This week we were exploring the features of safe practise. My own personal definitions of the four terms we were asked to define are as follows:

Ethical – Ethics are personal values that define how a person lives and behaves. In relation to counselling, I see ethics as a matrix for enabling a counsellor to make difficult choices in the best interests of the person the counsellor is helping.

Moral – Morals are, like ethics, personal values, but I feel they differ in that they define what is right and what is wrong. Ethics are mostly shades of grey, whereas morals are black and white.

Legal – To me, this aspect defines what should or should not be reported to an authority figure. For the most part the relationship between the counsellor and client is based on trust, but in extreme circumstances (such as possible danger to another human being) some things must be reported.

Safe – Acting in a safe manner, to me, means that every action you make, or thing you say, will cause no harm. Safety in regards to counselling is having the best interests of the mental and physical wellbeing of the person you are helping at the centre of every decision you make.

I have always found ethical dilemmas interesting, I think the first one I heard that really stumped me was the one about the man that stole bread to feed his family because he didn’t have enough money to buy it. I have gone from one end of the spectrum to the other while thinking about it, sometimes thinking he’s right to feed his family, other times thinking it’s wrong to steal, but it’s only recently that I’ve started thinking about what he could or should do to make his situation more legal. It was easy for me to look at it from one side or the other; I think I could convince myself either way was “right” – but what is really needed is simply taking a step backwards and looking at the bigger picture which would enable me to see all of the factors at work.

We also talked about Limits of Ability. In terms of my own limits, I feel that I am at about the right level for someone who is part-way through a counselling skills course. I have always liked talking to people about their problems yet I make no illusion that I am a counsellor. Reassuring someone that you won’t gossip about what is said is hard, but if someone doesn’t want to talk about their problems to me then I am not going to force them. I feel that my knowledge is adequate for my current qualification level – the information goes in, I write about it and think about it, connect things together and work out where it all goes in relation to everything else in my head, and I am able to recall the information when it is required.

I am still getting to grips with the skills; I sometimes do not feel natural using counselling skills in roleplays, whereas I do more so in casual conversations. Maybe I am trying too hard to fit the mould in a proper roleplay session, and hit all the “correct” notes so to speak, whereas in a casual chat with a friend, colleague or customer out in the world I am more casual because no-one is observing the conversation, taking notes and critiquing me.

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