
- Ensure that the use of title such as “Doctor/DR” and post nominal initials after a name in communications are:accurate; indicate whether it is a medical or academic qualification; and reasonably informs the public of their relevance to the practice of psychotherapy.
- Not make any claims which you cannot demonstrate to be true or include testimonials from clients in any advertising.
- Explain to a client, or prospective client, your terms, fees and conditions and, have information readily available to clarify other related questions such as likely length of therapy, methods of practice to be used, the extent of your own involvement, complaints processes and how to make a complaint, as well as arrangements for referral and termination of therapy.
- Confirm each client’s consent to the specifics of the service you will offer, through a clear contract at the outset of therapy. We do not specify a written contract but in the case of any conflict a clear written contract supports both the client and yourself. Help clients to understand the nature of any proposed therapy and its implications, what to expect, the risks involved, what is and is not being offered, and relevant alternative options.
- Not intentionally mislead a client about the type or nature of the therapy practised.
- Only participate in research about clients with clients’ verifiable and informed consent before the commencement of therapy and research, clarifying the nature, purpose and conditions of any research in which clients are involved and in accordance with relevant codes and guidance. Pay particular attention to any additional guidance or special considerations which may apply to specific groups, such as children and young people.
Records and confidentiality
- Respect, protect and preserve clients’ confidentiality. You must protect sensitive and personally identifiable information obtained in the course of your professional work.
- Safeguard the welfare and anonymity of clients when any form of publication of clinical material is being considered and to always obtains your 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.
- Make notes appropriate to the therapy being practised, and keep records which are accurate, legible and timely. Keep clients’ information confidential, subject to legal and ethical requirements, and discuss it only within appropriate professional settings.
- Notify all clients, in writing and verbally at the outset of therapy, and again when appropriate, that there are legal and ethical limits to confidentiality, and circumstances under which confidential information might be disclosed to a third party.
- Consider obtaining legal and ethical advice in relation to providing information for judicial or administrative proceedings, and as to the potential impact that this could have on the commitment of confidentiality to the client, even when client consent is given.
Professional knowledge, skills and experience
- Offer only the forms of therapy in which you have had adequate training or experience.
- Understand the limits of your competence and stay within them in all your professional activity, referring clients to another professional when appropriate. This includes recognising that particular client groups, such as children and families, have needs which not all practitioners are equipped to address. The National College courses are in adult psychotherapy so to work with children, couples or families requires other qualifications. All sessions with those under 18 must be conducted with an appropriate adult present, or recorded on time indexed video.
- Ensure continuing ability to practise by securing supervision and ongoing professional education and development sufficient to meet the requirements of NCHP & NSTT. See notes below
- Ensure that you do not work with clients if you are not able to do so for physical or mental health reasons, or when impaired by the effects of drugs, alcohol or medication.
- Make considered and timely arrangements for the termination of a therapeutic relationship, or if you are unable to continue to practise, ensuring that clients are informed and alternative practitioners are identified where possible.
- Have arrangements in place for informing clients and, where appropriate, providing them with support in the event of your illness or death.
- Actively consider issues of diversity and equalities as these affect all aspects of your work and acknowledge the need for a continuing process of self-enquiry and professional development.
- Not allow prejudice about a client’s sex, age, colour, race, disability, communication skills, sexuality, lifestyle, religious, cultural or political beliefs, social economic or immigration status to adversely affect the way you relate to them.
- Avoid behaviour that can be perceived as abusive or detrimental to any client or colleague based on the above factors.
Trust and confidence
- Act in a way which upholds the profession’s reputation and promotes public confidence in the profession and its members, including outside of your professional life as a NCHP & NSTT practitioner.
- Maintain an awareness of, and comply with, all legal and professional obligations and NCHP & NSTT polices which apply to your practice.
- Ensure that any communication in which you take part, and in particular your participation in social media, is carried out in a manner consistent with this Code.
- Safeguard children and vulnerable adults, recognising your legal and moral responsibilities concerning their rights and taking appropriate action should you consider any such person is at risk of harm.
- Ensure that you are familiar with and understand NCHP & NSTT’s published policies and guidances, in particular those on Safeguarding and UKCP’s policy on the Memorandum of Understanding on Conversion Therapy.
- Challenge questionable practice in yourself or others, reporting to NCHP & NSTT potential breaches of this Code, and activating formal complaints procedures especially where there may be ongoing harm to clients or you have significant grounds for believing clients to be at risk of harm.
- Ensure that your professional work is adequately covered by appropriate indemnity insurance or by your employer’s indemnity arrangements.
- Co-operate with any lawful investigation or inquiry relating to your therapeutic practice. Inform NCHP & NSTT if you are:
- Charged with a criminal offence;
- convicted of a criminal offence, receive a conditional discharge for an offence, or accept a police caution;
- disciplined by any professional body or membership organisation responsible for regulating or licensing a health or social care profession; or
- suspended or placed under a practice restriction by an employer or similar organisation because of concerns relating to your competence, health or practice of therapy.
- 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.
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.
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 NSHP 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. NSHP 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.
- Working online
Anyone wishing to offer online therapy must have an appropriate qualification specifically for working in this way.
1 Such relationships could be social or commercial relationships between practitioner and client, or a supervisory or training relationship running alongside the therapeutic one.